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Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > How to use a Military Flail Reply to topic
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Justin Pasternak




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Location: West Springfield, Massachusetts
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PostPosted: Tue 19 Dec, 2006 2:45 pm    Post subject: How to use a Military Flail         Reply with quote

What is the correct technique(s) or method(s) in weilding a flail against a single or multiple opponents in a battle? Are there any scrolls or documents that pertain to teaching the use of the flail in medival Europe or did knights simply just swing the flail around in circles until an enemy came close enough for the knight to hit the enemy with his spinning flail? I also know that the flail was never as popular as the horseman's axe, hammer or mace while fighting mounted on horseback during a battle.
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Russ Ellis




PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 6:58 am    Post subject: Re: How to use a Military Flail         Reply with quote

Justin Pasternak wrote:
What is the correct technique(s) or method(s) in weilding a flail against a single or multiple opponents in a battle? Are there any scrolls or documents that pertain to teaching the use of the flail in medival Europe or did knights simply just swing the flail around in circles until an enemy came close enough for the knight to hit the enemy with his spinning flail? I also know that the flail was never as popular as the horseman's axe, hammer or mace while fighting mounted on horseback during a battle.


An interesting question. I too would be interested in the answer although I rather suspect that we will have to rely on the advice of modern folks that have messed with flails rather then any sort of manual on flail use. I recently acquired an Arms and Armor spiked flail. I've swung it about a bit and have come to the conclusion that I would be far more dangerous to myself with the thing then to any opponent. Of course that flail is far different then the two handed war flail of hussite usage...

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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 7:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It seems many groups who used them were lower orders. Perhaps looking at how threshing works would help?

The first thing that came to my mind was 'Very Carefully!'.

RPM
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Lafayette C Curtis




PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 7:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not sure about the primary source documents, but actually I think swinging a flail in circles would have been one of the least efficient ways of using it, especially in a battle where the technique would have been as dangerous to friends as to the enemies. In fact, I suspect it would have been more practical to wield the flail in a simple vertical downwards swing. With this technique, even if the flail misses the enemy it would hit the ground rather than going on to strike a friend or the wielder's hands. The vertical swing would also have been more familiar to the farmers who would have been used to wielding it that way when they were threshing the grain at home.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 7:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There's at least one plate of Jakob Sutor's fechtbuch which illustrates the use of the flail, although it's a different style of flail than the ones you're thinking of. I'm not certain, but another good place to check would be Mair's manuscript, since he seems to have collected various strikes and techniques with a wide variety of weapons, some of which are relatively esoteric.
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Lafayette C Curtis




PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 7:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't have a copy of Sutor's fectbuch or its translation, so I have to ask one thing: by "different" do you mean that Sutor depicts a flail with a hinge rather than a chain? If so, that's actually the kind of flail I have in mind since honestly I think the chain-attached flail would have been even more of a danger for friendly fighters--if I were teh commander of a medieval army i wouldn't have let anybody with that kind of flail (the chain-linked one, that is) pass the muster.
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Edward Hitchens




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 8:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As you swing a weapon like that, it will develop a lot of torque. If you stop it too suddenly, it might swing back back and hit your forearm. Ouch!! Perhaps a figure-8 type technique will reduce the odds of that happening.
"The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest." Thomas Jefferson
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 8:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
I don't have a copy of Sutor's fectbuch or its translation, so I have to ask one thing: by "different" do you mean that Sutor depicts a flail with a hinge rather than a chain? If so, that's actually the kind of flail I have in mind since honestly I think the chain-attached flail would have been even more of a danger for friendly fighters--if I were teh commander of a medieval army i wouldn't have let anybody with that kind of flail (the chain-linked one, that is) pass the muster.


You can find an untranslated copy of Sutor's fechtbuch here: http://www.thearma.org/pdf/JakobSutor.pdf

Actually, unless I am mistaken, it appears that Sutor depicts two types of flails. The one I was thinking of looks more like a farming flail to me (though if it's not in fact a flail please let me know) and it's found on the very last plate of his manuscript. The other one that I found which looks more like a conventional flail is on plate 84. I think both are hinge attached, but I'm not certain about the illustration for plate 84. Neither flail is a single handed weapon.
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Jean Thibodeau




PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 8:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Edward Hitchens wrote:
As you swing a weapon like that, it will develop a lot of torque. If you stop it too suddenly, it might swing back back and hit your forearm. Ouch!! Perhaps a figure-8 type technique will reduce the odds of that happening.


On a short one handed version I would make the chain short enough that if the handle is held near the end, the chain will not permit the spiky part to hit the hand.

A sudden stop might still be a hazard but at least not to the hand holding the flail.

