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Guilherme Dias Ferreira S




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Mar, 2007 6:43 pm    Post subject: lucerne hammer?         Reply with quote

Is this a lucerne hammer?



If it's, this represent the best type of weapon to pierce armour?
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Guilherme Dias Ferreira S




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Mar, 2007 7:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And, to defeat the armour, is better to crush using the pronged hammer head or to pierce using the the horizontal spike head?
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Mar, 2007 9:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Actually, believed it or not, that's a pollaxe. I know it doesn't look at all like an axe, but in the middle ages that was one of the kinds of things they meant when they said pollaxe. All medieval fighting manuals that mention pollaxes with the exception of Codex 11093 show that configuration--hammer on one end and spike on the other.

As to which part is used against armor, that is something there's a lot of misconception about. No manual refers to using the back spike (called a "Bec de Faucon") for anything other than a hook; none ever imply that you would actually try to punch through armor with the Bec. Here's an example of how the Bec is used (from Talhoffer 1467):
http://ardamhe.free.fr/biblio/talhoffer/img/83.jpg

The hammer head is always shaped in such a way as to help "stick" to the target. In the example you posted the head doesn't even seem much like a hammer at all because the "teeth" are so extreme, but all the ones I've seen are like that at least to some extent. These projections serve the same purpose as the points on a lance of peace: To grab the target so the point doesn't slip off.

The non-Fechtbuch iconography shows a lot more pollaxes with the axe blade/hammer head configuration, but I theorize that even here the hammer head, not the axe blade, is the primary striking weapon. The reason I believe this is that if you try hitting things with the axe blade you will find that the blade tends to "wobble" a bit when it hits the target. This isn't a big deal when you're hitting wood or flesh because the force of the blow drives the sharp edge into the target. But against plate, the edge tends to slide--and sliding means you lose a lot of force. Certainly you're not likely to penetrate plate with your axe blade, so its use comes down to transferring shock--which the hammer head does much better than the blade. What's the blade for then? I notice that in every example the ends of the axe blade are very sharp and pointy, like this:
http://www.myArmoury.com/view.html?features/p...eaxe03.jpg
I own a reproduction of this pollaxe, and when we use it in class (I teach pollaxe combat) for demonstrations I have to be *extremely* careful when doing knee hooks because the bottom point on the blade is brutal when going into the back of the knee. In other words, I think the axe blade is actually just another kind of hook, not a striking weapon... except possibly when fighting lightly-armored opponents.

Now, having said all of that, there's a third type of axe configuration which has a blade on one side and a Bec on the other:
http://www.myArmoury.com/view.html?features/p...eaxe05.jpg
This type of axe is less common in the iconography, but a fair number of them survive. How they're used I can't say, but I do note that most of the ones that have survived tend to be later (late 15th C or even 16th C) when pollaxes were no longer a primary knightly arm and tend to be fairly decorative--suggesting they weren't a serious weapon. There are exceptions, however (some on the page you took your first picture from), but I'm just not sure what they mean.

I hope that helps.

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Hugh
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Mar, 2007 9:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One addition: I've had some discussions with medieval scholars about using pollaxes in war that may tell us something about using the axe blades in combat. There are several differences between the way axes are used in war--where you're packed in relatively tightly with your fellow combatants--and individual or even small group combats. In single combat or in small groups the pollaxe is held "in thirds",meaning 1/3 of the shaft is between your hands, one third above and one third below. This makes for a weapon that is *very* short range--more like a dagger fight, really. You can't do this in a tightly-packed melee, however, because you tend to get caught on your compatriots and because you have a tough time outreaching your enemies. Thus, in war we say that the axe is "used long", meaning it's held toward the bottom end.

