A warrior wielding a great blade strikes terror into common soldiers, but to a chevalier, he is no greater danger than any other opponent. A skilled warrior is struck down by a maul or battleaxe in one of three cases: in the first, he is taken unawares in the heat of battle; in the second, he cannot evade the blow because of the nature of the battlefield or his own injuries; and in the third and most common case, he is struck down because he reacts poorly.
We do not train enough against two-handed weapons because we disdain them ourselves. I think this is a mistake, and in time to come, I hope it is corrected. I have seen too many skilled warriors die because they have seen a great maul coming down at them and raise a shield to block instead of deflect. I have seen men lose their composure due to fear or anger and engage such a warrior directly, thinking they can risk a blow to their body as they would from a light sword or a dagger. In the heat of battle, even the trained mind will think such things. Those who cannot overcome such thoughts die.
You must watch the weapon, but only to gauge its length. Otherwise, as in all fights, the opponent's hips and shoulders will tell his intent. The great weapons are dangerous only when moving or poised overhead to strike down. You must give ground, but only against the true threat. If he advances but is not truly prepared to strike, you must rush in, cut him, and withdraw to your guard before his blow is ready. It may take ten cuts to kill him. Even after the ninth, he may cleave your head from your body if you do not respect the distance he can cover.
If using such a weapon yourself, mark your distance and do not allow yourself to react to an opponent outside your reach. You cannot recover your guard as quickly as you can with a sword and shield. Keep your weapon moving and measure your blows. A stuttered step on your strike can fool many opponents into thinking you out of range and then rushing their defense. In this manner, you may kill most who stand against you. Fighting in such a manner, you may feel more like a butcher than a hero, but the living may console themselves while the dead cannot.
—An excerpt from A Meditation upon the Use of Blades by Swordmaster Massache de Jean-mien, required reading at the Academie des Chevaliers