Testing Poleaxes vs Armor

Today we take a look at how late medieval poleaxes actually interact with armor.  Drawing on period manuscripts and a couple of our highly accurate reproductions we examine how these weapons were used, how they were designed to exploit aspects of medieval armor design, and what damage they commonly did to that armor.  We also discuss what kinds of poleax use might cause damage to your weapon that would have to be repaired after battle -- a very common scenario.  

knightly poleax\

Arms and Armor Knightly Poleaxe

In this video I use our Knightly Poleaxe, a replica of a piece in the Wallace Collection that we were actually able to take a mold of back in the day, so it is a highly accurate reproduction, as well as our Bec de Corbyn, circa 1560.  

bec de corbin     bec de corbin
Two views of the Arms and Armor Bec de Corbyn
Poleaxes were used in two hands, with the hands in the middle of the haft most of the time.  Most of the strikes were done with the hands apart, as is depicted below in the image from Fiore de Liberi's 14th century fight book, showing a knight in the guard of the true cross.  
Stance of the True Cross, from Fiore de Liberi, courtesy of Wiktenauer website


Check out all of our fully functional, historically accurate polearms here, it's a menagerie for slaying you knightly foes!

divider swords

Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography.  He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985.

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