Archive for June, 2007


Another Whip Sword…

Today I’ll be introducing you to a new kind of whip sword which, unlike the ninja blade whip I blogged about earlier, is actually much, much closer to a real whip in it’s design. This is a weapon of the Indian martial art Kalarippayattu, which is said by some to be one of the oldest. However our interest for today is not the etymology of Kalarippayattu, but rather a very unique weapon used in the art. Say hi to the wicked Urumi/Chuttuval:


Urumi Chuttuval
[view full size]

This ultra-flexible sword is called the Urumi in the Northern System of Kalarippayattu and Chuttuval in the Southern System. It is little more than a long strip of flexible steel, usually about four or five feet long, and between three quarters of an inch to an inch thick. As you can see, this sword could easily qualify for bull whip duty, and being made of steel, would probably be a good sight more lethal too. As if that weren’t enough, there are varieties of this weapon that incorporate multiple blades, like a cat-o’-nine-tails, for added lethality.

Multi Bladed Urumi Sword

Now my admittedly calculated guess would be that this is probably a very difficult weapon to learn to use correctly (read safely but effectively), likely many times more so than a whip. I suppose it goes without saying that mistakes with this weapon could be very costly to, for instance, a practitioners calves, eyes, ears, nose or other valuable extremities.

Practicing with two multi-bladed Urumi

A Kalarippayattu artist with a Urumi

To my untrained eye, it looks to me like the guy in the little movie above seems a little scared of his own Urumi. 🙂 But apparently even seasoned professionals still have to be very careful with it. Me personally, I would constantly be worried about the blade fatiguing at the point where it is attached to the handle, as that would most likely be the area that would experience the most frequent of high angle flexing during daily use. Nonetheless, it doesn’t take much to see that a seasoned Kalarippayattu practitioner equipped with a pair of multi-bladed urumi would make a formidable opponent, even against multiple opponents. Unless they all also had urumi. Then it might suck to be you.

Sparring with Chuttuval

Two Practicing with a Chuttuval
[view full size]

But I’m sure it’s disadvantages become moot once you’ve mastered it and can swing it around effortlessly like an evil steel bull whip of death… Add to that the fact that it can be coiled and worn like a belt, and its like the ultimate stealth weapon!! You know, the kind of weapon that would elicit an aghast “What the…” from an unfortunate would-be opponent as you slowly uncoiled it from your waist, swinging it to the side with an ominous pinging “WHAP” to straighten it out…


A dark weapon with a lot of good points…

And I guarantee that you won’t want to argue any of them. Not with any measure of success anyway. ‘Cause today we are going back to basics. A black steel ball. A bunch of 2″ sharp steel spikes. A chain. And a big stick to swing it all around with. Our weapon du jour is actually a fairly regular, though sinister medieval weapon. But I thought the modern variant I found still qualified for at least one post, just based on it’s malevolence alone.

No, it doesn’t have any blades. But come on. I think you’ll agree it has enough good “points” (AHA! I made another funny!!… … … Whatever… ) to more than make up for it. This, my friends, is the stuff that flails are made of. Meet Mr. Chain Mace.

a Medieval Flail

A Chain Mace
[view full size]

Now this weapon has a lot more history behind it than you might imagine. This deceptively simple weapon is in fact a combination of several different weapons. Yep. It’s a schizophrenic weapon. Multiple personalities. And they’re all bad. That’s why it’s so dangerous. It’s got the blood of like 4 or 5 different weapons battling for control. I’ll try and introduce you to each of them…

OK, so first off your first character is the handle and chain, which come from your everyday medieval flail. Next up is the head, which is in fact of a wooden club design called the morning star. The morning star is actually a relative of the mace, which is, in turn, a descendant of the lowly, but ever so simple wooden club. Yeah. Heck of a lineage. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

The family tree is not quite as simple as I’ve laid it out, but I’m pretty sure you won’t want to read too deep into the genealogy of a weapon like this. Might get a little too scary for ya. A little too “hard core”. Uh huh. Ya think you can handle it? Whatever. Anyway, the end result is quite self explanatory. Big bad spikes on a black steel ball, spinning around on a chain at high velocity. You do the math. I’m fresh out of brain cells.

Medieval Spiked Flail – [Medieval Weapon Art]


Flying African Blades Of DOOM!

