The fire whips have always been a contentious thing. Leather whips are made by passionate people with a history of painstaking efforts to build their wares. And you can pay thousands of dollars for a really good whip. Or you can pay $10 for a something to hang on the wall. And there’s a big range in between.
There used to be an unspoken agreement between fire tool makers not to step on each other’s toes. Common designs like the basic staff, or cathedral poi just couldn’t be claimed by anyone, so were treated like open source. But each of us tended to have a specialty. Mine was swords, Iron Gypsy made beautiful (and heavy) iron fans and eating torches, and Riz did whips. Mind you, he only started making whips after seeing the first Whip I on our site and thinking he could do better. And he did. That freak actually braids kevlar the old fashioned way.
More power to him. The downside to braiding is a 3 month backlog and hella expensive. We found that most people didn’t want to wait, and certainly didn’t want to save up. So we shot for the lower middle. We tweaked designs to make things work like a real whip, but not cost too much time and money.
The Whip I was a cotton and fiberglass core with a wrap of kevlar stitched spirally around. It was an incredible pain to make and we had to charge a lot to cover the labor. The whip II is little more than a kevlar rope, lightly tapered and tipped. The advantages were very strong: it was much cheaper to make than the Whip I, it burned better, and it didn’t have fuel limitations (cotton hates Kero and Lamp oil). If it weren’t for the fact that the whip I could consistently hit a smaller target, we would have dropped it immediately after the II came out.
Performers with both whips came to us with issues: they wanted a harder stop on the handle. They wanted a marker for the heat zone, they wanted a “fall” in the whip, and they wanted a better cracker attachment point. We took all these into account and re-jiggered the Whip II into the whip III. It cost a little more labor, but not nearly as much as the whip I, it had the best target zone of all the whips, and it covered most of the input (sorry, no pewter snakes on the handle). In the end it was a superior product to the whip I, and started reaching into the feel of those braided things.
But not everyone is gonna like them. People with extensive whip handling experience aren’t likely to like any kevlar whip. As someone who taught Kendo for a few years, converting to the fire sword was a bit of a shock. Like any fire tool the whip ISN’T a whip. Swords aren’t swords, staves aren’t staves, not from a combat sense. Yes, you can crack a fire whip, but that’s really boring. It’s a visual tool. ALL fire tools are visual. That the whip can crack should be frosting, not cake.
And that’s how we build these things. Not hyper tuned for cracking, but rather for the beauty of the display, the shock of the flash, and the punctuation of a crack. If you’re looking for something to crack over and over again. Take my advise, stick with a leather whip. If you must have fire, go somewhere else. But if you’re looking for a visual tool that can take you beyond poi, this may be your best bet.