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Raymond Arnold





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PostPosted: Sat 08 Mar, 2008 9:47 pm    Post subject: The point of flails?         Reply with quote

A friend and I (neither of us experienced combatants) just had a discussion about flails, and what advantages they'd give you. I assume it has something to do with building up momentum and using it to deal extra damage, but it seems like once you hit all the momentum would be lost (unlike nunchucks, which from what I understand let you switch hands and continue the momentum to some degree) and the weapon as a whole just seems fairly clumsy.

Also, as long as I have your attention, can you clarify the difference between maces, morningstars, and flails? (I think there are some other similar weapons I also confuse them with but I can't recall them right now).
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Sean Smith





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PostPosted: Sat 08 Mar, 2008 10:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Flails are able to generate an amazing amount of power from very little movement of the hand (relatively speaking). There is a reason why NONE of the re-enactment groups I am aware of allow them (except Markland). Some people tried using softballs attached to the end of climbing rope one time. Put the softball through a hardwood door, over 2" thick. Now transfer that to metal ball on the end of a stick. I would assume recovery would be a problem, but it is one of those one-strike, you hurt weapons. We also tend to see them in the hands of lower classes of society, where any weapon is desired. IIRC, threshers were used s flails at one point, as they discovered that beating hay and beating people are essentially the same.
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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Sat 08 Mar, 2008 10:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is my understanding that flails are very useful for going over or around shields. The chain can bend around the shield and still hit someone in a way that a sword or other weapon could not.
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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Sat 08 Mar, 2008 10:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tim Lison wrote:
It is my understanding that flails are very useful for going over or around shields. The chain can bend around the shield and still hit someone in a way that a sword or other weapon could not.


That was going to be the first thing I pointed out too about flails. I have done some limited fighting against flails with my shield . The key is to block the ball rather then the chain. After some practice against them they can be very predictable. You can't change direction as you can with a sword. Once you stop the motion of the head it usually requires a good windup to get it going again. One interesting aspect of flails that is not often fully considered is that the stick is a weapon too. I was training with one guy who has played around with flails and he holds the stick just under where the chain attaches. His game is to throw the ball in one direction mainly as a misdirection and then stab with the buttspike of the stick preferably to the face. With a two-handed flail you can use the stick for blocking and stabbing while throwing the ball around. I recommend you practice with rubber balls rather then the real thing. It is easy to see that this weapon is just as dangerous to the user and his own horse as the enemy.

A lot of medieval terminology is often thrown around loosely in a confusing manor. My understanding is that if you flail is a ball and chain attached to a stick. There can be more then one ball and chain attached to a single stick. If a single ball is attached directly to the stick is it a mace. If the ball in either case has spikes it is a morning star. So you could have a "morning star flail" or a "morning star mace". I have come across other names I can't remember too. I am sure each locality had its own name for these weapon with evolved from farming tools.

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sat 08 Mar, 2008 11:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One other thing about a flail is that the hand holding the handle doesn't have to absorb any of the impact shock when the ball hits a target no matter how hard one hits or resistant the target is: This makes using a maximum speed and fully committed strike painless.

Probably many design issues when designing a flail such as length of chain, length of handle, weight of ball(s) that would have handling effects as far as power, speed of impact, time to get the ball up to speed and recovery after an impact or a miss.

When the ball hits it loses it's momentum and getting in another blow " might " be faster/easier than recovering from a miss where the ball's continuing arc must be stopped or redirected. ( Oh, and gives a very wiggle/waggle unpleasant feel i.e. top heavy unbalanced instability ).

( I think some of this was discussed before in a previous Topic thread and I'm sure I'm repeating myself. Wink Laughing Out Loud ).

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Last edited by Jean Thibodeau on Sun 09 Mar, 2008 4:22 am; edited 1 time in total
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Christopher H





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PostPosted: Sun 09 Mar, 2008 1:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Vassilis Tsafatinos wrote:
His game is to throw the ball in one direction mainly as a misdirection and then stab with the buttspike of the stick preferably to the face.

Cool idea!
This would, however, decrease the energy delivered in a strike - but as it is a feint it probably isn't an issue.
The way I understand flails is that they work on a similar principle as a staff sling or trebuchet, where the handle/arm allows a greater 'lever' for the body to work with and the pendulum allows a greater projectile speed (increasing its momentum).
As far as I understand the flail and sling) is only swung in an arc for the release (not in circles prior to the release).


