Tag Archives: whips

Q&A: The Vampire Killer

Is it at all possible to use a whip like people do in movies? Like in Castlevania, Trevor uses it to cut someones finger off and rip another persons eye out. Thanks!

The whip Trevor Belmont is using is called “The Vampire Killer” and it’s a mystical weapon, but I don’t know whether that’s the one he’s using in the anime or if he gets it later. You can assume though that the Belmont’s have mystical powers. What Trevor Belmont is using is a bullwhip, if you want other examples of the whip being used in film there’s Indiana Jones and The Mask of Zorro.

You can put someone’s eye out with a whip, but you can’t rip it out and you can’t get enough force going with a leather whip to cut someone’s finger off.

A chain whip? Oh hell yeah. You can take a finger off with that.

What I will say is worth taking from the new Castlevania anime is not what Trevor does with the whip so much as how he handles it. A good example is the final fight with Alucard. Where he uses it to trip, where he uses it as a disarming tool, and does a good job of showing how it always remains in motion. One aspect Castlevania does get right with Trevor is the use of the secondary hand for guidance when rapidly changing direction, when he wants small circles or very specific strikes he’d be unable to achieve with just his wrist.

The whip as a weapon is a useful secondary or supporting weapon to your primary. It works better as a harassment tool, a means to create openings, trip your opponent up, lash them, and wear them out. Whips and chain weapons travel on circular strike paths that are difficult to block. In the hands of a master, they can rapidly change direction mid strike and circle around the sword or spear to hit their target.

If you want to take a finger off, then you’ll need to attach a blade to the end as seen in the whip chain, the rope dart, or (to crush it) the meteor hammer.

The basic beginner stage to ground your understanding of how this works is the yoyo.

The whip has it’s place as a secondary weapon in multiple martial arts, and the tip will give you some serious burns. If you want to look into the whip as a defense tool, Anthony De Longis is a good place to start.

Keep in mind, however, that the weakness of all chain/rope/whip weapons is space. You need space to be able to get the techniques off. Even with lineal striking, you need room. It is a ranged weapon, and one that requires a lot more space to work than a gun or a bow.

So, yes, you can use it as a weapon. You probably also want your characters carrying weapons that are more versatile like the sword or a knife or a gun, that can make up for the situations were the whip falls short.

If  you’re in an open space and you want to keep five attackers on the defensive then it’s great. You can scare the shit out of them and keep a full defense going. However, you can’t really do it in your living room.

-Michi

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Hello! I’ve seen you guys write some things about the dangers of filming with chained weapons, but I was wondering how dangerous it would be to the wielder? While I was designing a hook and chain mechanism for my MC to move around quickly with in a fantasy world (ability to direct the chain minimally) I found the ‘kyoketsu shoge’ which combines both the hook and a knife in one. If the chain is occasionally spiked, how dangerous do you think it would be for my MC to swing around?

It really depends on how skilled they are at managing the chain. The kyoketsu shoge is similar to the Chinese Whip Chain/Chain Whip and the Rope Dart. They function similarly to whips, and are a more dangerous (to the wielder) cousin of the nunchaku and three section staff. These weapons all work off similar principles about maintaining momentum and using your own body to provide control. This includes your arms, your neck, your shoulders, your legs, and, on occasion, your whole torso.

Example:

The Rope Dart.

The Nine Section Whip.

Whip weapons are one of the most advanced weapons in a martial disciplines for a reason. If you don’t know how to control it, it will hit you. I mean that, it will and it will hurt. Like the boomerang, the whip or chain always comes back. You are at the mercy of the chain, like any fast moving object, it doesn’t stop on a dime and you’ve got to mitigate the momentum until it finally stops.

The advantage of the whip is that it can strike on multiple angles that are nearly impossible to block. It’s not just on diagonals, a chain or a whip will curve. It can be used to disarm an opponent. When you’re working with a whip made entirely of metal like the nine section whip any part of you it strikes is going to hurt like hell.

If you can master a whip, it’s a very useful weapon, though it shouldn’t be the only weapon your character carries. It does require a great deal more skill than the average and, with a whip chain, you should be prepared for pain. It’s also not a weapon your character could pick up and just wield without any formal training. If we’re talking about a formal Chinese martial discipline, this would be a weapon you’d learn after you mastered the others like the staff and the sword.

Chinese Cinema has many excellent examples of the Chinese varieties of these weapons in use and may provide you with some ideas.

The kyoketsu shoge is a little different because it comes with two ends, a bladed end on one that could be used to hook opponents much like one would when fishing and a metal ring on the other. Similar principles to the others in this category apply when it comes generating momentum and to safety, but worth keeping track of when you’re trying to figure out exactly what you want.

When you’re writing, it’s important to remember that the more complex a weapon is in its movements then the more difficult it will be when it comes to actually applying those actions on the page. The whip is a fantastic weapon for cinema because it’s dazzling. It’s in constant motion, it makes wide sweeping arcs, it’s often too fast for the eye to completely follow, and it’s just fun to watch. You don’t get that luxury when you’re writing. You don’t benefit from visually interesting weapons unless you figure out how to tease the imagination when the audience tries to visualize.

