Sunday, 27 March 2011

Class plan for 28/3/11

Okay, so I'm liable to be a bit rushed tomorrow. Fortunately, here's a hypothetical class plan that someone else once made:

Warming Up:

  1. I’m pretty sure I wrote something about footwork drills.  Here are a few suggestions relevant to the topic of the rest of this class, but use whatever warm ups and stretches work for you:
  • While jogging, swing your arms in circles with straight arms (i.e. shoulder warm up) in time with running - so arms point down as you land with the left foot etc.  Coordinating arms and legs is a useful skill, whether in wrestling or swordplay.
  • Similarly, skipping while jumping as high as possible and reaching up with the rising hand.  You should feel like you’re really exerting yourself with this.  You should also feel ridiculous.
  • Include some side-to-sides, possibly in wrestling stance (i.e. low), and stepping outside/inside with hips turning.  I hope you understand what I mean.  I’m going to cover some material where changing the line is important.
  • Hip opening/closing.  The “Stoeppler Tai Chi” drill.  It’s all about the knee-hip opening and closing, and the chest one, and keeping legs bent enough to notice.

10 mins
  1. Warming up with cuts.  I like it, you like it, we heard a rumour Axel likes it.  Also that he warms up by chopping down a telegraph pole with his leather dussack, and doing handstand pressups on the tips of two sharp arming swords, but we’re going to start light and work our way up.  Next week - cutting down garden canes with Del Tins and doing elevated leg jumping pushups on basketballs.  Wait, those sound like good drills and this was meant to be a joke...

Idea for useful variations:
  • air cutting while walking along (e.g. zornhau from right to langort/sprechfenster, recover up to vom Tag on the left, zornhau from left...) with *drumroll* a panel of critics.  Get a pal or two to watch, then give feedback.  Then have one of them do it.  With a few groups, you will have room and time to do it with a decent number of reps before you walk into something, and time to get feedback.  Try to work out a way to switch partners/groups regularly.  Focus on getting movements smooth, cutting effectively, and keeping posture and balance.
  • Alternately zorning and covering with an upper hanger.  Almost like doing singlestick :P

10 mins
From here, move into...


Well, the plan is to build up a sequence/play based around the bind resulting from meeting a Zornhau with a Zwerchau, to Introduce the techniques, Isolate them to allow some proficiency within a set play, and Integrate them a little in the context of a “sensible” flow of techniques.  Ideally, it’s one we can recognize in Lichtenauer, although even as a study of what this bind could result in, it’s very incomplete as a set of techniques.  For reasons of comprehension, we’ll assume the Patient is a man and the Agent a woman.  Make sure both partners swap and let the other person practice each technique/role.  Switch partners from time to time too, even if it means starting at the beginning.

There’s quite a bit of material, so I hope I’m not being too ambitious for one session.
  1. So, we start with precept one of the Lichtenauer system - killing people.  Patient waits in vom Tag.  The Agent will approach from zufechten distance, close and kill him with a Zornhau as soon she’s in distance to connect, without breaking up her footwork too unduly.  I don’t really care if you shuffle in with small gathered steps then leap into the Vorschlag, or do the KdF Approved Technique of lots of natural, small passing steps that just stroll past someone as you give them a new centre parting.
  2. Precept two - acting Indes.  As the Agent strikes her Zornhau, the Patient now strikes a Zwerchau to counter it.  The idea is for the Patient to be able to pull the technique off against a real threat.  The Agent shouldn’t help him too much - if her Zornhau is weak or out of distance or off target, the Patient ain’t gonna learn much.  Make every technique alive, and try to complete it.  It’s your opponent’s job to stop you, WITHOUT preempting you and “cheating” the drill.
  3. Now add another element - winding.  If the Patient’s Zwerchau doesn’t hit his opponent, he can wind against her blade and secure a thrust.  For this, the Agent may have to deliberately go weak on the bind to help.
  4. Next step - Abnehmen.  The Agent will strongly resist the wind, and the Patient will use the energy he is given to Zwerch around her blade and hit her on the other side of her head to the one he was previously targetting.
  5. Next variation - Mutieren v play 3.  As the Patient tries to wind up, the Agent will fall over his blade to thrust at his lower opening.  The Fuhlen in 4-6 is pretty important here, and so we’re going to show a reasonable spread of options by allowing
  6. A last technique - Nachreisen v the Abnehmen in 4.  As the Patient comes off the bind to strike to the other side, the Agent will either thrust to the face or Zwerch to the (default: Agent’s Right/Patient’s Left) upper opening, which covers the Agent as well as hurting the Patient.

