Why do pike pushes?

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Why do pike pushes?

Postby Tod » Wed Apr 19, 2006 12:10 pm

I don't do pike as I prefer going bang. But I often wonder and I know I'm not the only one, why any wants to do pike pushes.
Apart from getting in the way of us musketeers. It some how doesn't look right, the public don't understand why no one is getting killed.
Is it a purely modern competition thing?

By the way before some one starts, I have max respect for pikemen. Without them we'd not be able to do 17th century and we'd end up doing some thing a hudred years or so later.......................



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Postby steve stanley » Wed Apr 19, 2006 1:45 pm

As one who still does them,but KNOWS they're wrong......
Most attempts to find a way of fighting at point are either:
a) So boring large numbers of people left...
b)So dangerous we had MORE injuries than at push....
No-one knows exactly how Pike fighting worked...some degree of "shove" would appear to be logical as the advanced pikes of the rear ranks close up....But,there was clearly a lot more use of the point.
I'm sure if ECW was small in numbers there could be scripted,rehearsed point actions,but it's not practical with the numbers both ECWS & the SK field..and,to be honest,a large proportion wouln't want to do it & one thing you do need to represent pike divisions are reasonable numbers.
The competitive thing also plays a major part in forming a group identity,while any comparison to real warfare is far fetched, there is a certain pleasure in knowing you've done a little more than "act"...sure all the earlier periods feel similiar about their Crash & Bash.
I'm afraid it's one of the "Reenactorisms" that's too ingrained in the groups concerned to change ,without a major re-think on said groups part.
Steve(preparing to indulge in said inauthentic thuggery at Newark next week)


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Postby Foxe » Wed Apr 19, 2006 4:59 pm

When the idea of completely outlawing push of pike at ECWS events was first mooted I was a pike officer in the KA. Having done quite a bit of medieval the obvious solution (or so it seemed to me) was to do competative point fighting. 15thC billmen often wear less armour than ECW pikemen anyway, and they've proven that stick fighting can be made to look real as well as being fun and safe for the participants (here is the training issue - ten minutes hung-over drill in the morning does NOT count as training). The length of pikes is what would have made the difference, but there are several accounts of pikemen cutting their pikes down to a more manageable length anyway. I erckoned (and still believe) that with 12-14 ft pikes and some guts behind them it would be possible, fun, relatively safe, and authentic to have semi-competative point of pike fighting.

The idea was scoffed at, so I suggested that anyone who was interested should join me for a tester bash. I volunteered myself to stand in the front rank. However, the three other volunteers and I decided that we weren't enough to really explore the possibility. You'd have thought that out of all the pikemen in the ECWS at least two pike-blocks worth of non-cowardy custards could be found!

Tod, you mention pikemen not dying: how many musketeers would you say fall over before the last 5 minutes of a battle? :wink:


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Postby Tod » Wed Apr 19, 2006 11:36 pm

Foxe, totally agree. No one dies until the end of the battle, or at least very few. I just wondered how the push started etc.



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Postby steve stanley » Thu Apr 20, 2006 7:07 am

I think the Push must have stated in the Early SK days...never found anyone who remembers a time before it....
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Postby m300572 » Thu Apr 20, 2006 11:40 am

This has been much discussed at various points in the past - 17th century sources talk about units coming to 'push of pike' and this may have been where the pushy shovy idea of pike fighting came from originally - my theory is that if the two pike blocks got close enough, particularly if the front ranks were in back and breat with tassets, the pikemen would more or less put their heads down (presenting the tops of their helmets to the opposition) and lunge/charge blindly - there is a slightly earlier depiction of this style of contact on a tomb in St Denis (possibly Francois I but I can't recall at the moment) which shows armoured pikemen in a similar situation.

The push as carried out by ECWS/SK adds a competitive edge to the battle which would not necessarily be got by training in the way suggested by Foxe - mainly because a lot of people wouldn't be trained sufficiently in the technique and more injuries would result than from the current set up - I know I would rather go in at 'push' rather than have less than perfectly trained people shoving pointy sticks at me.

Unfortunately both'push ' and 'point ' fighting are fairly boring for the MoPs after a while but combinations of both, with sword melees in between might enhance the crowds' enjoyment.



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Postby Foxe » Thu Apr 20, 2006 1:17 pm

m300572 wrote:The push as carried out by ECWS/SK adds a competitive edge to the battle which would not necessarily be got by training in the way suggested by Foxe - mainly because a lot of people wouldn't be trained sufficiently in the technique and more injuries would result than from the current set up - I know I would rather go in at 'push' rather than have less than perfectly trained people shoving pointy sticks at me.


