The weather has been wet and cold (in Vancouver, shocking I know) and not terribly good for the care and feeding of swords. Since I’m not allowed to swing them around in the house (I have no idea how that light got broken, I swear) that means I haven’t been able to keep up practice as much as I would like. Fortunately, there are other arts I can work with regardless of weather. As an added bonus it’s a great way to make sure the dogs get a good run.
In terms of ancient weapons, the sling is one of the oldest. There are cave painting dated around 40,000 years ago that depict people hunting with slings and they seen almost continuous use since. Part of why I enjoy martial arts is the connection to history and so practising an art with such a lineage means there is a connection to a whole lot of history. Plus it’s a lot of fun and costs virtually nothing to get in to.
I think the first thing to start with is making the sling itself. There are many ways to so this. Since almost every culture in history invented the sling for themselves, there are as manyways to construct slings as there are peoples who used them. My favourite way of making slings requires nothing more than common garden twine. Since the stone ammo for slings can be found anywhere, this is really the only financial investment at less than a dollar per sling.
The size of ammunition is dependent on the size of your pouch and for beginners I recommend sizing it for a tennis ball, since until you get the feel for the weapon a stone can fly pretty much anywhere. It’s easy to think of a sling as a toy, but it does have a great potential to do real damage and it is not unheard of for a poorly cast stone to fly straight up in the air. The length of the sling is also up to personal preference. In theory, the longer the sling, the greater the range and the lesser the accuracy and the length I like is approximately my arm span.We start with three lengths of twine a little over twice the length of the final sling. Think double the length plus about 20% or so. Line the three strands together and, starting roughly in the middle, braid them together. This will be the finger loop that will prevent your sling flying out of your hand when you use it. When the braid is long enough that it can fit loosely around your finger bring the ends together and double up each strand so the six ends again become three.
Now begin braiding again and keep going until you reach the half way point of where you want the sling to be. Next we separate the twine again and begin braiding two separate strands of three. This will be your pouch. The two strand pouch is the simplest to do and also surprisingly effective at holding a stone.
Each of the two strands should be long enough to wrap around about three quarters of your planned ammunition. Once you have achieved the correct length, combine the six lengths of twine back in to three strands each with a doubling of twine and braid the rest of the way for your sling. Tie a not in the end, which makes it so your sling wont unravel and provides a convenient place to grip with your fingers.
Now that we have the tools it’s time to sling. Again there are many ways to do this and rather than debate about which is “best” I’m simply going to explain my preferred method. Put your ring finger through the loop and hold the knot between your thumb and forefinger. It’s important to check at this point that as you hold it thus, the it hangs so that the pouch is exactly centred at the bottom. If not, adjust the knot until it is. Anyway, position yourself with your left leg forward (assuming your sling is in the right) and begin to swing the sling above your head. It is vitally important to realize that this is NOT how you build power for your throw. The throw is done in the same way you would throw a ball with your hands. The power comes not from the rotation of the thing, but from the motion of your body. Again, it’s a throwing motion, just remember to release the knot end of the sling as you do so. With a sling I can throw a ball probably three times my normal range, a smaller and heavier stone goes much farther. I imagine a proper Roman lead glandes would go farther still. That sound be all you need to get started. Have fun and try not to break anything.
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