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Travis Gorrie




Location: Springfield, Illinois
Joined: 21 Apr 2004

Posts: 32

PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 7:39 am    Post subject: Advantage of Range         Reply with quote

Hi Guys,

I was reading another post about creating a RPG (I am not), and you guys expressed something interesting that I would like to get further clarification if I may.

Some members and specifically Stephan Hand stated that there are three main ranges of combat: pole arm range, sword range and dagger\grapple range. And that a weapon of one range automatically "trumps" one of another.

So as someone who has never sparred with weapons, my question is this:
- Exactly how much advantage does a spear\polearm have over a sword, a sword overdagger, and spear\polearm over dagger? (I am assuming most of the benefit is defensive and not necessarily offensive)

I know it is something difficult to quantify or express; but is it twice the advantage, nearly impossible to over come, slight?

Let us assume combatants of equal advantage.

And how much does the advantage decrease if you add a shield to the sword or dagger user?
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P. Cha




PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 7:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not only shield, but armor changes things as well. Reach is a HUGE advantage when unarmored and gets less so the more armor (including shield) you have.
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Sean Smith





Joined: 31 Mar 2004

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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 8:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Under what ruleset? The longer weapon has the advantage, as they have both the reach on the shorter one, and the ability to use the closer edges once their opponent in inside their range. So if I have a glaive, and you have a sword, once you are past the point, under "You must die first" rules, nothing would stop me by hafting them in the head. Pretty effective, but most places I know do not train to this extreme, limiting the advantages of the longer weapon.
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Adam Bodorics
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 8:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One thing must be always remembered: we have only reconstructed a tiny part of WMA so far, which means that we know one thing for sure: we don't know anything for sure, so by now, no one can make absolute, unwithdrawable statements.
...
Range doesn't always dominate. It does on ocassions when rules come in, but the more realistic the fight gets, the hardware-based predictibility starts disappearing. If I'm in good condition, and I'm not too tired, and I have luck, I can take out a spearman barehanded, or a greatsworder with a dagger. If I'm a bit tired or slow, or simply unlucky, I may very soon find myself on the other side. BTW, read the S&B article on the ARMA site (spanish s&bs against pike formations).
If both fighters are equally trained in their weapons, reach matters more, but again, it isn't everything.
Shield and armour matters far more, especially armour. When I still had my full harness (I sold it since then), I could beat 3-5 opponents with a singlehanded sword easily. I'm right now making my next harness, when it'll be ready, I'll try myself against 10 opponents.
...
Getting tired, I hope I was more coherent and clearer than it seems to me after rereading my post... sorry.
...
...
Sean: we do, we do. I force my friends to wear at least gloves, plastic gorgets and groin protectors. When it gets to infight, we incorporate concepts and techniques from krav maga. That's nasty.
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Gary A. Chelette




Location: Houston, Texas
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 8:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I will tell you this; In my 20 years of experience in the SCA, on the battlefield, a polearmsman would run if he was caught in the open with no support when an opposing sword/shieldman come running for him. He'd have to stop him very quick before the sword/shield got inside his reach.
That's why spearmen love to have a shield holding friend in front of him. A polearm alone gives you no protection and a shield can do a fair job of getting inside and doing loads of damage.

Are you scared, Connor?
No, Cousin Dugal. I'm not!
Don't talk nonsense, man. I peed my kilt the first time I went into battle.
Oh, aye. Angus pees his kilt all the time!
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Bryce Felperin




Location: San Jose, CA
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 9:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For this topic I'd like to interject also that most combat with these weapons was done in a formation with many others on your side and the other side involved as well. So you wouldn't be attacking that pikeman alone, and he wouldn't be alone either.

If you were an infantry soldier you also had to contend with cavalry, missile weapons, battefield artillery and maybe even earthworks or abatis obstacles before you even get in range of an enemy. So no answer for these kinds of topics is "simple". :-)
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 10:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

According to George Silver, reach does indeed grant the odds in an unarmored fight. In his opinion, shields don't help enough to counteract this. Exactly how much is unclear. Various sources, such as Meyer, Mair, and Swetnam, give advice on how to defeat staff weapons with swords and such. It can be done.
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Travis Gorrie




Location: Springfield, Illinois
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 11:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the great responses.