The best way to write weapons, especially complex ones, is grasping the underlying principles of how the weapon is supposed to work. You are at advantage over the practitioner because you only need the principle, as a writer you can simulate the experience. However, you’re at a disadvantage because you’ve never tried to work with one and don’t have the ground level experience of trying to get the weapon to work.

When you want to use a chain weapon like the whip chain in an action sequence, its important to remember that your character needs to keep it in constant motion. The weapon is only deadly when it’s in motion. You throw it out, spin it, wheel it about using your throat, catch on the shoulder, throw it back for another strike. They’re going to need space to use it, which means it’s at a disadvantage in cramped quarters.

What’s going to sell your whip in a written action scene is remembering all the tiny little physical motions that go into maintaining control. Whether it’s snapping the wrist to crack the whip, remembering that the guiding hand controls the whip and the other holds, to wrapping it around the body at the fight’s end to catch and negate the final momentum, what sells the weapon is your ability to accurately represent how it moves in the real world.

A lot of writers try for technical terms as a way to communicate what they’re talking about, my advice is learn them as necessary but don’t assume they’ll do the work for you. Assume your audience is ignorant and focus more on what the weapon does/is supposed to do/the purpose it served in battle rather than terminology. The more complex the weapon is in movement, control, and execution, the more difficult it is to write.

If you do get frustrated during your research, just remember: you jumped straight to the end. The whip chain is a complicated weapon, it’s supposed to be difficult.

If you’ve never used a whip before, this is going to mean watching a lot of tutorials on Youtube and reviewing many an action sequence where the whip is used as primary or secondary weapon.

Good luck!

-Michi

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Any tips on write about whip fights? One character has a whip and the other doesn’t

The thing about a whip is: it’s not really a weapon. I mean, that is “kind of” the closest, convenient description, but fundamentally whips are just a tool designed to inflict pain. You can hurt your victim without significantly harming them. Unfortunately, that’s the real problem; a weapon needs to be able to injure the enemy, not just hurt them.

The thing about whip fights is: they look really cool. Even when used properly, a whip creates visually dynamic strikes nearly every time. It’s a very sensationalist weapon, in the literal sense. You can receive a lot of strikes from one, and suffer, what basically amounts to cosmetic damage. The pain may be extreme, but it’s not like a sword or handgun, where a good connecting blow will end the fight.

For gladiatorial combat, where the goal is to prolong combat, get as much blood on the arena floor as you can, and give the audience a show? The whip is an excellent choice. It will kill, eventually, but it will be a death of attrition. The whip will wear down the opponent during a prolonged fight, not in a quick decisive bout.

Incidentally, whips were used by specific classes of Roman gladiators, but as far as I know, they were only used in gladiator versus animal matches. That said, I’m not an expert on gladiatorial combat, so it may have seen other uses.

Whips also works well for TV and Films, because, while the goals aren’t identical to gladiatorial combat, there is a lot of common ground. The fight needs to be visually interesting, and benefits from being able to inflict minor injuries without killing one of the participants and ending the scene. Even when those “injuries” are just makeup and the deaths are feigned. The whip gives the stunt actors a lot more freedom to screw around, and choreograph, and then execute, a very dynamic fight on film. Also, ironically, a remarkably safe weapon to play with. Before someone takes issue with that, remember, you can still kill people with these things, you just have a lot more leeway than you would with a more conventional weapon.

Whips don’t work well for actual combat, where you need to kill someone as quickly as possible. You’re not being graded on how cool it looked, just: Are you still standing? Is your opponent still trying to kill you? No marks awarded for partial completion.

There are modifications to the basic design that help, but don’t really get past the basic issues with it. Things like barbed hooks on the end will result in more lacerations and bleeding, but they still won’t kill your opponent quickly. I suppose you could poison them, but then we’re already tracking into the range of a weapon that is as dangerous to the wielder as the foe.

I can’t shake the recollection of the Star Wars EU’s Lightsaber Whip from the back of my mind. Which, yes, if you have precognitive superpowers, and a blade that will cut through anything, then it starts to look like a plausible option. As much as any of the weirder lightsaber variants look plausible.

I’m kind of partial to Shadowrun’s Monofilament Whips. Same basic idea, the “whip” is a single strand of monomolecular wire that will cut through just about anything. Including the wielder. Not something I’d actually use in a game, (or real life, if I had access to it,) but I can honestly say, “it’s a weapon.” And I might consider giving something similar to a character in a setting where it wouldn’t be out of place.

Now, as an additional defensive tool, a whip can have some use in combat. If you’re using it to supplement a knife or other weapon, you can use it to distract your foe. We are literally talking about annoying your opponent until they die, but if you’ve got a rapier in your other hand, it could be enough to get the upper hand. Otherwise, you’re back to needing to wear down your opponent.

It’s also worth mentioning that whips require a fair amount of space to work. They can be anywhere from 6 to 18 feet long. While you don’t need 20 feet of clear space in every direction; using one in tight quarters isn’t happening. Also, striking at someone who is standing close to anything that the whip could catch on can lead to tangles, potentially taking the whip out of the fight.

As a quick aside, I am aware of the people that claim to hunt with whips. No, I don’t know how that works, and the cases I am familiar with leave me a little skeptical. There may be a quick and reliable way to kill someone with a whip, but, I’ve never heard of it.

-Starke