This is the list of weapons that will initially be covered by the Durham Medieval Combat Academy: longsword, one-handed sword and poleaxe

Two really nice web sites about medieval weapons and armour can be found at www.MedievalWarfare.Info and


The term Longsword is a modern term for a sword that was primarily used two handed but was light enough to be gripped in one hand for some techniques. For more information on longswords, check their Wikipedia entry.

Swords have received a lot of attention from historians and warfare archaeologists. The most prominent one is Ewart Oakeshott who has created a classification of blades, crosses and pommels found in swords called the Oakeshott Typology. Regarding longswords, this typology includes the following blade types:

  • Type XIIa

    Sword Type XIIa
  • Type XIII

    Sword Type XIIa
  • Type XIIIa

    Sword Type XIIa
  • Type XVa

    Sword Type XVa
  • Type XVII

    Sword Type XVII
  • Type XVIIIa

    Sword Type XVIIIa
  • Type XVIIIb

    Sword Type XVIIIb
  • Type XVIIIc

    Sword Type XVIIIc
  • Type XVIIId

    Sword Type XVIIId
  • Type XX

    Sword Type XX
  • Type XXa

    Sword Type XXa

More info on the typology can be found there:

The following are links to a database of museum pieces:

On closer inspection, it can be seen that some longswords have a very shallow profile taper and finish in a wider point (e.g. Type XIIa, XIII and XIIIa). Other types have a very pronounced profile taper and the blade terminates in a very acute point (e.g. Type XVa, XVIIIb, XVIIId).
Longswords with a wider point are not perfect for thrusting, especially if the opponent wears any piece of armour, even a padded arming jacket would probably provide suitable protection against a thrust from these blade types. These swords are better designed for cutting but their efficiency against the simplest metal armour such as a maille hauberk is severely limited. Improvement in armour design made it necessary to develop swords that could pierce through armour, for example through rings of maille hauberks or through gaps in plate armour. Improvement in blade metallurgy made it possible to develop blades with acute but strong points. Swords of type XVa, XVIIIb and XVIIId are later designs aiming to improve thrusting ability and defeat armour.
Indeed, thrusting with a longsword is a key technique in treatises. It means that for the purpose of HEMA, longswords inspired by the types XVa, XVIII are more suited. They are based on blunt edges and rounded points but their profile taper is representative of these sword types.

For more thoughts on HEMA techniques, see here.

Several interesting analyses of longswords can be found there:

One-handed Sword (for Sword and Buckler)

One-handed swords reveived the same level of attention as longswords from E. Oakeshott and we refer to that section for links on the typology.

  • Type X

    Sword Type X
  • Type Xa

    Sword Type Xa
  • Type XI

    Sword Type XI
  • Type XIa

    Sword Type XIa
  • Type XII

    Sword Type XII
  • Type XIII

    Sword Type XIII
  • Type XIIIb

    Sword Type XIIIb
  • Type XIV

    Sword Type XIV
  • Type XV

    Sword Type XV
  • Type XVI

    Sword Type XVI
  • Type XVIII

    Sword Type XVIII
  • Type XVIIIa

    Sword Type XVIIIa
  • Type XXI

    Sword Type XXI
  • Type XXII

    Sword Type XXII

To address a gap in sword classification (8th to 11th century), Alfred Geibig has also generated a classification that can be found on

This is the Oakeshott analysis of one of David Tétard's one-handed swords, used for re-enactment with Dawn of Chivalry (13th century) but that can also be used in HEMA (sword and buckler): here.




"Poleaxe" is the medieval name used by the English for the long-handled footman's warhammer, regardless of whether it actually had an axe head or not. These same weapons could be called bec-de-corbin, or bec-de-faucon in French (depending on the shape of the back spike,) or fussstreithammer in German, or martello d'arme in Italian.

More info on poleaxes can be found there: