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Michael Curl




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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jul, 2009 9:32 am    Post subject: Axe,mace,flail, and warhammer, why are they left out?         Reply with quote

It seems to me that we have no surviving works (or at least modern interest) on axes (not poleaxe's but the one handed knightly axe), flails, maces, or warhammers. Why is this? Is it that we have no surviving works or is it lack of interest on our part to revive them?

If its abscence then why is that? Just random chance that none of those work survive, or is it a lack of sophisticated technique was developed? If its the latter, then do we have any writing were masters discuss them in europe? I know there is a mamaluke manuel that discusses the uses of the mace compared to spears and swords, but even that does not discuss how it was actually used.


Thanx.

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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jul, 2009 9:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What do you mean "surviving works?" Are you talking about books? If so, what kind of books? Books that discuss antique axes, etc..? Or are you talking about books that discuss the martial usage of them? Your second paragraph makes me think you're asking about their use. Please clarify.
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David E. Farrell




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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jul, 2009 10:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm going to restrict myself to the medieval and early renaissance stuff here.... and hope i am on the right track for the question.

since you are asking about a number of weapons, used in a number of different European cultures across a wide period of time, there are a variety of possible reasons. It actually may be easier to understand why the martial manuscripts (or portions of MSs) we know of were made and survive. From there, you can speculate based on knowledge of the cultures involved.

Survival of an MS seems to be mostly luck, along with extreme care on the part of the various owners. Consider the state of the 'old stacks' in a small modern library... extrapolate that out a few hundred years and toss in a war or 5 and a cultural revolution or 3. Survival of a tradition isn't much different, it only survives as long as someone is interested in learning it and someone is available to teach it.

Finding them initially seems to be almost pure luck. Someone happens across a passage in a text that makes a passing mention of XYZ MS in the ABC Library of LMNOP or sees it on display at a random museum. They then hunt it down, and try to get access. Some folks have spent an amazing amount of effort tracking new things down.

Why were they made in the first place? Some are purpose-made manuscripts that were made for a patron who wanted it and may have studied with a particular master, Some are part of a compendium for someone who thought it interesting (though may not have studied it), And some are almost advertisements (some of talhoffer's crazy dueling scenarios come to mind). None that I know of appear to have been written to pass information through the ages. Also, consider that many of these were for *noble* patrons, likely interested in the arts of 'knightly' combat.

We have very little about battlefield strategy, and nearly nothing on group training of infantry. We do know that there were militias, etc who had to be trained, but no 'Drill Sergeants Manual'. So it seems that not everything was recorded for posterity... this makes sense given that an MS was an expensive undertaking.

Now, later compendia like PH Mair's do show some evidence that there may be some other things out there. Like the sections that show a 'dueling sickle' or the large flail (though lacking in text if I remember right). But I wouldn't expect to find a sweeping treatise on such things, since those weapons were not (to my knowledge) part of the 'knightly arts' in any period or culture in Europe (they are farming implements, after all). Similarly, there seem to be few records of folk arts that we have seen depicted in artwork. But perhaps someone will get lucky!

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Michael Curl




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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jul, 2009 10:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am talking about text discussing there use and am comparing them to the lngsword and sword and buckler works that survive.

I understand that It could be pure chance that any books on mace fighting didn't survive. But what I'm asking is if that is the most likely reason, or were there uses not widespread/important enough to document.

I was under the impression that axes and maces became very popular with the rise of plate armour. You would think that they would be worth writing treatise one.

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David E. Farrell




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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jul, 2009 10:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Curl wrote:

I was under the impression that axes and maces became very popular with the rise of plate armour. You would think that they would be worth writing treatise one.


I think this is where it gets tricky - without something detailing its use, we can only loosely speculate on its use. So you get into a chicken/egg problem in wondering about if they were worth writing a treatise about. I suspect if someone finds a treatise on it, we may be surprised by how differently they were used than we think.

but I think for the upper echelons on the battlefield (those who would have engaged a master to teach them at somepoint), it is likely that they would have just used it based on their knowledge of other weapons. So this would give reason to it not being written explicitly. And a militiaman / common footsoldier would probably just have been shown how to do it rather than have them read a book on it.

unfortunately, I think this is sort of like trying to prove a negative. The best you can do is speculate.