Last edited by Christopher H on Sun 09 Mar, 2008 1:57 am; edited 1 time in total
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D. Austin
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PostPosted: Sun 09 Mar, 2008 1:55 am    Post subject: Re: The point of flails?         Reply with quote

Raymond Arnold wrote:
Also, as long as I have your attention, can you clarify the difference between maces, morningstars, and flails? (I think there are some other similar weapons I also confuse them with but I can't recall them right now).


A mace is essentially a club with a metal head (usually steel and often flanged to concentrate the energy output).

A morning star is a shafted weapon with an enlarged head studded with spikes. These spikes may be sharp and would also serve to stab an unarmoured opponent, unlike the smashing flanges on a mace which were less piercing but more durable and intended more for attacking armoured opponents. I can't remember the source, but apparently the name came from using it to wish the enemy 'good morning' in a pre dawn raid on their camp.

A flail is basically a weapon composed of a haft and a head, with a flexible link joining them, allowing the head to gain momentum with a whipping action. It could be both one or two handed, depending on the size. The japanese nunchaku, derived from the rice flail (a farming implement) is a good (although small) example. A flail could certainly have a morning star style head, with studs to increase the damage caused upon impact and could also have more than one head attached to the handle.

On the issue of a flail losing it's momentum when striking, any weapon can lose it's momentum in this way but this is what it is intended to do. If it skims off the opponent's armour without losing much momentum, it hasn't caused much damage. The damage done is often proportional to the momentum lost, which demonstrates the devastating effect of the flail, capable of achieving a much greater velocity than a sword, spear or mace.
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Sun 09 Mar, 2008 4:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I imagine single-handed flails were used much as single-handed maces. They don't seem to have been terribly popular weapons. As for two-handed flails, Mair actually addressed them:

http://mdz10.bib-bvb.de/~db/bsb00006570/image...;seite=421
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Sun 09 Mar, 2008 5:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hussites were famous for their use of war cluns or flails. They used them contra knights and men at arms so perhaps an indication of how and why they were used and in this case by who.

Randall
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Hugo Voisine





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PostPosted: Sun 09 Mar, 2008 6:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
A morning star is a shafted weapon with an enlarged head studded with spikes. These spikes may be sharp and would also serve to stab an unarmoured opponent, unlike the smashing flanges on a mace which were less piercing but more durable and intended more for attacking armoured opponents. I can't remember the source, but apparently the name came from using it to wish the enemy 'good morning' in a pre dawn raid on their camp.


I think the word is goedendag... must be somewhere in the myArmoury features section...

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Corey D. Sullivan




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PostPosted: Sun 09 Mar, 2008 10:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was under the impression that the Goedendag was an different weapon entirely. A large wooden club bound with iron at one end, and topped with a spike. The Flemish used them to great effect at the battle of Courtrai in 1302.

http://www.liebaart.org/goeden_e.htm



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Flemish Soldier

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"He had scantly finyshed his saienge but the one armye espyed the other lord how hastely the souldioures buckled their healmes how quikly the archers bent ther bowes and frushed their feathers how redely the byllmen shoke their bylles and proved their staves redy to appioche and loyne when the terrible trotnpet should sound the blast to victorie or deathe."
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Simon E.




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PostPosted: Sun 09 Mar, 2008 10:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I found an image a while back from Freydal (a book commissioned by the German emperor Maximilian I in the 1500's) that seems to show the wrapping ability of a two handed flail. It's on this page about halfway down.
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Raymond Arnold





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PostPosted: Sun 09 Mar, 2008 10:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for all the info! It makes a lot more sense now.
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B. Fulton





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PostPosted: Sun 09 Mar, 2008 12:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Having (pre-SCA, which does not allow them) fought in a LARP which did, though under strict construction rules and usually, not allowing them at all (pretty much on a case by case basis) I found these things to be true:

Excellent intimidator, especially against those who haven't fought much. Whirling it around (1 handed model) as a "i'm about to strike" indicator made inexperienced fighters tend to keep an eye on the flail. Even a feinted hit with the flail tended to draw their attention, and if you had a sword/dagger in the other hand, they tended to get stabbed.

