Given the lack of any generally accepted conventions or terminology, the
language of Le Jeu is remarkably unambiguous, and is far superior to the efforts
even of so expert a chronicler as Oliver de la Marche. The author tries hard to
give exact details of sequences of movement both of hand, foot and weapon; and he very
seldom lapses into banalities. Even such statements of the obvious as suggesting that the
answer to one particular attack is to parry 'with your axe on his' , or that the way
to deal with a left-hander's swing is simply to 'step back one pace and he will find
nothing' , would have seemed less silly within the context of a school of arms where
bald statements such as these would have been accompanied by practical demonstration. In
fact, the value of Le Jue is precisely that of the fencing books which were to
multiply in the sixteenth century. Like them it would have been no substitute for personal
instruction and practice. A knight could no more learn the feel of a real axe from Le
Jue than a courtier could gain the feel of a rapier from some Renaissance manual.
Rather it is a record of the kind of tuition knights would have received from a master of
arms. And, from the appearance of this text, the training would have been rigorous,
systematic and comprehensive.
LE JEU DE LA HACHE
An English Translation
Here follows the prologue of Axe-play to make oneself dexterous and to exert oneself in
 Considering and seeing by experience that all human beings, noble and non noble,
naturally fly from death and desire to live long in this mortal world; and afterwards to
live forever in the Kingdom of Paradise. To achieve and obtain the natural desires
above-said, it seems to me that every human and rational creature must keep himself in a
good estate, and arm himself first with good spiritual armor, that is to say with the
beautiful virtues to defend himself and to resist all vices and diabolic temptations;
preserving and guarding the soul from eternal death. And for this to be done, one must arm
the body with good corporeal and material armour, and provide oneself with suitable
weapons, like the axe, light lance, dagger, great sword and small sword, to defend oneself
and resist one's corporeal and mortal enemies. And for this, let every man, noble of body
and courage, naturally desire to exercise and make himself dexterous in virtuous and
honourable occupation, and principally in the noble feat of arms, that is to say in
Axe-play, from which proceed and depend several weapons above-named. Moreover, the said
Axe-play is honorable and profitable for the preservation of a body noble or non noble.
For the above-said reasons, I have employed my slight understanding to set forth in
writing some doctrines and instructions touching the said Axe-play in the manner which
 And first, you who as one of the two champions are called on the field of battle,
whether to the death or otherwise, whether you may be appellant or defendant, above all
you must feel in your conscience that you have good and just quarrel.
 On leaving your pavilion, you must be well armed and furnished with your axe and
other relevant weapons.31 Recommending yourself to God, you must make the sign
of the cross and march upright, with a good and valorous countenance, gazing at the other
end of the field to seek out your adversary. And gazing upon him you must take in a
measured manner a proud courage in youself to fight valiantly as is becoming.32
And have in remembrance the principal points contained in the chapters which hereafter
Here begins the science and practice of the noble Axe-play and the manner of fighting.
 When one would give you a swinging blow, right-hander to right-hander. If you have
the croix in front, you can step forward with your left foot, receiving his blow,
picking it up with the queue of your axe33 and - in a single movement -
bear downward to make his axe fall to the ground. And from there, following up one foot
after the other, you can give him a jab with the said queue, running it through the
left hand, at the face: either there or wherever seems good to you. Or swing at his head.
 If you have the queue forward, you can do it the same way without moving.
 Again, if you have the croix in front, as above. You can receive the said
blow with your queue by stepping backward. From all three couvertes, you can
give the said swinging blows and the jab with the queue.
 Another couverte for the swing, if you have the queue forward, without your
moving or stepping back. Thrust the croix of your axe in front of his axe, to
engage it crossways, so that he can only hold up the stroke which does not fall on you.
And immediately the crossing has been effected, disengage your axe, jabbing at him with
the queue from low to high,34 sweeping between his hand and his croix
to make it drop from his hand. And if you should fail, you may quickly return on your
guard. And if you have made it jump out of his hand, you can do whatever seems good to you
with a swing or something else.
 If you give the first swinging blow, and he covers himself in the fashion
above-said. You can do the same with the queue like his swing above-said.
