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The chain whip is a weapon used in some Asian martial arts, including Chinese Martial Arts, in addition to modern and traditional wushu. It consists of several metal rods, which are joined end-to-end by rings to form a flexible chain. Generally, the whip has a handle at one end and a metal dart, used for slashing or piercing an opponent, at the other. A cloth flag is often attached at or near the dart end of the whip, and a second flag may cover the whip’s handle. The flag or flags enhance a wushu performance by adding visual appeal, and by producing a rushing sound as the whip swings through the air. They also help stabilize the whip, enhancing the performer’s control. This reduces the performer’s risk of inadvertently striking himself/herself.
According to the book Soft Weapons: Nine-Section Whip and Rope Dart, “The nine-section whip, regarded as a ‘powerful hidden weapon,’ was first used on the battlefield during the Jìn Dynasty (265-420).”
The chain whip is heavy but flexible, allowing it to be literally used as a whip to hit, hook and bind an opponent, restrict his/her movement, and to deflect blows from other weapons. The dart is used for slashing or piercing an opponent.In some cases, the dart might be coated with a poison. Because the whip is flexible, it can be used to strike around obstacles, including an opponent’s block. The whip chain can be folded and hidden from view, making it an easy weapon to carry and conceal.
Chain whip forms are often extremely elaborate. In some, the chain whip is thrown in the air and caught, flicked around the neck, or flung around underneath a recumbent performer. One classic technique, used to accelerate a spinning chain whip, involves rapidly wrapping and unwrapping the length of the chain around various parts of the body, including the legs, neck and elbows. Various twisting or flicking motions cause the chain whip to gain momentum as it unwraps. Chain whip techniques may be combined with jumping kicks and other acrobatics. Double chain whip forms have been developed, as have forms in which a chain whip is coupled with a broadsword.
As with all weapons that are either chained or tied together, the whip chain is hard to control without practice. In fact, it is harder to control than a traditional rawhide or bull whip because the linked sections provide looser joints while a bull whip is one solid piece. The Whip Chain is sometimes considered one of the hardest weapons in martial arts to use, simply because all you can truly control is the handle you hold. A chain whip is also harder to master than its sister weapons, the rope dart and the meteor hammer. This is because while the rope dart is soft until you reach the metal tip, the entirety of the chain whip is solid metal and can cause more damage than the rope can if contact is made with the body, especially at the high speeds one makes the whip chain travel at. Definitely not a weapon for beginners, if one does begin to practice this, practice in wide open areas with no people nearby, and focus more on judging where the tip will go in correspondence to the movement of the wrist and arm, rather than how to control the entire whip. If one is truly unsure about their control, it is sometimes suggested that you wrap each section in foam rubber or a similar substance. It will inhibit some of the movement, but so one can focus more on learning how to control it rather than worrying about it hitting themselves.