The differences between war and single combat may also explain axe blades: When you strike in single combat you're hoping to stun your opponent or break his hands with the hammer head--there's very little else you can do with a swinging blow (most pollaxe combat is really about thrusting with the top and bottom spikes). Once you've stunned your opponent or forced him to drop his weapon because of a smashed hand you can then finish him off at your liesure. In war, however, you're unlikely to have that option, so my friend Will McLean, a leading researcher in medieval combat, has argued that when using the axe "long" in war the axe blade may have been a better tool than the hammer head. You're not likely to cut plate, of course, but any wound you *do* manage to inflict (on a lucky shot between plates, for example) may well be more lethal without requiring you to stoop over and finish your opponent off with a dagger... something unlikely to happen in war. I don't know that I completely buy that argument, but it would explain why so much of the iconography outside of the Fechtbücher shows pollaxes with blades while almost none of the Fechtbücher do (bearing in mind that medieval combat manuals are almost entirely focused on single combat, regardless of what they claim).

Sorry if that was more than you ever wanted to know, but you've hit on my favorite subject!

Regards,
Hugh
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Fri 02 Mar, 2007 5:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A lucerne hammer is a sub-class of pollaxe/poleaxe. A common construction element for Lucerne hammers would be that the head slips over the top spike, not vice versa like the one you pictured. For reference, here's a lucerne hammer from our Poleaxe spotlight:



The two (what you posted and what's shown in this post) are similar, of course, but I'm not sure what you posted is a Lucerne hammer.

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Guilherme Dias Ferreira S




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Mar, 2007 8:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm curious about the size and the weight of this lucerne hammer that you posted, Chad.
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PostPosted: Fri 02 Mar, 2007 10:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Guilherme Dias Ferreira S wrote:
I'm curious about the size and the weight of this lucerne hammer that you posted, Chad.


I have no information on it besides what's in the article. As it's in a private collection, we might never know much more about it.

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Travis Gorrie




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Mar, 2007 5:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:
Quote:
In single combat or in small groups the pollaxe is held "in thirds",meaning 1/3 of the shaft is between your hands, one third above and one third below.


Hugh could you please exlaborate on why one would do this? I would have guessed that the opposite would be true in single combat as the wielder would want to take advanatge of the reach advantage of the pollaxe and gain power with a full swing.

Thanks for info - good stuff!
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PostPosted: Fri 02 Mar, 2007 8:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Travis Gorrie wrote:
Hugh Knight wrote:
Quote:
In single combat or in small groups the pollaxe is held "in thirds",meaning 1/3 of the shaft is between your hands, one third above and one third below.


Hugh could you please exlaborate on why one would do this? I would have guessed that the opposite would be true in single combat as the wielder would want to take advanatge of the reach advantage of the pollaxe and gain power with a full swing.

Thanks for info - good stuff!


Hi Travis,

You're very welcome. Pollaxe is my favorite weapon and the centerpiece of my Schule.

To answer your question, it's because of the way the axe works: In single combat you use both ends of the axe interchangeably, back and forth constantly. When you let one end go out too long then you limit your choices for the other end in several ways. If you strike with the long end then switch back to the short end it won't reach and vice-versa (well, the long end would reach but you probably won't have room to use it). We see this in my classes all the time: Students will hold the axe too close to one end or the other and the technique we're practicing won't work, and they can't figure out why until I show them they've lost the center. Too, if you hold closer to one end then that end--the one your hands are nearest to--won't hit very hard. So you'll have an overly-powerful (but hard to recover) strike with one end and a weak strike with the other.

As for your comment about the swinging blow, you don't *want* to do that because the head of the axe is very heavy, and swinging with it that way will mean that you take to long to recover--time which your more balanced opponent will use to his advantage to kill you. Moreover, swinging blows with the hammer aren't something you do very much in the opening stages of a fight: Most of the time you're parrying and thrusting with your Queue (the buttspike) because it's much, much faster than the heavy Croix (the head). Once you've done "something" (and by "something" I mean anything from a fast stab to a disarm) with the Queue *then* you can finish your opponent off with the Croix, but even then much of the time it'll be a thrust of the Dague (the top spike) rather than a swinging blow with the hammer head. One of the most important pollaxe manuals, Le Jeu de La Hache, tells us this about using a swinging blow: "Whichever guard you are on, you can try to hit him on the head. Not so that, if you should miss, your axe passes beyond him: because that would be dangerous. " If you swing long, as you suggest, you're going to have a tough time stopping a hard blow and an even harder time recovering quickly.

