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John A. Brown





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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 3:12 am    Post subject: Was it easy to kill using polearms without training?         Reply with quote

I notice many movies portray pole arm weapons such as pikes, naginitas, guandaos, halberds, and spears as being a very easy weapon to use. You just hold the spear,pike, or whatever pole weapon and wait for the enemy to stupidly run into it.

The best example is the Stirling Battle Scene in Bravhart where William Wallace's soldiers awaited for the English Heavy Cavalry to charge at the Scots. The Scots merely placed large wooden stakes on the ground and angled it at the English Horses and they were slaughtered as they charged into it. So many other movies with troops using spears as their primary weapon portrays using spears in a similar fashion. You hold it and form whole wall of spears and just wait for your enemies to stupidly run into it and die.

Even after the initial charge, using the pole arms to kill is portrayed simply as pushing it to the next guy in front of you, wait for that guy to be impaled and fall, then hit the next guy in line with it and repeat. 300 shows this perfectly. Watch the video.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdNn5TZu6R8

As you seen in the clip, the Spartan decimated the Persians with a tactic so simple. Simply push the spear into the next guy in front of you in line after the initial charge and push the spear into him killing him like he's a human shape cardboard stand that you see in stores and he falls to the ground. Waits for the next Persian in role to appear and they suddenly push the spear into the next guy and kill him and keep repeating until an entire Persian unit was decimated.

Spear battles are often protrayed as this in movies once the initial moment where enemies rush into spears with no regard for their own lives and get impaled like barbecue on a hot fourth of July. Push your spear like your enemy is n inflated baloon and you will kill them by the hundreds.

So its portrayed as so long as you don't lose your balance and remaining holding it pointed at your enemy on the defensive, you simply stay where you are and let your enemy charge you and the killing commences as you pull the spear and push it towards the next marching troops in line at the front row after the initial charge was stopped by your spears.

Even martial art movies portrays spears int he same manner. Often the master martial artist awaits for his gang of enemies to run at him and suddenly he starts killing hordes of men with simple pushes of the spear as the come nearby with a fancy trick from staff fighting thrown in every 3rd or fourth bad guy.

However I remember a martial arts documentary in which some guys were in Japan trying to learn how to use the naginata. The weapon was heavier than many martial arts movie portrays them as. In addition the martial artist teaching them showed them just how clumsy using the weapon was if you are untrained as he made them hit some stationary objects.

The martial artist even made the guests spar with him and he showed them just how goddamn easy it was to deflect and parry thrusts from a naginata and he showed them just how vulnerable they were once a single thrust was parried. He also showed that not just naginata but also yari spears, Japanese lances, and such pole weapons were very easy to disarmed if you weren't train.

So I am wondering after seeing this documentary. Movies show spears as being such simple weapons anyone can use them while being on the defensive against a charging army as I stated in my description above. But the Martial Artist int he documentary really makes me wonder how hard it is to simply just stand there and wait for your enemies to charge into your spear and also how simplistic it was to push your spear into new men repeatedly.

Was using a spear-like weapon much harder than movies portray and require a lot of training like the martial arts documentary I saw show?

Would a spear wall formation be enough to kill raging vikings or naked Celts as long as you stand your ground patiently and wait for them to rush into the wall? Or is physical conditioning and actual training with the weapon required?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 3:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

These weapons only work when in formation co-operating with a large group of people. This isn't possible to do it effectively without at least a modicum of drill and training.

Usually, when shield walls are clashing, the winner is the side with the most discipline and highest morale. These battles aren't won by attrition, they are won by forcing the other side to rout.

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Last edited by Dan Howard on Wed 22 Feb, 2017 2:05 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 6:58 am    Post subject: Re: Was it easy to kill using polearms without training?         Reply with quote

John A. Brown wrote:
I notice many movies portray pole arm weapons such as pikes, naginitas, guandaos, halberds, and spears as being a very easy weapon to use. You just hold the spear,pike, or whatever pole weapon and wait for the enemy to stupidly run into it.