It seems by the responses, that the reach advantage is entirely defensive in that the longer weapon keeps the opponent at bay and therefore ineffective, unless they attempt to close the gap. Then if the shorter weapon person does close ranks then the advantage flips accordingly.

I am also to surmise that a sword \ shield combo has the advantage over a polearm in a one-on-one open conflict because the shield provides additional means of closing the gap.

Correct?

Adam: I could not locate the article on (spanish s&bs against pike formations) at the ARMA site. There were only two buckler articles and they didn’t seem to be it. Could you link it? Thanks.
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Adam Bodorics
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 11:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
The Spanish sword and buckler men of the early 1500s are among the best known proponents of the weapons. They wreaked havoc up and down the battlefields of Europe, even against the famed Swiss pikemen. A favored tactic was to close against pike formations and try to roll under the polearms then pop up among their clustered opponents where their shorter weapons could wreak havoc.

By 1500, the Spanish infantry of Gonsalvo de Cordova used short thrusting swords and bucklers, wore steel caps, breast and back plates, and greaves. (Oman, p. 63). The infamous Machiavelli himself in his own 1521 Arte of Warre, wrote of how at the battle of Barletta in 1503 the Spanish sword and buckler men dealt with the Swiss pikemen: “When they came to engage, the Swiss pressed so hard on their enemy with their pikes, that they soon opened their ranks; but the Spaniards, under the cover of their bucklers, nimbly rushed in upon them with their swords, and laid about them so furiously, that they made a very great slaughter of the Swiss, and gained a complete victory.” (Machiavelli, p. 66). As Machiavelli tells it, the Spaniards at the battle of Ravenna in 1512 fell furiously on the Germans, “rushing at the pikes, or throwing themselves on the ground and slipping below the points, so that they darted in among the legs of the pikemen.” The Spaniards “made so good a use of their swords, that not one of the enemy would have been left alive, if a body of French cavalry had not fortunately come up to rescue them.” (Machiavelli, p. 70). “This fight was typical of many more in which during the first quarter of the sixteenth century the sword and buckler were proved to be more than master of the pike.”


http://www.thearma.org/essays/SwordandBuckler.htm
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 11:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I am also to surmise that a sword \ shield combo has the advantage over a polearm in a one-on-one open conflict because the shield provides additional means of closing the gap.


Not according to George Silver, no. He wrote that even the longsword has the advantage against the sword and target. Note that battle in formation is rather different. In an open duel, a pike wielder has room to draw the weapon back in his hands and so on. In a press, he cannot do this. Indeed, 16th-century military writers wanted pikemen to drop their pikes and draw swords after the first thrust.
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Gary A. Chelette




Location: Houston, Texas
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 11:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
Quote:
I am also to surmise that a sword \ shield combo has the advantage over a polearm in a one-on-one open conflict because the shield provides additional means of closing the gap.


Not according to George Silver, no. He wrote that even the longsword has the advantage against the sword and target. Note that battle in formation is rather different. In an open duel, a pike wielder has room to draw the weapon back in his hands and so on. In a press, he cannot do this. Indeed, 16th-century military writers wanted pikemen to drop their pikes and draw swords after the first thrust.


It seems that George was a duelist and not a combat veteran. Much differance here. I do concide that I know nothing of George Silva or his book.

Are you scared, Connor?
No, Cousin Dugal. I'm not!
Don't talk nonsense, man. I peed my kilt the first time I went into battle.
Oh, aye. Angus pees his kilt all the time!
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 11:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
It seems that George was a duelist and not a combat veteran.


We don't really know. He certainly wrote quite a bit about the wars. It's possible if not likely that he saw action somewhere.
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Sam N.




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 1:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Travis Gorrie wrote:
Thanks for the great responses.