 If again he comes at you with a swing, and you have the queue forward. You
must move to receive the blow to the right side of your opponent, and from there receive
his blow demy hache. And at the same time, as close as you can, you must advance
your left foot and place it behind his heel really firmly, as you raise his axe which is
above yours. And place your queue under his chin, and thus give him a jolt
backwards to knock him to the ground.
 If you fail. You must return on guard. And this should be down quickly.
 If he were to use this above-said opening on you. You must quickly place the dague
of your axe under his armpit to push him away from you; or pass the cross-bar of your axe
under his arm to push him under the armpit with the demy hache, following it up to
thrust him out of the lists.35 Or give him a hard blow with all your strength,
simply to see whether you can hurl him on the ground.
 Another couverte for swinging blows when you are on guard with the queue.
Without moving, you can take it on your demy hache as high as your arms can be
extended.36 And the moment the blow has been received, you can pick up his queue
with yours in such a way that he would wish to raise it. And all in one movement push it
suddenly forward. And if it does not fly out of his hand, at least you make him stagger so
much that you will have time to give him a blow or thrust.
 If he comes with the croix forward to thrust at you. You must turn his queue
with your queue as often as you can. And if you can turn it aside sufficiently to
see a gap open up between him and his axe, you can give him a hard jab in the face with
the queue. And this blow is good and sure to pursue, because it cannot do you any
harm. And you must approach him with your left arm to his right. And if you see that it
would be good for you, and that you have the leisure, you can let the queue of your
axe run up under his chin, while you have your foot behind his heel. And from there try to
turn him over.37
 He could counter this opening by turning the cross-bar of his axe under the queue
of yours, and with the said cross-bar push your queue away from him. And while
carrying out this counter, he could follow you, one foot after the other, to get between
you and your queue in order to jab you in the face.
 If he carries out the said follow-up.38 You have only to retreat one
pace, and also pull your axe back toward you, running it through the left hand. And doing
this you find yourself free, and furthermore you will be on guard with your queue.
 If your axes are joined one croix against the other, and he pushes you to
make you recoil.39 You can merely take half a pace back with your front foot,
to draw your axe back to you. And immediately place the dague of your axe between
his bec de faucon and his hand, as close as you can to the croix from the
side toward his right arm, forcing his axe from the other side while following up; you can
advance your left foot toward his back, pushing with your demy hache against his
shoulders, and knock him to the ground.40
 Moreover, if he comes at you with the dague of his axe forward to give you
a thrust; and you have your axe in the same manner as his. When you see him come at you,
you can step behind him as far as you can, so that he finds nothing in front of him. As
you take this step back, you must press hard with the flat of your queue onto his
neck to make him trip forward.41 And if you fail, return immediately on guard.
 If he should wish to give you a glancing blow with the dague of his axe at
your face. You must rigorously divert the blow to see if you can make his axe fall.
 If he is an expert axe-fighter, and he advances with the queue of his axe
forward.42 You must try whether, with a back-handed blow of your dague,
you can make him lose the grip of one hand on his axe. And if you can do this you can
unleash on him whatever blows seem good to you.
 If you fail. You must try to give a jab with the queue in his face to make
him raise the queue of his axe. And if you can get it crossed against yours, you
can draw back your queue, hitting against the side of his with your mail, or
stepping behind him and hitting at his head.
 If he would do it to you. You must lower the queue of your axe while stepping back
with your left foot, covering yourself with the demy hache or mail. And then
return to the guard of whichever end seems good to you.
a. Talhoffer (1467). Cf. Le Jeu 
 Whichever guard you are on, you can try to hit him on the head. Not
so that, if you should miss, your axe passes beyond him: because that would be dangerous.
And immediately this blow has been accomplished, you must make a feint of having another
go at his head, so that he covers himself high. Whereupon you can give him one on the knee
with the bec de faucon. And if your bec de faucon passes behind the plate of
his knee,43 you must pull him toward you, to drag him to the ground. And if he
steps back, so that you find nothing, take care that your axe does not pass in front of
your man. And similarly with all your swinging blows. And quickly return on your guard.
