Polearm Weapons

The Vigour of Polearm Weapons in Medieval Warfare

Polearm weapons were very important in medieval warfare because they offered many advantages. Some polearms had spearheads that were great for thrusting attacks, which allowed soldiers to impale enemies. Other polearms had axe-like blades or hooks that could be used to slash enemies, dismount knights, or pull them off their horses. 

Polearm Weapon History

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Polearm weapons have a fascinating timeline in the history of warfare. They made their earliest appearances in ancient civilizations like Egypt and Mesopotamia, where long spears and poleaxes were used. In ancient Greece, the hoplites wielded the iconic “dory” or “sarissa” in their phalanx formations. As the medieval period arrived, polearms gained prominence in Europe, serving as essential tools for infantry soldiers against armoured adversaries and mounted cavalry. Feudal Japan saw the rise of the Naginata, favoured by samurais and the female samurai class, known as “Onna Bugiesha.” With the advent of firearms, polearms started to decline in use during the Renaissance era. Today, they are showcased in historical reenactments, martial arts, and ceremonies, preserving their historical significance and cultural legacy.

Types of Polearm Weapons

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As the medieval period progressed, Polearm Weapons also underwent significant development. Here are some examples of the different types of Polearm Weapons:

1. Halberd

The Halberd was a popular polearm weapon during the medieval era due to its unique combination of blade elements. It consisted of a long wooden shaft, about 6-7 feet in length, with an iron or steel head at the end that had different kinds of blades. These blades were designed to pierce through armour and take out the enemy. The Halberd’s versatility allowed soldiers to use a variety of offensive techniques such as slashing, thrusting, or grappling. Infantry soldiers, especially Swiss pikemen and Landsknechts, preferred this weapon for its adaptability and effectiveness on the battlefield.

2. Glaive

This weapon had a single blade that was both elegant and deadly in design. It was usually attached to a wooden shaft and had a slight curve. The sharp concave side of the blade allowed for effective slashing and chopping motions, enabling a skilled user to deliver powerful and precise cuts to their enemy. The artistry of the Glaive weapon was a testament to the craftsmanship of the weapon makers during that time. As time passed, variations of this weapon emerged, such as the Fauchard and the Guisarme:

  • The Fauchard was a weapon with a curved blade that resembled a sickle. This design was intended to hook and disarm opponents, creating an opportunity for follow-up attacks. 
  • The Guisarme, on the other hand, had a beak-shaped tip that allowed the user to grab, pull, or trip opponents. This weapon was particularly effective against mounted adversaries.

3. Pike

The pike was an essential weapon for infantry soldiers in the middle ages. With its long shaft and thrusting capabilities, it gave soldiers a significant advantage. This polearm weapon measured around 12-20 feet and had a pointed metal tip. It was characterised by its exceptional reach and defensive capabilities. Infantry soldiers could engage from a safe distance, which was necessary while facing mounted knights. To make the most of their pikes, soldiers learned to form dense formations, such as “pike squares” or “skiatrons”. With the combined strength of their pikes, they could create an impenetrable barrier and hold their ground.

4. Naginata

The Naginata, a Japanese polearm, was widely used during the middle ages. This weapon featured a curved single-edge blade and a long wooden shaft and is believed to have originated in the Heian period. The samurais used it extensively, making it a crucial part of Japanese warfare. The Naginata was also associated with the “Onna Bugiesha” – a female samurai class – in Feudal Japan. Women trained with this weapon to defend their homes and communities. This weapon was particularly effective against cavalry in battle due to its length and blade curvature, which allowed the user to target their opponents effectively.

5. Poleaxe

The Pollaxe was a versatile weapon used during medieval times. It combined an axe blade, a hammer, and a spike to provide a range of offensive techniques, such as blunt force impact. It measured around 5 to 6 feet and featured a metal head with an axe blade at the top, capable of delivering powerful chops that could cleave through armour and helmets. Additionally, the spike at the tip could penetrate chainmail, plate armour, or any other form of defence. Unlike other weapons, the Pollaxe did not rely on brute strength but instead offered precision and sharpness.


Polearm weapons were essential in medieval warfare, providing strategic advantages with their versatility, reach, and effectiveness. The Halberd, Glaive, Pike, Naginata, and Poleaxe demonstrated their tactical prowess, disarming enemies and countering mounted adversaries. Crafted with skill and artistry, these Polearm weapons left a lasting impact on the battlefield and the history of warfare.

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