Mair’s Peasant Flail 0: Introduction   Leave a comment

This is a bit of a fleshing-out of my classnotes from this past University.  I figured it might provide some context for the rest of the posts on flail.


History of German martial arts and Paulus Hector Mair
Mair is at the tail-end of the Liechtenauer Tradition
  • Liechtenauer was “The Way” of German Fencing for 400 years
  • Primarily longsword focused with all weapons forms deriving from the principles Liechtenauer established around longsword
  • Taught by masters such as Talhoffer and Joachim Meyer

Who was Paulus Hector Mair and why did he make this

  • PHM was a student (not master) of fencing
  • Wealthy civil servant in Augsburg, Germany
  • Executed for embezzlement in 1579
  • Just a bit obsessed with fencing
  • Used the treasury of Augsburg to make at least three versions of De Arte Athletica

Why were peasant weapons included?

  • This was the middle of the Lutheran-Catholic wars of religion and the French-German “Italian Wars”
  • Peasants may have needed to defend themselves against roaming groups of soldiers
  • Judicial dueling probably did not include peasant weapons
  • But brawling did!

Threshing flail used to beat wheat grain, separating the chaff from the germ
Parts of the weapon and striking surfaces

  • Head (a weighted leather sock, sometimes studded with spikes)
  • 4-6 feet long staff, bottom end used to deliver thrusts (I refer to this as the butt-spike, though no spike was present.  It conveys the concept for SCA-inurred combatants)

Construction of the simulator

  • 6 foot wooden dowel or rattan staff
  • Pool noodle head

“Medium Grip”

  • Like spear
  • Left hand near butt-spike, right hand in mid-staff

“Long Grip”

  • Left hand near butt-spike, right hand near left

“Wide Grip”

  • Left hand near butt-spike, right hand near flail head
  • Variant: Holding the head and the staff with the right hand

“Over-over” grip vs. “over-under” grip

  • 2 out of 16 figures in 8 plates have over-over grip
  • These may or may not be due to illustration errors

Exchange of hands


  • Weight forward
  • Wide step
  • Not always conducive to the action described
    • Stance makes it difficult to move lead foot first
    • Could be a result of posing models rather than accurate representation

Passing steps

  • Primary means of moving forward and back
  • Stepping primes the hips for power generation

Triangle step

  • First step at an angle past your opponent
  • Second step pivot to face your opponent

Step lands with blow

Scales or “Die Wag”

  • Point down, butt-up vertical block on the left or right side of the body.
  • Almost all blocks end in Scales

High Guard or “Vom Tag” –

  • Variants: Really High, high-and-horizontal, sort of high
  • Usual starting guard, to make use of gravity in powering swing

Middle or “Pflug”

  • Like bayonet


  • Appears in other Liechtenauer traditions
  • Hinted at in one play

Most delivered from the feet, hips, and shoulders
Occasionally delivered with just the arms
Oberhau: Over Cut
Mittelhau: Middle Cut
Unterhau: Under Cut
Thrust with staff end
All can be onside or offside

Duo tempi actions to chamber shots for power generation (deflect in first tempo, then step and strike in second)

Blocks rarely static

  • Blocking staff would not stop head from connecting
  • Some static head blocks are seen

Most blocks are deflections/redirections

  • Majority deflections with butt-spike
  • Some with head or upper-staff

Posted October 2, 2011 by wistric in German HMA

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