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Adam M.M.





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PostPosted: Fri 25 Sep, 2015 5:58 am    Post subject: Ideal spear length for single combat         Reply with quote

For unarmoured single combat, what length of spear gives you an optimal balance between reach and maneuverability? Does it vary depending on stature or personal preference?
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NichoIas R




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Sep, 2015 8:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Between 6.5 and 8 ft...
"To end him rightly..."
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Sep, 2015 10:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

8-9ft for most people, according to George Silver. He had a specific formula as well, based on reaching up to your limit and then adding the mount of space you'd want between your hands when wielding the spear/staff.
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:
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Adam M.M.





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PostPosted: Fri 25 Sep, 2015 1:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
8-9ft for most people, according to George Silver. He had a specific formula as well, based on reaching up to your limit and then adding the mount of space you'd want between your hands when wielding the spear/staff.


Oh yeah I've read of that before. It just seems awfully long, wouldn't a 8-9' spear be quite unwieldy and easy to grab for someone with a shorter weapon? Matt Easton (from Schola Gladiatoria) said on his YouTube channel that long spears are easier to fight against for a swordsman than short spears, because of their slower speed.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Sep, 2015 3:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You want enough reach for a decisive advantage. More length beyond that will make your weapon less effective. But "enough reach for a decisive advantage" depends on what the other weapon is.

Against a not-too-long one or two handed sword (say, 34"/85cm or shorter blade), as short as 6'/180cm works (about 6' to 7' is ideal, IMO). But longer swords will make your reach advantage smallers. Short polearms will make your reach advantage disappear. The 8' to 9' prescription is a compromise against all sorts of weapons, including halberds.

Against another spear, you want a longer spear, but not too much longer. Perhaps 2' to 3' longer is best. So, 9' spear is better than 6' spear, and 12' spear is better than 9' spear. But 6' spear and 12' spear are about equally matched, and 6' spear is better against a not-long sword.

An 8' to 9' spear isn't unwieldy (or, at least, doesn't have to be - some examples might be), and won't be easy to grab if the spearman knows what he's doing. It isn't quite as fast as a 6' to 7' spear, so doesn't have quite as large an advantage against short weapons. But IMO it's still dominantly superior against short weapons.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Sep, 2015 3:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Note that Silver considered his perfect length of 8-9ft superior to both shorter and longer weapons for unarmored single combat in the open. In fact he thought one person with a spear/staff of perfect length would have the advantage against two opponents armed with sword and dagger.

Antonio Manciolino apparently preferred longer staff weapons. He gave the lancia (12-14ft?) odds over the spiedo (roughly 8ft).

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!


Last edited by Benjamin H. Abbott on Fri 25 Sep, 2015 3:49 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Adam M.M.





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PostPosted: Fri 25 Sep, 2015 3:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
You want enough reach for a decisive advantage. More length beyond that will make your weapon less effective. But "enough reach for a decisive advantage" depends on what the other weapon is.

Against a not-too-long one or two handed sword (say, 34"/85cm or shorter blade), as short as 6'/180cm works (about 6' to 7' is ideal, IMO). But longer swords will make your reach advantage smallers. Short polearms will make your reach advantage disappear. The 8' to 9' prescription is a compromise against all sorts of weapons, including halberds.

Against another spear, you want a longer spear, but not too much longer. Perhaps 2' to 3' longer is best. So, 9' spear is better than 6' spear, and 12' spear is better than 9' spear. But 6' spear and 12' spear are about equally matched, and 6' spear is better against a not-long sword.

An 8' to 9' spear isn't unwieldy (or, at least, doesn't have to be - some examples might be), and won't be easy to grab if the spearman knows what he's doing. It isn't quite as fast as a 6' to 7' spear, so doesn't have quite as large an advantage against short weapons. But IMO it's still dominantly superior against short weapons.


I see. That makes a lot of sense.

Does this mean that if you have a 8-9' spear and you face a short weapon (or a longer spear), you'd be better off gripping it further up the shaft and using it like a 6-7' spear rather than gripping it at one end? Or does the shaft sticking out behind you make this inconvenient?
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Sep, 2015 4:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For a heavy-headed spear, it might be useful to shorten the weapon like that. 2' of extra spear behind you isn't a problem. But, in general, no need. The long spear is slower, but you get more reach, which gives you more time to move the weapon.
"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Robert Frey




Location: Wausau, WI
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PostPosted: Sat 26 Sep, 2015 9:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Using that formula, I came up with a 9 foot spear for me. I'll try to find a 9 foot shaft somewhere and see how it feels. I've never used a staff longer than 6 feet long before.
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T. Kew




Location: Cambridge, UK
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PostPosted: Sat 26 Sep, 2015 11:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I tend to spread my hands out more instead of moving them up, if I want to trade reach for speed.

If I would hold a 6' spear with 2' between my hands, I can hold a 9' one with 4' between my hands. This gives me a *lot* more leverage to move the point with, making it harder to displace and easier to change through - and I still have a foot of extra reach.

Instructor and scholar, Cambridge HEMA
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