How Not To Crack a Bullwhip!

How Not To Crack a Bullwhip!

I’m always amazed at the lack of training that many people have when they pick up a bullwhip and try to crack it!  Number one priority is protecting your eyes, you need to wear safety goggles/glasses! However a quick search of the term “Bullwhip Fail” on youtube found tons of videos and virtually everyperson’s eyes were not protected!

The next thing that drives me crazy is how many people think that they instinctively know how to crack a bullwhip.  In fact they will tell you they know how, but are lying!  Cracking a bullwhip is not something  you can automatically do…and if you think that because you can snap a towel that skill translates to a bullwhip you are 100% wrong!

I found a couple bullwhip videos that I think illustrate what not to do.  Here’s the first one:

In the video above the guy is trying to have some sort of form besides simply dishragging the bullwhip.  However he’s missing the follow through after the point where the bullwhip is supposed to crack.

Imagine someone playing baseball and they are batting.  If you watch any sort of baseball you’ll know the batter follows through with their swing after the bat has made contact with the ball.  Once the ball has contacted the bat and taken the energy from the swing the batter could technically stop the swing, but they all follow through.  Why?  Because if they forced a stop they could injure themselves…same with cracking a bullwhip, you don’t do a follow through you can injure yourself like the person in the above clip!

There are a couple of things that I find hilarious about this next clip:

First of all for the overhead crack he’s wildly swinging it over his head without purpose.  Cracking a bullwhip is like dance, you need to move with intention.   Notice about halfway through the video his body language get’s more “angry” and his swing gets crazier and crazier.  That’s not good, whip cracking is all about control.    He claims to have learned to crack a whip in school…but any competent teacher would tell you not to crack the bullwhip in front of you like he did at the 46 second mark.  Finally the title of the video is “Pretty Cool Things I’m Pretty Good At” cracks me up!  It should be, “Pretty Cool Things That I’m Incompetent At”!

Heck take the movie the Blues Brothers, even Belushi has proper form when he cracks in the famous Rawhide Scene:

So what I’m trying to say is if you are new to cracking a bullwhip finding a local bullwhip cracking group or whip cracker to learn from is a good idea.  If that’s not an option there are tons of videos (DVD’s and online) that will teach you proper form.  Bullwhip cracking is a sport has risks built into it and there’s now way to avoid it, but through proper training and safety (like goggles) you are reduce that risk!


Bullwhips and Safety!!!

Bullwhips and Safety!!!

I found this video on youtube and there is a lot wrong with what’s going on in it.

Here’s what’s wrong with the video:

  1. Bullwhips are not toys: The parent (or adult) in this video gave it to their kid to play with…and didn’t give them any safety instructions (more on that in a minute).  Would you give your kid a band saw to play with?
  2. Lack of instruction: The kid is trying to crack the whip like they do in the movies by cutting back or “dish ragging” the bullwhip.  While you can get a whip to crack that way, it’s not the best or safest way to do it.  Would you let your kid drive a car with no instruction on how to do drive it?
  3. No safety equipment:  The kid isn’t wearing any eye protection…that’s just bad parenting (or very poor supervision)!!!   My daughter does gymnastics and I know she at some point will probably get hurt doing it, but her gym has a ton of safety equipment from pads to first aid equipment.  There’s no way I’d let my daughter do gymnastics at a gym with no padded mats for the kids for fall on!!
  4. Cracking the whip on the cement: The bullwhip used in the video doesn’t appear to be a very nice one, the adult who gave the kid the whip didn’t do any research on bullwhips…the most basic thing you learn about owning a bullwhip is to not use it on concrete or abrasive surfaces. Would you drive a sports car super fast down a bumpy, dirt mountain road and expect it to not get damaged?

Sorry for my little rant, but I was honestly shocked that the parent let their kid use the whip without any instruction or safety equipment.  Having at least one of those two thing would greatly reduce the chance of an injury.

As a parent I’m not overprotective, I have more of a free range parenting style, but I also believe in taking reasonable steps for safety.  No sane parent would let their kid join a little league baseball team that didn’t use batters helmets…and no sane parent should let their kid try to crack a bullwhip without at least eye protection!!

A good way to learn the basics of handling a whip is from the DVD Whip Cracking Made Easy.

bullwhips for sale
Bullwhip Cracking for Beginners

Bullwhip Cracking for Beginners

If you are starting out cracking bullwhips there are a couple of things you need to know:

Don’t get a swivel handle bullwhip!

When you get your first bullwhip, a  lot of people get a swivel handle bullwhip because they are cheap.  Now if you don’t know what a swivel handle bullwhip, it’s one that the lash will rotate independently from the handle.  Now that might sound like an advantage is you want to swing the bullwhip over your head and  cut back to make a it crack, but it’s really not.  You can do that same crack just as easily with a bullwhip with a fixed handle.

The biggest problem with a swivel handle is because the lash can rotate you can’t control where the whip is going by just holding the handle.  My first bullwhip was a swivel handle and I used to hold the bullwhip with my thumb on the transition knot to keep it from swiveling when I cracked…that’s not good technique and makes things much harder to do!

The handle is a handle in name only!

When you crack a bullwhip you hold the handle, but you don’t really hold the handle.  At the bottom of most bullwhips there’s a little decorative knot.  It’s called a turks head and usually you hold that in the palm of your hand (there’s a slight exception for longer handled bullwhips) when you crack it, so it’s like a ball and socket joint.

If you are holding the bullwhip’s handle like you would a hammer you aren’t using the leverage that the handle give you to it’s full potential!

Focus on technique not power (super loudness)!

When you use proper technique from the beginning and not muscle you’ll make learning more complex bullwhip cracks much easier in the future.  A well made bullwhip does most of the work in cracking for you.  With the proper technique all you do is put the right shape into the lash as you “throw” it out and the bullwhip does the rest.

Also using too much strength when cracking is not only bad for the whip, it will lead to  you replacing more crackers and bullwhip falls, which will cost you money!!

So where do you learn to crack a bullwhip properly?  The best place is from someone in person who know how.  However that’s not always possible, so the next best place is from a DVD, I recommend the Whip Cracking Made Easy series (two volumes) by Mark Allen and Alex Green.

Always wear eye protection!

When you crack a bullwhip, the crack is the popper of the bullwhip breaking the speed of sound, and when you are cracking your bullwhip it’s flying around  your head.  For a beginner you’d be an idiot to knot wear safety goggles!

I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure that when you smack yourself in the eye with a bullwhip it’s not a good!  If you are just starting out and are more concerned with “looking cool” by not wearing proper safety gear, then you really aren’t smart enough to crack a bullwhip and shouldn’t.

Also while you are at it, you should wear hearing protection and jeans and a jacket to protect your limbs!

Here’s the tips in a nutshell:

Do a bit of research and buy a decent bullwhip.  Now I said a decent one, you don’t need to spend $700 on a bullwhip…you can get a good budget/beginners bullwhip for under $175.  Learn to use your bullwhip properly and wear proper safety equipment.  Oh and have fun learning to crack a bullwhip!