Finally, we know that ebcause that's what we typically see in the Fechtbücher. Here's a good example:
http://base.kb.dk/pls/hsk_web/hsk_vis.side?p_...p_lang=eng

What I teach people to do is to find the center of balance of the axe with your right hand: Typically that will be about one-third of the way from the Croix. Then you put your left hand about the same distance from the Queue and you're just about right without having to actually look at the axe.

In a mass battle you don't have room to use your axe in thirds--you'd find that you were constantly getting the ends caught on the guys to either side of you in the battle. Moreover, with spears and glaives and halberds on the field you can't afford not to have a long-range weapon. So in that situation you have to hold your axe long and thrust with the Dague and strike with the Mail (the hammer head).

I hope that helps. If you go to my Schule's web address then click on "Instruction" and go to the pollaxe link you'll find several examples of pollaxe techniques for single combat that might interest you. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask.

Regards,
Hugh
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Guilherme Dias Ferreira S




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Mar, 2007 8:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:

The non-Fechtbuch iconography shows a lot more pollaxes with the axe blade/hammer head configuration, but I theorize that even here the hammer head, not the axe blade, is the primary striking weapon. The reason I believe this is that if you try hitting things with the axe blade you will find that the blade tends to "wobble" a bit when it hits the target. This isn't a big deal when you're hitting wood or flesh because the force of the blow drives the sharp edge into the target. But against plate, the edge tends to slide--and sliding means you lose a lot of force. Certainly you're not likely to penetrate plate with your axe blade, so its use comes down to transferring shock--which the hammer head does much better than the blade. What's the blade for then? I notice that in every example the ends of the axe blade are very sharp and pointy, like this:
http://www.myArmoury.com/view.html?features/p...eaxe03.jpg




But in the case of a lucerne hammer that instead of a axe blade it has a spike, that, I think, don't necessarily slide in the plate armour. So, I still have the doubt in the preference of the lucerne hammer wielder to defeat the harness: using the concentrate energy in a unique spot of the spike or use the blunt force of pronged hammer
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Mar, 2007 9:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Given how short some of the back-spikes are on many examples, and given that a blow with the spike might not penetrate the full length of said spike, I have a theory that the back-spike was employed as a means to hook into an opponent's harness and pull him around--off his horse, off his feet, etc...
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Mar, 2007 9:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Guilherme Dias Ferreira S wrote:
But in the case of a lucerne hammer that instead of a axe blade it has a spike, that, I think, don't necessarily slide in the plate armour. So, I still have the doubt in the preference of the lucerne hammer wielder to defeat the harness: using the concentrate energy in a unique spot of the spike or use the blunt force of pronged hammer


All the pollaxes pictured or described in the Fechtbücher (again, except Codex 11093) had back spikes--all of them. And not a single source tells us to use the backspike to strike a target, they all clearly state to strike with the hammer head for swinging blows and the only time they mention the back spike is for hooking things (as in the picture from Talhoffer I gave you the link for.

Here's another example. From the Paulus Kal Fechtbuch we see a swinging blow:
http://www.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/bsb0000...p;seite=81
And here we see a hook:
http://www.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/bsb0000...p;seite=83
And here's another hook:
http://www.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/bsb0000...p;seite=88

Take a look through the entire pollaxe section of this Fechtbuch and the one I sent you the link last time--you won't find any evidence for the use of the Bec except to hook.