This was always the principal argument before. At the end of the day it comes down to committment. On the face of it, 15thC bill fighting should be more dangerous than point of pike, but it isn't because a reasonable level of training prevails. If ECW units could put in a decent amount of training then point of pike fighting should be just as safe - the trouble is that most just won't put the effort in and prefer to carry on getting p*ssed and playing argy-bargy. Not a criticism, just an honest observation.

Unfortunately both'push ' and 'point ' fighting are fairly boring for the MoPs after a while but combinations of both, with sword melees in between might enhance the crowds' enjoyment.


Now there you've hit the nail on the head. Whether it's push, point, or a mix of both with sword thrown in, the public has a 15 minute attention span at best. As an infantryman (ret'd) I'm ashamed to say that it's bloody boring watching infantry fights. The artillery adds a much needed spectacle, and the cavalry* racing round keeps the public interested for longer, but even they don't solve the problems. What battles really NEED to make them more interesting is boats. And maybe Adamites.

*Oh ho, let's not get on to "authentic use of cavalry in battles"...


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Postby m300572 » Thu Apr 20, 2006 1:32 pm

What battles really NEED to make them more interesting is boats


I can see you using this to support your planning application for solving the SE water shortage by builing a huge reservoir over Kelmarsh - "And of course your honour we would use the reservoir for the historical re-enactment of naval battles!!"

Boats are fun - what we need is some proper fighting craft rather than having to build dry land gun decks and swash our buckles on cargo ships appropriated for the occasion (both at Whitehaven last year). Fancy coming a-pirating with PUBCATS in August Foxy - I think its at West Rhyll.



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Postby steve stanley » Thu Apr 20, 2006 2:44 pm

Nothing to do with pikes...but if we're talking boats,I'd REALLY like a late model S-Boat....goes on the lottery win list along with the Rolls-Royce Armoured Car...and the UH1C gunship.....
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Postby Foxe » Thu Apr 20, 2006 3:24 pm

m300572 wrote:I can see you using this to support your planning application for solving the SE water shortage by builing a huge reservoir over Kelmarsh - "And of course your honour we would use the reservoir for the historical re-enactment of naval battles!!"


What a fantastic idea! Since being asked to do "a re-enactment of the Battle of Trafalgar" on Bicester Rugby Club last year I've been looking for a way of doing inland naval combat...

Boats are fun - what we need is some proper fighting craft rather than having to build dry land gun decks and swash our buckles on cargo ships appropriated for the occasion (both at Whitehaven last year). Fancy coming a-pirating with PUBCATS in August Foxy - I think its at West Rhyll.

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Like this you mean? In 2002 I organised what I believe was the UK's first (and only) ship-to-ship boarding at a re-enactment event, using two 100ton ketches. More recently we've moved into cutting out parties (as pictured). I've got the ships and boats if you've got the transport money!

...and the swivel gun that mounts in the bow of my skiff is so much more fun than pikes (had to get back on topic somehow!)

Oh, and I know it's a long way, but if PUBCAT fancy coming down to Devon for May Day B/H you'd all be very welcome at the South West Pirate Festival.


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Postby m300572 » Thu Apr 20, 2006 4:47 pm

In 2002 I organised what I believe was the UK's first (and only) ship-to-ship boarding at a re-enactment event,


We (PUBCATS) have done it since with a dodgily made up trawler for one party and the Zebu as the boarded one - excellent fun and the MoPs love it - do you have someone telling pirate jokes at your events?

sadly on the May B/H we (in our original guise as Loudoun's Regt of Foote) are besieging Newark and its a three day trek to Morwellham for most of our people - get in touch with our organiser (or pm me) and we can get together at Rhyll in August.



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Postby steve stanley » Thu Apr 20, 2006 6:33 pm

Glad we're going to have some Loudon's at Newark....Crawford's need a Berserker Forlorn hope!
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Postby m300572 » Thu May 04, 2006 12:09 pm

Glad we're going to have some Loudon's at Newark....Crawford's need a Berserker Forlorn hope!


Did you like it Steve?? The big saltire had me at the end of it!! I particularly enjoyed (a) Major Rab being attacked by a pair of royalists and attempting to fight them off with a sword in one hand and a halberd in the other (b) one of our pikemen attempting to bodily carry off the commader of the royalist outworks (c) hot, freshly smoked salmon for lunch in the Loudoun's camp.

