Thursday, May 29, 2014

Scythes in Martial Arts

In contrast with the use of war scythes (having a straight tang mounted on a pole), a 16th-century book on European martial arts shows the typical two-grip scythes being used as weapons. 

Paulus Hector Mair (1517-1579) compiled an encyclopedic martial arts compendium showing techniques for a wide variety of weapons, including some tools a farmer might have on hand (scythes, sickles, flails). The scythe-related pages are linked here, thanks to the Bavarian State Library in Munich.

Modern enthusiasts have translated the text and experimented with these techniques, as seen in this video:

A more realistic demonstration is shown in this video:

Some modern mowing styles are described as resembling "tai chi" motions. This next video clip (from the Living Lightly film) goes beyond tai chi, with a kung fu "form" utilizing a scythe.

Click here to watch video clip.


Mair, Paul Hector: De arte athletica I - BSB Cod.icon. 393(1, Augsburg, Mitte 16. Jh. [BSB-Hss Cod.icon. 393(1], Images © Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

Video:  Scythe Experiment

Video:  Demonstration Sense

Video:   Living Lightly 2007 Part 4 (starting at 2:12)

Photo from Living Lightly soundtrack at

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