My strong suspicion is the reason for this comes from two things. First, the "wobble" effect to which I referred in an earlier post: when you strike a swinging blow against plate with a weapon that has a long distance between the point of impact and the shaft of the weapon (e.g., the blade of an axe or the Bec) you find that it's *extremely* difficult to keep the weapon from wobbling from side to side which dissapates the force. You usually don't feel this when striking wood or some other soft surface because of the way the weapon digs into the target, but on plate it's fairly well pronounced; it's not impossible to overcome, mind, just a serious problem, and problems are something to avoid in serious combat. Second, there's little evidence to suggest you can do much damage by swinging your Bec into plate anyway. Yes, an *extremely* powerful blow might--*might*--pierce the plate *if* you're good enough and lucky enough to overcome the "wobble" and *if* you're very strong and *if* you get a perfect shot that doesn't slide on the curving surfaces of plate that are designed to cause just such sliding, but experiments have suggested that you won't pierce it very far if you do--rarely enough to be lethal. About the only place any target is close enough to the plate for a relatively shallow puncture to do a lot of good is the head, but the head was covered by some of the thickest armor worn (and some was hardened don't forget!). Add those two facts together and what we see in the Fechtbücher makes a lot more sense.

Nor must all hooking actions be for takedowns as in the three such I sent you links for so far. Some bouts described in the chronicles, such as that between Lord Scales and the Bastard of Burgundy in the late 15th century, talk about "rents" being torn in the armor but curiously, neither combatant is every seriously injured by these seemingly horrific attacks. What I suspect these sorts of things mean is that the plates are ripped apart with powerful hooking actions (using the Bec) that rip rivits off of leather strapping or even separate plates that have been rivited together, especially things like Pauldrons which have fairly delicate connections. We read about this in Le Jeu de La Hache where we're told to yank at the knee with the Bec and even if you don't pull your target over, we're told, you still might remove a piece of his armor: "...so that if you fail to overthrow him you may be able to disarm him of some piece of his cuisse." (Le Jeu, #61) These gaps would create ideal targets for thrusts.

So, as you can see, there are plenty of reasons for having the Bec that don't relate to punching through armor, the Bec isn't *likely* to punch through armor and is even less likely to do anything serious if it does, and all the sources we have specifically relegate the Bec to hooking. To me, that's a pretty closed case. Might someone once have tried striking with the Bec? Sure--but then we all know nutjobs who do weird things in fights today; that doesn't make them good technique. and I've learned never to say "never" about medieval practices because someone will sure as rocks are hard dig and dig until he finds what one weird guy did in one weird situation one time, but that doesn't make that the norm, it makes for an exception.

I hope that helps.

Regards,
Hugh

Regards,
Hugh
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Mar, 2007 9:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Josh Warren wrote:
Given how short some of the back-spikes are on many examples, and given that a blow with the spike might not penetrate the full length of said spike, I have a theory that the back-spike was employed as a means to hook into an opponent's harness and pull him around--off his horse, off his feet, etc...


Exactly! We see this all the time in the Fechtbücher--see the material I just posted.

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Hugh
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Mar, 2007 10:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
No manual refers to using the back spike (called a "Bec de Faucon") for anything other than a hook; none ever imply that you would actually try to punch through armor with the Bec.


Maybe not, but a test of rather late halberd against a munitions-grade harness found the beak to be considerably more effective than the blade. This doesn't apply to most pollaxes, but if you have only a beak and a blade, the beak could be the striking face of choice against armor.

Quote:
When you strike in single combat you're hoping to stun your opponent or break his hands with the hammer head--there's very little else you can do with a swinging blow (most pollaxe combat is really about thrusting with the top and bottom spikes).


Fiore says you can kill your oppenent with a single stroke to the head. Not a sure thing, but he mentions this possibility a few times.

Quote:
I would have guessed that the opposite would be true in single combat as the wielder would want to take advanatge of the reach advantage of the pollaxe and gain power with a full swing.