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Postby Steve Stocker » Thu May 04, 2006 1:21 pm

As an SK musketeer I got heartily sick of hearing the rubbish trawled up to justify wig-wam pike pushes - logic defeats all the arguments put up to defend them.
1) Pikes were at least 12ft and up to 18ft long, why hold them vertically in combat?
2) Pikes had a nasty metal point at the business end, why hold them vertically in combat?
3) Pikes were often tapered and counter-wieghted to make them easier to hold in a horizontal alignment, why hold them vertically in combat?

Finally - give two blocks of 300 men a real pike each and tell them to defeat or hold off the other block and cause as many injuries as possible. Stand back and see how the wig-wam gets on.

Out.


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Postby DomT » Thu May 04, 2006 1:43 pm

Only justification I've ever heard for vertical poles is as a defese against arrows....I'd really like to see that tried however.

But in hand to hand combat, I agree.


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Postby Nigel » Thu May 04, 2006 4:52 pm

wigwams are fun reason for doing them ends LOVED EM WHILE A PIKEMEN NOW VERY HYPOCRITICALLY THINK OMG DID I REALLY DO THAT. Now Iam a musketeer so it doesnt matter I get mu jollies elsewhwere

There is only one regiment I know of equipped with combat safe pikes ie metal headed the remainder still use wooden ones blunted to some degree. So its a safe compromise, also looking at some 16th century etchings of pike fighting a lot of the pikes are up in the air.

More later


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Postby steve stanley » Thu May 04, 2006 7:13 pm

Peter,
Yes,great fun...even if we did have a bit of trouble with "For Christ,Crown,and..errr..what is it?"..Rab did get a bit enthusiastic,didn't he?
In the U.S. for Newport,hopefully catch you later...
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Postby beerdragon » Tue Aug 22, 2006 6:26 pm

The most amusing boats to use would be world war 1 K Boats, steam powered submarines with a tendancy to sink. Admiral Fisher even said they had just too many damn holes, but hey they so look fun! :D


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Postby Foxe » Tue Aug 22, 2006 9:58 pm

It has long been a dream of mine to build a replica of a 17thC four man submarine, the designs for which I came across some years back. The principal problem with it was that it wouldn't work.

Maybe after I've finished the 16thC diving bell and the WWII Cockle.


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Postby m300572 » Wed Aug 23, 2006 3:15 pm

It has long been a dream of mine to build a replica of a 17thC four man submarine


This could be because you are, in fact, barking mad, even more so than most re-enactors. On the other hand it would be a hoot for pirate events!!!



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Postby Foxe » Wed Aug 23, 2006 6:05 pm

m300572 wrote:
It has long been a dream of mine to build a replica of a 17thC four man submarine


This could be because you are, in fact, barking mad, even more so than most re-enactors.


I didn't realise we'd met... :lol:

Principally, I must admit, it's the "that'd be a laugh" factor which makes me so keen. Oh no... I mean "experimental archaeology" that's it - I always get those two confused.

It's also the "experimental archaeology" idea which inspired me to recently start building a large swivel mounted crossbow (as found aboard some 15thC ships), and it has nothing to do with the fact that I want to see how far I can shoot a tennis ball.


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Postby m300572 » Thu Aug 24, 2006 12:09 pm

It's also the "experimental archaeology" idea which inspired me to recently start building a large swivel mounted crossbow (as found aboard some 15thC ships), and it has nothing to do with the fact that I want to see how far I can shoot a tennis ball.


Excellent! Can you fire onions from it as well? (we found that an onion makes an excellent shot for a small bore cannon - you peel off enough layers until its a perfect fit then shoot it into the midle of Loch Lomond! - conveniently the event was on Lomond shores). Next time we do an appropriately sited pirate event you are invited to bring it along to demonstrate!!!



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Postby Alan_F » Thu Aug 24, 2006 3:22 pm

Nigel wrote:So its a safe compromise, also looking at some 16th century etchings of pike fighting a lot of the pikes are up in the air.

More later


Nigel, my understand of it was that only the first - third ranks were actually engaged in using the point, the others held theirs at a 90 degree angle so as to be able to step into the breach if and when it occurs. It's basically the same techniques that I'm using with a schiltron.


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Postby Foxe » Thu Aug 24, 2006 5:21 pm

m300572 wrote:Excellent! Can you fire onions from it as well? (we found that an onion makes an excellent shot for a small bore cannon - you peel off enough layers until its a perfect fit then shoot it into the midle of Loch Lomond! - conveniently the event was on Lomond shores). Next time we do an appropriately sited pirate event you are invited to bring it along to demonstrate!!!


ONIONS! I hadn't even thought of that! Oh thankyou thankyou thankyou!


