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Mace 101 Primer

by Lord Krey MacLeod
Marshal at Large
Shire of Caer Adamant
East Kingdom


The mace. Mass weapon of giants, destroyer of hips, shoulders, heads and various other body parts. In the hands of a skilled fighter, it can spell certain doom for their opponent. For the unskilled fighter, it can mean a few things; frustration and sore muscles, just to start. Even for the beginning maceman, it can stand for much soreness in the arm and much banging of the helm against a brick wall. With the proper instruction and guidance, a fighter can soon be a fierce competitor with their very own Mace O' Doom in their hands. Hopefully, this tutorial will be able to steer those who are so inclined into the ranks of the feared mace wielder.


A mace is a simple weapon that uses a heavy head on the end of a handle to deliver powerful blows. The head of the mace is radically symetrical so that a blow can be delivered equally and effectively with any side of the head. It consists of a strong, heavy wooden, metal-reinforced or metal shaft with a head made of stone, copper, bronze, iron or steel. The head is normally about the same or slightly thicker in diameter than the shaft and can be shaped with flanged or knobs to allow greater armour penetration. The length of maces can vary considerably. The maces of foot soldiers were usually quite short, about two to three feet in length. The maces of cavalrymen were longer and designed for blows from horseback. Two handed maces could be even longer.

Most maces we see in SCA combat are of the single handed variety. They tend to be used in conjunction with a shield or another single handed weapon. They can also be used as a back-up weapon for a poleman or spearman. They can have a basket hilt or be used with a full gauntlet. The length of the mace can vary, according to the comfortability of the user. I've seen maces as long as a foot and a half long to the full three foot length. They can have rubber heads, heads formed from orthopedic foam, from a combination of camp foam and strips of rattan (called clicker maces) and from a cylinder of camp foam around a piece of rattan taped into place. Additional pieces of foam or rubber can be glued or taped into place to form knobs or knots on the mace.


Fighting with a mace is similar to fighting with a single handed broadsword, but also very different. In SCA combat, a mass weapon has 2 distinct killing advantages over a broadsword.

      1. Powering through defenses: because of the weight of the head, anything classified as a mass weapon(i.e. Mace, axe, warhammer) can bulldoze it's way through an opponent's guard, therefore creating an opening for a follow up shot or a well placed blow from a pole or spear.

      2. Additional killing targets: Any shots to the hip or collarbone, with a mass weapon, are considered a killing blow. It is theorized that the force of the blow would crush the bone and drive it into the femoral artery, causing internal bleeding, and eventually, death.

When first fighting with a mace, you'll want to attempt to swing it like a single handed sword. Don't. The mass of the mace head changes the entire balance of the weapon and the way you'll deliver your blows. When throwing shots, even a simple flat snap, you won't want to put a lot of power into it. Many make the mistake of wanting to over power with a mass weapon. Start off by throwing shots against a pell at half power, then three quarters power, until you get a good gauge as to what you would need to use for a telling blow. Let the the mace head go where it wants to go and trust in your own targeting. As the blow lands, you'll see the pell rock with the proper amount of force. If it is not rocking the way you're used to, adjust your power slightly. All your arm needs to do is guide the weapon back to its starting point. At first, it will feel like you are chopping wood. As you progress and the strength in your arm and shoulders grow, you will be able to use more single handed sword techniques.

For those just starting out with a mace or other mass weapon, work all three basic shots: onside, offside, and wrap shots. Also, add in a straight down shot, going from 12 o'clock to 6 o'clock. This will simulate a blow to the collarbone. When throwing that shot, keep your elbow at about a 90 degree angle. Raise your elbow so that the point is aimed directly at your opponent. This will send the mace head further past your shoulder. When you are ready to deliver the blow, sharply pull your elbow downward, keeping it bent at the 90 degree angle. This will snap the shot and drive the mace head into the collarbone for the killing blow. This blow can be worked at the pell as well as flat snaps to the hip.

Another blow that is highly effective with a mace, especially in close quarters, is the wrist flick. A wrist flick is merely an outward twist of the wrist and a slight extension of the weapon arm. In slow motion,, it tends to look like a karate chop. When done at speed, it resembles a blur. When done properly and placed across the eye slots of the helm, it can be a devastating shot, complete with a loud resounding thud. This can also be done at the pell in sets of five.

Maces + Distance = ???

One thing that most new mace wielders have issues with is distance between themselves and their opponent. The mace is primarily a close quarters combat weapon. The shorter the mace, the easier and faster it can be to work the weapon in tight close situations. When creating your mace, make it a little shorter than what you are used to using. If you're used to using a three foot long sword, make the mace two and a half feet long or so. If you're used to using a two and a half foot long sword, make your mace two feet long. In most cases, the shorter length will make up for the increased weight of the weapon.

Pell work

When at the pell, your kata should consist of onside, offside, downward snapshot, wrist flicks and wrapshots. Work them in combinations and sets of three and five. Start off slow and gradually work up to speed. Get a feel for the weapon first. Learn its sweet spot, then concentrate of targeting before bringing up it up to speed. Once you are able to put all three together, then you can factor in foot and body movement to create and opening for a killing blow.

I hope this has given you some insight on how to start off fighting with a mace or any other mass weapon. If I have missed anything, please feel free to pipe up and let me know. If there are any questions, please don't hesitate to stop me and ask. As always, I remain...

Yours in Service

Lord Krey MacLeod



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