It's hard to just 'flow' with familiar people, especially if they have a high level game. After all we all learned our skills from the same teacher and spent quite some time flowing together, so can read each other pretty well. This means that when we play together we need to come up with new ways to pinpoint areas that need improvement, and so play at different flows with different weapons to bring these aspects out.
For instance, G and I played fighting from the draw, keeping the blade 'sheathed', and drawing and cutting from the hip in one motion only when an opening had been created, with no blocking, and only footwork and body angle to evade. We also played holding the sheath in the left hand and using it to block, but then drawing and cutting only using the right hand. Very fun, and brought out some interesting stuff.
Then J and I playing sickle.
The key attribute of sickle, or Sangot, is that you can't pull back/retract if you are hooked (the sharp edge is along the inside), so it is the king of disengagement and moving around, not out.
It's ability to change the cut angle by 90 degrees just by changing the grip is also an added hazard, as is it's ability to snake a climb up from arm to body or leg.
The flow involves the idea that you have to give to get, so putting yourself in danger, basically using your arm as bait, is a key part of the play. It's all about learning the importance of still points and exits - where they are and how to move to safety whilst maintaining or improving one's position.
Here's some of the flow itself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLXYvm3TEyI
Please note that this is a random flow drill, it is not sparring. From about halfway through the clip you can also see R and G behind us doing an empty hand flow 'touching points' - practicing accuracy on the insert, looking for advantage and finding exits.
All the ideas found in this training then get inserted into a more tactically 'smart' format (non compliant, more real speed) to see what could be useful and what makes no sense, and so on. The ideas can also be transferred to different weapons to see what happens, say, when curved blade ideas are used with a straight weapon.
The point is that none of us know the answers, so we experiment, and use the times when we lose, or fail, or get stuck/backed into a corner as inspiration ... Even in this flow, we get stuck, a few times we break, but the moments created problems that was worth looking at, so we took it from just before the point of impasse to see what options might exist and worked from there. Perhaps if we can feel the set up next time, because we have felt it before, we can avoid getting stuck in that particular corner again .... I hope so .... that would mean we'd learned something smart :-)