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F. Carl Holz




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Apr, 2009 5:58 am    Post subject: practice pollaxe/beck de corbin         Reply with quote

looking at getting a practice/simulator for liechtenauer pollarm training. looking at the revival stuff but wanted to know what people thought of them or if they had any other suggestions.

thanks
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Reinier van Noort





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PostPosted: Wed 08 Apr, 2009 8:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have a revival rubber pollaxe head, and it's quite nice. It's also costly however. For most practice we use wooden wasters with a hardwood head and a simple pine/fir haft. We use pine/fir as that is the only easily bought wood in the NL, and is very cheap. Ash or oak might be better for heavy use. In combination with fencing masks, this works quite well.
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Alex Spreier




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Apr, 2009 9:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I use a Purpleheart pole-hammer trainer (basically the same thing as the revivalus ones) and an A&A Burgundian axe. The rubber heads are great if you keep two things in mind when you train with them:

1. The balance is off on them. The need a little more weight in the head to balance like a real axe.
2. even though the heads are rubber, they still pack a wallop. So be careful Big Grin

That being said, yeah an easy axe trainer can be made from a hardwood dowel or curtain rod and a drilled out wood cross piece.

Welcome to what i think is the single greatest weapon in HEMA!!! Vive l'hache!
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Apr, 2009 10:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We use the Revival axe heads for both practice and free play. I can not recommend hardwood shafts, however, as they break very easily, leaving jagged ends that are quite dangerous. Instead, try using rattan shafts: they never break (I have one that's been used for more than ten years in serious full contact).

Since rattan is often somewhat curved, use a propane torch to heat any bends, then pull against the curve in a vise to straighten it. Once it's straight, shave two sides of the shaft to make it roughly rectangular like the real axes, but leave the skin on what will be the front and back edges--that helps with resisting dings that come from hitting hard armor edges. Finally, we have had great success staining the shafts with brown leather dye to make them look more like wood.

As Alex said, this makes for a pollaxe that's not quite as unbalanced as the real thing. I've been experimenting with wrapping a little dense rubber sheeting around the shaft just above or below the head to rectify this.

Please do *not* practice with fencing masks. A good solid blow of the pollaxe can crumple one of those more easily than you would believe. You need a good, solid steel helmet with a little weight to it lined with modern foam if you're going to practice realistically.

Here is a video showing some of our pollaxe simulators. We are demonstrating techniques from Le Jeu de La Hache and Talhoffer (1467 and 1459):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4TKHBoaK5o

Regards,
Hugh
www.schlachtschule.org
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Alex Spreier




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Apr, 2009 3:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:
I can not recommend hardwood shafts, however, as they break very easily, leaving jagged ends that are quite dangerous. Instead, try using rattan shafts: they never break (I have one that's been used for more than ten years in serious full contact).


True, hardwood will do nasty things when it breaks, I have just found that (at least in my area) it is easier to find than rattan. I agree that hardwood is not to be used for serious practice, but for getting started and for slow, exploratory practice, they should hold up just fine.
I'm also with Hugh on the subject of masks. A fencing mask is better than nothing, but if you can get a steel helm, or a Tindill helm www.thatguysproducts.com then get one. Also good gauntlets are a must.


Hugh Knight wrote:
Here is a video showing some of our pollaxe simulators. We are demonstrating techniques from Le Jeu de La Hache and Talhoffer (1467 and 1459):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4TKHBoaK5o


I recommend these vids. Good stuff!
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Apr, 2009 4:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alex Spreier wrote:
I'm also with Hugh on the subject of masks. A fencing mask is better than nothing, but if you can get a steel helm, or a Tindill helm www.thatguysproducts.com then get one. Also good gauntlets are a must.


With respect, I have to disagree about the Tindall helms, too. While these are superb for longsword practice they work on a suspension harness and they're very light; a heavier helmet has more inertia and so reduces the effect of a heavy blow. Pollaxe strikes can generate tremendous force when done correctly and a light helmet will lead to whiplash. Likewise, without good modern foam in the helmet you can suffer serious head injuries (unless you are very careful to learn how to use medieval stuffing methods), because a liner system won't give enough protection.

It's important to remember that the pollaxe, unlike most other weapons of medieval combat, requires a lot of force to do much good, at least for swinging blows because you have to stun an enemy through his helmet. Modern foam liners combined with good, solid helmets can reduce the felt impact of what would be a stunning blow with a steel pollaxe head to a medieval helmet with a thin liner stuffed with horsehair (etc.) to something tolerable.