The best example is the Stirling Battle Scene in Bravhart where William Wallace's soldiers awaited for the English Heavy Cavalry to charge at the Scots. The Scots merely placed large wooden stakes on the ground and angled it at the English Horses and they were slaughtered as they charged into it. So many other movies with troops using spears as their primary weapon portrays using spears in a similar fashion. You hold it and form whole wall of spears and just wait for your enemies to stupidly run into it and die.

Even after the initial charge, using the pole arms to kill is portrayed simply as pushing it to the next guy in front of you, wait for that guy to be impaled and fall, then hit the next guy in line with it and repeat. 300 shows this perfectly. Watch the video.


John...

You simply cannot use the movies to make the kinds of judgements you want to make on this subject. The example of the "Battle of Stirling" in Braveheart is a case in point. The actual battle was fought on and around a bridge. At the time that Wallace led the Scottish army, the use of the schiltron was either not part of the tactics or was in its infancy. The accounts we have of it are mainly from poetic works, which are not similar to news reports. At Bannockburn, Bruce used the Schiltrons as mobile attack forces on the first day and advanced on the main English formation on June 23rd. Certainly the Scots, once the English heavy cavalry launched an attack, dug in to meet the charge. But once it was broken they began a push forward which eventually forced the English into the burn, broke their ranks and caused them to flee. The English were probably very surprised to be confronted by mobile infantry

At Stirling Bridge, which doesn't even make an appearance in the movie, the English were defeated piecemeal as they attempted, unnecessarily, to cross the bridge - there was a ford not far from the bridge. Poor leadership and overconfidence gave Wallace the day. Bruce neutralized the English archery at Bannockburn and used his smaller army with great effect. The fact that the English leadership backed themselves into a corner on the evening of June 22d was a big help too.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 9:14 am    Post subject: Re: Was it easy to kill using polearms without training?         Reply with quote

John A. Brown wrote:
I notice many movies portray pole arm weapons such as pikes, naginitas, guandaos, halberds, and spears as being a very easy weapon to use. You just hold the spear,pike, or whatever pole weapon and wait for the enemy to stupidly run into it.


Everything in the movies is wrong. Start with that basic assumption and go from there. We covered this on another board, didn't we? No problem, you'll get even better answers here.

Spears and other polearms ARE easy to use. The enemy is NOT stupid enough to run right onto a weapon or other pointy thing--are you? If that is not something you would do, then probably very few people in ancient times or the middle ages would, either. (They didn't think like us, mind you, but they weren't suicidal!) Spears and polearms are effective because most men will try to stay just out of reach.

Quote:
...Even after the initial charge, using the pole arms to kill is portrayed simply as pushing it to the next guy in front of you, wait for that guy to be impaled and fall, then hit the next guy in line with it and repeat. 300 shows this perfectly. Watch the video.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdNn5TZu6R8


Idiotic. Made my eyes bleed after 3 minutes. Even for a fantasy movie it was unwatchable. Never confuse ANY movie with history or reality.

Do *you* think like a cardboard cutout? Do you think anyone else did in a real battle?

Quote:
However I remember a martial arts documentary in which some guys were in Japan trying to learn how to use the naginata. The weapon was heavier than many martial arts movie portrays them as. In addition the martial artist teaching them showed them just how clumsy using the weapon was if you are untrained as he made them hit some stationary objects.

The martial artist even made the guests spar with him and he showed them just how goddamn easy it was to deflect and parry thrusts from a naginata and he showed them just how vulnerable they were once a single thrust was parried. He also showed that not just naginata but also yari spears, Japanese lances, and such pole weapons were very easy to disarmed if you weren't train.


Yes, any martial artist with a Q-tip can disarm any non-expert with a lightsaber and minigun. That's because he's better than them, and operating in a controlled environment. On a battlefield, all those untrained guys *were* trained enough to know that they had to stay in formation and keep all their spears pointing forwards, to keep that one guy who was really good from getting through and chopping them all up. And that often worked just fine.

