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Burgundian Poleaxe
Burgundian Poleaxe

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All noble and courageous men should exercise and enable themselves with occupations both virtuous and honourable. Above all, they should exercise the noble feat of arms, which is to know axe play from which originate and depend several of the weapons named above. Moreover, said axe play is honourable and beneficial for the preservation of the human body, both noble and common. For these reasons, I employed my small understanding to put in writing the principles and teachings pertaining to axe play in the manner that follows.

—La Jeu de la Hache

The pollaxe is a fearsome weapon, the chivalric weapon par excellence of the late Middle Ages. It provided the knight with a powerful armour-breaching weapon, delivering tremendous force with its blade or hammerhead, while doubling as a short spear with its sharpened ends. Wielded on foot in both friendly tournaments and lethal duels, it was also used on the battlefield.

Not surprisingly, such an important weapon figures prominently in surviving medieval martial arts manuscripts from Germany and Italy, and was written about as late as the 1630s, well after the armoured knight’s apogee. Written in the mid-15th century for the Burgundian court — at the time the most extravagant in medieval Europe, but also trapped between France and England in the bloody, final phase of the Hundred Years War — the manuscript Le Jeu de la Hache (“Axe-Play”) is both the most complete study of this deadly weapon, and the oldest known martial arts text in the French language.

In this new translation and interpretive guide, Francophone and martial artist Jason Smith presents a complete translation of Le Jeu, detailed, photographic reconstructions of its many techniques, and a short primer on the basics of axe-combat, creating a complete curriculum for actually training in this unique, medieval martial art. Combined with an historical overview of the manuscript’s origins, authorship and patron, and a detailed biography of Jacques de Lalain, a famed Burgundian axe-fighter and contemporary member of the same knightly order for whom the work was commissioned, Burgundian Poleaxe: The Noble Art of Chivalric Axe Combat is a modern training manual, but also a window into knightly culture at the waning of the Middle Ages.


About the Author

Jason Smith has practised medieval martial arts since 2001. Having begun with the German longsword, he quickly gravitated towards Fiore dei Liberi’s l’arte dell’armizare. Jason has since become a founding member of the Chivalric Fighting Arts Association, a loose affiliation of like-minded schools and individuals (http://www.chivalricfighting.org), as well as a founding member of the International Armizare Society – a society dedicated to the study of canonical armizare, offering support, curriculum and grading standards to member schools (http://www.armizare.org).

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Average Rating: Average Rating: 5 of 5 5 of 5 Total Reviews: 2 Write a review »

  0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:
5 of 5 Great resource for historical poleaxe combat February 1, 2022
Reviewer: Josh R from Austin, TX United States  
This is a fantastic manuscript on fighting with a poleaxe. The modern pictures are a great addition to help explain the interpreted techniques. I strongly recommend for anyone interested in learning poleaxe from a historical perspective.

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  0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:
5 of 5 A great blend of history and technique February 1, 2021
Reviewer: Lauren from Calgary, AB Canada  
It's a great book as it explains the importance of the poleaxe/pollaxe in the late Middle Ages and provides a very detailed explanation of how to use it for HEMA. A very worth purchase.

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