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Thoughts on The Philosophy and Ethics of The Sling - Ron Rammage

Slinging is a true western martial art requiring discipline, skill and responsibility to master. As a slinging practitioner you are practicing an ancient but very effective skill. Slinging is almost a lost art. As one of the few practitioners you have a responsibility to all who love slinging to be responsible, to represent the art in a way that will preserve it for future generations and to pass on what you learn.

As a martial art, slinging has a deeper meaning than mere technique. The ability to throw a rock represents mankind's first and last recourse in defending his rights. For primitive humans this began with the right to eat and not be eaten. The David and Goliath story teaches us that a simple shepherd boy armed with faith in God, right principles and a sling could stand against an overwhelming enemy. This enemy embodied both superior strength and technology since it was the tail end of the Bronze Age and the Philistines possessed iron weapons while the Israelites did not. The pattern continues down through the Middle Ages when a poor peasant could challenge a mounted and armored knight. Today, slings are used to harass heavily armed soldiers. The sling reminds us that each of us has the moral right and responsibility to defend our principles and freedoms. We can never completely abdicate this responsibility to others nor can we use the excuse that we lack the tools to fight.

Beyond this, Slinging is fun. There is a primitive joy and freedom involved with releasing a stone and watching it vanish out of sight. There is a thrill and deep sense of accomplishment in hurling a projectile against a target and seeing that target disintegrate into dust. But slinging also has a cost in terms of the discipline required to become skilled. The cost also includes the responsibility that accompanies the use of a potentially lethal weapon.

1) Never sling a stone at anything you wouldn't shoot with a gun. Many people can throw a stone with lethal force on their first attempt even if they can't control the direction. (Note - many beginning slingers suspect that there is a yet undiscovered and mysterious force that attracts sling-stones to other people's property. This force is proportional to the value and breakability of the property. Those who have mastered the art realize that the controlling factor for the mysterious force is the desirability of hitting the target in question. The more desirable the target -- the more difficult it becomes to hit. Yes, I am pulling your leg, but only slightly.)

2) Experiments should be done far away from people and property. An experiment is any slinging operation that has not been proven to be 100% predictable. Experiments include ALL SLINGING that occurs for the first forty or so hours of practice. Experiments include new sling types, new ammo, and new techniques.

Rogue stones happen even to experts. A rogue is any stone that leaves the sling in an unexpected way. There are two basic types of rogues.

One, the stone leaves the sling prematurely. This happens more often with non-solid types of cradles such as the split-braided style. This type of rogue stone may occur when the ammo is not correctly positioned in the cradle or the acceleration of the sling is uneven. Premature rogues may also occur because of an error in timing the release. This type of rogue may happen early in the slingers career due to an error in release timing but is usually eliminated with a bit of practice.

Two, the stone hangs in the cradle and is released past the intended point. This is the most dangerous type of rogue since the stone has undergone the full acceleration of the final release. The causes usually are human error (timing), tangled sling chords (may have been twisted), and ammunition that is irregular and catches on some part of the sling.

3) Never allow spectators to stand in the sector of space that begins with the intended release vector and ends with a vector 90 degrees downswing of the release. This is the area that is most likely for the hang-up type of rogue. For an over-head windup with an over-hand release where the sling moves from right to left in front of the slinger (i.e. right handed) the danger zone is in front and to the left. Never stand behind a slinger who is casting in the overhand or underhand style. A premature or accidental release could cause the projectile to be released behind. The safest place is to the sides of the person.

4) Arrange a signal with partners such as "heads-up" or "rogue" to shout when a rogue is in the air.

5) Always follow a stone to its termination. This is especially important on an under-hand cast since the vertical direction is within the danger zone for a hang-up type rogue. The fact that "what goes up must come down" is pretty well established by this point.

6) Slinging is a great sport for kids. But use common sense in making sure that they understand the safety issues, are properly trained and responsible to follow the rules.

7) If you do slinging demonstrations you have an obligation to make sure that the spectators understand that that a sling is a weapon and not a toy.

8) Retire worn or damaged slings.

9) Slinging any type of incendiary or explosive device should be avoided since it multiplies the danger to people and property many-fold.

10) Take responsibility for your actions. If you do throw a rock through the windshield of the neighbor's new sports car, you are responsible for replacing it. (Best to make sure this doesn't happen in the first place.)


- Ron Rammage

© 2007