This means we now have a situation where depending on the pressures of the bind, trying to run through the drill will result in:
  1. The Patient being hit with a Zornhau
  2. The Agent being hit with a Zwerch
  3. The Agent being hit with a winding thrust
  4. The Patient being hit with a mutiered thrust
  5. The Agent being hit by a Zwerch to the other side
  6. The Patient being hit by a Zwerch under the one he was trying to connect with.

Hopefully, the timing involved will become obvious if each move is done with intent.  Try to dissuade use of a hangen-and-schnappen or durchlaufen as a “solution” to the bind.  It sort of works, but it’s too easy a distraction.

I’d be happy if a group could get the complete play set working in 40 minutes.  That’s probably optimistic.  Make sure you switch partners regularly to help offset boredom.  That gives you an hourish of material before allowing freeplay.

Final Point: Not really a lesson plan, but I’ve noticed that other MA classes I do use a quick few minutes of stretching out afterwards, with it’s attendant not doing much and sitting in a circle, as a chance to get messages out.  Also, shaking hands with EVERYONE in class afterwards.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Class Plan for 21/3/11

So, some of you may have notices a lack of posts analysing out training after sessions. To make it worse, I'm not sure if I'm going to have time to come up with a proper lesson plan on the blog this week. It's not lack of love for HEMA, just University getting in the way. It's approaching the end of term, so I've been battling a lot of deadlines and group work, all of which drag me away from hitting people with swords.

Last week's session was a bit of a step back from the week before, partly because I was teaching a new technique rather than just drilling, and partly because energy just wasn't there. I don't know if it was my lesson's pacing or just a lack of drive by that point on a Monday.

Rough outline for today:
Warm ups, stretches.

Using swords as focus mitts, getting people warmed up and in the mindset for longsword work.
Speaking Window drill.
[Start switching between the two every thirty seconds or so, and swapping partners every minute, as they don't rely on kit]

Practice cuts - 20 Zornhaus from the right, 20 Zornhaus from the left. 20 Zorn-Orts from the side that the person is most comfortable from. 20 Zwerches to the right. 20 Zwerches to the left.

Teach people how to infinity cut/figure of eight cut/ribbon cut.

Something like the drill Jon did at the open day. Person 1 attacks, person 2 defends. Unfortunately this needs everyone to have kit. Also, realistically, only three people can do it in the space at a time. So I'm tempted to say that those with kit get priority.

  • Person 1 cuts oberhaus to either side without stepping. Person 2 tries to statically block without moving.
  • Person 1 cuts oberhaus to either side and can step. Person 2 tries to displace them without moving.
  • Person 1 cuts oberhaus to either side and can step. Person 2 tries to displace them or catch Person 1 with a thrust. Things are now a hell of a lot more cagey.
Circle of Death with Longswords - Using spare swords or whatever is to hand, make a 4 ft wide circle. One person is in the circle, the other outside. For three attacks, the person inside can only defend. After that, they are able to counter. First person to die loses. Need to be fully kitted up.

No idea whether this will work or not, but to be honest these 'no teaching, only learning' drill sessions depend a hell of a lot on who shows up and what mood they are in.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Class Plan 14/3/11

Today's plan is to introduce a second meisterhau to everyone. Yeah, I know that I said that I would focus on drilling for a bit rather than theory, and that is still the plan, but hopefully the 'learning' in this is drill-centred enough that people can move at their own pace.