 If one tries the knee stroke. You must step forward to the right side toward your
man, placing the queue of your axe between his axe and your knee. And with your
said queue you must try to tear it from his hands, giving him a good back-hander
against the cross-bar of his axe. And if you cannot: from there approach him, following up
one foot after the other. And give him a jab in the face with your dague.
 If he holds his axe with the queue forward. Give him a hard back-handed
blow with the queue of your axe against his, to make it jump out of his hand. And
if you cannot do it with the blow, stepping forward between him and his axe, you can hit
him with a jab of the dague to the face.
 If he were to do it to you. You must lower the queue of your axe close to
your feet and step backwards, and with the demy hache turn his (dague) aside
from in front of your face, and remain on the guard of the dague. And then you can
step and turn on whichever guard seems good to you. And you must deliver these jabs
frequently, sometimes at the foot and sometimes at the hand or face; so that he does not
find your axe at all still, and you can, wholly at your own initiative, make any opening.44
 If he comes at you with the queue forward, and he is holding it high.
Stepping to his left side, you can place your; queue under his arm, so that the queue
passes under his axe between his two hands, and pull toward his hand with a good sudden
jolt, to make him lose his grip with one hand. And from there you can push with demy
hache in his side, to hurl him to the ground. At least you will be able to move
forward and have sufficient leisure to swing at him.
 If he does the same thing to you. You have only to release the grip of your lower
hand, and immediately take hold of your axe again higher up, while stepping back, and
return on your guard.
 If he has nullified this move which you will have practiced on him in this manner
above-said, and he has put himself on the guard of the dague. You can similarly
place your queue under his demy hache, stepping face to face, and pass your
said queue over his right arm, and give him a good hard jolt to make him lose the
butt of his axe. And from there you will have leisure to give him a blow or a thrust.
 And if you cross your axes in the middle to push one another.45 Do it
so that, in crossing, you have the croix of your axe higher than the queue;
and, as you push, turn your bec de faucon toward his axe to draw it toward you,
while stepping back, with all your strength of your arm. Merely hook the said bec de
faucon to the middle of his axe and it will make him lose his axe.
 If he does not drop or lose his axe, at least he will come one pace after you. At
which march forward, giving him a jab in the face; and then return on your guard.
 If he does the same move to you. Release your lower hand and he will do nothing.
 You can otherwise counter it by following up his tugging, stepping forward as he
pulls. And from there, stepping with your left foot to his right side, hit him violently
with the queue of your axe on his neck, knocking him over, as it is said in the
aforesaid parry of the demy hache.
 If he does it to you. You already know the counter to it in the said parry of the demy
 If he gives you a jab to the foot with his queue. You must lift your foot,
while presenting your queue against his, to turn him aside and make it jump out of
his hand, if you can. And whether this has been accomplished or not, without moving you
can hit him quickly with the mail of your axe on his head or on his hands, to your
 If your axes are crossed at the two queues. Make him, if you can, raise the
queue of his axe very high, and from there you can lower the end of your queue
while drawing it back a little, running it through the hand until you can pass it again
under his without stretching more than the least possible. And from there to strike
back-handed against his axe to try to make it escape from his hand; or at least to
misdirect it in such a way that you might be able to get between him and his axe while
stepping to his left side. And from there you can push with your demy hache against
his side to knock him to the ground.
 To protect yourself against his doing this to you. Ensure that he does not find
your axe crosswise - at least that your axe should not be behind his. And certainly do not
hold it in one position.
 If by chance he were to do it to you. You could counter it by holding your axe
close to you, and passing your queue low down, between you and him, and from there
raise it up to meet his stomach and push him from you.
 Another counter, if he does it to you. You must hold your axe out straight, well
away from you; and from there heave it up to meet his stomach as you straighten up against
him, and push him from you.
 If you can do this well suddenly. As you turn you can hook the bec de faucon
around his neck and pull him toward you to see whether you can overthrow him.46
 If he does it to you. You must step forward with your right foot, while pushing
his axe away from you with the demy hache, and you can remain on your guard.
