Polearm Techniques for SCA Combat


As written in Le Jeu de la Hache, “Axe-play is honorable and profitable for the preservation of a body noble or non noble.” Greater leverage and force is gained by using this long weapon. These weapons were far more lethal to an armored opponent than any sword could be. Cheaper to make as well I am sure too. As I endeavor to improve myself I wish to take notes and assist others. Historical referances from Talhoffer and Digrasse excerpts are important in recreating the european martial arts. Refer to this glossary if there are terms or Types of Poleaxes you are unfamilar with.

The contents of this site does not necessarily express the opinions of all the loyal fighters of the Borderwatch, a unit of the Langstrand Bannerette of the Aethelmearc Army. Until said otherwise, Lord Elford is to blame.

An Outline of Techniques

I.A.Parts to the Poleaxe
I.A.1.Dague: The top spike
I.A.2.Maille: The hammer head. A polaxe might also have a blade, but all the treatises that deal with the weapon show or refer to a hammer.
I.A.3.Bec de Faucon: The spike or curved fluke behind the maille.
I.A.4.Croix: The area between the lead hand and the head of the weapon.
I.A.5.Demy Hache: The shaft between the hands
I.A.6.Queue: The area below the back hand. This can refer to that whole section of the shaft when used to strike, bind, deflect, etc. or to the bottom end when thrusting.
I.B.Historical
I.C.Most Common SCA equivalents


II.Basic Guards of the Poleaxe

II.A.Historical Guards of Jeu de la Hatch
II.A.1.Guards of the Croix
II.A.1.a.High Croix
II.A.1.b.Middle Croix
II.A.1.c.Low Croix
II.A.1.d.Hanging – Keeping the point low, the leading arm should grip past the middle and the hind arm is lifted up gripping the end of the shaft. Useful for quick strong blocks to the outside by stepping in with your trailing foot. Also useful for strong upward beat attacks and thrusts to the legs. (weak outside high block when not stepping in) This is the same as DiGrassi’s High Ward
II.A.2.Guards of the Queue
II.A.2.a.High Queue
II.A.2.b.Middle Queue
II.A.2.c.Low Queue
II.A.3.Guards of Provocation
II.A.3.a.Queue Invitation

II.B.Historical Guards of DiGrassi
II.B.1.High ward – Same as a Hanging ward
II.B.2.Low ward –The hands should bear the staff in the middle and be somewhat distant. The point of the weapon directs towards the enemy’s head. Commonly used because all styles of opponents may feel threatened by a quick straight thrust. (weak outside low block)
II.B.3.Level ward – Point and shaft level for efficient quick thrusts.
II.B.4.Reversed ward – The shaft is nearly vertical with the point up and the heel forward. Commonly used because it is slightly harder for your opponent to judge your striking distance and quick parries can be made over the whole body.


III.A.Stance
A modern fencing stance with your feet forming a 90 degree angle is good for quick forward and backward movements. A “horse” stance with feet parallel is good for quick sideways movements. I find the best stance is with your feet at a 45 degree angle, shoulder width apart and your knees bent. This is good for movement in any direction while maintaining balance.
Most people will choose to place their dominant hand forward on the shaft and lead with the same leg. Since most fighters of staff weapons choose this and most people are right handed; areas of strong initial attack will match areas of strong initial defense.
DiGrassi recommends that you should stand with a contrary foot forward. Meaning, that if your opponent’s left leg is leading then your right leg should be leading, as if you were facing a mirror image of yourself. This means that you might have to switch to your less dominant leading hand or start with a reversed ward or guard of the queue. This does have interesting results. The angles and force of initial attacks are slightly different and may blow through your opponents’ defenses because they are not expecting the new situation. However, realize that this can backfire on you with the same results if not practiced thoroughly.