Warm up:
Circle of Doom. Try using the whole space, and mixing in stretches like last time. Introduce Spring Right and Spring left. 10 mins.


  • Ladder drill. Swords out on the floor to produce rungs. Steps, then two steps forwards, one step back. Add in circling around gloves on the way back. 7 mins.
  • Then Ringen dance drills. 2 mins.
  • Then Pillar of Doom. First normally, then weaving between gloves. Then weaving between gloves and against an outstretched sword. 10 mins.

Paired Drills:

  • Quarters drill from last week. One person adopts a guard. The other person cuts to the open area. 2 mins.
  • One person changes between the four hangers. The other person cuts to the openning as it forms. 2 mins.
  • One person changes between the four hangers. The other person cuts to the openning as it forms. As they cut, the first person displaces the incoming blow. 5 mins.

Now, information time.

  • Introduce the Zwerchau - the Crossed/Athwart Strike:
  • One of the five master-strikes. Already covered the Zornhau (Wrathful Strike).
  • Takes away that which comes from the roof.
  • Single time counter.
  • Essentially a change from Vom Tag to Ochs, displacing a oberhau as it cuts.

Show it being done. Discuss how you do it. 

  • Bring the sword in front of the body, roatating it around its centre of balance.
  • Then lift up with your hands into Ochs, supporting the blade with your thumb.
  • If cutting into left ochs, you should land the cut with the false edge.
  • Step out to the side too.


  • Hands up and infront, covering the head, even when you are changing between blows.
  • With a leap it will hit the head.
  • Can be used from zufechten as a vorschlag.

Get everyone to attempt it against me.
5 mins.

Paired drills (isolating the technique):

  • Get everyone practicing it. If they look bored/able to do it. Begin to introduce responces to counters:
  • You can run through and wrestle.
  • Immediately follow up with a zwerchau to the other side as a durchwelschen.
  • You can strike it to Ochs and to Pflug (so at the opponent's upper and lower openning).
  • If they respond hard, you can duplieren behind their blade.
  • If they respond hard, you can hook their wrists with your pommel as part of a schnappen.
  • If they respond weak, you can schnick them to the neck.

10 mins.

Second to Last Paired Drill:
Two people begin in distance in Vom Tag. Only cuts allowed are Zwerchau, Zornhau  and a thrust. No stepping back. Closely supervise it. (Get Johann to supervise a second pair?) 10 mins.

Last Paired Drill (Incorporate the Technique):
Both people start out of distance in Vom Tag. Only cuts allowed: Zornhau, Zwerchau. No steps backwards. Closely supervise it (Get Johann to supervise a second pair?) 15 mins.

Free sparring.

There's the lesson plan. I might be able to get a video camera if I go up to campus soon. Failing that, it should hopefully be a decent mix of a new technique and drills. Thoughts?

Notes on the Zwerchau

From the Primer:

  • Zwerchau
  • - ‘Athwart Cut’. A cut made roughly parallel to the ground with the hilt held high, using the short/false-edge when made from the right, and the long/true-edge when made from the left, and ending in a position similar to Ochs. It can be used as a versetzen, breaking Vom Tag by displacing cuts from above and cutting into the opening on the other side of their head. The Zwerchau uses the thumb under the blade in order to support it and give stability to the cut. When done from the right, it requires supination of the right forearm.
From Goliath, 22r, the Zwerchau against an oberhau:
To the face!