Today I would like to introduce you to some very, very special guests. A set of particularly wicked throwing implements. Following are examples of one of the more historic and rare forms of throwing knives, originating in Africa, that are certainly one of my most favored, unique, and rarely seen throwing knife designs. Grab yourself a cup of tea, coffee, vodka and tonic, or a lemon-lime mocha frappuccino – if that’s what floats your boat (though I would have some serious concerns about you if it does) and make yourself comfortable, as I present to you, my favorite throwing knives of Africa.

African Throwing Knives

Banda Tribe (RCA) <——> Mabo Tribe (RDC)

Banda Throwing Knife of RCA <—————-> Mabo Throwing Knife - Democratic Republic Of Congo
[view full size] <———–> [view full size]

Now these have been called a number of different names, most notably “Shongo”, “Kpinga”, “Sapa” and one of the most popular (probably an butchered version of one of it’s tribal names) : “Hunga-Munga”, names which seem to be used, incorrectly, to describe nearly every form of this kind of blade. It is important to remember that, as you can see from just the two examples above, there are actually many different variations on this blade, each from their own unique African tribe; many of them were not named, and the ones that were likely had a unique name depending on where it was made and which tribe it was from. But one thing is universally certain, these are some hella crazy throwing blades, no matter what you wanna call them!

What is also cool is that this blade design has actually made it into Hollywood! In the movie “The Mummy Returns” we can clearly see one of the baddies toting one of these blades in his belt in the small of his back:

African Throwing Knife in the Movies
[view full size]

Shortly thereafter we see him throw it, very narrowly missing a (very fortunate) protagonist:

African Throwing knives in the movies
[view full size]

YA MISSED!! 😛 (Whew!!)

Anyway, as you can see from the pics above, these blades generally have three points, give or take, depending on where it’s from, arranged in order to maximize the amount of time that any sticking points will be presented to a target. You will also notice, especially on the Banda tribe version, that every possible blade edge has been sharpened as well, to provide as many cutting edges as possible.

At the same time, this innovative design even allows for a handle, so that it can be thrown without injuring the thrower. Genius! African weapon engineering at its best. They certainly beat the Hollywood glaives I’ve been ranting about hands down, though they do so at the cost of portability, which I will talk about shortly.

To me, the most interesting aspects of these particular blades is how their cool and evil looking aesthetics are entirely functionally motivated. The observant will notice that these designs are asymmetrical, unlike similar smaller weapons like hira shuriken, Or even equivalent weapons like the fuuma shuriken, where all the blades/points are arranged radially around it’s center of rotation. I believe the asymmetry of the design served a specific purpose.

Smaller throwing weapons like hira shuriken are symmetrically designed in order to periodically present a sharp point to the target during flight, regardless of what direction it is rotating. However a hira shuriken are light, usually only a few inches in diameter, designed for speedy deployment, can be held between the fingers or in the palm of one hand, and can easily be thrown in a controlled fashion with a light grip.

Not so with these blades. What may not be apparent from these pictures is that these African throwing knives can be over a foot and a half in length, with the combination of large mass and razor sharp edges intended to inflict massive cuts on impact. To safely control such a weapon in battle, you need a handle. But adding handles always reduces the chances for a throwing weapon to stick, due to the possibility of the handle hitting the target.

Their solution was to build a small handle into the design, and skillfully position the blades so that the desired balance of the weapon was not negatively affected, angling all of the points in one direction, and then shrouding the handle with a blade pointing in the same direction. The end result? A directional throwing knife with almost the same the sticking potential of the much smaller shuriken, the mass of a throwing axe, with a safe, built in throwing handle for maximum power and control. These folks design a mean weapon!

The only (minor) caveat to this design is that, unlike most hira shuriken, these knives have to be thrown with all of the points facing the target in order to maximize the chance of a stick. Throwing it backwards could still wound an enemy if they were struck by a blade, but your risk hitting with the handle and bouncing off. But unlike a hira shuriken, thrown properly from the hands of a fairly strong warrior, it would be more than just a distraction. This weapon could take you out of a battle very quickly. Without the need for poison either.

