In this offbeat look at the history and science of different weapons from around the world, Mike explores the cultural context and demonstrates the use of a weapon. He then challenges his co-host, Chad, to improve upon it using modern manufacturing techniques and materials.
CHAKRAM: In India I met the Akali Nihangs, a nomadic sect of Sikh warriors, from whom I learned various techniques for throwing the chakram - a razor edged steel battle quoit - both on foot and from horses and elephants!
Although it was my first experience with the chakram I managed to throw one 40 yards with no trouble at all. The chakram has an airfoil cross section and you can see it working - it really does fly. And it is surprising how quickly one can become accurate with it at shorter ranges.
Nidar Singh, an expert in Indian martial arts, showed me many different techniques for chucking the 'chakkar', as the chakram is more commonly known in the Punjab. The tajini method of spinning it on your index finger is the most well known but there are other methods, such as bowling it underarm as you approach an enemy, throwing it on the move or the more powerful diagonal throws from left to right and right to left.
As well as the different types of throw, there are many different types of chakram - from the standard ones around 9 -10 inches in diameter to small bracelet sized ones worn on the forearm and flicked at an enemy's face at close quarters with an action similar to flicking a deck of cards. At the other end of the scale are the large chakrams of two feet diameter, which are worn around the neck. Nidar showed me a technique for dploying these from the second or third ranks behind the front line when engaged in hand to hand fighting - they are thrown almost vertically to descend on the heads of the enemy's front line.
I also travelled to Patiala where I met the brothers Harinder and Mobinder Singh who showed me how to make a chakram in a traditional forge.