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Postby Dash » Thu Apr 12, 2007 3:17 pm

Hi

Its about time I chimed in.

Press is old, doesn't look right and doesn't feel right if you are really interested in presenting a reasonable version of pike combat.

I watched the SK on Saturday at Basing House this Easter - a battlefield the size of a postage stamp - could have made more use of the room available - which housed about 200 sk members.

There where four set of pike presses to be seen, the armies could not close quickly enough to allow the pike to do their stuff, so for 30 mins there was press after press after press..

Watch this 20 times ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCMIyY5gssk

And you will get the picture of the battle presented on the Saturday – I have heard the Sundays battle was better.

So what needs to change if you want to put on a display of 17th C combat is to change the ethos of the whole regiment, not just the pike.

Encourage them to present a "battle" using formations as per the drill books, firing by introduction, extroduction, gaining ground, losing ground etc..

This is in essences the 1st phase of a "battle/skirmish” much firing, lots for the commentator to talk about like why are we using these formations, the officers and their responsibilities, why are we firing by forlorn files.

An occasional casualty at this time is a must.

The formations begin to close, rate of fire increases, firing by ranks gaining ground, more casualties, King and the Cause!! Etc,

The formations are getting closer – time for a volley the 2 wings of shot could have fired by ranks gaining ground and have after all firing once have formed a “Horned Battle” so now you double the ranks to the center ( or to the left and right outwards ) prepare for a volley, prime the pike to get ready – their moment for which they have been training is at hand - a volley is fired!! Boom..

The drums sound the troop - the company start to advance , the drums sound the “battle” the pace quickens, the musket club and the pike charge – the colours retire to the center of the pike division - huzzar!!

The pike division advances – much shouting screaming the bringer uppers try to push on - the front ranks are hesitant to close - the pikes fail to contact…oh no the pikes divisions are retreating , both sides are retreating the officers are screaming to move on, but no – time to regain formation, prepare for another volley, both sides rush to get the 1st shot in, then crack ………both side fire - smoke engulfs the battlefield- the battle is sounded- the pike close, yes!! they fall on – screaming , shouting, - look one side is falling back!! Is the Battle won? LOST! – wounded try to get away, some do, some don’t – soldiers are fleeing from the back ranks - the slow retreat is turning into a rout. The Pike are standing fast – the colour are safe within the division – pikes thrust, parry , pikeman fall, the wounded scream --

The Battle is lost! Do they surrender? Do they die to man? -

Anyway – the ethos should change to putting on a damned good display using all the tools available, commentators, pike, muskets, a script?, what ever and enjoy the publics response to a display that entertained and hopefully enthralled the public. Knowing that they are doing more to present a better version of 17th C combat than the rest of the ECW re-enactment groups.

It can be done, has been done – but it needs planning and a commitment from all to get it right.

Ok – I’ll get me medication..

Take care

Dash
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Ps – we quite haven’t got there ourselves yet – but its our aim to do this to the best of our ability.



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Postby czartank » Mon Apr 16, 2007 9:16 pm

Dash,
Whilst your idea might work at a small event, I don't think it will ever spread across mass societies like ECWS and the SK.

The Beer and bash mentality is deeply entrenched in both societies for historical reasons: As we both know the attempt to impose point only fighting within ECWS had a near catastrophic effect on the numbers of pikemen in both armies, so much so, that it has been quietly dropped.

Being a pikeman authentically or theatrically (call it what you will) can be increadably boring; Standing around for 45 minutes or more simply to be allowed to take part in a slow stately advance (or retreat) at the end of the battle is not very emotionally satisfying: Every other arm can fill the time with activity, the pike can't- pushing gives that emotional release that makes going on the field worthwhile for the average pikey.

If the pike are not given something to get excited about, in the same way that shotte and artillery get excited by firing, they will stop turning up.

The problem is that seventeenth century warfare lies in an awkward halfway stage between the hand to hand combat of earlier periods and
the all- shot armies of later periods: In earlier periods everyone gets to get a bash (yes, this is a gross oversimplification), in the later periods everyone gets to shoot- everyone is happy.

In our period, the pike get to stand around.

If you were to try to start from scratch, you would face the problem that there are far more options for potential re-enactors than there used to be: many of these periods offer prettier uniforms, better guns and other attractions: Compared with these, standing in a field, holding a big stick, looking like a sack of potatoes, may not seem so attractive. You would therefore have fairly small societies and not be able to stage the sort of show that is desired.

I think there is room for both a well scripted scenario of the type you describe and push on the same battlefield: The former near the crowd line, the latter, further away to give the impression of intense combat.

