Bullwhips For Self-Defense: The techniques of Anthony De Longis

One thing that is different from my view of bullwhip work and many of my friends who spend a lot of time working on technique with an emphasis on dance like choreography is that I find the whip most useful as a melee weapon in martial arts. In my novel The Symposium of Justice, the main character Cliffhanger uses bullwhips exclusively as his primary weapon to fight the forces of evil. Even when firearms and modern technology present options that might otherwise be considered more attractive—Cliffhanger uses two bullwhips to slice up and dominate his rivals with blistering effectiveness. My friend Gery Deer runs the only bullwhip instructional studio in the world, and his emphasis has always been non-combative instruction. So when the two of us get together we politely avoid the subject. Most bullwhip artists feel the same way that Gery does—and for good reason. There is a stigma that bullwhips are naturally violent weapons, so to promote the sport, they put emphasis on the non combative aspects of it. But, bullwhips by their nature are very violent, and are among the most flexible and versatile weapons ever created by a human being. And a guy who has made quite an extensive living teaching bullwhip combat techniques is Anthony De Longis.

Anthony has a long history with bullwhips and has done a good job of promoting them within Hollywood. Once while I was doing a short picture in Glendale, California which is Anthony’s hometown his name came up often by the stunt people and stunt coordinators. He is well-known within the Hollywood community as the go-to guy for bullwhips in film and he has worked with great passion to create interest in his spare time.

As a published writer, De Longis has contributed articles on the sword and the bullwhip to both martial arts and stage combat publications. These include articles on the Spanish Mysterious Circle, published in Fight Master, Inside Karate and Martial Arts Insider, and on sabre in Black Belt. Articles on the bullwhip have appeared in Inside Karate, Black Belt and Inside Stunts.

Off-camera, De Longis was Fight Director for the Los Angeles Music Center Opera from 1985 to 2003. He was Swordmaster / Stunt Coordinator for episodes 1-6 of The Queen Of Swords, and Swordmaster for Secondhand Lions.

He is also a professional stage movement and combat instructor, teaching in academic (UCLA Theatre Arts Dept. 1974-1993), small group and private settings seminars. He was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame as 2008 Weapons Instructor of the Year and into the International Knife Throwers Hall of Fame in 2009,


He shares with many of the people I most associate with a love of these kinds of skills—these western arts–and his impact to the industry deserves respect. He and I share specifically a love for Terry Jacka made bullwhips from Australia as most of the rest of the industry leans toward Joe Strain. There are others, but those two names are among the highest in the business. Samples of both their work can be found at Western Stage Props. However, both whip makers can be found at their individual sites.


But when it comes to combat and the bullwhip, I can think of no better weapon in the world to deal with an armed thug in melee combat. There isn’t a martial artist that I’ve met, or a weapon used in those arts which surpasses the ability of a bullwhip. They can be coiled up for easy transportation and stuffed into a bag for concealment, but can become a projector of danger as lethal as knives from a safe distance of 8’ to 10’. They can disarm a foe, or tie up their feet if they are trying to run away from a treacherous act, or bullwhips can choke an assailant to within inches of their life with the leverage needed to cut off the oxygen and blood to their brain with much more effectiveness than bare hands even among the strongest man.

Years ago I sold cars and spent a lot of time on the car lot waiting for customers to visit so I could sell them something. To kill time, I often practiced with my bullwhip in the back lot, which attracted the attention of the various lot techs and mechanics. On one particular occasion a couple of strong guys who thought they were particularly tough wanted to spar with me, their knives and baseball bats from the trunk of their car against my whip. Three of them against me and my bullwhip. It wasn’t even close. I was able to get the 12’ whip around me so quick that they couldn’t attack without getting hit. When they tried to come all at the same time I was easily able to go after the head of one of them to break their line and step out behind it keeping them from trapping me. If they elected to take the hit, it would have hurt them catastrophically—which was the intention because we were playing that kind of game. One of them finally got smart and stepped on the end my whip as it was so long, it took a lot longer to move around than some of the smaller 6’ whips. Once he had the end of the whip trapped, he thought he and his friends had me defenseless. But what they didn’t know was that I could then close ranks and wrap the whip around their necks and use the handle as a club—very similar to a blackjack.

My grandfather used to carry a police style blackjack in his pocket and considered this adequate to knock away most foes he met around town in times of crises. I used it a few times, but retired it quickly realizing that it was best to get distance away from your opponents as opposed to being close enough to use a small club. I replaced the blackjack with a bullwhip and have never since stopped. If an opponent has control of the end of the whip it essentially takes their hands out of the fight. This gives the bullwhip wielder the advantage in a conflict because they can then use the handle as a club against an unarmed victim.

My use of bullwhips has always been combat related as opposed to showmanship. Recently a reader of my daughter’s website wondered why I had a bullwhip with me on our trip to the Ghost Ship of Cincinnati. Well, there were reports that some of the locals might be hostile and often take shots at people who visit the Ghost Ship. That turned out not to be the case—the people I met were quite nice—but you never know when you might run across some drug dealer’s marijuana patch, or someone burying a body deep in the woods—and in times like that you don’t want to be unarmed. So I bring my bullwhip as I always have. When people think of such things, they think of Indiana Jones—but the truth of the matter is, Indiana Jones is a practical adventurer—he knew how to dress for occasions and what to bring. Ironically, my daughter and I used my bullwhip to climb up the side of the ship. Of course I didn’t use one of my Jacka whips for that task—I used one of my long rawhide whips which are very tough. With those whips you can swing across things and climb trees—or disassemble someone who means to do you harm.

I could tell many stories about bullwhips, and when it comes to combat work with bullwhips, Anthony De Longis is the current spokesman at the entertainment level. What he has been preaching is real, and really just begins to touch on the possibilities. But those possibilities are infinitely exciting when it comes to weapons and their effectiveness.  In my opinion learning any other skill for any other weapon is pointless and a waste of time. There is nothing that I’d choose to use for self-defense than a bullwhip and that includes a firearm. Most firearms are shot at a close range and often miss their mark the first time—just because of the implication of what it means to shoot another person—death—long jail times, that kind of thing. The bullwhip will put an end to such threats within 1.5 seconds which is often the time it takes to decide to pull a trigger. The legal impact to such a self-defense measure is far less, and much more beneficial to staying out of court in the aftermath. Anybody who has been thinking of learning such a skill might want to visit Anthony out at his ranch to learn a thing or two about combat bullwhip techniques. That skill will likely save the life of you and those who mean you harm with the most effective way to remove threats under circumstances of coercion.   His site can be reached by the link above.

Rich Hoffman