As for starting out, you're right about wooden shafts. When I started my Schule I didn't have enough pollaxe simulators for everyone, so I got some closet rods (even less tough than the hardwood you're talking about!) and cut some thick, dense foam material (glued up in layers) to form heads and taped them in place. They worked well enough to just walk through the moves, anyway.

Quote:
I recommend these vids. Good stuff!


Thank you very much! Pollaxe is the primary focus of our Schule so I'm really pleased to hear it when someone enjoys this video.

Regards,
Hugh
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Alex Spreier




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Apr, 2009 5:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the end, we are dealing with the most basic problem of practicing poleaxe techniques:

How do we suitably armor up and protect ourselves for practicing with a weapon that is designed to defeat armor?

In the end, to each their own. I personally feel that the Tindill's are great and have a very similar suspension to what I've seen in many helms (original and reproduction).

When I plan on starting my own school, I plan on making the axe one of, if not the, primary weapons taught, so I love it when poleaxe's are discussed on forums!
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Apr, 2009 6:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alex Spreier wrote:
In the end, we are dealing with the most basic problem of practicing poleaxe techniques:

How do we suitably armor up and protect ourselves for practicing with a weapon that is designed to defeat armor?

In the end, to each their own. I personally feel that the Tindill's are great and have a very similar suspension to what I've seen in many helms (original and reproduction).

When I plan on starting my own school, I plan on making the axe one of, if not the, primary weapons taught, so I love it when poleaxe's are discussed on forums!


Well, I've never seen a medieval helmet with a leather strap suspension liner like the Tindals (and again, I think they're superb for what they're designed to do, don't get me wrong), but the sewn-in liners in medieval helmets were often sort of like padded suspension systems, so there's some truth in what you say.

But the answer to your question of how we fight using a form designed to overcome medieval armor is to make safer weapons (i.e., the rubber axe heads) and helmets with better padding. Thus, we can hit with the correct amount of force for the weapon we're using without doing the kind of damage that much force would do to someone in a medieval helmet. That's what I've done, and I've been in fights using full power blows that may knock someone down, or even unconscious (rarely), but I've never seen anyone seriously hurt.

So you guys hit each other with full-speed, full-power blows (using full hip rotation and a correct push-pull hand motion) while wearing only unpadded Tindal masks? And full-power two-handed face thrusts?

And I'm with you about the pollaxe; I am sorry there's so much emphasis on swords and not on pollaxes, which I consider the ultimate weapon of knightly combat on foot. What source(s) do you use for pollaxe?

Regards,
Hugh
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Alex Spreier




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Apr, 2009 10:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:
So you guys hit each other with full-speed, full-power blows (using full hip rotation and a correct push-pull hand motion) while wearing only unpadded Tindal masks? And full-power two-handed face thrusts?


Not in regular practice, because I'm not comfortable enough with the material to run at near-full-speed (for the record, I feel the same with the sword, which I've been studying for 5+ years, just my personal feelings). But when we got the Tindill helms, I did have folks hit me with the rubber axe heads. I felt it, but not in a bad way. It was on par with the blows I took to my breastplate when I got that. But in regular practice, I feel I am still in the exploratory/learning stage, so I drop the speed and focus on correctness of action and control.


Hugh Knight wrote:
And I'm with you about the pollaxe; I am sorry there's so much emphasis on swords and not on pollaxes, which I consider the ultimate weapon of knightly combat on foot. What source(s) do you use for pollaxe?


My main source is Le Jeu, augmented with the axe sections from the Anonimo Bolognese, Vadi, and Fiore. Every now and again I will go to the German treatises, but I started with Italian sword, so I tend to find the terminology more familiar Big Grin
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Apr, 2009 11:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alex Spreier wrote:
Not in regular practice, because I'm not comfortable enough with the material to run at near-full-speed (for the record, I feel the same with the sword, which I've been studying for 5+ years, just my personal feelings). But when we got the Tindill helms, I did have folks hit me with the rubber axe heads. I felt it, but not in a bad way. It was on par with the blows I took to my breastplate when I got that. But in regular practice, I feel I am still in the exploratory/learning stage, so I drop the speed and focus on correctness of action and control.


Woof! Better you than me! Even in my steel helmet with a custom liner with closed-cell foam I've received pollaxe blows that have absolutely rocked my world--to the point of having to go sit things out for a while.