 Again, if the queues of the said axes are crossed. You must push his axe
with yours, placing it below yours until you have caused it to be lowered so much that you
should have made the said queues pass on your left side, so that you have the
leisure to step with your right foot behind him. And from there you can give him a great
blow with the demy hache against his shoulders. Or if he has turned his back on you
sufficiently so that you can get at the flat of his shoulders, you can push him with the demy
hache, following him very quickly, first on one side and then on the other, according
to which side you perceive that he wishes to turn against you. Then strike against this
shoulder; and if he wishes to turn to the other side push him there without moving your demy
hache from his back. And in doing this you could put him out of the lists.47
 If he were to use this opening against you. Immediately that you perceive it,
parry with your axe on his, and he will find nothing.
 If he comes at you with his face forward. You can jab at his face with the queue
of your axe, or at his foot which has no protection;48 or you can give several
b. Talhoffer (1467). Cf. Le Jeu , and see note 55.
 If he comes as above-said, with his face forward. You can give him
a jab with the queue in the face so that he raises his axe. And if he holds it away
from him, you can place the queue of your axe under his demy hache right
against his neck, and strike it. And if you do not find it to your advantage to strike,
pass the said queue over his head to take him from the other side of his neck to
pull him backwards. And if you fail so that you cannot strike him: from there pull as you
move backwards and you will encounter no hinderance.49
 And if he makes the said move against you. You can push with your demy hache
against his neck or his shoulders, and thus drive him back from you.
 If he counters you in this manner. You must remember to draw back, and as you do
so you must cross the said queue of your axe over his right arm, giving him a great
jolt to make him lose the butt.
 Another counter. The moment that his queue is on your neck, release your
left hand, and take up your axe again higher up, above his, as you step backwards: which
is a good and sure counter.
 If he holds the queue high. You must hold it high like him: but one end as
high as the other, so as to show the palm of your hand as little as you can. And from
there you can guard against his thrust if he strikes at your face.
 If he holds the queue of his axe higher than the croix, he shows the
palm of his hand, whereupon you can give him a jab with your said queue at the palm
of his hand.50
 If he comes at you as before, his face toward you, to strike you demy hache
or otherwise. If you can get near him, you can put the queue of your axe between
his thighs as far forward as you can, and then lift up the butt which you are holding in
your hand, with all your strength, to raise him high and make him lose contact with the
 If you do it thus, he will of necessity fall backwards. And if he wishes to do it
to you, you have only to put your demy hache quickly against his neck or his
shoulder, and this will prevent his being able to lift so great a weight.
Here begins the Play of the left-hander against the right-hander.52 And
 If the left-hander comes at you swinging. You must step forward on your left foot,
hitting hard with the queue of your axe to intercept his stroke so that the blow
does not fall on you. And the counter having been made, you must quickly withdraw your queue,
bringing down the mail of your said axe against the back of his axe to help him go
with the swing with which he thought to strike you.53 Or to make the butt
escape from his hand.
 If he has withdrawn his axe so suddenly that it causes you to miss. You must
immediately withdraw to the guard of your queue.
 If the said left-hander comes at you swinging. In whatever guard you may be, step
back one pace and he will find nothing.54
 If you hit out at your left-hander with a swing, and it is met with his queue
in the above-said fashion. Immediately his stroke has been delivered, give him a great
blow with your queue against the back of his, to try to make him lose his grip with
one hand. But whether or not he loses his grip, you can, with the said blow, immediately
advance your left foot behind his heel, putting your queue under his chin to knock
him backwards, if you can. And if you can do nothing, return quickly on your guard. As you
retire following your steps thus remain on the guard of your queue.
Axe fighting from Maestro Fiore dei Liberi da Premariaccos Flos
 If he applies this said opening on you. You have only to thrust
your said queue under his and raise it up: doing to him the same as he has done to
you, and doing this you counter his move.
 He can counter the move when you have done it again in the manner above-said, in
as much that - as you have your axe under his chin - you have the arm high. And from
there, he can place his demy hache under your armpit, and he can push you very
vigorously. And equally you can do it to him if he uses the same opening on you. And
whether this works or fails, do not tarry at all.