What was even scarier about these weapons is that their design is such that, if they hit the side of an opponents shield, its rotating momentum and mass would keep it rotating long enough to cause it to hook on to the edge of the shield and rotate around it and hit the unfortunate victim on the other side. Talk about a clever (albeit very mean) design. Throw in their size, their sharp lines and (of course!) their many pointy bits, you can probably see why I like these weapons so much. Their dark metallic finish just adds to their evil charm. They are just so freaking cool and intimidating all at the same time, on so many levels… What more is there to say?

Mabo Tribe (RDC) Throwing Knife – [Mambele]
Banda Tribe (RCA) Throwing Knife – [Mambele]


Do spears really work against dragons?

I’ve been talking about a lot about glaives of late, and though cool, hollywood glaives are not entirely true to life. So I thought I’d talk about a weapon that is closer in form and function to a real glaive. A spear. Specifically a Black Dragon spear. A behemoth black 6 foot dragon spear.

6 Ft. Black Dragon Spear

6 Ft Black Dragon Spear
[view full size]

Now this is a formidable looking spear, and it’s great size only adds to its menacing appearance. The tip of the spear possesses a broad-headed point, sweeping down past two sharp cutouts, and into two ominous looking sub blades. The jet black handle is adorned with an simple metal pommel cap, a metal band about three quarters of the way up the shaft, finishing with a cast dragon crest just before the head to complete the effect. Pretty cool lookin’. Though I do have some questions.

For instance, is this supposed to be a dragon killing spear? And if so, why have a dragon crest? I dunno, but if it is, It certainly looks the part. Normally extensions at the base of the blade where the spear meets the shaft are simple cross bars, intended to prevent over -penetration (and subsequently getting stuck) into smaller human target. On this spear you have more blades, which would presumably aid in further penetration, in order to reach those deeply buried vital organs of what is usually a very large dragon.

But somehow, the more dragon related movies I watch, the more I get the nagging feeling that these spears, even a big, black 6 foot spear, would not be sufficiently potent, at least in the hands of a puny human, to slay a dragon. Furthermore, it may actually be that weapons like these are some clever, elaborate ploy by a particularly crafty breed of dragon to ensure a steady supply of lunch meat…

But of course I could just be being paranoid. But if you are looking to add a menacing spear to your collection you couldn’t do much worse than this… Just don’t rely on this for dragon protection. You may want to invest in explosive grenade tipped harpoons and an APC mounted launcher off a Norwegian whaling vessel for that… Assuming, of course, that you happen to have that particular problem where you live…

6′ Black Dragon Spear – [True Swords]


Nzappa ZAP!!

No, before you even ask, I am not about to blog about a stun gun. Or Lightning. Or anything even related to electricity. Nor am I testing out the new knife forging and sharpening spells I learned at Hogwarts, even though though from the heading you might be tempted to think so. No, since I seem to be running into a lot of different throwing axes, I decided to “throw in” (pun intended… … … OK, y’all need to c-section that pregnant silence right now! Yes, that was corny, cheesy, whatever, just humor me and laugh anyway dagnabbit!!) a look at another interesting African style axe called… You guessed it! The Nzappa Zap!

Nzappa Zap

Nzappa Zap African Axe
[view full size]

This axe, like one of my very favorite other knives, (which I plan to blog about in the very near future) is from the Congo, and features a funky design that is interesting and unique on many levels. First off you’ll notice that the handle is club shaped, with a rounded knob for a head, and a flared base. Another unique feature is how this club is attached. Instead of attaching an eye to the axe head, through which the handle is fixed, this axe head is attached to a post that is fixed through a hole in the nob on the head of the axe handle. Yet another difference, a necessary result of this design, is that the blade is attached to the post via a series of struts all attached to the post.

Functionally, this kind of axe was used in battle for close in combat, and could also be thrown at intermediate distances. A very unique, all around, multipurpose battle axe design. Not as wicked, dark or pointy as I like my weapons to be, but you can’t have everything now, can you… Hmmm… Maybe I could design a wicked mutant Nzappa Zap… With all points and wicked curves… and powder-coat it black… no, black chrome… Yeah… That would be awesome… Time to break out the sketchpad…

Nzappa Zap – [Widforss]


When The Heavens Fall…

While rummaging around on the intarweb looking for some old school Hollywood movie martial arts swords, I ran into a very cool weapon, one of the seven swords featured in the movie Seven Swords. The Tian Po or Heaven’s Fall sword.