Length of chain is also a question of how long is optimal: Too long it might be hard to get it moving and too short maybe unstable and too fast or sensitive to control ? ( Not sure about the way a short chain behaves if really very short. )

Oh, a simple hinge might work like a nunchaku and be controlable ? What I'm not sure about are short chains a few inches long.

One advantage of the flail is that one can hit hard without the force being painful to the hand ( Feeling the chock of the impact. ) So one hasn't to hold back out of pain to one's hand. The extra leverage of the chain also increases the power of a hit. Control and mostly recovery is where I also wonder if there were some basic rules and techniques to effective usage.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Rodolfo Martínez




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 10:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello gentlemen.

I saw some double headed flails in the History Channel program ¨Conquest¨(If i find the link i´ll post it.), i don´t know how common or rare they were, but i think that a flail is not a weapon wich you can use after training with a Sprayette´s advanced learning manual (Like other Medieval and Reinassance weapons). As was said previously, the flail can end in your comrades´ head, hitting your arm, your horse, or even, if spiked stuck in your opponent´s armour or shield. Is a nasty situation being in a close formation with your crazy neighbour using a flail. So in my opinion i think that maybe there were more flail techniques, not all manuals were discovered yet. Flails were very powerful weapons against eighter armoured or unarmoured guys, but i don´t think that flails were only a matter of brute force like is shown in movies. I don´t think that our ancestors were so stupid to use a weapon wich they couldn´t handle properly.

¨Sólo me desenvainarás por honor y nunca me envainarás sin gloria¨
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Russ Ellis




PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 11:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Jean,

I agree with your points about the chain length. Fortunately A&A went with just that solution or I undoubtedly would be typing this with one hand right now. Happy Control and recovery of this thing are precisely the problems. Swinging once? Not so bad. Trying to recover quickly for another swing? Bad. Trying to swing without knocking yourself in the back of the head? Bad. I'll hold on to my flail but it's going to be looking pretty (or whatever) on display rather then being a practice item. Happy

To be fair I don't know how typical my little one handed flail is. I suspect that the vast majority were the large two handed variety as used by the hussites. as such there would probably be a lot more control and undoubtedly a much reduced chance of causing havoc in your own ranks.

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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 11:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

See this thread for contemporary depictions of the flail in use (including the Sutor example):

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...ight=sutor

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Trent Stevens




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 2:26 pm    Post subject: kewl!         Reply with quote

I would love to show you how to swing that awesome weapon! i couldnt really tell you how to do it.

My buddies and i work at a place called Medieval times, we constantly swing it with accuracy and power!

keep the bola (flail) in momentum at all times. dont hit yourself.
know where your hand is at all times. dont let it slide up near the chain or where the ball could hit the stick.
practice hitting and work out the trajectory of where the ball flies back at certain angles.
dont swing around your head (unless on horse back) keep the on the outside of your body.
swing the bola for momentum before hitting.


if i can remember anything else i'll let you know!

Trenty!
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Joseph Eaton




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 2:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My first message ever here, so I hope it goes well Happy

Does anyone remember the old hollywood movie version of "Ivanhoe"? (the one with the young Liz Taylor). In the final, climactic fight in it, a duel between two knights, a horseman's flail is used to amazingly good effect. One knight was unhorsed, and the other horsed knight used the flail, he kept it swinging in a circle above his headand would lower the arc of the circle to hit his opponent while riding by, much like Trent suggested above.

Of course, noone ever accused those old movies of excessive authenticity (Why was noone ever muddy in them ?). Still, the actor (stuntman, probably) showed am amazing degree of ability and effectiveness with the weapon. It seemed un-blockable.

Joe
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Bob Burns




PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 5:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Common sense from studying martial arts and being very adept with a weapon known as the nunchuku, which is another weapon in which components of solid hard devestating impact material are connected by either chain (which I use) or rope) and in owning the Spiked Flail from Arms & Armor of which I've whacked a few things headed for the garbage with and have never come close to being hurt. I would say to make arching strikes at your target in which that arch would go around or beyond your own body if it were to miss it'd intended target.
In other words, say your swinging right handed over head you would not want the flail to terminate it's arch against your left tibia or shin bone Exclamation Laughing Out Loud You would want it to go left of your left leg and perhaps circle up left of your left shoulder coming down to the right of your right leg and not "into" your right leg or god forbid between your legs Exclamation Laughing Out Loud Here I am thinking of a large wide arching figure eight motion, though once expert with a nunchuku as "I" have become after many years of practice and in some techniques you can actually "catch" the opposing stick of the nunchuku, this is not remotely advisable with a flail Exclamation Laughing Out Loud Nor can you bounce a flail off your own body for reverse motion as you can a nunchuku, I also do double nunchukus as well.
You always have to be thinking "where is the business end of the flail going to be if it misses it's target"? Stopping a flail in mid swing would be a huge No No and could quite possibly wind up with the spiked ball imbedded in your own face Exclamation It's a follow through weapon of continuous motion, ruled by weight through power, = speed and velocity and you sure do not want your body anywhere in the path of it's direction Exclamation Eek!