 And to counter this said push under the armpit. As soon as you feel it, you can
suddenly release your left hand and place your arm between his demy hache - which
he is holding well away from himself in order to push you - and his body; and all in one
movement get your hand under his crotch and heave him up in order to overthrow him.55
 If he were to do it to you. You must immediately release the grip of your left
hand from the queue of your axe and, with this left hand, take up the croix of
your axe, running the right hand downward and thus push against his neck, and he will not
have the power to lift you.
 If the said left-hander comes at you with the dague of his axe forward, to
jab you in the face or another place above the belt. You can keep circling with your queue
in front of his face to put him off his intended stroke; and from there you can give him a
blow with the mail on the head from high to low in such a way that, were you to
miss, your axe does not carry you so that you are obliged to turn your back: which would
be a great danger.56
 If he covers himself with the cross-bar of his axe. For the first stroke, make as
if to shape up for another blow so that he covers himself high as before, to guard his
head. Then give a great blow at the knee and well forward, so that if he takes a step the
axe between his legs finds the other knee. And if he does not move you must give a great
sudden pull toward you, so that your bec de faucon hooks itself behind his knee to
pull him to the ground. And if you are able, do not give this stroke below the armour
plate:57 but on the plate or above, so that if you fail to overthrow him you
may be able to disarm him of some piece of his cuisse.
 If he does it to you. You have only to take a step with your left foot which is
behind, and advance it before the other, in order to push with your knee against the
middle of his axe in order to free yourself.
 From there, you can jab at his face with the queue of your axe, which is a
good reply. And for this, when you make the said stroke, do it quickly. And if you miss,
return immediately on your guard.
 If the said left-hander comes at you with his dague forward. You must
immediately thrust aside the croix of his axe with your queue, now here, now
there. And while doing this, you can place your said queue against his croix
on the haft towards his body, and you must let the said queue run through your left
hand toward his croix, so that you have the power to push it away backhanded. And
as you do this sliding movement, immediately step with your right foot to his rear, close
to him, and all in one movement you must push your butt demy hache to try to beat
him to the ground. Or at least if he draws back, you can deliver a blow.
 If he were to do it to you. As soon as you feel yourself thrust at, you must lower
the butt of your axe, turning the axe under his queue, without getting out of
distance, and so that your axe comes behind his queue. And from there you can move
so that you have the leisure to step back to return on the guard of the queue
because it is more advantageous than that of the dague.
 If your queues are crossed together. You can hold them fast together, so
that he holds his tight. And then you must step back with your left foot; and as you step
back, smoothly give him a blow with the mail on his hands. And this is a good
stroke, but only when your queue is behind his. And to protect youreself from this
blow, make sure that he never has his queue behind yours: because, if he has it in
front, he cannot do it to you on account of your queue which prevents it.
 When you have your queue behind his, thrusting it forward a little, you can
always give him a jab in the face.
 If the said left-hander comes at you with the dague forward, and he is
holding his axe long. You can put your queue crossways between his hand and the croix,
and from there give him a back-hander downwards, in order to make his axe pass behind you
as, stepping forward with your right foot, you can push him demy hache against his
shoulders to knock him down.58
 Take care that he can never get to press crossways with his queue59
against the front of yours. Or, if by chance he does, then as soon as he has pressed, turn
yours over his, and he will not be able to do it.
 If your man comes at you guarding with the queue, and he is holding it low.
You can give a forehanded blow against his queue with yours, in order to move it
away from in front of him. And if you can do it, as you follow up one foot after the
other, you can place yourself between his axe and him;60 and from there you
must place your said queue between his thighs, half-way along, and you must lift up
your man on the said queue as high as you can. And you can carry out this move from
various other openings, neither more nor less than are set out before in the play of the
right-hander against the right-hander.
 If he does it to you. You must stick your axe into the middle of his chest, and he
will not be able to do it.61
 If your man comes at you with his face forward, whether right-hander or
left-hander. If you can place the queue of your axe above his, and from there get
the end under his right armpit, you can push him from the side of the said queue,
always following him up, without his having the slightest good remedy to free himself. And
by this you can put him out of the lists.
 You must frequently attack him with jabs at the face and at the feet to make him
loose his composure.