Dobringer 27r-28r:
This is on the cross strike [Twerehaw]
The cross strike [Twere] takes away what
comes from the roof, do the cross strike
[Twere] with the strong and note your work.
Cross strike [Twere] to the plough [P?uge]
and follow hard to the ox [Ochsen] he who
do the cross strike [Tweret] well with a
leap will hit the head. He who lead the
feint/error [Veller] , hits from below as
he wish, [Vorkerer] forces, runs through
[Durchlawfer] and wrestles [Ringet] take
the elbow with skill, jump him in the scale.
Glossa. Note and know that from the whole
sword no strike is as good, ready and strong
as the cross strike [Twerhaw]. And it goes
across to both sides using both edges the
foremost and the rearmost at all openings
below and above. And all that comes from
the roof [Dem tage], that is the upper strike
[Oberhaw] or what comes from above and
goes down, that the cross strike [Twerhaw]
will break and defends against for you if
you do the cross strike [Twerhaw] well, or
if you cast the sword aslant in front of the
head on whichever side you wish, just as
you do when you want to get into the hang-
ings [Hengen] or the turning [Winden]. In
the cross strike [Twerhaw] you turn the ?at
sides of the sword, one up and one down
with the point horizontal, one [edge] to the
right and one to the left side. And it is good
to bind the opponent’s sword with this cross
strike [Twerhaw]. When this has happened
then the other can come away with dif?-
culty and he will then be struck on both
sides with the cross strike [Twerhaw]. So
when you make a cross strike [Twerhaw],
regardless of the side or if it is high or low,
you will go up with the sword with your
hand turned and the cross guard in front
of your head so that you are well guarded
and covered. You shall do the cross strike
[Twerhaw] with a certain amount of power.
And when you must ?ght for your neck [i.e.
for your life] , then you shall use the earlier
described teachings and seek and win the first strike
[Vorschlag] with a good cross strike [Twere-
haw]. When you go against another, then as
soon as you think that you can reach him,
with a step or leap, explode with a cross
strike [Twerehaw] from high on the right
side using the back edge straight at the
head. And you shall let the point shoot out
and move across well so that you drive the
point well and turn [Winde] or tightens it
around the opponent’s head like a belt. So
that when you do a cross strike [Twerehaw]
with a good step or leap out to the side,
it is impossible for the opponent to pro-
tect himself or turn away. And when you
thus win the first strike [Vorschlag] with
the cross strike [Twerhaw] at one side, then
regardless if you hit or miss, you shall at
once and without delay win the after strike
[Nachschlag] with the cross strike [Twer-
haw] to the other side using the forward
edge before the other can collect himself
and come to blows or other techniques ac-
cording to the afore described teachings.
And you shall cross strike [Twern] to both
sides, to the ox [Ochs] and to the plough
[P?ug] that is to the upper and the lower
opening, from one side to the other, above
and below continuously and without any
interruptions so that you are in constant
motion and the opponent can not come to
blows. And each time that you do a cross
strike [Twerhaw] above or below, then you
do it well and throw the sword across above,
well in front of your head so that you are well covered.
From the Glasgow Fechtbuch:

Ringeck 27r-29r
Do the Zwerchau with these techniques.
The Zwerchau takes away
that which comes from above.
The Zwerchau counters all strikes that cut down from above.
When he cuts in from above against your head, spring with the right
foot against him away from the cut, out to his left side. And as you
spring turn your sword  with the hilt high in front of your head, so that
your thumb comes under  and cut him with the short edge against his left side.
So you catch his strike with your hilt and strike him in the head.
A technique from the Zwerchau.
Zwerch with the "strong";mark well your work with this.
This is how you shall work with the "strong" from the Zwerchau.
When you cut against him with the Zwerchau, think that you shall
strike powerfully with the sword's "strong" against his. Hold him thus
strongly in the bind then cut with crossed arms behind his sword blade,
from above against the head, or cut him with the sword to the face.
Another technique from the Zwerchau.
When you bind against his sword with the Zwerchau, if he is weak in
the bind, so lay the short edge against the right side of his neck and
spring with the right foot behind his left; and pull him over it with the
He who Zwerches well
with a spring, places the head in danger.
That is to say, that in all of your Zwerchau strikes you shall take a
proper spring out to the side where you want to strike him. So you can
strike him well in the head. And see to it in the spring that you are
properly protected from above with your hilt above and in front of your
Can anyone guess on the lesson plan for tomorrow?