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For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother
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Before I came here I was confused about this subject. Having listened to your lecture I am still confused... but on a higher level.
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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jul, 2009 1:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The author of Pallas Armata clearly states that he's writing about only a few weapons because those lessons will apply to other weapons. Maybe that attitude was common. If so, it might be possible to reconstruct plausible mace technique from extant messer instruction. The weapons are approximately the same length, so could be used in the same offensive and defensive postures, and with all the advantages and dangers of close quarters fighting.
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"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 20 Jul, 2009 1:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Axe,mace,flail, and warhammer, why are they left out?         Reply with quote

Michael Curl wrote:
It seems to me that we have no surviving works (or at least modern interest) on axes (not poleaxe's but the one handed knightly axe), flails, maces, or warhammers. Why is this? Is it that we have no surviving works or is it lack of interest on our part to revive them?

If its abscence then why is that? Just random chance that none of those work survive, or is it a lack of sophisticated technique was developed? If its the latter, then do we have any writing were masters discuss them in europe? I know there is a mamaluke manuel that discusses the uses of the mace compared to spears and swords, but even that does not discuss how it was actually used.


Thanx.


There's tons of stuff on maces. All of the material in Talhoffer, Kal, and the other related manuscripts that illustrate peasants in judicial duels with clubs show techniques applicable with a mace. After all, the only difference between a club and a mace is that one has a spiked or flanged metal piece on the end, and one does not. I

t's not so surprising that flails hardly appear at all, since they were peasant weapons and thus would not be of much interested to knights and men at arms. But you can find flails in Jacob Sutor, and I'm pretty sure there's some stuff in Mair on them too.

There isn't anything on warhammers specifically to my knowledge, but Le Jeu De La Hache has instructions on poleaxes, and you'll find them in other manuals too, like Fiore, Vadi, Talhoffer, and so forth. While they might be called "poleaxes", they're really pole hammers.

Likewise, there's nothing specifically on the axe, although both Mair and Sutor illustrate the use of halberds in fighting.

The simple reason why there isn't a lot of material on the weapons you've discussed is because they're a lot simpler to use than a sword. A sword has two cutting edges that can be exploited by shifting one's grip during a strike; it requires good edge placement to cut with maximal efficacy, and a sword can be employed in a number of defensive actions as well should one so choose. By contrast, most of the other weapons you've described are concussive, meaning that any forceful strike with them will cause harm. Even in the case of the axe, it has a single edge, which makes it significantly different from a sword when used. And there's not a whole lot of ways to strike with these weapons. By far, the vast majority of strikes are going to be the equivalent of a zornhaw or scheitelhaw with a sword.

So we really don't need that much on these weapons, because they're not that complex to use. If you're good with fighting with a long sword or single handed sword, there isn't a whole lot that you won't be able to do with an axe, mace, warhammer, or flail.
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Michael Curl




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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jul, 2009 5:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Do you have any links to that information on maces you were talking about, I would love to read it. Are lessons from one handed sword applicable to it? I would have assumed that its technique would have differed since a thrust would be a lot less lethal and a slice is impossible.

And the warhammer I was discussing is a one handed knightly one, not a two handed poleaxe one.

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James Arlen Gillaspie
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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jul, 2009 5:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Kelvingrove in Glasgow, Scottland, has, if memory serves, over 200 'fightbooks' of all sorts, many of which have not been properly looked at. Many others are in private hands. We really don't know yet what all is still about.
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David E. Farrell




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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jul, 2009 5:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Curl wrote:
Do you have any links to that information on maces you were talking about, I would love to read it. Are lessons from one handed sword applicable to it? I would have assumed that its technique would have differed since a thrust would be a lot less lethal and a slice is impossible.


I think you would be surprised - from what WMA folks have been able to find, there is very little evidence of a 'slicing' (i.e. 'draw cuts', like filleting a fish) cutting mechanic in medieval and early renaissance swordplay (can't comment on later periods than that...) - rather the cuts tend to be rather percussive in nature (think chopping with a cleaver or chef's knife). These principles would be directly applicable to the mace and single handed axe.

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For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother
-- King Henry, Henry V, William Shakespeare

Before I came here I was confused about this subject. Having listened to your lecture I am still confused... but on a higher level.
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David E. Farrell




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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jul, 2009 5:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James Arlen Gillaspie wrote:
The Kelvingrove in Glasgow, Scottland, has, if memory serves, over 200 'fightbooks' of all sorts, many of which have not been properly looked at. Many others are in private hands. We really don't know yet what all is still about.


I didn't know that - wow, that's a ton of them. I hope someone is trying to get a peek at them!

