I had the privilege of fighting in the Armoured Feat of Arms at the Fiore 600 event this September. It was a day of two firsts for me:
1. The first time I'd ever fought in armour outside the Academy.
2. The first time I'd ever fought with the pollaxe.
As one of the four Challengers, along with Maestro Sean Hayes, Scott “the Earl” Wilson, and Bob Charrette, I faced three Defenders from the Chicago Swordplay Guild, Leopoldo Lastre , Jesse Kula, and Dave “Sparky” Farrell. Bouts could be fought with the sword, the lance, or the axe and were fought to 5 points – me being who I am, I decided to play all three bouts with the axe. In two of the three bouts, I used my own axes – being shorter (~4.5 feet) they provided a different style of play than the other axes (~6 feet). The short axes performed wonderfully (Thanks Mike!) but the bouts with them provided two insights:
1. After talking to other folks, I am starting to prefer a slightly longer axe than my short axes – I'm thinking that the tip of the top spike should come just under, or at, the user's nose.
2. The Revival rubber spear heads we used for my axes and for the lances? Not so good. They are too floppy – there were numerous instances of a solid blow being landed with them and the person on the receiving end not even noticing. For pollaxes, much better to go with the Purpleheart tips.
So here is my play-by-play and analysis of my three bouts with the pollaxe:
First Bout – Me vs Leo with short axes
First pass (00:25), I feint a thrust with the queue and throw a fendente in behind Leo's parry, hitting his arm with my haft (not a point). Leo then fends me off with one hand (Jacques de Lalaing anyone?) and gets his queue into my armpit for a point.
Leo 1 – Alex 0
Second pass (00:46), Leo enters with either a dague thrust or a fendente and I cover with my croix, get the open line, and thrust him in the face for a point.
Leo 1 – Alex 1
Third pass (00:56), Leo enters with a fendente which I parry with my demy hache. We close and scuffle around until I decide to drop my axe and pull my dagger – except that I can't find my dagger! (Watching the video, and therefore seeing where my stupid dagger actually was, I wish I had hunted out my dagger a bit longer before giving up that point, but fine finger movements just do not happen in mitten gauntlets.)
Leo 2 – Alex 1
Fourth Pass (01:30), after fixing my equipment – the tip had come off my axe – I feint a fendente and then strike again to his head after Leo's parry for what I consider my best move of my three bouts.
Leo 2 – Alex 2
Fifth Pass (01:46), after much posturing (I am proud of myself for moving my queue around and threatening thrusts – even if I was out of measure), I enter with a queue thrust to Leo's face that barely misses, we close and scuffle before I can get a minor blow to Leo's face (no power in it), then I'm able to shove Leo's arms up and get my demy hache in for a good shove, preparing, but thankfully not having to, take Leo out of the lists.
Leo 2 – Alex 3
Second Bout – Me vs Jesse with short axes
First Pass (00:29), Jesse enters with a fendente that he change-through into a thrust (which, BTW, I think hits my unarmoured upper arm – sorry Jesse). I “parry” the thrust with my croix, and bring the axe around to thrust with the queue, which Jesse parries by coming into a hanging guard. In response, I bring a fendente down on his haft, moving it, and thrust him in the shoulder, pushing him back.
Alex 1 – Jesse 0
Second Pass (00:43), Jesse, from Coda Lunga, gets a nice shot to my rear hand against my thrust.
Alex 1 – Jesse 1
Third Pass (00:55), After a fendente by Jesse and a follow-up thrust by me, we come to grips, during which I apparently fall to my knees – I have absolutely no recognition of doing so! - and Jesse gets his dagger into my collar. It takes awhile for the Marshall and myself to notice, but Jesse gets the dagger in at ~ 01:10.
Alex 1 – Jesse 2
Fourth Pass (01:55), I attempt to use the feint I used against Leo, except I miss! I attempt a dague thrust and Jesse brings his axe down on my head.
Alex 1 – Jesse 3
Fifth Pass (02:12), Jesse enters with a queue thrust which parry with my demy hache. I attempt to hook Jesse's lead arm with my croix, fail, bring my queue around and thrust at his shoulder. He grabs my queue (I don't know if I hit him with the queue or not) and I use the leverage to shove him towards the edge of the lists.
Alex 2 – Jesse 3
Third Bout – Me vs Sparky with long axes
First Pass (00:25), I decide to go lefty for the first pass, Sparky throws a fendente that I take on my demy hache, bring my croix around, missing Sparky's shoulder with my fendente. Sparky tries to knock my axe away with his queue and as he kayaks his croix around, I take advantage of the tempo to thrust him in the face. Too bad I just then realized that his first fendente had hit me in the shoulder.
Alex 0 – Sparky 1
Second Pass (00:45), Sparky attempts to feint a fendente and thrust with his queue, but I jam his axe with my demy hache and hit him with my croix.
Alex 1 – Sparky 1
Third Pass (00:56), Sparky attempts a change-through, but I stay just out of measure, parrying his dague thrust with my haft, then closing in with a backhanded fendente which misses. We become locked at the demy hache and push and shove each other until I pull my dagger and stab him in the collar.
Alex 2 – Sparky 1
Fourth Pass (01:35), This is my favorite moment in all of my bouts! Sparky executes a picture perfect change-through (I was trying to close in for a collar-throw) and thrusts me in the chest hard enough to move me back a few feet. That voice you hear laughing and saying “Yes!” is mine. It was awesome.
Alex 2 – Sparky 2
Fifth Pass (01:52), Sparky enters with a fendente which I parry with a fendente of my own, following it up with a thrust to his face (I was ready to hook the back of Sparky's neck and pull him forward, but he had already called the point to me).
Alex 3 – Sparky 2
I was proud of how I performed in my first axe bouts. Granted, at a Fiore event I mixed Fiore, Le Jeu, and the Anonimo, but hey it's all good! I left the lists with a few more friends and some good insight into axe combat, which will help my interpretations. My enduring thanks and regards to all those who participated in the Feat of Arms, those who ran the Feat, those who assisted the combatants during the Feat, and those who generously allowed me to stumble around like a drunken orangutan in front of them.