Quote:
My main source is Le Jeu, augmented with the axe sections from the Anonimo Bolognese, Vadi, and Fiore. Every now and again I will go to the German treatises, but I started with Italian sword, so I tend to find the terminology more familiar Big Grin


Interesting: I find that the German material is a great match for Le Jeu; indeed, many of the techniques are identical, whereas the Italian material, what little there is of it (Fiore has what, 6 or 7 plays, and Vadi about the same?), is radically different in concept. I don't know anything about any Bolognese material, however; I thought that only included late-period weapons like the partisan, etc.; I didn't think it included any pollaxe material per se.

I have a book on pollaxe combat coming out in a little while. In it I will be showing what I see to be the conceptual connections between Le Jeu and Talhoffer's pollaxe material.

Regards,
Hugh
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Alex Spreier




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Apr, 2009 7:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:
Interesting: I find that the German material is a great match for Le Jeu; indeed, many of the techniques are identical, whereas the Italian material, what little there is of it (Fiore has what, 6 or 7 plays, and Vadi about the same?), is radically different in concept.


The Fiore material actually isn't that sparse or that radically different. If you take Fiore's sword-in-armour, spear, and axe sections as one then the present a very good system of armoured combat. The differences come from the fact (just my hypothesis here-from many hours staring at manuscripts) that the axes shown in at least 2 or 3 of the Fiore manuscripts are shorter (shoulder height) then the generally accepted "user's height or greater" axe. This leads to the axe handling a little bit more like a sword in armour than an axe. Again, that is just the rough sketchout reasoning in my head.

Hugh Knight wrote:
I don't know anything about any Bolognese material, however; I thought that only included late-period weapons like the partisan, etc.; I didn't think it included any pollaxe material per se.


Most of the Bolognese stuff (Marozzo, etc.) do not include the pollaxe, but the Anonimo (called such because the author is anonymous) includes a decently long section entitled Di accia armato di tutta'arme or of the axe in full armour. The system it outlines is simple, elegant, and actually fits in perfectly with Le Jeu. The man to talk to about the Anonimo Bolognese is Greg Mele.

Hugh Knight wrote:
I have a book on pollaxe combat coming out in a little while. In it I will be showing what I see to be the conceptual connections between Le Jeu and Talhoffer's pollaxe material.


Sounds like that will be great!

Methinks, Hugh, that we have completely hijacked this thread! Razz Perhaps it's a sign of a polearms uprising? Wink
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F. Carl Holz




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Apr, 2009 8:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

thanks for the info guys.

hugh, I've seen your youtube stuff before (pollaxe and otherwise), deffinitely a fan!
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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Thu 09 Apr, 2009 9:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all,

I agree with Hugh on the Tindill masks - I wouldn't find them sufficient for freeplay with the axe. It's not about suspension, it's about having insufficient mass to suck up the blow's energy. I think it's instructive to look at the more massive great bascinet helms Paulus Kal shows for the axe play, as opposed to the sallet/bevor arrangement for the half-sword. The axe, whether real or a simulator, hits like a ton of bricks.

I disagree however on the rattan, whose flex often introduces strange artifacts. We use ash hafts and have never had a problem in either drill or tournament. And even if it did splinter, you're wearing considerable armour - or had better be! And the AEMMA folks - arguably playing the hardest game in town - use hardwood too.

I'd also add that I see no disconnect between the poleaxe seen in the Liechtenauer tradition and that of Fiore. It's just that you need to learn the other sections before you digest his axe plays. And that's because his poleaxe section only shows those techniques requiring specific considerations for that particular weapon; for everything else, he's already taught you the play with other weapons.

Best,

Christian

Christian Henry Tobler
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Author, In Saint George's Name: An Anthology of Medieval German Fighting Arts
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Apr, 2009 10:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christian Henry Tobler wrote:
I disagree however on the rattan, whose flex often introduces strange artifacts. We use ash hafts and have never had a problem in either drill or tournament. And even if it did splinter, you're wearing considerable armour - or had better be! And the AEMMA folks - arguably playing the hardest game in town - use hardwood too.


My experience is very different; flex issues are generally caused by people who take thin, soft rattan and just insert it into the head of the axe as a round shaft. If you pick good rattan, straighten it correctly, shave it and insert the shaft so the wide edge faces forward you have very little flex, except on a powerful hit where it takes just a little off the blow. And I've *seen* hardwood break in games that apparently *weren't* the "hardest in town."

Quote:
I'd also add that I see no disconnect between the poleaxe seen in the Liechtenauer tradition and that of Fiore. It's just that you need to learn the other sections before you digest his axe plays. And that's because his poleaxe section only shows those techniques requiring specific considerations for that particular weapon; for everything else, he's already taught you the play with other weapons.


