Do not attempt to crack a whip until you have read the Safety Instructions
Every whip will have a natural bend in it. This is part of your whip’s “personality”. Every whip will have parts of its weave where it is tighter or looser on either side. That makes the whip fly in its own personal way. Some whips will pop slightly inside of your aim point or outside depending on where its tight/loose weave is laying. For consistent accuracy, always hold the whip with the same part up. Mark the handle if you need to.
To find the natural bend hold the whip out in front of you and rotate the handle around very slowly (like turning a screwdriver). You will find the point at which the whip hangs most naturally without seeming to deviate right or left or seem to be lifting up. Always hold it hanging that way. Consistency is the key to safety and effectiveness.
I’ve just noticed that most of my instructions assume you are going to be using the whip for accuracy. If you are going to just make the sucker go BANG, you won’t have to worry about much of the subtle stuff. Just get it swinging in the right direction, make a reversal so you create the all-important loop, make sure it isn’t traveling in a plane that will intercept any part of your body, and you’re off.
I have hit two assistants once each and have been hit myself with the cutting stroke and they/I have not been hurt.
There’s a good reason for this: When you are doing a “cut” you aim the popper to pop above the target. It is not the popper doing the cutting, it is usually the fall. Yes, that’s true. And it’s safer. The fall is not traveling nearly as fast as the popper and most of its momentum has been exhausted at the point of the pop. [BIG SECRET] It’s the fall just following through that does the cutting. This is what makes performance cutting safer than it looks to the audience. The pop happens at such a great speed that the audience can’t tell that it happens inches above the target. To cut cans or pull caps off of bottles you do have to hit the target right on with the popper and be really swinging hard to get the speed way up.
So when you practice or cut, do it easily. You don’t need an ear- splitting pop every time. You can make LOUD pops during your setup swings at the target (the audience expects it and it helps get them tense) but you can do the actual cut gently. You don’t need the loud pop because the audience has just heard it. I do this and nobody has ever accused me of cheating.
Don’t hold the whip too tightly. Just like juggling: Relax and don’t work too hard. Timing is everything. PRACTICE HINT: Trying to make the whip pop quietly teaches you far more about control, timing and feel than a huge blast does.
Simple targeting practice setup: Tape or clip a piece of raw spaghetti to a pole somewhere like the corner of a fence, or trunk of a tall tree (remember those overhanging branches), or off the edge of a table. Anywhere that there is clearance above and below.
Other targets: Strips of Styrofoam cut from picnic plates or that rectangular piece of foam that they package meat on from the market. Strips of newspaper (folded into a “V” so they will stick out and not flop over).
To start learning to aim: Throw out a forward cut. Watch the loop travel past your shoulder and down the length of the whip to where it flutters at the end. That’s the cut point. Watch the popper at its point of pop (for control of left/right). Have someone stand off to the side of the target to see if you are popping short or beyond the target.
Start popping easily and zero in on the target. You set left/right and your partner says “closer or back” until you are there. Then rub your shoulder a little bit 😉 In time you will learn what the proper distance is “by eye”.