Sincerely,

Bob
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Ryan A. C.




PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 8:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It seems to me the flail would be used (in striking), to great affect, if you simply treated it as a mace with an extra arc of motion adding power to your swing. The lever that is your arm flips forward and carries energy to the point you are aiming it, then the chain increases this energy as it flies in its own arc and smashes against where you’ve lined up your shot.

I don’t really see any practicality in swinging the weapon around in pretty circles, as it would both be tiring to the wielder and want to continue traveling in its path of motion. If your opponent moves one way, and your weapon wants to continue motion in some other direction… ouch.

So I think, regardless of forms and technique, striking would involve a possible tapping with the end of the staff, or just aiming with the point, and the natural follow through of the chain brining the ball around to smash into the target.

I’ve never held an actual flail, but I remember as a child the brother that needlessly swung his wooden ball on a rope got owned by the brother with the short wooden dowel. Lowe's was, and possibly remains, the best toy store for idiotic kids.
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Bob Burns




PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 11:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Doing a figure 8 with a flail was nothing more than a singled out example to express the importance of safety when using a flail or any other weapon which is constructed of two or more hard lethal components connected by chain or rope, etc.


Weapon demonstrations can be pretty, but when used in reality, that's an entirely different scenario. After many years with the nunchuku and a black belt in karate, I am very "pretty" with single and double nunchukus in a "demonstration" but that is NOT reality. Demonstrations do not work in reality.

As I've also trained in "Reality Combat" under Keith Hackney of UFC fame, which is a whole lot different than reciting what is known as "kata" ( pre defined series of movements performed in precision)

There is nothing pretty about reality combat, reality weapons use, war or anything else Exclamation


Bob


Last edited by Bob Burns on Thu 21 Dec, 2006 7:03 am; edited 1 time in total
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Jean Thibodeau




PostPosted: Wed 20 Dec, 2006 11:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you miss and want to recover you have to either redirect the momentum or kill the momentum in some way by no longer accelerating the head: At that point the head will continue rotating until it " poops out " or run out of energy and is just dangling strait down at the end of it's chain.

Now this is just " theoretical " the trick is to learn to do it safely. I can't get a real one to play with as it's considered a prohibited weapon in Canada. I guess a plastic or nerf ball version would be legal to play with but not very satisfying.

I did have some cheap versions of a flail around 1970 before it became illegal to own so I did " survive " playing with one. Razz Laughing Out Loud So I do have some memory about the " wiggly / waggly " unbalanced feeling when you are in the awkward recovery between strikes. ( Or just holding still it vertically or near vertically. )

When accelerating the spiky head you do feel some control, it's when you stop accelerating and attempt recovery that it feels
" spongy " .

I would think practice ( If you survive it, that is. Razz ) make a big difference.

If you do hit your target all the energy that is transmitted to the target and recovery solves itself. ( Unless the spiky part want to bounce back right at yourself. GULP. )

Again this is for one handed versions with fairly long chains, A long two handed one with a short chain feels similar but much safer to use I think but don't know for sure.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 1:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The only other thing that I can add to all of this is to try to get a translation of Sutor's two plates, and then actually go out there and try stuff out. You really cannot learn how to use an weapon without trying it out; this applies with all medieval weapons, but particularly so with the flail. Granted, I understand that people are concerned here about injuring themselves which is more a concern with a flail than other weapons. However, it's relatively easy to make a fascimile flail using something like a tennis ball, plastic garden chain, and a piece of wood. Practice with it for a while, and find out what works and what doesn't. Then, get together with a friend and do some sparring- you will probably discover that some things which seemed to work quite effectively on your own don't work when someone else is trying to hit you. After that, you can make the transition back to doing solo stuff with a real flail to figure out what differences there are between it and your home made flail, once you're fairly confident that you will not kill yourself.
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Ryan A. C.




PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 3:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bob, I think you took my post as a personal attack of some sort, or maybe it's just because I skipped sleep last night I read your post like I did. I wasn't referencing your post in what I called "pretty circles". Perhaps, I should've used some other way to describe what I would describe as being the movie technique. Come to think of it, that's exactly what I should have said.

I know the RMS posted a video of someone smashing a watermelon with a two handed flail.

Its construction didn't appear too awfully complicated, and as it was a two handed weapon, I think I might try and make one of those. Not having a length of chain and a spikey ball to worry about, I wouldn't be afraid to experiment.
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