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Whip Fighting in East Java (Really!)

     The Aural Archipelago website this month features a look at okol, a kind of idiosyncratic gamelan played most often to liven up events featuring ojhung, or Madurese whip fighting.
     "Similar to the glundhangan group I'd recorded amongst the diasporic Madurese of Jember, okol is an ensemble rooted in rough-hewn wood..." the website says.
       As a fan of both gamelan music and whip cracking, this piqued my curiosity. As you can see for yourself in this video, the percussive music and the melee-like combat seem to feed off each other. I am still not quite sure about the rules, and the body armor is like nothing you'll see at a cosplay convention.
       I am not sure how the winner is decided, but the attentive referee appears to keep participants from being too badly injured.
       This is, of course, not recommended, because it is dangerous. (Duh!)
       Personally, I do not condone violence, although I do approve of healthy competition. And I always condone music! So, to read the whole story (with National Geographic-quality pictures), visit
Aural Archipelago's website. 

Update: The Bullwhip Index of Whip Makers
and Performers is now INTERACTIVE
       The Bullwhip Index at Bullwhip.Info now lets you see linked pop-up business cards, banners and portraits of the whip makers and performers listed. 
       If you are a performer or whip maker, you should take a look -- because this can be a free resource for you. (If you want a bigger banner, there is a very slight fee.)
       I try to make this as comprehensive as I can, but I am certain there are good whip makers and whip crackers alike that I have not yet encountered (I found a new one today, in fact). If you'd like to help, tell me who they are and where I can find them. 
       Because for the
Bullwhip Index to work, it needs to work for everyone. Check it out!

AWPA vs APWA - What's the Difference?
       In Australia, there are two venerable organizations promoting and supporting the arts of whip making and competitive whip cracking. They sound similar, and their logos resemble each other, but don't confuse the two (the way I did for months!).
       Here's my own Consumer Reports-like assessment of these two groups.
        APWA (The Australian Plaiters And Whipmakers Association)
       This is primarily a group for Australian whip makers. It began as a newsletter sent out by Ron Edwards in 1985, whose book “How to Make Whips,” is a classic work on whip making. In January 1993, forty enthusiasts met just west of Brisbane and APWA was off to the races.
       These days, it sponsors competitions and classes for whip makers and plaiters, and its quarterly journal is a glossy, top-notch vehicle for sharing knowledge and advice. Annual membership fees are AU$60.00 in Australia, or $AU85.00 overseas.


     AWPA (The Australian Whipcrackers and Plaiters Association)      

       AWPA, formed in 1992, has become the gold standard for competitive whip cracking (it does sponsor whip making competitions, as well). Its perspective is more global than APWA's, and it encourages whip cracking as a family sport.
        Its newsletter, “Get Cracking,” lists AWPA and non-AWPA events and contests (some of them are worth big bucks to the best!). It's sponsors like bush outfitter RM Williams who help make some AWPA whipcracking contests the richest in the world. This group vigorously emphasizes safety, and its competition rules include a Code of Ethics (eg. No rough or crude language), which makes it very family-friendly.
       Membership is AU$30 in Australia or AU$50 overseas, and includes six "Get Cracking" newsletters a year on what's happening in the world of whip cracking (the newsletter alone is AU$30 a year). Membership to affiliated clubs includes membership to the AWPA.
       Conclusion: Both groups have their positive aspects, but as a whip cracker who is not a resident of Australia, I can relate to AWPA better. Happily, it's not an either-or situation: you can belong to both groups.
       Final thought: “AWPA-Affiliated Clubs” - I don't know why there are no AWPA-affiliated whip cracking groups or clubs in the USA, Canada, Europe, or South Africa; I know for certain there are enthusiastic members getting together regularly to enjoy the sport of whip cracking everywhere. Maybe it's time, eh?  

Adam Winrich outlines a lesson plan for beginners
       Adam adds, "If you would like to buy a whip like this, contact Dakota Winrich through her Facebook page, Dakitty Whips." The 24-time Guinness World Record holder's website is at (Thanks for sharing your  expertise, Adam!)
"If you peek into my own whip bag, this is what you'll find."
Robert Dante
       Tonight, I am preparing to go on the road, again. This time, the West Coast beckons. Sometimes, I wonder why I do it. In my world, a successful event is one where I don't lose money.
       I'm now old enough for Medicare. My doctor tells me I should retire from the field, citing my five shoulder surgeries. Beset by Republicans and Capitalists on all flanks, I've given up trying to justify my art, my vision of the Great Work. Whatever that is.
       I exhibit the symptoms of an addict. I listen to my whip as I would to a teacher of profound truths. I see the wave of a whip's energy in everything from the fluttering of a flag to the spiraling arms of  distant galaxies. I sense that something throbbing below the shimmering surface reflection of what's around me. I know it's real.
       The addict analogy is a good one, because there are negative addictions and positive addictions. A negative addiction destroys you, bleeds your life force away, makes you less than what you really are. A positive addiction empowers you, strengthens you, makes your life larger and richer than it would have been otherwise. 
       So I look forward to  tomorrow, the packing of the whips, the plugging destinations into the GPS, the easy and warm (and often enlightening) conversations I'll have with my Mary on the road. It was never about the money, but I am become rich in my friends and rich in the experiences the whips have brought me. I continue to be amazed by that.
       Don't forget: "The bigger you are, the lower you have to bow." Stay true.

       - Robert Dante -
Copyright © 2018 Dante's Bullwhips, All rights reserved.

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