I keep hearing this, but when knowledgeable Fioreites have taken me through the material in person it's just not there. There are no plays of the Queue (nor does he use the butt of any weapon that way except for one spear technique against a mounted opponent which hardly matches the breadth of Queue plays in Le Jeu and Talhoffer!), and nothing in Fiore to suggest he understands how the unbalanced nature of the weapon drives your choice of technique and of which end to use in which situation as both Le jeu and Talhoffer are very clear about, nor anything that suggests he understood how each of the "weapons" of the axe (queue, dague, bec and mail) work differently and when to prefer each. There are no hooking plays of any sort in Fiore, for example, with any weapon, that would suggest hooks with the bec de faucon. As I said, I've seen a huge disconnect between what people have said on the internet and what they can actually show me in a hands-on setting. Still, I do try to keep an open mind. I certainly don't want to get into a "yes I can!" "no you can't!" argument here, but I hope that when we next meet, Christian, you will actually show me Fiore's hidden pollaxe material because I look forward to seeing it.

Regards,
Hugh
www.schlachtschule.org


Last edited by Hugh Knight on Thu 09 Apr, 2009 10:35 am; edited 1 time in total
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Apr, 2009 10:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alex Spreier wrote:
The Fiore material actually isn't that sparse or that radically different. If you take Fiore's sword-in-armour, spear, and axe sections as one then the present a very good system of armoured combat. The differences come from the fact (just my hypothesis here-from many hours staring at manuscripts) that the axes shown in at least 2 or 3 of the Fiore manuscripts are shorter (shoulder height) then the generally accepted "user's height or greater" axe. This leads to the axe handling a little bit more like a sword in armour than an axe. Again, that is just the rough sketchout reasoning in my head.


Well, as I just responded to Christian, no one has ever been able to show this stuff to me in person when I hold a copy of Fiore and ask them to show me where they get their plays, but there's no point in "yes I can" "no you can't" arguments on the internet--they never do anything but cause rancor. As I said to him, I look forward to getting together some time and working through the material so you can show me.

Quote:
Most of the Bolognese stuff (Marozzo, etc.) do not include the pollaxe, but the Anonimo (called such because the author is anonymous) includes a decently long section entitled Di accia armato di tutta'arme or of the axe in full armour. The system it outlines is simple, elegant, and actually fits in perfectly with Le Jeu. The man to talk to about the Anonimo Bolognese is Greg Mele.


That's really interesting; I'm not familiar with Anonimo (cute name!), so I'll have to look into that.

Quote:
Methinks, Hugh, that we have completely hijacked this thread! Razz Perhaps it's a sign of a polearms uprising? Wink


Ha! It's about time!

Regards,
Hugh
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Apr, 2009 10:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

F. Carl Holz wrote:
thanks for the info guys.

hugh, I've seen your youtube stuff before (pollaxe and otherwise), deffinitely a fan!


Thanks, Carl! More will be coming soon. And I hope that when I do the pollaxe book I'll be able to release a companion CD with clips of most of the plays in the book.

Regards,
Hugh
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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Thu 09 Apr, 2009 11:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Hugh,

Well, there's hardwood and there's hardwood. If you buy a hardwood dowel at Lowes, sure it might break. That's a far cry though from an octagonal ash haft made for martial arts purposes. In any case, breakage has simply been a non-issue for us. This is the first time I've ever heard this concern raised, in fact.

Again though, you need to use hardwood intended for this. Oak would likely be a bad bet, for instance. On the other hand, if you're getting the performance you need with the rattan used as you describe, then that's good too.

I'm not the one to show the Fiore plays, as it's not my primary area by any means, but I'm pretty sure all that stuff is implicit there. And he most certainly focuses on the weighting - one of his big cautions is how easily the head of the axe can go, or be brought, to ground. As for hooks, that I'll have to look into.

Best,

Christian

Christian Henry Tobler
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Author, In Saint George's Name: An Anthology of Medieval German Fighting Arts
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Apr, 2009 12:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christian Henry Tobler wrote:
Hi Hugh,

Well, there's hardwood and there's hardwood. If you buy a hardwood dowel at Lowes, sure it might break. That's a far cry though from an octagonal ash haft made for martial arts purposes. In any case, breakage has simply been a non-issue for us. This is the first time I've ever heard this concern raised, in fact.

Again though, you need to use hardwood intended for this. Oak would likely be a bad bet, for instance. On the other hand, if you're getting the performance you need with the rattan used as you describe, then that's good too.


