Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Holding a Two Handed Axe Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
Jonathan Cadman




Location: California
Joined: 23 Nov 2014

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Wed 24 Dec, 2014 11:15 pm    Post subject: Holding a Two Handed Axe         Reply with quote

I was just browsing through some images of the Bayeux Tapestry, and noticed that for some reason a large number of the subjects are holding their dane axes in what I would consider an 'inverted' grip. Their right hand rests beneath their left on the shaft, which seems counter intuitive to me.









And then not the best example, but I typically hold a long shafted tool (Rake, shovel, etc) with my dominant hand when resting, similar in style and position to the axe here:


And then some other sources showing the same grip.









I did some quick searches, and couldn't find any references to this anywhere. It seems unlikely to just be showing left handed people because it's disproportionately common compared to how common being left handed is, and isn't mirrored in people holding a sword left handed in the same sources. Are there any thoughts or theories on why they're depicted as they are, or possibly anyone well versed in axe combat that has any reasoning, or perhaps has tried it out in reenactment and found any benefit to it?
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Baard H




Location: Norway
Joined: 13 Mar 2013

Posts: 99

PostPosted: Thu 25 Dec, 2014 3:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In reenactment, long hafted, two-handed weapons (spears, axes, glaives etc.) are usually carried like this. The forward left hand is used to hold the weapon steady while the right hand does most of the work (steering, thrusting and so forth).
Dane-axes, glaives and pollaxes also get an advantage against most shield users with this set up as they target the defensively weaker sword-arm of their opponent.

Merry Christmas.

At kveldi skal dag leyfa,
konu, er brennd er,
mki, er reyndr er,
mey, er gefin er,
s, er yfir kemr,
l, er drukkit er.
-Hvaml, vsa 81
View user's profile Send private message
Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 1,494

PostPosted: Thu 25 Dec, 2014 3:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Your Bayeux examples all face the right. Are there men with axes facing the left? If all/most right-facing axemen have left-hand first, and all/most left-facing axemen have right-hand first, then it's artistic convention (not necessarily shared by other works). I've seen this kind of thing with archers in art - those facing one way are drawn left-handed, and those facing the other are drawn right-handed.

That said, one should be able to use polearms ambidextrously. Talhoffer shows both left- and right-hand forward grips, naginata is used ambidextrously in both koryu and modern competition. Sometimes the "off-hand" grip is better, keeping the haft clear of secondary weapons being worn on the left. This is more important for long polearms, but perhaps it matters for shorter polearms. "Off-hand" axe looks good for coming around a shield into the front of the body (i.e., to the left of the shield, from the attacker's viewpoint).

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2012

Posts: 1,276

PostPosted: Thu 25 Dec, 2014 6:13 am    Post subject: Re: Holding a Two Handed Axe         Reply with quote

Jonathan Cadman wrote:
I was just browsing through some images of the Bayeux Tapestry, and noticed that for some reason a large number of the subjects are holding their dane axes in what I would consider an 'inverted' grip. Their right hand rests beneath their left on the shaft, which seems counter intuitive to me.


I found the 'inverted' grip quite intuitive for two handed axes and glaives. Perhaps it was a hold-over from bayonet drills?

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
View user's profile Send private message
Tjarand Matre




Location: Nttery, Norway
Joined: 19 Sep 2010

Posts: 158

PostPosted: Thu 25 Dec, 2014 6:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As Baard mentioned, inverted grip is useful when (reenactment) fighting with 2 handed axes and other 2 hand cutting / stabbing weapon. The axe is used less in a wood chopping manner and more as a spear. In a line, I would think the opportunity to land a 2 handed overhead chop is quite rare.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,306

PostPosted: Thu 25 Dec, 2014 8:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To clarify, using a 2-handed axe "left-handed" means you swing at the opponent's unshielded side. That forces him to turn if he wants to block. Since you don't *have* a shield, that keeps you safer from his weapon, at least briefly!

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 1,494

PostPosted: Thu 25 Dec, 2014 12:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For cutting around the shield to the open side, left hand forward. For thrusting around the shield into the open side, right hand forward, for the angle coming in from the attacker's left side.
"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Peter Messent




Location: Texas
Joined: 03 Jan 2009

Posts: 226

PostPosted: Thu 25 Dec, 2014 3:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree with Timo's assertion that you should be able to use a polearm either right or left handed; it's not as awkward as it sounds. Think on the fact that most right-handers tend to put the right hand to the butt of a spear, but the left hand to the butt of an axe. If you do this and can stab with your axe (or even just smack your opponent with the top of it if it doesnt have a long horn) or cut with your spear, you can pretty much already wield a polearm ambidextrously and practice will make perfect!
View user's profile Send private message
Jonathan Cadman




Location: California
Joined: 23 Nov 2014

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Thu 25 Dec, 2014 5:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That all makes tons of sense, particularly the idea of using it to get around a shield, just something I'd never thought of! Thanks as per usual guys, whenever I have a question there seems to be an answer on this forum.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,191

PostPosted: Thu 25 Dec, 2014 6:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tjarand Matre wrote:
The axe is used less in a wood chopping manner and more as a spear. In a line, I would think the opportunity to land a 2 handed overhead chop is quite rare.


But countless battle paintings and drawings show what look like two-handed overhand chops in close formation. I think this was one of the main ways to employ a two-axe, halberd, or similar weapon in the field. At the end of the sixteenth century, Sir John Smythe expected halberdiers to strike blows at the head and thrust at the face.

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
Joined: 24 Jul 2011

Posts: 328

PostPosted: Fri 26 Dec, 2014 2:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In KDF the staff is considered to be the basis of all other polearms and it is often wielded with the non-dominant hand in the lead. While we don't have a fechtbuch from such an early era I have noticed a lot of recognizable technique and principle in 10th/11th c. artwork and I'm pretty much convinced that the Dane axe and sword and round shield were the original weapons set that proto-KDF was developed on. MS 3227a suggests that the art it describes was hundreds of years old as of the late 14th c.
View user's profile Send private message
T. Kew




Location: Cambridge, UK
Joined: 21 Apr 2012

Posts: 174

PostPosted: Fri 26 Dec, 2014 3:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The other interesting comparison (although much newer) is Jogo do Pau, a traditional portugese method of fighting with large sticks that's very closely linked to longsword arts. They also use a basic grip with the left hand forward on the stick.
View user's profile Send private message
Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
Joined: 24 Jul 2011

Posts: 328

PostPosted: Fri 26 Dec, 2014 4:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

JdP has much more in common with historical staff fighting systems than historical sword systems. That's still good, staff fighting is important and there is some overlap with sword arts. JdP has been embraced by some modern longsword practitioners because on the surface it looks a lot like what they want to find, a two-handed grip, and it's easy to run with because most modern longsword competitions are necessarily blunt weapon fights inadvertently governed by blunt weapon rules.

Another way to put it is staff and two handed sword systems are related but single handed sword and two handed sword are more closely related. The difference isn't readily apparent unless you work with sharps a lot and understand the differences between edged weapon combat and blunt weapon combat.
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Holding a Two Handed Axe
Page 1 of 1 Reply to topic
All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum