The Great Flail (大掃子; #Dasaozi ) is a weapon that combines the reach of a staff with the flexibility of a chain. Used both on foot and on horseback, the weapon is a forceful bludgeon that is also swift and dextrous. What is most prized about the Great Flail is its ability to “reach around”. Polearms lose the advantage of their shaft’s sturdy block when the flail’s front cudgel reaches around and strikes the wielder’s front hand, and the feared sword and shield loses its impenetrability as the flail can hit the fighter even without him lowering his shield. Truly a weapon of opportunity, its techniques are nuanced and continuous, and quite characterised by a subtlety in execution and a preparedness to change course at any moment. Unfortunately, the Mizong Luohan school’s Great Flail’s techniques were amongst the many weaponry teachings that we have permanently lost due to Grandmaster Yip Yue Ting’s secrecy; and the handful of separate techniques that we have left are the result of what students then have collectively stolen from Grandmaster Yip (through spying on him during his practices).
Although one might think that such a field weapon stopped being relevant to combat and warfare centuries ago, this was not the case. According to the accounts of Grandmaster Yip, the flail did retain a certain usefulness during the urban skirmishes of the early twentieth century. Combat often broke out in the narrow streets of old Chinese cities, and fighting men reportedly used the flail to attack militants armed with rifles. The tight corners and low rooftops of old cities allowed one to hide oneself in places that were out of shooting range, and the flail was certainly a way of striking an opponent without having to put oneself in danger. Of course, this meant that strikes had to be very well-timed, and that one had to know the plan of his city well enough to set up such an attack.
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