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

It's all a bit Academic

Jeffrey Hull recently posted over at HEMA Alliance's forums that:
It seems to me that the lack of any substantial dedicated fight-book materials for the large High Medieval triangular shields has simply to do with timing.
The vast majority of fighting manuscripts started appearing after 1400 - thus well-after the era of common usage of those things.  By then, the high nobility had taken to full plate armouring, with only those little cavalry targes to be seen (cf. Gladiatoria versions circa 1425-50).  Otherwise it tended either to be bucklers or pavises.
That's a perfectly good explanation as to why not much 'heater-shield HEMA' goes on. But let's turn the question on its head...

Why is it that most fighting manuscripts appear after when heater shields were used? 
Codex Manesse, a book of romance and chivalry from c. 1304-40
Was it because there were changes in society? Did the type of people writing things down change or after the black death were different groups taking part in structured martial activities? Was it because the nature of warfare and combat changed; with the new technologies encouraging martial systems to be recorded? Was it because the type of people involved in combat wanted to show their intellect as well as their prowess?

This is a bit too much of a derailment to be brought up on HEMA Alliance in this embryonic form, but to me these are questions that the HEMA community needs to explore, especially if we want to engage with academics and institutions. Sure, they may not affect sword-swinging too much, but I feel that if you're not asking 'Why am I learning to swing this sword in this way?' then you're not trying hard enough.
Codex Gladiatoria, an illustrated guide to breaking another person from the 1430s.
For example we know from the archaeological record shows a different distribution of trauma at Visby then at Towton. To my mind, this strongly implies a difference in the mechanics of the two different battles. Furthermore, in the century between these two combats, documents about the mechanics of individual combat popped up from Portugal to Poland, from Italy to England. What was the relationship between these two connected developments?

Sod it, that's my dissertation fodder. Back to this essay.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

7/3/11 Training

Sorry about this guys, but:

I'm pretty broken and Uni work is being a pain. Please leave your feedback though, and I've got a whole tone of videos for you courtesy of Jakob, which I put up in the last post. Today's  footage:
Gary vs. Tom

Pete vs. Mike

Pete vs. Mike 2

And a brief couple of points of self-criticism; - my sparring sucked, I was leaving my hands out there far too much and letting Pete have the initiative. My footwork was pretty dire, and I can't put on an arm-bar.

I will endeavor to improve.

More videos from 28/2/11

Last Week (28/2/11), I wanted to spar everybody. I think that I pretty much did. This week, Jakob got me footage of that:
Tom vs. Ben

Tom vs. Ben 2

Mike vs. Jakob and Mike vs. Dave

Mike vs. Dave 2

Ben vs. Mike

Tom vs. Mike

Tash vs. Mike

Cat vs. Mike

Jakob vs. Ben

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Class plan for 7/3/11

I'm just going to lay this out there right now, I intend to have the next session be focussed on one thing...

Warm up. - Circle of Doom! Jogging, with called changes in direction, jumps, lunge-steps. 10 mins.

Stretch. - 3 mins.

Footwork Group Drills:
  • Weaving around gloves on the floor, followed by circling around them, followed by circling around them and air-cutting while doing so. 5 mins.
  • Pillar of Doom! Explain about cutting with the sword leading, to cover yourself. Eveyone jogs the length of the hall, cuts at me as I stand there holding a sword out straight in front of me. Displace my sword, or get stabbed. Sprint back to the beginning of the queue. 5 mins.
  • Group drill. - Pillar of Doom! Mk. II! Same as before, but instead of jogging up, you have to circle around gloves on the floor as before. 5 mins.