After all, film makers simulate aerial dogfights by having lots of aircraft flying in circles in the back ground- whilst intricate aerobatics take place in the forground: If it works for them, why not for us?


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Postby WorkMonkey » Tue Apr 17, 2007 12:10 am

Why don't you just..y'know...fight with the pikes? That's more fun than running into each other....surely?


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Postby Tuppence » Tue Apr 17, 2007 12:25 am

Why don't you just..y'know...fight with the pikes? That's more fun than running into each other....surely?


because most of the pikes in question are basically large wooden skewers, which are some of the most dangerous things I've ever been near on a battlefield. Want to see a guy with a big stick through his cheek. No, neither did I.

The can be handled safely, but not in a hand to hand scenario.

Plus, they're like 16 foot long.

I think there is room for both a well scripted scenario of the type you describe and push on the same battlefield: The former near the crowd line, the latter, further away to give the impression of intense combat.


That's the kind of compromise you need - the beer and bash is indeed too entrenched for anythign else to work.

And I suspect the attempts to impose a way of doing things, combined with the huge swathe of other options that now abound, would go a good way to explaining the ever dwindling numbers of the ecws (can't say for the sk as never been a member).


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Postby Dash » Tue Apr 17, 2007 7:29 am

And I suspect the attempts to impose a way of doing things, combined with the huge swathe of other options that now abound, would go a good way to explaining the ever dwindling numbers of the ecws (can't say for the sk as never been a member).


Kings Army numbers have remained fairly constant for the last 4 years.

The impact of other periods has had a great impact on ECW re-enactment and they have lead the way and shown how naff ECW battles can be - ECW re-enactment needs to learn from these groups.

Thankfully the ECWS is going someway to my example above.. large army movements, don't close to quickly giving time and room for the cavalry and artillery to show their stuff.

Cheers

Dash


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Postby Gockee » Fri Jun 22, 2007 5:00 pm

I have to take issue with you, Steve Stanley.

Most push people get this wrong, plain and simple.

My experience was from the SK, in Bagot's. At one muster, Coughton Court, 1993ish(?) I had FOUR of my pike block of 17 pike 'medic'ed off in one afternoon during pike pushes. After the battle the pike had a vote. We all had to go to work on monday morning. We said 'Never again'

My authority for the following statements is that I did push for years before I did 'point only'. I was, in fact, regimental 'point' man before the SK abolished wedges. I have seen it from both sides.

In the following 9 years we went 'point only' We had exactly ZERO casualties among pike, and as far as I am aware, (and I made periodic checks because I heard this unsubtantiated crap occasionally,) we inflicted none either - medics confirmed. Moreover, Essex's, Tower Hamlets, Wentworth's, Owen's, Bard's and Northampton's all followed suit. I remebre one time when the allegation came up that point was more dangerous, I checked with thier regimental officers. No-one could be sure of any injuries over that period, but here's the thing, no-one could remember anyone needing to be 'medic'ed off since they started 'point only' either - at all!

So from 4 in one muster in one regiment we went to ZERO in 9 years in 7 regiments. How is that more dangerous?

I observed that where casulties did occur while doing point was in those regiments that tended to do push. In IMO, it was because they were badly trained, didn't drill, had little skill, (and in one case I saw was actually drunk. (I know, I saw him outside the beer tent before and he was drunk then!) and were often badly led by incompetent officers who only needed to know 3 commands, none of them authentic. ('Pack in', 'man down', 'reform on ...')

The other myth, that 'point' is boring is also not borne out by fact. How do you get 7 regiments to 'bore' themselves for 9 years until the SK heirarchy itself puts a stop to it? Truth is again quite simple. If you don't know what you are doing, aren't trained and have little skill, you get beaten against someone who has. THAT you find boring. Or maybe, if all you do is 'lean on' and treat it as a rest between pushes rather than actualy engage in point, you miss the point (no pun intended) so again find it boring.

On the contrary. We found it more exciting. for the first time we could work with the shot - properly, in formation. We could use skill, tactics and manoever (How much of that is there in a push?). We had trained, competent officers who knew how to achieve this.

What we did was a sort of fencing with the point of pikes, not totally authentic in the context of ECW, I admit, but there was a challenge, a sport and a contest, just as much as any point/edged weapon users re-enacting any other period on this site will eagerly tell you. Or maybe they find it boring as well?

There are pike and shot re-enactment groups all over the world. I have been priviledged to see some of them in action. (American, German, Dutch, Italian, Czech etc). NONE of them does 'Push', only those derived from SK roots. Why? because it simply looks self indulgent and daft, whatever false logic is presented to justify it.




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