Well, not all pollaxe sources use the thirds grip exclusively. Look at Vadi's manual, for example. Sometimes they use the thirds grip, sometimes they have both hands fairly close to the butt. It depends.
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Mar, 2007 10:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
Maybe not, but a test of rather late halberd against a munitions-grade harness found the beak to be considerably more effective than the blade. This doesn't apply to most pollaxes, but if you have only a beak and a blade, the beak could be the striking face of choice against armor.


Possibly--if you'll recall in my first post I talked about the difficulty in knowing how to use that particular formation. You will also read, however, how most (but not all!) of the extant axes with that formation are fairly late--after the time when axes were really a front-line weapon. Anglo, in Renaissance Martial Arts, talks about 16th-century pollaxe fights with weapons that had specially-weakend shafts so that during a bout you could break it over the barrier for a flashy show. I'm not saying that's the primary use of such axes, merely showing that many late-period axes weren't always intended for "lethal" use. For all we know such weapons were ceremonial or else were intended for use against lightly-armored opponents (as many were in late-period battles).

Quote:
Fiore says you can kill your oppenent with a single stroke to the head. Not a sure thing, but he mentions this possibility a few times.


He also says you have time to lift your opponet's visor with your left hand and to thrust with your right all without doing anything to constrain your opponent's hands or weapon--amazingly fast, Fiore must have been; who knows what other super powers he thought he had? But yes, I think there's some chance of a killing blow to the head--after all, medieval helmet liners were, in the words of Robert MacPherson, "medieval potholders" meaning they were about the same thickness and protection as a modern potholder. Still, a number of combats in the chronicles show such blows that only stunned, yet none describe a killing blow (in spite of the medieval reader's love for such spectacular events). For an example, read the chronicles of Jacques de Lalaing: In one of his bouts he and some team-mates were fighting some Scottish knights and one of the Scottish knights was struck so hard on the head that he was stunned and driven to the ground, but then got up later and continued to fight. Again, it's probably possible to kill with a head shot, but not the way to bet, just as you say.

Quote:
Well, not all pollaxe sources use the thirds grip exclusively. Look at Vadi's manual, for example. Sometimes they use the thirds grip, sometimes they have both hands fairly close to the butt. It depends.


As I said, someone will always find the one exception! Laughing Out Loud But this isn't really an exception, as you'll see: There are only two such pictures in Vadi and both of them can be seen here:
http://www.thehaca.com/Manuals/VadiNewImages/Untitled-jv1.jpg
Note that First, the *loser* in each picture is the one using the axe long, not the winner: So we're not being told to swing long, we're being shown that it's a weak thing to do: again, no Fechtbuch tells you to hold your weapon in anything other than thirds. Second, the lower picture is just a re-drawing of Fiore (indeed, there's no reason to believe Vadi ever fought with axes, he may have just been copying Fiore) that can be seen here:
http://www.thehaca.com/pdf/Dl27.jpg
and in the Fiore Picture if the axe wasn't cut off you'd see that the guy having his face thrust would be holding his axe more-or-less in thirds if the back of the axe wasn't cut off in the drawing.

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Hugh
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Mar, 2007 12:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Certainly in all of Fiore's *guards* we see the axe being held in thirds as you can see here


That third figure (bottom left) is clearly not holding it in thirds. His hands are quite close together.

But don't mind me, I'm biased because I focus on the later sources who used polearms rather differently (Meyer, Silver, and Swetnam, for example).

Quote:
Still, a number of combats in the chronicles show such blows that only stunned, yet none describe a killing blow (in spite of the medieval reader's love for such spectacular events).


Yet a source on Agincourt has English hammers killing or knocking senseless with a single blow to the head. And Smythe wrote that halberdiers, striking blows at the head and thrusts at the face, would carry all to the ground.

Quote:
Again, it's probably possible to kill with a head shot, but not the way to bet, just as you say.