As an anti-shield weapon, especially at closer range, where striking the stick against the shield allowed the ball and chain to wrap, made a back-strike almost guaranteed. The LARP, for safety reasons made a rule of "no headshots" but a flail used in this manner could easily flip around and wallop someone in the head, helmeted or not, with sufficient force to concuss them or worse. WIth a longer chain you can/could easily disarm someone caught unawares (this happened to me once), although the opposite is also true with a long reach weapon intercepting the chain could possibly rip the flail out of the user's hand.

I would not want to use one as a primary weapon, but on horseback or in a melee against multiple opponents, it could come in handy as a backup weapon. In a one-vs-I'm gonna die situation where it is you against a team, the ability to flick it around you as a deterrent (no matter who you hit, they're gonna hurt) could definitely come in handy.

These observations, of course, aren't perfect since the weapons were soft/padded and I was not literally trying to kill someone, but having actually gone near full speed in a fighting situation using a flail simulator i think gives me a decent idea what it would be like.
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Kelly Powell




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PostPosted: Sun 09 Mar, 2008 1:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The movie El Cid where he is flailing the flail and the horse around.....classic.
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Steven H




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PostPosted: Sun 09 Mar, 2008 4:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The point of flails - extra energy imparted - is clear.

They were extensively used by the Hussites against armoured opponents. The two handed flails had enough impact to inflict damage and concussions through armour.

I do not believe that the flail as a weapon and shields overlap much in time period. I believe them to be a primarily late Medieval period weapon - after shields have become rather uncommon. So there efficacy against shields isn't much the issue. Additionally all of the examples I've seen have rather short chains which would make wrapping past a shield and hitting the other guy difficult.

Cheers,
Steven

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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Sun 09 Mar, 2008 7:13 pm    Post subject: Re: The point of flails?         Reply with quote

D. Austin wrote:

A mace is essentially a club with a metal head (usually steel and often flanged to concentrate the energy output).

A morning star is a shafted weapon with an enlarged head studded with spikes. These spikes may be sharp and would also serve to stab an unarmoured opponent, unlike the smashing flanges on a mace which were less piercing but more durable and intended more for attacking armoured opponents. I can't remember the source, but apparently the name came from using it to wish the enemy 'good morning' in a pre dawn raid on their camp.

A flail is basically a weapon composed of a haft and a head, with a flexible link joining them, allowing the head to gain momentum with a whipping action. It could be both one or two handed, depending on the size. The japanese nunchaku, derived from the rice flail (a farming implement) is a good (although small) example. A flail could certainly have a morning star style head, with studs to increase the damage caused upon impact and could also have more than one head attached to the handle.

On the issue of a flail losing it's momentum when striking, any weapon can lose it's momentum in this way but this is what it is intended to do. If it skims off the opponent's armour without losing much momentum, it hasn't caused much damage. The damage done is often proportional to the momentum lost, which demonstrates the devastating effect of the flail, capable of achieving a much greater velocity than a sword, spear or mace.


Those are also the definitions of the various weapons as I understand them.

Just as an added bit of caution after playing about a little with my Arms and Armor flail I can say that I think that at least for the shorter single handed versions they would require a pretty good bit of training to use properly. Otherwise the guy swinging the thing is going to be just as much danger to himself and those on his side as he would be to any opponent. I would HIGHLY recommend doing those first flail swings without anyone else in the general vicinity. I have to say that it's an interesting weapon... and one I would never even consider taking into combat. Things like maces and axes generate similar amounts of energy without the danger of conking oneself in the head. Happy

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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sun 09 Mar, 2008 10:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Best way to think about it would be to envision a wrecking ball. Same principal.

M.

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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Sun 09 Mar, 2008 11:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven,

Shields may have been less common among knights and men at arms but I doubt they died out among most common infantry as in the 16th you have entire forces of them, spain for example made great use of them so they might be useful still against sheilds. There is still a fair deal of art and lit. from the early 15th that shows knights with sheilds so lets not push this idea out just yet. I think it likely has more to do with them being effective against men in plate and cheap. The perfect poor man's knight cracker.

RPM
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B. Fulton





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PostPosted: Mon 10 Mar, 2008 8:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote




On the "inexpensive knight cracker" theme....

this is a 2-handed pole weapon, short chained, with a morning-star-like end on it. I would NOT want to be anywhere near the recieving end.

From the armory at Graz, Austria.
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