“In dem Fechten mit der Stangen sind es acht Versatzungen, vier im Anbinden, oben zwei und unten zwei, und zu beiden Seiten eine in jeder Hand, und zwei mitten in der Hand (zwischen den Händen).”

As we can read in the Goliath Fechtbuch and other manuals, there are eight ways how the staff weapons can crush together.

  1. on your left side, above
  2. right side, above
  3. left side, below
  4. right side, below
  5. left side, on the side with the long point
  6. right side, on the side with the short point
  7. above between both hands
  8. below between both hands

Joachim Meyer has another opinion on the bindings. There is a great difference for both handed staff weapons between a bind near the leading hand and somewhere near the point. The section we know as strong in the sword is not half the length of the part of the staff looking to the opponent. It is a section very near to the leading hand. So Joachim Meyer divided the length of the staff weapons in four sections from back to front: rear end (short point, foot, spike), middle between the hands, strong near the leading hand, front end (long point, head, upper end). Reflecting those sections he defines a binding in every part of the weapon. So the four bindings result in one for each section.

The First Binding

Talhoffer’s First Binding with the  Polaxes  is different from Paulus Kal, Falkner and some other masters. Interesting to see that in the picture 79 of the 1467 book the left fighter seems to hit with the spike while the right one uses the hammer. This is nothing special, you can see the same spike favored strike on the plate 88. Both strikes on plate 79 are from above and are aimed at the head of the opponent. By stepping outside to the right, they both turn and end confronting each other in a distance, where they can’t reach each other without another step.

Paulus Kal does the First Binding with the rear end (hudß end = hat end as Falkner calls it) of the weapon. And Falkner asks us to continue working with the spike on the read end: a call for winding and thrusting, like we would do it in the long sword or in short spear. This needs further stepping and movement for bringing the head of the weapon into the play again. While Kal is bringing the rear end into bindinq with a strike in a rotating movement, Falkner is lifting the poleaxe into the upper guard in a combined movement of both hands. The common principle in both masters play is the to get a binding on the inside. The reason for this, is the window over both arms. This section is hard to be protected if the binding is done. So this is a good place to start thrusting, stabbing, and threaten the face. And over the arms begins the Reißen, and the a lot of levers for disarming or getting the shoulder under control. To achieve this goal Falkner and Kal prefer to construct an asymmetric situation where one fighter has the rear end in the leading hand and the other the axe head. But it has one drawback: the most dangerous part of the weapon is out of the direct action.

Talhoffer tells us that the first bind is with both weapon heads near the leading hand. And looking through all his poleaxe work we see that he does not favor the asymmetric situation that much. His preferred tool is the head of the weapon. Not only in a direct manner but for threatening too. So in the first bind leads in the manuscript of 1467 to an heavy strike-thrust with the rear end. What makes this piece very fascinating is the adaption of Zornhau-Ort to the poleaxe combined with a modification of the Wechselhau (here with the rear end) and a powerful thrust. So Talhoffer uses the poleaxe as he would use the long sword. Using the same principles as it is told in the GMN 3227a (aka Döbringer manuscript).

Note: There are more than one alternative interpretations of that piece (e.g Reißen with the head of the weapon). Despite that, the aim of this article is not to discuss interpretations. It is the 4th beginners lesson about training and exercise. And we are in the first bind and everything should be kept simple. The bind itself is difficult enough. 

And how shall you train and exercise now?

Try to use the Zornhau-Ort principle on the poleaxe. For this you attack with the head of the axe and step to your right and forward with your right foot. See if the binding is near your hand, that you are able to use the strong of your weapon’s leading hand. Press down a bit, doubling the strike and thrust lifting the rear end. If he gets aware of the spike on the head and reacts try to stay in the bind and thrust again and again, winding if you wish. He needs to be pressing up and to your right side. If you got him there protecting himself from the spiky head, hit him from below at the staff as hard as you can. If he does not let it go by the sheer force, you are in a good position for a lever to disarm him. Just thrust through his arms from below and get over his right wrist, then rotate and press down a bit.

So the real thing to train first is getting into the bind and stay there without letting him win the initiative. So this is what you have to exercise on every time. Strike from your right side, get contact, create a barrier that he cannot reach you and thrust. Let your partner test your barrier, let him check if he can reach you without stepping and without leaving the bind. As long as you can block him by just raising the arms, you are just fine. Thrust several times from various positions of your arms and body without leaving the bind. Train on a pole (pell) to thrust on contact as fast as possible by creating a barrier at the same time.