It seems by the responses, that the reach advantage is entirely defensive in that the longer weapon keeps the opponent at bay and therefore ineffective, unless they attempt to close the gap. Then if the shorter weapon person does close ranks then the advantage flips accordingly.

I am also to surmise that a sword \ shield combo has the advantage over a polearm in a one-on-one open conflict because the shield provides additional means of closing the gap.

Correct?

Adam: I could not locate the article on (spanish s&bs against pike formations) at the ARMA site. There were only two buckler articles and they didn’t seem to be it. Could you link it? Thanks.


Funny that you mention sword and shield being effective against polearms, because I have had the opposite experience.

Whenever I have sparred in the past, I have always found that a polearm can simply slash or stab the lower legs of the sword and shield guy before he can even get into range, an area that cannot be covered effectively with a standard target or heater shield.

I suspect that this advantage flips in the SCA because of the no hits below the knee rule, which means the prime target for the polearm is now gone. In this case, the sword and shield man definitely has the advantage due to his entire target area being well covered (which is why I hear shields in the SCA are very large).

I have also noticed that "getting inside" is a lot harder than one would expect. Any competent poelarm wielder can quickly disengage and pull back his weapon, granting surprising maneuverability, which is why polearm wielders beat sword users 95% of the time, even if there is a large skill gap between the two (in my experience, with all parts of the body allowed as targets). I suspect this is why George Silver says that polearms have vantage over all other weapons.
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Adam Bodorics
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 1:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So, we have quotations from Silver saying polearms rule, and one from Machiavelli saying s&b rule. I have an idea: resurrect both and ask them... Wink
Btw, against low leg targeting: my method, which works in 60%, is pushing aside the point with my sword as I advance, stomp on the shaft, if langets are present advance less and step on the head (even without armour, I can break 3cm diameter oak this way, and so far no one could lift me - I'm 110 kg w/o armour), and crush the hand with the shield rim. If the opponents weapon is relat. short, I go for the neck. If either hits, I advance more, slice him anywhere, knee to groin, headbutts to face, or anything which feels natural at the moment.
And I force my friends to wear prot. equipment... Big Grin
...
To avoid confusion: we are not part of any organizations, we simply read a lot of fechtbuchs, try them out, read more, try them in group fight, etc. Oh yes, and we read a bit more, and are always open to evolving ourselves. Wink
...
I add this part to don't post a new message with minimal content. By pushing aside the point, I don't mean block, I mean a push to either side. Works well against thrusts, again strikes it must incorporate a small step back, so he finds nothing and I can beat the head down, and do as I wrote.


Last edited by Adam Bodorics on Fri 07 Mar, 2008 2:19 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Bram Verbeek





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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 1:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

With swords it is also essential to be able to strike at ankles, otherwise your threat is only to a very limited target. But, I must also say, it is very difficult to fight in a range where your weapon isn't optimal.
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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 2:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have had the opportunity on a few occasions to experiment outside the SCA in a context that allowed for low-leg hits. Generally in this environment more people would opt for long kite shields. With long kites the low-leg is well protected. We can also assume post 1270 and pre 15 th century. Mail is mainly worn with greaves to protect the lower leg. This allows for a shorter heater shield. You still don't want to get hit on the low-leg with power even with greaves, it won't break your leg but the impact will still send I wave of pain up your leg the is immobilizing. I know from experience. That means that your shield and sword is you primary defense down there.

With shield vs shield with single swords I found that the low-leg was generally out of range. The head and upper body will come into range first because the distance is shorter. People will be even more mindful of range when low-leg hits are allowed or step in so close that the low-leg is impossible to hit. In order to hit the low leg you have drop in into a squat position as you raise you shield to cover you. Now the low-leg is closer to your shoulder. With a heater sized from your neck to your groin, dropping the bottom point will only protect you up to your knee. You have three options. Jump back, sword block or squat down a little with rolling your top edge forward and down. Your top edge will which is normally horizontal to the ground will be vertical. Because you are moving it forward, you can intercept his sword at a higher position in his arch. So you don't need to bring it down to your ankles to block them. In this maneuver you sword will also come into a defensive position covering you upper body in case your opponent faked and is striking up.

