Thursday, January 7, 2016

And now for something completely different - the sickle plays of Paulus Hector Mair!

We've survived the holidays over here, so it's back to cool historic combat stuff. I'm trying to work on a second poster display so I can go sit in the friendly non-compete area of King's and Queen's Arts and Sciences Champs ('cause I don't think the setup for the competition area really works for me - I kind of rely on being able to talk to people rather than set up a physical standalone thing, y'know?) that'll be More Fabris, and hopefully that'll be a lot of fun.

So instead of doing More Fabris in two places at once (though I'll no doubt talk about the poster display contents here) I want to do something a little different. Sickle plays!

A while back, Wistric did a series on Mair's sickle plays over at the Weekly Warfare. They looked really fun then, and they still look really fun. For the Winter Giftgiving Holiday I received a pair of Purpleheart Armory's sickle simulators from my wife who wants me to get into trouble, so let's take a look at this thing!

For a translation, I'm using the translation of the Latin text by Reinier van Noort and Saskia Roselaar, available here. Naturally, wiktenauer has a great page on Mair as well. Finally, Wistric has posted a translation by Rachel Barkley with commentary by himself. (I've skimmed that one a while back, but I'm not consulting it closely yet, mostly because I want to see what I come up with for modern commentary as compared to him. Also, I'm leery of not copying work, accidentally or not. That said, he swears that there's an underlying system here, so I'm going to enjoy looking for that and piecing it together.)

My plan is to work my way through the sixteen plays post by post, and also work through them in person, with intent. (And with protection, yes.) I should be able to have at least one or two looked at and able to be slowly worked on and taught by Birka, which should be a good time.

Before going into detail on the plays, I've already given them a quick readthrough, and I've come up with two quick reactions:
  1. The artwork is gorgeous.
  2. Mair builds out the plays in a way very reminiscent of how I've been taught in some WMA classes.
I don't really need to expand on the first point, but the second one is really interesting to me. To summarize, it generally reads like this:

  1. Set up like so! Do this thing to your opponent. You struck them, excellent.
  2. If your opponent tries to do that to you, here's a response!
  3. If your opponent responds like that to your original opening, here's the counter!
  4. If your opponent uses a counter to your response to the original opening, here's what you do!
On first glance it's a bit complicated to parse, but I think that once it's put into a more modern formatting that this will be really great to work with. It lends itself to building out the play step by step, and seeing how the whole thing evolves as you go. This can let you work up to the whole play at full speed step by step, and still feel accomplished at each step, because each step is either an ending (someone is struck) or it can continue (there is a response). It shows a number of situations that come out of a single opening, and the responses to each, which should make it easier to tease out underlying principles (which is to say, a system).

This is gonna be really different from my usual Italian rapier focus, and I'm looking forward to digging through something new for a little change of pace here. (While I continue to work on reading, learning, drilling, writing, and fencing Italian rapier in the background, because let's be serious here.)


  1. This looks awesome. I am very interested to hear more about this and will take a class on it if you teach it. I appreciate the links to the material as well. Thank you

  2. I thought I was right to get excited when I saw sickles. Rachel's one of my oldest friends, and I watched her work on that translation way back when I visited and had to ping up here to find out what Barony I was from. -Mac