Middle-eastern mounted warfare

Wielding the lance


The lance (or spear) is the primary melee weapon of the horseman. Whether alone or riding in knee-to-knee formations it works well together with the horse. On foot a sabre may be quicker and easier to carry around, but on horseback a spear gives greater range. Compared to a footman a horseman bound to his horse can maneouver less effectively in close combat. In such a situation you can attack and parry from head to hoof much better with a long spear. Of course when warriors get stuck too close to each other, swords became superior, but until that time a spear might help you to survive.


Therefore the spear was widely used on horseback among the western knigths, the middle-eastern warriors, the steppe nomads and even the Japanese warriors. The European jousting and tournament traditions also show this order. After breaking the lances the knights fought with swords.


Today the spear is not really emphasized. Archery and swordplay are more spectacular and practicable even on foot. The spear gets alive on a charging horse and fencing with other horsemen, so it is not easy to practice. It is dangerous to practice with, because it is so effective on a charging horse. Any staff which is just as rigid as able to hold with two hands can cause serious injury, even if its end is covered.


However the Mamluk manuals really emphasize lance wielding, many exercises show its importance The longest part of Munyatu’l-Ghuzat speaks about it, which is our best source regarding this weapon. The Mamluks also jousted with lances like their European colleagues, just not on a straight line but riding around in the arena, called maydan.

Considering theese facts I try to build up a training sequence for the lance, first on foot, but later focusing on horseback.


I. Training on foot   (I will soon write about spears in the Equipment menu)

First you have to get used to the weight and length of the weapon. Thrust into the air, rotate it over your head, behind your back, etc. Do it every day if you can to feel comfortable such a long item. Don’t worry if you hit the ground or drop it, keep on.

Then practice the different styles of holding (Khorazan, Sagr, Damascus, Daylam) and the changing between them. There is one important thing while changing style: always hold the weapon with at least one hand. Never do quick flips where you get both hands off the staff for a moment. Personally I have learnt it from karate, but it is important with every long weapon.


II. Training on horseback

There are two main group of mounted lance exercises:

1. Against static targets. Ride and try to thrust different types of targets.

    It can be a ring attached vertically to a wooden block, which is set on a tower of other blocks of the height of a man. You have to thrust into the ring thus taking away the first block but leaving the tower standing. 

    Pieces of appropriate material (leather or wood pieces) are scattered over the ground and you have to collect them by piercing them on the lance with a downward wielding. Of course at gallop. This "game" was practiced even by western cavalry troops under the name of "tent pegging": www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnKHeDtFJWc It is still a popular sport in some Central Asian countries.

2. Against an other horseman.

Just like in fencing use sparring weapons and head protection for both the rider and the horse. Be extremely cautious with thrusting from a moving horse!

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