With the polearm if he strikes for your low-leg, stepping back is not an option, he can still get you. Sword-blocking you low-leg is not an option because he may power through. The best option is to roll the shield forward as I described before. This time you will position your sword in a hanging guard so the tip is over your shield edge. This way if he comes up instead your sword are locked to you shield and he can not force through. If he follows through and strikes into your low shield, the shieldman has his sword in position to deliver a very powerful blow to his head since polearm is extended and his arms are down. Unlike modern SCA helms weighing 7 to 10 lbs, most 15 th century helms only weighted about 3 lbs and had less padding. Historically such a shot would have been very stunning. In any case, he took his one range shot and in the next step the shield man will be on top of him. He can stuff he polearm with his shield while his sword arm is free to strike. The polearms best option is to backpeddle but it is easier to run and fight forward then backwards.

My conclusion is the SCA shield tactics are very sound and can easily be expanded to allow for low-leg hits and grappling. Also don't misunderstand me. I am not saying polearms can not be effective against shields. Their are tones of guys out that have proven that they can be very effective. It just that the skill and training of the polearm must be at a higher level in order to beat the shield consistently.

It is also worth noting that within the SCA the rules are sometimes varied for the sake of experimentation. Two such examples would be tournaments were only strikes to faceplates and armpits count, or three consecutive strikes are required for a kill. These are usually very small and limited to a select few. The point of this is that the skill developed under regular SCA rules can be applied in other contexts.

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
Roger of Hoveden, 1174-1201
www.poconoshooting.com
www.poconogym.com
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Sam N.




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 3:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Vassilis Tsafatinos wrote:
It just that the skill and training of the polearm must be at a higher level in order to beat the shield consistently.


Huh, that's actually quite interesting, because, again, I have the opposite experience. My experience has been that if you give a complete newbie a polearm and a skilled fighter a sword and shield, it is almost always the polearm wielder that wins, despite his lack of skill, which is why I agree with Silver's opinions on weapon matchups.

Just to confirm things, the bouting I do is done assuming all parts of the body are unarmoured.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 5:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Range is generally an advantage in combat. However, it is a gross oversimplification that long weapons are automatically superior to shorter ones.
In an unarmoured faceoff, a polearm would definetly ha AN advantage over a shorter weapon, but not necessarily THE advantage.

Once the initial blow has been dealt, a wielder of a polearm, (especially one as long as Silver recomends) will have a very hardt time reseting this weapon; He might at best get it back up for a stab or hook. Hitting someone with the shaft of you 10 ft. polearm is simply not practical. Which is why they are not typically fitted with butspikes, unlike the 6ft polaxes.

A shield does in deed go a long way to offset the polearm's advantage.
The target shield, however, is a, to be polite, inferior design, combining the worst qualities of bucklers, round shields and heaters. It is to small to provide good static cover, has no corners with which to bind, and lack the flexibility of a center griped round shield.
As a result, any high-low feint executed from range or with to great force to be stopped with a single sword block will simply bypass it.

Larger shields where made rare by heavy armour; the small heaters that remained where about the same size as a roundell. However, they where not intended to protect the legs in any case, as this was covered by plate, and the shield mainly used hung on the shoulder as passive defense.
Leg armour will stopp most high-low blows; without it, a swipe across the tights will leave you crippled.

By the time armour dissapeared, shields where not a major part of warfare, and making the more efficient would appear not to have been a major priority.


Further more, a prudent fighter will carry weapons in all the categories; Polearm, sword, and dagger, and change according to situation.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 7:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sam N. wrote:
Vassilis Tsafatinos wrote:
It just that the skill and training of the polearm must be at a higher level in order to beat the shield consistently.


Huh, that's actually quite interesting, because, again, I have the opposite experience. My experience has been that if you give a complete newbie a polearm and a skilled fighter a sword and shield, it is almost always the polearm wielder that wins, despite his lack of skill, which is why I agree with Silver's opinions on weapon matchups.