AKA: 'Sparky' (so I don't need to explain later Wink )

For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother
-- King Henry, Henry V, William Shakespeare

Before I came here I was confused about this subject. Having listened to your lecture I am still confused... but on a higher level.
-- Enrico Fermi
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jul, 2009 7:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Monte addressed the mace for mounted combat. Massario included the axe and hammer as well. Unfortunately, I haven't read the texts in question themselves. I only know of them through Sydney Anglo.
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jul, 2009 8:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="David E. Farrell"]
Michael Curl wrote:
I think you would be surprised - from what WMA folks have been able to find, there is very little evidence of a 'slicing' (i.e. 'draw cuts', like filleting a fish) cutting mechanic in medieval and early renaissance swordplay (can't comment on later periods than that...) - rather the cuts tend to be rather percussive in nature (think chopping with a cleaver or chef's knife).


David, that's actually not true, there are a great many slicing cuts in German martial arts. The Schnitt or slice is one of the drei Wunder ("three wounders") of Liechtenauer's art. All of the plays of the Abschneiden with the longsword, for example, are slices.

To the original poster: The reason most fighting manuals don't include the weapons you mention is simple: They weren't used in judicial combats or in civilian self defense in the 15th century, and the vast majority of the Fechtbücher are concerned exclusively with those topics in that period. As someone pointed out, there are mace techniques shown with the strange Langenschilt duels, but that doesn't relate to what I think you're asking.

NB: I'm referring only to the 15th century here; as I understand it, there are some interesting late-period books that cover some odd things.

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Hugh
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Michael Curl




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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jul, 2009 10:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ya I already knew about schneiden techniques. And I don't see how they would possibly work with a mace.

As far as those 200 books go...sigh,I wish we could get a good look at them.

Secondly, where fightbooks are conserned,were they only used for duels and self-defense? With sectios on horse combat I assumed they wre also meant for warfare.

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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jul, 2009 2:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Curl wrote:
Ya I already knew about schneiden techniques. And I don't see how they would possibly work with a mace.


They wouldn't; I was really answering David Farrell's point there.

Quote:
Secondly, where fightbooks are conserned,were they only used for duels and self-defense? With sectios on horse combat I assumed they wre also meant for warfare.


There are some plates that are obviously intended for warfare, such as this one:
http://mdz10.bib-bvb.de/~db/0002/bsb00020451/...?seite=271
But bear in mind that there are a scant 4 plates in that series; all the other Roßfechten plates in Talhoffer 1467 are single combat. His 1459 Fechtbuch also shows some plates of that sort, but, again, they are very much in the minority. It seems clear Talhoffer was showing that he *could* teach battlefield techniques, but his book doesn't present anything resembling a system of such techniques.

For that matter, in Talhoffer 1459 he also shows a counter to a warhammer attack on foot with a sword (but no technique for the warhammer, just an overhand blow that gets displaced)--but, again, nothing you can build a system out of.

But when you look at the majority of 15th-century Fechtbücher that show Roßfechten, it's clear they are discussing judicial combat for the most part, even if there's an occasional battlefield technique thrown in. For example, the Roßfechten material in von Danzig starts by talking about a duel, and the author says that if your opponent is too tough for you you should dismount and fight him afoot. Hardly a battlefield tactic (not that many battles weren't won by dismounted troops, but that's another discussion for another time). Paulus Kal, Goliath and others all show how to dismount in the midst of the duel and fight your opponent afoot while he remains on horseback, too.

Not a single Fechtbuch ever talks about how to ride in formation (except Dom Duarte's book, of course, but I'm not counting that as a Fechtbuch), how to work with your comrades on either side, etc., and many of the techniques are ones that you simply could not do in battle. For example, this plate from Jörg Wilhalm shows a fancy lance maneuver that would be tough to do in a mass battlefield engagement:
http://media.bibliothek.uni-augsburg.de/fullsize?id=47474

Some books (e.g., Fiore) say they teach material useful for war, but the vast majority of material in most sources is straight boilerplate stuff right out of judicial combats.

So while some authors (e.g., Talhoffer--whom I'm not criticizing--he's one of my favorite authors) might show enough in a book to impress a potential patron, not a single Fechtbuch shows a *system* of combat for warfare as they do with techniques for judicial combat.