Based on Fiore, it was possible and commonly attempted.
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Mar, 2007 4:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
That third figure (bottom left) is clearly not holding it in thirds. His hands are quite close together.


True, but neither is he holding it long. Perhaps Fiore intends you to move it out into thirds when react to attack. The important point, however, is that he's not holding it by one end which was what the issue we were discussing was about

Somehow when I edited my post for grammar I deleted that last sentence with Fiore's guards in it. Here's the link agaqin for anyone who missed it:
http://www.thehaca.com/pdf/Dl26.jpg

Quote:
But don't mind me, I'm biased because I focus on the later sources who used polearms rather differently (Meyer, Silver, and Swetnam, for example).


It's not about "minding you", I think a comparison is really interesting. I've been trying to understand Meyer's halberd plays ever since Jeff Forgeng's book came out and I just find them so alien compared with pollaxe--like it's an entirely different mindset.

Quote:
Yet a source on Agincourt has English hammers killing or knocking senseless with a single blow to the head. And Smythe wrote that halberdiers, striking blows at the head and thrusts at the face, would carry all to the ground.


Agreed. I did not say you couldn't kill with a blow to the head (I said you probably could!), only that you shouldn't *count* on it.

Quote:
Based on Fiore, it was possible and commonly attempted.


Of course it was commonly attempted: Every time you hit someone you hope he dies from it so you don't have to do anything else (in a serious combat--of course in friendly deeds you don't want to kill your opponent). And of course it's possible. But most of the time, to judge by the chronicles of real fights written by people really at those fights you only ended up stunning people.

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Hugh
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Travis Gorrie




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Mar, 2007 5:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh wrote:
Quote:
Most of the time you're parrying and thrusting with your Queue (the buttspike) because it's much, much faster than the heavy Croix (the head).


How effective is a pollaxe at parrying? - compared to the sword (short or one handed ). I would think that the sword would be the ultimate parrying weapon, but I have a strong feeling you're going to tell me otherwise.

P.S. - Where is your school? I cannot get your link to work. Please tell me it's in Springfield, IL.
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Mar, 2007 6:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:

Yet a source on Agincourt has English hammers killing or knocking senseless with a single blow to the head. And Smythe wrote that halberdiers, striking blows at the head and thrusts at the face, would carry all to the ground.


A Agincourt, I would guess that you are referring to the English archers. My understanding is that they were using mauls, i.e. the equivalent of sledge hammers, which had also been used in placing the stakes which the archers used to protect themselves from horsemen. The maul was quite different from a pollaxe; and the pollaxe was primarily (if not entirely) a knightly weapon. Big hammers were apparently occasionally used as a specialty weapon - they show up in Japan, and one is also mentioned in the Combat of the Thirty in the Hundred Year's War.
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PostPosted: Sat 03 Mar, 2007 6:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Travis Gorrie wrote:
How effective is a pollaxe at parrying? - compared to the sword (short or one handed ). I would think that the sword would be the ultimate parrying weapon, but I have a strong feeling you're going to tell me otherwise.

P.S. - Where is your school? I cannot get your link to work. Please tell me it's in Springfield, IL.


Hi Travis,

How effective is the pollaxe at parrying? I'm not sure how to answer. It's brilliant at parrying. When you use the Queue it's light and fast and effortless; when you use the Croix (the head) it's less so. That's why the manuals recommend parrying with the Queue.

You really can't get my Schule's web site to open? I'm not sure why, but here's a link directly to a page from my pollaxe book that has color photographs of a technique where you parry with the Queue, see if this works for you:
http://www.schlachtschule.org/pollaxe/pollaxe1.html

Unfortunately, my Schule is not quite as "in the middle" as you're looking for. I have a branch in New Jersey and another in Southern California.

Any questions you might have, however, I'd be happy to try to answer.

Regards,
Hugh
www.schlachtschule.org
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