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Old 1st April 2008, 03:28 AM   #1
CharlesS
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Default The Evolution of the Mak??

The mak is one of the most unique weapons of southeast Asia. Its appearance is both curious and awkward, but apparently it held some sway as an effective weapon for quite a few centuries(see below the the two pics of a relief from Cambodia's 12th Cent. Angkor Wat with front two mounted figures clearly holding maks).

Like many weapons in the ethnographic fold, the mak almost certainly had its origins as an agricultural tool(not unlike the Egyptian kopesh, the Moro panabas, or the Malay parang jinah). The more primitive the appearance of the mak,the more tool-like they look.

The axe-like tool maks seem almost awkward to handle with a strange swing and balance. One forum member at Timonium even mentioned that it seemed they were made to chop things overhead in trees(see Mak 1).

From their more primitive form they emerged at some point as powerful weapons in a variety of forms, both as battle axes(see Mak 2), and as pole arms(see Mak 3...just over 6ft. in total length).

The backward curve is curious and seems to put a lot of pressure on the wrist unless swinging from a height, as in mounted on a horse. Another advantage of this strange curvature may have been to "catch" an enemy's weapon.

The unique protrusions to the top of the blade are a mystery. Perhaps they were ornamental, or served a more practical purpose.

Regardless of their awkward appearance and some difficulty in handling, the mak made enough of an impact as a weapon to remain in service for centuries.

Suggested reading: Ian Heath's Armies of the 19th Century ASIA: Burma and Indo-China (2003)

*Angkor Wat relief photos courtesy of Mark Boditch's The Dha Research Archive
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Last edited by CharlesS; 1st April 2008 at 03:42 AM.
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Old 1st April 2008, 10:33 PM   #2
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Nice pieces! Really like #2. Which side of the blade is the cutting edge on?
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Old 1st April 2008, 11:17 PM   #3
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The cutting edge of a mak is almost always on the backcurve of the blade, not the forward curve, so in the last pics the edge is always to the right.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 02:40 PM   #4
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Something that occurred to me that might explain the curve is that it provides for a more stable attachment of the blade to the haft. The intent with these clearly is to have a blade in line with the haft, like a sword, rather than at some angle, like an ax. Setting the blade into the end of the haft would require a stable/strong wrapping, and would tend more to split the haft down its length. In contrast, setting the blade perpendicular to the long axis of the haft would reduce splitting (though I expect blow-out of the part toward the end of the pole would happen) and can be done with simple wedges. Bending the end of the pole then puts the blade in line with the haft.
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Old 2nd April 2008, 04:47 PM   #5
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Mark, I understand your point, and have even thought about that myself, but in examples #1 and #3 the blade is so far removed from the line of the haft it would still require "extra" movement. The extra/awkward movement diminishes considerably when striking from a height, ie. a horse. Then the swing is consistent with a more "flowing swing", say like with a shamshir.
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Old 3rd April 2008, 01:59 AM   #6
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Such design, with CG behind the pole, would stabilize the edge orientation during swing. Unlike sword, this tool do not require wrist work to adjust edge orientation. You can just make a wide swing (with relax grip). And the tool will meet its target, edge first.
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Old 3rd April 2008, 08:31 AM   #7
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Charles, where would this weapon fit into your analysis? This is a copper-bladed mak I've shown before. Sharpened on the convex edge.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showth...ghlight=copper
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Old 3rd April 2008, 01:58 PM   #8
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Andrew, I remember this one and like you was perplexed by the copper blade, not to mention the rather unique method of mounting it to the haft.

As far as efficient use goes, I see it as easier to use than my bamboo mounted example because the blade is more in line with the haft.

PUFF makes a good point too in that a wide swing negates much of the problem, but there are some times in combat where this is not possible, that's why I think these were best used by mounted troops as they often had a greater range of motion....much like some Indo Persian maces are clearly made for mounted warriors based on their length and weight...they would need that same range of motion.

If you look at the panel from Angkor Wat and the two fellas clearly holding maks, you can almost imagine the range of motion and the downward swing of the weapon and can see how under those circumstances it would deliver a powerful blow.
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Old 3rd April 2008, 03:12 PM   #9
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I am thinking that there was an original rational reason for the odd mounting, e.g., absorbing some of the shock of implact (at the certain expense of cutting power, I am sure), or stability, which was then perpetuated in later weapons out of adherence to tradition. I think this is what is going on in the later versions, with have a pretty variable amount of off-set between haft and blade. Andrew's copper version I think is strong evidence that these weapons were undeed used militarily, and at some point adopted a ceremonial or display function in addition to the practical one, like the European HLOs (halberk-like objects ) of the 18th, 19th and even 20th C. (you still see the Vatican's Swiss Guards carrying them).

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Old 14th April 2008, 08:11 PM   #10
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After receiving Mak #1, (Thanks, Charles) I can better understand this being an interesting weapon.

Perhaps part of the geneses of this is to have an extended strong sword like weapon at a fraction of the expense and effort a longer piece of steel would entail. Especially since often only the last section of a chopper was in actual contact with an adversary

It does, at first, have an awkward feel to it, but it feels better with a little practice.
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Old 14th July 2013, 12:04 AM   #11
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Here is another form of the unusual mak.

This one is 39in. overall, with a very crudely made, but heavy, blade of 11in.

The unique feature here is the hooked tip. This leads me to believe it is likely a 20th century agricultural tool, but could just as easily be weapon, with the hook perhaps making it even more efficient.

Handling these and imagining their combat role takes some getting used to.
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Old 14th July 2013, 12:53 AM   #12
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It's astonishing how these weapons resembles the Moro panabas, or at least some exemples, maybe, as Charles said, because they evolved from the same type of agricoltural instruments....
Very interesting and very nice pieces!
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Old 14th July 2013, 06:06 AM   #13
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As stated, with practice, the MAK could be a formidable weapon. It is awkward in appearance, but it's design, allows it to "roll", in the hands very smoothly. This would afford an experienced user, to dazzle an opponent long enough, for the killing blow. It also uses a forward stroke (As with a Kukri), and the shock absorbing properties of an inverted handle. You have to handle one, to appreciate it's potential. I love mine!
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