Quite right, it might just be bad choices. I would caution you about octagonal shafts, however: While many of the real pollaxe shafts (those we suspect are real, anyway, and not modern additions) are *technically* octagonal, they're mostly actually rectangular with the corners knocked off (making, technically, eight sides), whereas the modern octagonal ash shafts tend to be relatively round. I believe there's a reason real axe shafts are (mostly) rectangular: to help you make sure your axe head is aligned properly for a blow without having to look. I can't tell you how often I've seen folks in free play swing their axes "flat" (or at least not square on, which is just as bad) because of a round shaft. That's one of the strongest reasons we have for shaving the rattan on two sides.

Quote:
I'm not the one to show the Fiore plays, as it's not my primary area by any means, but I'm pretty sure all that stuff is implicit there. And he most certainly focuses on the weighting - one of his big cautions is how easily the head of the axe can go, or be brought, to ground. As for hooks, that I'll have to look into.


Well, as I said, I have looked into this and I've worked through the material with people who claim to understand where the pollaxe material comes from. As you know, I have made a special study of the pollaxe for many years so this is of special interest to me. As for weighting, there's a big difference between mentioning the unbalance of the weapon and actually showing a varied set of techniques that exploit both sides' advantages and disadvantages the way Le Jeu and Talhoffer do (e.g., performing displacements against swinging blows with the Queue so that the lighter Queue out-times the heavy Croix he's attacking with); and since other weapons aren't balanced that way, you *can't* find that material in other sections of Fiore's books by definition. And, as I said, one spear thrust hardly sets up all of the subtle uses of the Queue that are possible, and yet there's only a single play where Fiore uses the opposite end of any weapon (the spear on foot against a horseman I mentioned); for example, Le Jeu distinguishes between binds of the Queue agaisnt Queue and those against the Croix. And then there's the hooking: Fiore never shows a single hooking technique in any play in any version of his book with any weapon--I just went to my books and checked this in the Novati, the Getty, the French Fiore, and Vadi (I don't have a copy of the Morgan I can get to easily, but I know it contains less than does the Getty). I could mention other issues, but it never does any good to dicuss it over the internet because it's a poor medium for the kind of "show and tell" required. As I said, I really hope we can get together with a couple of axes and a copy of Fiore some time.

Regards,
Hugh
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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Thu 09 Apr, 2009 1:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Hugh,

I'll let a true Fioreist address specifics, but unless you've made detailed study of the text, finding the connections between the weapons is tricky. There are definitely things Fiore says but does not show. That's another reason why I'm glad of the anonymous poleaxe treatise in the Vienna Kal - it clears up some setup issues for both Kal and Talhoffer.

And speaking of anonymous...one must infer much of the axe in Fiore, but the Anonymous Bolognese treatise has gobs of detailed axe play. Greg Mele's taught a class drawing primarily from that and there's was much that aligned with the surviving German material. In fact, it fills in some gaps in the German sources, such as using the axe head to pull your opponent's head.

And, yes, the octagonal shafts are not the correct historic shape. But you're not going to get that without ripping your own. That's a compromise I'm fine with. I really can't abide any flex in a poleaxe shaft and everytime I've watched a bout with rattan hafts, I've been able to see the flex easily. We used to have shafts that flexed and I don't miss them.

Now, of course, the importance of each of these compromises is very subjective, so your mileage may vary, naturally.

All the best,

Christian

Christian Henry Tobler
Order of Selohaar

Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

Author, In Saint George's Name: An Anthology of Medieval German Fighting Arts
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Alex Spreier




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Apr, 2009 2:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm on my lunch at work so I will have to make this brief.

As regards Fiore's axe material- what I said before about the axe being shorter I think plays a large part of how he conducts his axe materials. I don't have the text in front of me, but I can paraphrase a section out of the Getty manuscripts axe section where Fiore shows the scholar holding the axe with his right foot forward, queue held in right hand (also forward) aand head angled back along the body. Clear as mud? K, this corresponds to his armoured guard with the sword, vera croce (they even share the name). Fiore does not show what to do from this point, but he does say something along the lines of "From this position, I will do the same play as the 1st scholar of the sword in armour". That is the most obvious place where I can say "here is where Fiore got this play". Also, in my opinion as a Fioreist (Thanks Christian, I had never thought to put it like that before Big Grin ) all the plays that Fiore shows, both in the sword, sword in armour, and axe sections occur after a crossing has already been made. It's kind of like Fiore saying "I don't care how you get here, but when you do, do this". I know that that is a gross generalization, but it seems to work for me.

All in all, I am really enjoying this discussion!

Off to sell knives.

Alex
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