Paired Drills:
  • Peek-a-boo Drill. - One person wears a mask and holds a sword as their waist, as if half-swording. When they lift it cover their head, the other person cuts it, as if doing pad-work. Nothing could be simpler. Then add in aliveness as if sparring. 5 mins.
  • Jon's Covered Cutting Paired Drill. - Attacker in vom Tag, defender in Pflug. As the attacker begins their zornhhau the defender may thrust (carefully! Masks! Gorgets!). If attacker is cutting with cover and with the correct sequence of movement then they should avoid the thrust. Important that attacker focuses on delivering a committed cut rather than planning ahead to parry the thrust. Sword should lead followed by hands followed by body and feet (at speed this combines into one motion). When it gets boring, you aren't using your feet enough. 10 mins.
  • Jon's Tempo Paired Drill. - Each person takes up any guard. One person attacks with any attack to an opening in the opponent's guard. Once they are familiar with openings in each guard they attack as the opponent CHANGES guard. Again looking for an opening. People are often vulnerable when moving between guards. This drill practises exploiting that and moving in mezza tempo in general. 10 mins.
  • Bill Carew's Paired Drill. - The attacker starts in any guard, the defender in Pflug or Ochs. The attack strikes at any opening in the opponent's guard. The defender transitions to a different hanger and displaces the attack. The defender tries to keep his point online. 10 mins.
  • Bill Carew's Paired Drill Mk. II - The same as above, except that the roles are reversed after every four passes. 10 mins. 

After this, FREE SESSION. But I want to:
  • Run through some dagger stuff with Frodo again if he's there.
  • Take Ben and do a 'from a ringen grip, practise footwork/feeling.
  • Five minutes of rolling with Pete, followed by squats, followed by SPARRING TO THE DEATH. Loser has a hand and a foot cut off for committing perjury/buys the other a pint. Let's keep this stuff historical, you know?
  • Jakob would like to chat to the more advanced fencers for five minutes.
  • Propose an official Iron Door Collective consensus decision to use IDC funds to buy Jakob a beer for the above.
Notes: To yeah, hopefully there's nothing here conceptually that I haven't mentioned in the last month, just practice, practice and a warm up. There isn't very much speaking-window or hangen-and-schnapped going on. This is just to train the most basic attributes. Have fun, y'all.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

28/2/11 Training

Okay, this is going to be brief, disjointed and bad, partly because I'm pretty busy at the moment, and partly because Monday's session co-incided with a friend's birthday, there was vodka, and the session is now a little bit fuzzy in my memory...

First up, attendance. Off the top of my head, there were seven people who trained before, three who were brand new really, Glorious Former Leader Johann and myself. Looking at it in terms of class structure, I'd break it down into about half the people being 'new', and half 'experienced'. What's more, a dozen people is really the upper boundary of the size of the space that we're training in.

Pretty much went through the drills as planned. People had a habit of starting the drills but cutting in, thus leading to trying to work with the wrong stimuli etc., and I tried to correct that were I saw it. Jakob had picked up on how 'theoretical' class had been, and made some good points. Good on him for not only thinking of it, but also telling me these things!

The warm-up laps of doom seemed to go down quite well, and also enforce the idea that we were there to train, but the 'intense' sparring for me didn't. I don't know if it was against the wrong people (some of the time I found it turning into free-play with the less experienced members), we weren't changing things around enough, or that the lack of kit was causing too many gaps. In any case, I wasn't really out of breath at the end of the thirty minutes or so it actually took, and I found myself doing quick sprints to stay warmed up. My sparring certainly sucked, just watch the above video.

Maybe it was just that I left my fightin' shorts in the washing machine.

I did play with a dagger with Frodo, who I'd briefly run through some Fiore dagger with outside of class, after that. It went quite well, but I think Jon's old point of 'If I'm unarmed, you have a knife, and you start doing the monkey-knife-fighting-dance, then I'm just going to run away' really held true. Still, it was fun to roll.

Plan for next week - Drills, drills, drills and drills. Stolen drills. Situation drills. Sticky swords drills. Footwork drills. MOAR DRILLS CAP'N

But if you guys could leave feedback, that would really help. Especially given the rest of Monday evening...