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  • By wrreyno
    Mar 2, 2010
    By hbbill Mr. Clarke’s review is a tough act to follow as he covers a lot of ground. I will not try and compete with that, rather, I will offer a brief comment on the organization of the book and the writing style. Although not one of his regular students, I met Hugh Knight at seminar that was dedicated to pollaxe and dagger sponsored by a local Western Martial Arts group. If you’ve been around martial arts for any length of time you can usually spot a practitioner by the way he or she moves. Hugh Knight is a practitioner. Not only that, he can teach as well and this ability has spilled over into his book ‘The Play of the Axe: Medieval Pollaxe Combat’. If you know nothing at all of the pollaxe, you will by the time you finish this book. It is organized in a logical fashion, introducing you to the source material and some historical accounts and then moving you through strategy and the concepts involved. Chapters on training and equipment and fundamentals follow. He then devotes a... More > separate chapter to each part of the axe and the plays involved and winds up with chapters on left hand plays and grappling. Everything, but most especially the techniques are written in a clear and concise manner. By studying the photographs and the words, each play comes to life and flows smoothly from start to finish. Whether you are a newbie or an accomplished fighter looking to sharpen up your technique, this book will have something in it for you.< Less
  • By dg2clarke
    Feb 10, 2010
    In our present age of information, there has perhaps been no greater exposure to the martial customs of our ancestors since those same ancestors practised those customs themselves. Unfortunately, this overload of information can leave some of us feeling confused or overwhelmed. It is clear that some martial systems predominate today’s world of historical sword arts. Unarmoured longsword, rapier and sword and buckler are perhaps the most common weapon systems explored and developed in recent years and decades. If we were to have the privilege of looking through an imaginary ‘chronoscope’ at out ancestors, we might be a little surprised to see that our own preferences for weapons don’t necessarily mirror the ideals of predecessors. Historical literature, both biographical and fictional, abound with knightly heroes and villains who always seem to have either shining bright or ebony black armour, adorned with brocade and silk, with their hearts set on winning the favourable thoughts of... More > their chosen damsel. If the examples from within the accounts of Jaque de Lalaing, Olivier de la Marche and Tirant lo Blanc are to be taken, then we would see that oftentimes, the heroes would reach for none other weapon than their pollaxe. And why wouldn’t they? There are few weapons which have more offensive aspects to it. Essentially, every bit that isn’t used to hold the weapon is utilised in some way to thrash the opponent in either a bashy or stabby manner. When heroes of olde wanted to prove themselves in the lists, be it tournament or judicial duel; if they were not ahorse, they would account for themselves with a pollaxe. Fortunately for us, there is a wealth of information… primary sources, no less… that give explicit detail on how to use this devastating yet elegant and sophisticated weapon. Unfortunately for us, these primary sources aren’t always presented in the most digestible manner. Incomplete pictorial sequences and poorly or inadequately written texts fog our vision of the use of the weapon as it was intended to be used. Hugh Knight Jr. has been a student of axe play for…well…who knows how many years? Earlier this year, after much investment of time and probably sanity too, he published a book purely on the subject of pollaxe combat, entitled ‘The Play of the Axe: Medieval Pollaxe Combat’, available from . What he has done is extract every pollaxe play from the currently available German sources and the Burgundian Le Jeu de la Hache and digested them for us into a cleverly constructed tome of photo-sequences accompanied with easy to follow and understand modern English explanations. The body of the book is broken up in the same manner as the instructions within Le Jeu into plays which rely on the various components of the axe. Such a dissection of the system makes for an effective learning tool, while the photographic sequences show the key moments from every one of the plays described. To remain accountable, Hugh has referenced every play shown so that the discerning audience can assess for themselves the accuracy of the interpretations. Preceding the chapters on how to actually use the pollaxe are chapters discussing issues such as strategy, how to train, fundamentals and recommended equipment. With the information provided, it should be entirely possible for someone with little to no previous exposure to historical martial arts and learn the fine art of combat with a pollaxe. That said, people with a background in HEMA, and even those who have experimented with the pollaxe before will benefit from this book. The interpretations presented by Hugh have been developed, defined and refined over many years and have been subject to vigorous testing and experimentation. As such, I believe that the content of the book can be regarded as High Quality. There are many out there who do not like to depend on modern interpretations to develop their own understanding of the Art, preferring to work directly from the primary sources. For the most part, I am one of those people. Before this book I hadn’t really delved much into the world of the pollaxe. I had glossed over the sources, but it hadn’t really sunk in. This book benefitted me in that I can now look at the primary sources and see instantly in my mind what the Master was trying to convey. In essence, this book will teach you how to really ‘read’ the primary sources. Even the obscurely illustrated ones. So if you’re a re-enactor who wants to have a bash at more historically accurate and devastatingly effective combat techniques; a new HEMA student looking for a subject to study; or a seasoned HEMA practitioner looking to expand your repertoire of martial knowledge, then pick up this book and have a thorough read. Then go read Tirant lo Blanc and the other sources already mentioned…just for fun and inspiration. The book is available in class-friendly spiral bound or the slightly less expensive perfect-bound for your bookshelf. I will say, that being in black and white, the photos aren’t the highest quality. That however is a product of the printing, not the author, and the photos are still more than adequate for determining just what part of your opponent’s body your pollaxe needs to smash or stab.< Less
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Product Details

March 24, 2010
Perfect-bound Paperback
Interior Ink
Black & white
1.53 lbs.
Dimensions (inches)
8.5 wide x 11 tall
Product ID
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