III.B.Advance/Retreat
If you are going forward, lift your forward foot first and bring your trailing foot after you. If you are retreating, lift your trailing foot first. This is common sense, but you should try to avoid crossing your feet. When you bring your feet closer than shoulder width apart, you risk losing your balance as you make quick changes of direction. You don’t want to lift your feet very high off the ground, but you don’t want to shuffle either. Lifting your feet high singles to your opponent that you are about to move fast, which spoils the surprise. Making these small steps back and forth may keep your opponent from accurately judging distance.
III.C.Cross-over
A cross-over is simply a couple of quickly taken normal steps. Used to cover long distances, especially when circling an opponent. When stepping this way you must have committed yourself to a certain action because changing direction becomes more difficult.
III.D.Lunge
This deep step forward with the trailing foot anchored is VERY important for gaining distance in a thrust. A well executed lunge-thrust and recover makes you more dangerous than a spear.
III.E.Advance-Lunge
This is a shuffle-step added before a lunge.
III.F.Ballestra
III.G.Fleche

IV.Distance

V.Engagement


VI.Basic Defense
VI.A.Lines of Defense
VI.B.Direct Parry
VI.C.Deflection
VI.C.1.Opposite hand fighter – move the point towards the outside, so that it may come up straight behind an incoming blow for the deflection.
VI.D.Circular Parry
VI.E.Stop Thrust
VI.F.Time Thrust


VII.Basic Attacks
VII.A.Lines of Attack
VII.B.Simple Attacks
VII.B.1.Straight Thrust – Two-Handed
VII.B.1.a.Straight Body Thrust
VII.B.1.b.Dropped Thrust
VII.B.1.c.Rising Thrust
VII.B.2.Tossed Thrust – One Handed
VII.B.2.a.Straight Tossed Thrust
VII.B.2.b.Dropped Thrust
VII.B.2.c.Rising Thrust
VII.B.2.d.Outside Tossed Thrust
VII.B.2.e.Inside Tossed Thrust
VII.B.3.Disengage (change-under)
VII.B.4.Coupe (change-over)
VII.B.5.Cut / Chop
VII.C.Preparatory Actions
VII.C.1.Feint
VII.C.2.Beat
VII.C.3.Press
VII.C.4.Glide
VII.C.5.Derobement (Deceiving a Parry)
VII.D.Compound Attacks


VIII.Poleaxe vs. Poleaxe
VIII.A.Tournament
VIII.A.1.Against Similar Hand
VIII.A.2.Against Opposing Hand
VIII.B.Melee


IX.Spear vs. Poleaxe
IX.A.Tournament
IX.A.1.Against Similar Hand
IX.A.2.Against Opposing Hand
IX.B.Melee


X.Longsword vs. Poleaxe
X.A.Tournament
X.A.1.Against Similar Hand
X.A.2.Against Opposing Hand
X.B.Melee


XI.Shield vs. Poleaxe
XI.A.Tournament
XI.A.1.Against Similar Hand
XI.A.2.Against Opposing Hand
XI.B.Melee


XII.Two-weapon vs. Poleaxe
XII.A.Tournament
XII.A.1.Against Similar Hand
XII.A.2.Against Opposing Hand
XII.B.Melee


XIII.Individual Drills
XIII.A.For Speed
XIII.A.1.Half Speed
XIII.A.2.Pell Work
XIII.B.For Accuracy
XIII.B.1.Half Speed
XIII.B.2.Pell Work
XIII.B.3.Floating Ball
XIII.C.For Distance
XIII.C.1.Lunge Work
XIII.D.For Footwork
XIII.D.1.Quarters
XIII.E.For Increasing Endurance
XIII.E.1.Pell Work
XIII.E.2.Stairs


XIV.Partner Drills
XIV.A.For Speed
XIV.A.1.Half Speed
XIV.B.For Accuracy
XIV.B.1.Half Speed
XIV.B.2.Freeze Frame
XIV.C.For Distance
XIV.C.1.Advance/Retreat
XIV.C.2.Backpedaling
XIV.D.For Footwork
XIV.D.1.Back Pedaling
XIV.E.For Attack
XIV.E.1.Delivering the Shot
XIV.F.For Defense
XIV.F.1.Blocking the Shot
XIV.F.2.Weapons Identification
XIV.G.For Calibration
XIV.G.1.Blow Calling from opponent
XIV.G.2.Blow Calling from spectators


XV.Bouting Practice
XV.A. Bouting / Tournament Formats
XV.A.1.Bear Pit
XV.A.2.Round Robin
XV.A.3.Single/Double Elimination
XV.B.For Weapon Adaptability
XV.B.1.Off-handed
XV.B.2.Weapon Swap
XV.C.For Opponent Adaptability
XV.C.1.Mixed Weapon Styles
XV.D.For Situation Adaptability
XV.D.1.Start with a lost Leg/Arm
XV.D.2.Taking/Keeping the Advantage
XV.D.3.Back Pedaling
XV.D.4.Toe to Toe