Mair’s Sickle Plate #1

I started this project or basically study a long time ago, but never really got and took the time to work on it.
Sickle is a weapon that fascinates me, it is so different from a long sword, and behind the innocent looking farmer’s tool lies a nasty mean weapon. I first worked with it in 2011 for a film project and it was love at first sight.
After that I vowed to myself that I, one day, would do my own study into sickle fighting.
This post and video is not meant to be perfect, It just shows my view on the subject. I am far from great at sickle fighting but I wanted to show my ideas too. This is just one iteration in a long run, and maybe at some point I decide to do it again because I think I can do it better or have a different view.
The moves were performed pretty statically on purpose to better show the moves.
I just hope that this very long post and video help me and others that work on sickle fighting.

So here goes the first plate…


A cut from above with the sickle from both side

The quote is the original translation by Reinier and Saskia, underneath are my own views and interpretations of that text.

Video

Note: The reason why I choose to block on the arm and not the sickle: If you fight in earnest then your goal is to hurt your opponent or kill them. So why not hurt them with a defensive move? You might weaken the opponent that gives you a better chance to win the fight. Apart from this, in plate #10 Mair mention’s to block with the sickle specifically, So to me that means that is something special and not the normal way of blocking.

Plate 1 breakdown: Step 1

If you both approach each other, and hold the sickle correctly, if you put your right foot in front and hold the sickle in the right hand next to the left side of your head, and stretch the opened left hand towards your opponent, and from there follow with the left [foot], you cut his head from his right side.

Make a step with your left foot, and hit the head of your opponent with your sickle point.  The tip of the sickle  does more damage than the side, based on force on a point or a larger surface. the side is serrated but because it is a cut an not a slash that has minimum effect. To do maximum damage I would go for a softer spot of the head like the neck or the area behind the ear.  Make sure to step diagonally to hold a distance.

Step 2

But if the opponent turns at you in the same way, [while you are] standing with the left foot in front, holding the sickle in the right hand, holding [it] next to the head down at the left shoulder, with the left on the right [hand], then deflect with your sickle your opponent to your right side. Then, if you have grabbed the right [hand] of the opponent with the left hand, you wound his head on the right side.

Use your sickle to deflect the opponents’ wrist to your right side, away from your body.  Follow with grabbing his right elbow with your left hand. Push his arm even more to your right side, so he can’t bend the  elbow or wrist, and hush him even more off balance . After that hit your opponents’ head with your sickle.

Step 3

But if the opponent comes at you in the same way from above, if you quickly grab his right [hand], you can in this way turn away his cuts. And from there, you can immediately, if you pull the right [hand], try to cut the left leg of the opponent standing in front.

I found that there a two possibilities here. I explain both options and my thoughts about them. Since there are two cuts there are two points were you can block:

Option 1: Grab the opponent’s hand before the attack to the head but after the attack on the arm. Lock the arm towards you so the opponent has his weight on his front foot. From there use the sickle to hook your sickle around the front leg and cut it while you push his right arm back. If you also lift the leg while cutting, your opponent loses his balance and might fall.

Option 2: Grab the opponent’s hand before he can hit the first time (on your arm) and lock the arm towards you so the opponent has his weight on his front foot. From there use the sickle to hook your sickle around the front leg and cut it while you push his right arm back. If you also lift the leg while cutting, your opponent loses his balance and might fall.

Option 1, were you block the second cut and let the first one hit is a good possibility if you wear decent protective clothing. You might feel the blow but not get hurt so much. This gives you more time to react to the more dangerous blow to the head.

Option 2 makes sense if you are less protected: a sickle is a farmers’ tool and could have been used by farmers that had to fight for their lord but did not get any formal weapons. They also might not have had any protective clothing like a gambeson or hauberk so maybe only a shirt or what they could take from fallen soldiers. If you only block the second cut the first cut will still hit you. And because they pull it away for the second cut it might turn in a nasty slash to the arm because the blade of a sickle is serrated. A wound to the arm could heal or get infected, a gamble you might not want to take. You never know what was on that sickle before it hit you. Infection can still lead to dead…  This all is highly speculative but a possibility…
A downside is that you need super fast reflexes to block the first cut. It is possible if you are trained but I’m not sure if the user of the sickle was all that trained. We tried it in training on a lower speed and then it was possible to block the first cut, of course this is nothing compared to a fight or full speed.

In the video we use option 1 as the standard, since that is what we practiced more often and found out about first,
option 2 was a later revelation

The last part of this step reminded me of some move from Fiore’s dagger. In Fiore you use your hand to lift the leg and the leg is on the same side from were the weapon was blocked. In the case of the sickle you use the sickle to cut and lift the leg a bit and the leg is on the opposite side of the blocked sickle.

Fiore dagger
Fiore’s dagger

Step 4 

But if he tries the same, then push the right elbow of the opponent more inwards with your left hand, if you then pull back the right hand, you can hit his head with the point of the sickle and pull back again.

With your left hand push the opponent’s right hand inwards towards his/her body. Make sure the right arm with sickle can’t move away, lock it in the bend position.  Pull out your front leg to the back and free your right hand from his grasp and hit the head of the opponent en get out of harms way.

Alhandra_Mair_sickle_plate1

Sources

Translation by Reinier and Saskia [PDF]
Wiktenauer page on Paulus Hector Mair’s Sickles
Original Latin Manuscript

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This is the whole first plate from the Mair’s Sickle, I hope you enjoyed it.
I hope to have the second plate done soon!!

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