The Tian Po / Heaven’s Fall Sword

Heaven's Fall Sword
[view full size]

Now I found this weapon intriguing on several accounts. The mechanically inclined among you may have noticed from the picture that this sword is a convertible of sorts. This unique design is reminiscent of a gravity operated switchblade. Except that instead of retracting and deploying a blade, it actually switches blades! Actually it would be more accurate to say that it switches ends, but who cares? It’s still cool.

If you look closely you will notice that the blade of this sword is one continuous piece of steel with a spear point on each end and a notched track hollowed out of the middle, designed to allow the handle to slide from one end on the other. On the handle you can see a pin or button, probably used both to release the blade for sliding, and for retention once the conversion is complete. From the design, it appears that the handle can be locked at either end or in the middle. Quite an interesting idea.

To be perfectly honest, I really don’t understand why anyone would go through so much trouble just so that they had the option of a Darth Maul saber staff type weapon to fight with, especially when, unlike the double bladed light saber (aka saberstaff) that Darth Maul wielded, this design would seriously reduce your range. As far as I can tell, the long notched groove simply introduces some major structural weakness in the blade, without providing any major advantage. Apart from (maybe) making the sword lighter. And perhaps confusing your enemy. And I can think of at least two ways to implement this functionality without having to introduce a hollow the entire length of the blade, simply holes for the pin, like any regular sword. However I have yet to see it in action, so who knows.

Nonetheless, it is still a cool idea, however flawed the design. Or the intention. Or the designer. Ok so it’s prolly flawed on many levels. But it’s still a cool lookin’ weapon.

Tian Po (Heavens Fall) Sword – [Anime Castle]


Holey Whirling Hurlbats Batman!

OK, I just couldn’t resist the odd Batman reference, even though our weapon du jour has nothing really to do with either Batman, Batarangs, or even bats for that matter, except maybe for the fact that they are both made to fly through the air. Today we are going to look at another special throwing axe, (You may or may not call it a “Tactical” weapon of you want, I’m soo over that…) called the hurlbat. Now these are sweet. Below are a few interesting hurlbat designs:

Gothic <-> Holey Whirling <-> Crescent

A Gothic Hurlbat A fancy Hurlbat A Crescent Hurlbat
[view full size] – [view full size] – [view full size]

Pointy points, n curvy blades, just like I like ’em! BTW, in case you haven’t figured it out, the middle weapon is not officially called a “Holey Whirling Hurlbat”. I dunno what it’s called, but it’s got a hole in the blade, and it probably does whirl just as good as the next hurlbat, so I opted to employ the creative license afforded me by virtue of my ownership of this blog, and call it a “Holey Whirly Hurlbat”. Not to mention it sounds corny and Batman like, which I know will prolly elicit some random eye rolling. Hah! I saw that! Mission Accomplished!

Anyway, as you can see, a hurlbat was a very simple weapon, a solid piece of steel, with every practical point or edge sharpened to maximize it’s effectiveness. My kind of weapon! Now as throwing axes go, hurlbats represent some of the most basic but effective kinds of throwing weapons available to medieval warriors. Having no handle scales or padding and being of a one piece design, they would have been relatively simple to manufacture compared to a sword or dagger, and easy to maintain. Did I mention that this is my kind of weapon?

In fact the only strike, albeit a minor one, I would place against the medieval hurlbat would be that they weren’t double bladed. I’d mention the fact that they aren’t black, but that would just be me being nitpicky. There are modern day equivalents to the hurlbat, such as the excellent Beil-Ax, but the Beil-Ax is not as aesthetically pleasing to me as a Hurlbat. And its not black either. (Huh? Stop what? No. No, I won’t stop. I wont stop until someone starts making Black, double-bladed Hurlbats. In fact I refuse to stop until people start making more black weapons! I’ll Never Stop!! Oww!… Enough with the pinching already! OK, ok, I’ll stop, i’ll stop… Maybe…)

Gothic Hurlbat – [Arms and Armour Manufacture]
Fancy Hurlbat – [Arms and Armour Manufacture]
Crescent Hurlbat – [Arms and Armour Manufacture]

June 2007
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