Maybe some 16th-century sources do (although I've not seen any), and, of course, there certainly are 17th-century books that do, but by the 17th century few men fought in full plate with the warhammers and single-handed axes that go with that.[/u]

Regards,
Hugh
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David E. Farrell




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jul, 2009 9:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:
David E. Farrell wrote:
I think you would be surprised - from what WMA folks have been able to find, there is very little evidence of a 'slicing' (i.e. 'draw cuts', like filleting a fish) cutting mechanic in medieval and early renaissance swordplay (can't comment on later periods than that...) - rather the cuts tend to be rather percussive in nature (think chopping with a cleaver or chef's knife).


David, that's actually not true, there are a great many slicing cuts in German martial arts. The Schnitt or slice is one of the drei Wunder ("three wounders") of Liechtenauer's art. All of the plays of the Abschneiden with the longsword, for example, are slices.


Ah, I stand corrected (I study Fiore almost exclusively) - I had thought (and seem to recall reading/being told) that there was rather little in the way of draw cuts in both the german and italian medieval/early ren. traditions.

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For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother
-- King Henry, Henry V, William Shakespeare

Before I came here I was confused about this subject. Having listened to your lecture I am still confused... but on a higher level.
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Eric Myers




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jul, 2009 10:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Perez de Mendoza discusses the use of the 3 headed flail in 1675. Roughly, he says it is similar to the the two-handed sword.
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Michael Curl




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jul, 2009 10:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmm, do you think that longsword use in war differs greatly from judicial duels?

Are our recreations applicable to warfare?

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David E. Farrell




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jul, 2009 1:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Curl wrote:
Hmm, do you think that longsword use in war differs greatly from judicial duels?

Are our recreations applicable to warfare?


Maybe to both of them....

Judicial Duels (and more illicit duels) varied, as did the conditions of the battlefield. Fiore, at least, pretty clearly expected his art to serve both in single combat and on the battlefield. That said, it would be silly to say that the conditions and tactical considerations on a medieval battlefield and in a judicial duel list are the same. There would be some principles which would be applicable in both places, and some that wouldn't. For example - I wouldn't bother getting out my dagger and wrestling with another fully armoured combatant on the battlefield unless it was absolutely necessary... there are other things to worry about and other combatants that can be brought in to deal with that problem. But that dagger/wrestling combo was a very common ending an armoured duel.

if a re-creation is applicable to warfare depends entirely on the interpretation you look at.

AKA: 'Sparky' (so I don't need to explain later Wink )

For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother
-- King Henry, Henry V, William Shakespeare

Before I came here I was confused about this subject. Having listened to your lecture I am still confused... but on a higher level.
-- Enrico Fermi
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jul, 2009 2:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Curl wrote:
Hmm, do you think that longsword use in war differs greatly from judicial duels?

Are our recreations applicable to warfare?


The simple answer is that we can't be sure because we don't have precise information since there are no books that teach us how to use a longsword in warfare. When you look at the non-Fechtbuch iconography you see longswords used both by holding the hilt to swing (which Ringeck says is done by "those who know nothing of the art") and, more rarely, for halfswording.

But all of this misses the primary point, which is that the longsword wasn't really much of a weapon of war. It was a weapon for civilian self defense and for judicial combat and even for friendlier deeds of arms, but by the time of the longsword, most swords were very much secondary or backup weapons on the battlefield (which doesn't mean they didn't get used; lots of soldiers on the battlefield today end up having to use a pistol for things on rare occasions, and the pistol is *not* a primary weapon of war). The primary weapons of dismounted men at arms (i.e., fully-armored men who fought and were equipped as knights) were the spear and the pollaxe.

Having said that, using a longsword for halfswording as taught in the Fechtbücher is problematic, especially when most of your opponent's will be using poll weapons: In the first place, it just doesn't have the reach, and in the second place, a lot of halfsword material is tied to grappling techniques--something dangerous and doubtful on a battlefield where your opponent's buddies can easily kill you while you're entangled with your opponent.

On horseback a sword would be a valid choice for a backup weapon, and was probably fairly effective. After all, Dom Duarte tells us that the motion of the horse adds to the impetus of your sword stroke to make it effective, almost like a mass weapon. But you have to learn to use it en masse, and no one tells us about how that's done.

So I don't know what kind of reenactment combat you're doing, but what you're doing is probably accurate to some extent, you probably just use a lot more longswords than would be seen in a real medieval battle because most reenactment rules make the longsword as effective as a poll weapon, and they weren't--not even close--and the longsword is so quick and easy to use that it seems artificially valuable.

Regards,
Hugh
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