Spears and polearms were THE most common weapon because they were easily used by masses of men with little training, and because those men could stand in very dense formations for mutual protection. Yes, they were *more* effective used by highly trained men, but in battle formations you can't really use most of the silly acrobatics that movies have to include to impress the audience.

Quote:
Would a spear wall formation be enough to kill raging vikings or naked Celts as long as you stand your ground patiently and wait for them to rush into the wall?


Yes. That's how almost everyone fought, and it worked. With the understanding that they won't just hurl themselves suicidally onto your points.

Quote:
Or is physical conditioning and actual training with the weapon required?


Well, most anyone on a battlefield was at least fit enough to use the weapons! People led physical lives, and endured a lot of pain and discomfort. Even militia had regular musters to get basic training and practice, and to make sure that everyone had the weapons and equipment they were required to have by law. It was all based on wealth, so there were no ragged peasants with pitchforks. If you could not afford the basics, you were either issued with what you needed or you were not required to fight.

Matthew
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Andrew Gill





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PostPosted: Thu 23 Feb, 2017 5:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi John

To add to the excellent points which Matthew, Dan and Lin have already made:

There are a large number of fencing manuals from renaissance Europe on using polearms, from the spear to halberds, glaives and pollaxes. In some cases, the whole book was devoted to polearm techniques. Just two examples: there's a french text called "le jeu de hache" which is only about pollaxes - a knightly weapon which was highly considered in its time, and a significant part of George Silver's "paradoxes of defence" deals with the way pollarms of various sorts are used, and the advantages and disadvantages of various types in either single combat or the battlefield (polearms were Silver's absolute favourite weapon, and with good reason). There are also lots of Italian and German manuals dealing with polearm usage from loosely the same period. These weapons - even the humble spear - have a lot of potential for skillful use, and there is even a historical account of an englishman holding off and defeating four Spanish swordsmen with a quarterstaff (the simplest polearm).

Regarding impaling huge numbers of screaming charging fanatics with spears: put yourself in the position of the charging side - what level of anger (or drunkeness) would you need to attain in order to run blindly into a hedge of pointy iron-tipped sticks and impale yourself on them? Society, cultural norms, values and beliefs may have changed over the millenia since human civilization began, but I think the aversion to self-destruction by impalement is hardwired into most people on a rather low level, so it probably hasn't changed much in that time.
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Peter Spätling
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PostPosted: Thu 23 Feb, 2017 9:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

John as a small note. When you are riding towards your enemy like in Braveheart, you can just stop. Problem solved. There always is enough space between each rows of riders to make a full halt. And since you ride in a very collected manner to keep the line you are slow anyway. So charging at full speed at your enemy probably isn't authentic.
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PostPosted: Thu 23 Feb, 2017 7:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would like to also add that even blunt weapons are dangerous, and fight choreographers need to consider this fact. Spears are deadly even with a dull points and edges, so keeping all of those points still for the fight scene starts sounding a lot safer.

One member of this forum recalled a story where he was in a mock battle in full plate armor, and slipped while climbing a slope. When he threw up his arm to balance, he fell into a blunt spear, which went through his mailed armpit and punctured his lung. Now put dozens of movie extras together and think about what you would direct them to do with a bunch of spears.
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James Arlen Gillaspie
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PostPosted: Fri 24 Feb, 2017 3:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pikes were used in ranks. The pikemen did not just stand there, but tracked their opponents as they approached. Avoid the first rank? There are others waiting. Against cavalry, it was a good idea for the butt to be braced against the ground, but against infantry, to lift them. Years ago, we played with a few 'mini' pikes (only fourteen feet long) at some SCAdian fighter practices, and it was interesting and enlightening. Using one's arms didn't work; ours were too heavy to use that way, and it helped me understand why the shafts of real pikes were tapered, to lessen the tip weight. We couldn't do much more than hold them out, and afterward my halberd (my normal weapon) felt light as a wand. Instead, the offensive move was a strong step forward, easy to recover from. They hit like a bus. One of the funnier memories was of a crowned head that thought he was just out of range, talking to his men, and my mate lunged and knocked him flat. Laughing Out Loud
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Mon 27 Feb, 2017 1:49 pm    Post subject: Re: Was it easy to kill using polearms without training?         Reply with quote

John A. Brown wrote:
I notice many movies portray pole arm weapons such as pikes, naginitas, guandaos, halberds, and spears as being a very easy weapon to use. You just hold the spear,pike, or whatever pole weapon and wait for the enemy to stupidly run into it.


