Certainly the current interest in the martial axe results more from the virtual worlds of video gaming than a curiosity about history. Though the axe played an important role on ancient battlefields, only the smaller styles still find official use by the military. In fact, many of the combat applications once used by Americans who carried tomahawks into battle are now lost. To find axe techniques, students of that old skill now go to the few Asian martial routines based on this heavy blade.
Combat axes evolved into specialty blades designed for nothing else but combat and were often combined with spears to add chopping attacks to the long range thrust of the pike. The oldest combat axes served dual purposes as tools for woodsmen and farmers — broad axes in particular, designed for hewing round logs into squared timbers, often went to war virtually unchanged.
For mayhem, the axe evolved in many directions, from heavy double axes with crescent blades to battleaxes with blades for chopping and slashing and spiked pommels for driving holes through armor plate. Today’s combat tomahawk, used by special forces soldiers, copies that old form in a smaller design useful both for fighting and for camp chores. Many good reproductions of battleaxes are still available and popular with collectors as well as martial artists.
A great display piece for the wall but also a fully functional combat axe, the Hero’s Axe by Paul Chen recreates the battle axe of ancient Japan.
A recreation of an old Danish war axe, Paul Chen’s Danish Battle Axe shows the transition from farm tool to weapon.
From the other end of history, SOG’s Fusion Tactical Tomahawk reworks the Special Forces axe and does it right.