Just to confirm things, the bouting I do is done assuming all parts of the body are unarmoured.



That is very interesting and I do not doubt your experience. No matter how much I experience in fighting, there is always someone out there that comes along that throws some new variable. Out of curiousity... how big is the pool of people that are fighting? If you ever get a chance to take some video I would like to see it.

I will post three video for you to get an idea of my fighting experience against polearms. The first video is against a polearm of the same experience level as myself. I am using a shield in all videos and I am very aggressive about getting in close and trying to bind the polearm with my shield. You will see that I am very successful against a person of the same experience level.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnezTM2UA_k

The following vid is against a polearm who has a just a few more years of experience over me. He does a pretty good job at times of keeping distance but you can see that when I get in close his options are limited.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJPIEaYE4l0

In the following video I am fighting a person who has many more years of experience over me. You will notice how good he is at fighting while running backwards in circles. It is not until the very end that I got the idea of running him into a corner. Mind you a battlefield will not have a smooth wood floor to facilitate running backwards in circles at full speed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_h8w_av7Gg

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
Roger of Hoveden, 1174-1201
www.poconoshooting.com
www.poconogym.com


Last edited by Bill Tsafa on Sat 08 Mar, 2008 1:12 am; edited 4 times in total
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Jesse Eaton





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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 7:48 pm    Post subject: Some criticisms of SCA combat         Reply with quote

I agree that a kite shield makes up for the SCA's lake of a lower leg target, but there are other problems. The shields are too light and too small to be the equivalent of a kite shield. As was noted, the SCA's helms are heavier, though 5-10 lb. helms (if all head gear is included) were often used throughout the middle ages and more so in the latter years as plate developed. The SCA's heavy helms, light shields, lack of a descernable flat and edge, as well as unrealistic target zones make it difficult to compare to medieval combat. Not only are the lower legs off target, so are the hands. In early German manuals, the hands are unarmored. In SCA combat, the hand is usually protected by a basket hilt. This is an important difference in this discussion because an unarmored hand makes a lovely target if the legs and head are covered. IN SCA combat, the basket is oftent used to cover the head while the body and legs are coved by the shield. Thus, in closing with the polearm, the SCA sword and boarder is well covered and can close relatively easily. Even if a full kite shield is substituted, it doesn't provide full coverage. The situation becomes even less SCA like when you consider the various polearms in use throughout the middle ages. There were a few with light thrusting spikes and/or light hook/axe heads as is common in the SCA, but this is not the norm. SCA spear and Axe heads are usually very light and not very representitive of most historical polearms.

As to the comment that the polearm of the length Silver recommends is vulnerable due to the effort required to recover after a strike is made, is not quite accurate. It's not a matter of the length of the weapon as it is a matter of how it is held. Just as a sword can be half sworded, so too can a polearm be choked-up on or extended if need be. Reach is only effective to a point, and then it is a detriment. Too much reach and you move too slow. Too little and you risk a swift counter attack. Reach is an advantage because it allows you to attack without exposing yourself to immediate counter attack. It is a disadvantage when it constricts your ability to move and fight effectively.

In the case of the Spanish bucklermen, they were able to close the distance and use the reach of the pike against it. In the case of the poleaxe weilder vs the target and buckler weilder Silver refers to, the situation is quite different. Silver's remarks concern a duel in which there is room to move, but little to no armor involved. The target is neadly useless in this case because the polaxeman has plenty of room to manuever and strike at will from a distance and the target weilder must close the distance and sond some how lock down the poleaxe. While not impossible, it is a daunting task at least!

BTW, 'polearm' is a modern term to refer to poleaxes, halberds, and spears. Even after the axe part fell out of favor, the term 'poleaxe' remained. Spears were never reffed to as 'polearms' but what the exact difference is between a poleaxe and a halberd remains a bit sketchy. For more information I suggest reading Spotlight: The Medieval Poleaxe
An article by Alexi Goranov also on this site.
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