Take two untrained recruits. Give one a spear, and give the other a one-handed or hand-and-a-half sword. Give them 6 hours of training, and get them to fight, without armour. The spearman will probably win. The difference in reach matters a lot, for equal skill and without special circumstances that would disadvantage the spear. You'd get a similar effect with sword against knife. Apart from the pure physical advantage of reach, there is also a mental advantage: at the initial contact, the fighter with more reach is much safer. The fighter with less reach must risk injury/death just to get to a distance where they have a chance to do something to their opponent. With a spear, you can afford to make (some) mistakes, because you can often deal with their consequences by simply taking a step or two back.

This advantage of reach is, IMO, where the spear gets its reputation as "easy". Other polearms that have enough reach without too much weight deserve to share this "easy". But this isn't the same kind of easy as shown in the movies.

At the most basic level, fighting with a spear is just a matter of poking your opponent with it. On a good day, you won't even have to worry about blocking/parrying. A slightly more thorough spear curriculum would include the standing thrust, stepping thrust, pool-cue thrust, 3 guards (low, middle, hanging), footwork, parrying, beats and disengages against the opponent's weapon, and striking with the butt. Recovery from a thrust (or cut) is very important.

Take somebody with that curriculum and put them against a skilled swordsman who knows how to fight against a spear, and the swordsman can win within seconds. So it's useful to teach spearmen what swordsmen will try to do to them. That is, teach them anti-anti-spear.

To be effective with a spear (or other polearm) against experienced opponents takes training and knowledge. Even against naive opponents, you still need to actively hit them with - you can't depend on your opponent doing all the work (Braveheart style).

"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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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 27 Feb, 2017 4:34 pm    Post subject: Re: Was it easy to kill using polearms without training?         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
Take somebody with that curriculum and put them against a skilled swordsman who knows how to fight against a spear, and the swordsman can win within seconds. .

Give the spearman the same level of training as the swordsman, and the spearman will win within seconds.

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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Mon 27 Feb, 2017 11:07 pm    Post subject: Re: Was it easy to kill using polearms without training?         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Timo Nieminen wrote:
Take somebody with that curriculum and put them against a skilled swordsman who knows how to fight against a spear, and the swordsman can win within seconds. .

Give the spearman the same level of training as the swordsman, and the spearman will win within seconds.


Quite possibly, even probably. It does depend on exactly what that training consisted of (which was my point, that it's useful for a spearman to learn what a swords is likely to try, and what to do about it, although "that curriculum" is less than the amount of training I think necessary to produce a skilled swordsman). If they have a lot of experience against short weapons (whether "real fighting" or sparring), then they should win easily. A small (but not too small) amount of experience against skilled fighters with short weapons, the same. If their experience is all against other spearmen, or incompetent swordsmen, they might lose very quickly - the dynamic of the fight will be very different.

Given specific training in how to stop losing to a skilled swordsman, the spearman can still have a significant advantage even if less skilled. (How significant would depend on how less.) It takes less skill/training/experience to stop what the swordsman can do to beat the spearman than it takes to do it successfully.

(A shield will reduce the advantage of an equal-skill spearman, but I'd still give the spearman the advantage. Other fun things like anti-disengaging guards (such as a many big two-handers, twin weapons or at least adding a not-too-short secondary weapon also, but not as much as a shield). The best way to completely get rid of the spearman's advantage is to take a spear yourself, preferably somewhat longer.)

"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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