Paulus Hector Mair’s Halberd – The First Two Oberhau

Stance

The halberds are held high on the haft, with the left foot forward and the left knee deeply bent.  According to the illustration, the right hand can have a normal or reverse grip. For this drill we experimented with the normal grip.

image

Translations by Keith Myers and Knight/Hunt.

Opening Attack

It happens at the closing that you stand in this technique with your left foot forward and hold your Halberd above your head. Then immediately follow outward with your right foot and strike to his head.

This seems to be pretty typical of Mair’s teachings. Instead of resting in a guard, you move through it into your next attack.

Second Fencer’s Parry and Counter-Attack

If he strikes like this to your head and you also stand opposite him in the Oberhau with your left foot forward, then set your left leg back and strike him similarly from above so that his strike is in vain. Then immediately lift up and thrust your foremost point into his face. If he displaces this, change through from his left to his right side and set your blade on his right arm.

An easily overlooked aspect of this parry is the step backwards. Experimentally we found that this offers more working room for the attack that follows.

If your opponent is weak in the bind, the parry will end with the halberd in the right position for a thrust.

If the opponent is strong in bind, that is to say they try to push against your haft, or they parry the thrust then you can disengage under their weapon. This is not a normal attack where you drop your weapon and raise it again. If you do that you leave yourself exposed to his thrust. Instead, use a tight movement where you only drop just enough to raise it up on the other side and get the blade on his right forearm.

Mair doesn’t say what to do from here, but it seems pretty obvious to me. From this position you can easily slice open his right arm while simultaneously thrusting into the body.

First Fencer Works from the Bind 

Mair doesn’t tell the first fencer how to deal with the first thrust, it is assumed that you can figure that out on your own. Instead he jumps into the more complex issue of dealing with the blade on your arm.

There are some subtle differences in the translations:

If he has set upon you like this, then step back with your right leg so that you strike away from him. Then immediately stroke upwards with your Halberd before his face and in the stroking wind on his halberd at his left side. At the same time wind your Halberd and snatch it towards you. If he is strong and will not give way, step in with your right leg once more and thrust to his chest.

Myer

If he has you so confined, then bring your right foot back, strike your halberd up into his face, hook his halberd on his left side, turn your blade, and pull toward you. If he is strong, then pass forward again with your right foot and thrust into his chest.

Hunt/Knight

Freeing the Arm

All it takes to free the arm is to step back and drop your weapon slightly in preparation for the attack. This reflex should be drilled as there is never a good reason to leave an ax blade sitting on your arm.

The Follow-up Attack

In my interpretation the wind to the left side is not critical. If you stay on your opponent’s right he cannot parry effectively. So he’s the one who is going to switch sides so that the weapons cross on the left.

At least one of my compatriots disagrees and does the wind from the onset of the attack. Either way we end up in the same place.

Push and Pull

Being on his left, the attack to the face is probably going to miss. So you then pull his weapon towards you as if to yank it from his hands or unbalance him for wrestling. If he resists, which he probably will, don’t fight him. Immediately switch from pulling to pushing so that he guides your thrust into his own head. The parry will be hard, as his energy is already going in the wrong direction

The Second Fencer Parries

If he thrusts like this to your chest, then step back with your left leg again and set the thrust aside with your rearmost point so that you are free from harm.

When the thrust starts, the second fencer is pulling straight back. So the step back not only buys a little bit of extra distance, it can also change that linear energy into the rotational energy needed to throw the point offline.

From here the second fencer can immediately cut or thrust as he sees fit.

Conclusions

There is a lot of material here. Mair has covered basic cuts, thrusts, working from the bind, pulling and pushing, and quite a bit of footwork. You could easily spend a few sessions analyzing the details of each step of this play and what it says about halberd work in general.

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