Thursday, 29 September 2011

Test cutting

Spent the last couple of days test cutting while Pete's still down, using a loaned Albion Regent. Look it up. It's pretty. Over-all, I'm amazed at how much the experience has made me immediately aware of how much I have yet to learn in HEMA as a martial art - this is something that the documentary evidence says very little at and which I would really like to improve at.

In any case, here's some contrasting compilations:
from last night; and from tonight:

It's a step forwards. A tiny, tiny baby step, but progress none the less. I think that the biggest difference is that before I was trying to strike the target and impart momentum to it in the strike (and boy did they go flying), while tonight I was at least partly attempting to cut through the target with it interfering as little as possible.

But looking at the front on footage, my footwork's terrible! Something to work on, and hopefully something that'll pay off in sparring...

Pete's heading back to London tomorrow morning, so there will be a bit of a lull in the HEMA-centricism of my life for a few days until things settle down again. It'll be a shame to see him off, since he's been a brilliant training partner and a good class leader. Also, I'll miss his shiny new video camera...

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

26/09/11 Training - Zwerch, zwerch baby.

Tonight I had the rather enjoyable experience of being able to partake in a class, rather than leading it. Instead I bullied Pete into running the show with a class on the Zwerchau, one of the top-secret German master move things.

Personally, I enjoyed it. The warm up and stretching in particular was above and beyond the call of duty, but seemed to have done the job. From a reviewer's point of view, the content of the class was something that I was already pretty familiar with, both theoretically and in terms of his interpretation. Partly because we'd already run through it.

In terms of leading the class though, I figure that I set him a difficult job - too small a space, a mixed bag of training tools and kit, and experience levels all over the place, from Andy's first HEMA lesson (about which I'm feeling a bit guilty), to guys for whom this is all old hat. I thought that Pete made a good go at it - perhaps he could have broken things down a bit more, and perhaps he could have worked on positive re-enforcement, but by the end of the class everyone in it seemed to have learned something and I had relative new-comers wanting to get into really interesting and positive conversations about the techniques in it.

At the end we were able to spar a bit, which was nice.
And by nice, I mean that I ended up lying on the floor, underneath him, eating pommel to the face. Like normal.
Pete and I really need to work on staying on our feet...

But yeah, any other reviews from less biased people? Like Ben and Johann?

Unless the lesson plan is super top secret then I'll post it up when I have Pete's permission (the lazy git has gone to bed), and for those that are interested then all my notes on the Zwerchau can be found at from March.

Notes for now though - I need to work on the Zwerch again next week. I need to look into alternative training venues.

For those of you who missed it before, or who can't be bothered to find their email, or whose personal computers recently exploded, here's me copying out the bulk of the last big email I sent out:

Hey guys,
I had a few questions last night, about sources, equipment and so on. This is my attempts to answer them:

For the German Longsword stuff, I tend stick to the earlier manuscript sources (in the Lichtenauer tradition), as I believe that they provide a relatively clear, coherent and effective martial art between them. The main ones we’ll be working with are (prepare for copied and pasted technical stuff):

MS 3227a - Nicknamed the ‘Dobringer’ text, and implies that Lichtenauer was alive when it was composed. That said, the work survives in a much later ‘housebook’, a collection of interesting things copied out of personal interest. A translation of the text is available from

Codex 44.A.8 - Nicknamed the ‘von Danzig’ text, Codex 44.A.8 is a compilation of different fencing manuscripts in the Lichtenauer tradition, dating from 1452. It has two pictures at the beginning, one showing Lichtenauer in the traditional pose of a medieval craft-master, and the other depicting the four guards. It contains an anonymous gloss of Lichtenauer’s Zedel, that is repeated in near-contemporary and subsequent fechtbuchs, such as Cod.I.6.4°.3 (Codex Lew - 1450s) and MS M.I.29 (Codex Speyer - 1491). A translation of some of the text is available from

MS Dresden C 487 - A fechtbuch containing a gloss of Lichtenauer’s markverse attributed to ‘Sigmund von Ein Ringeck’, dating to the early sixteenth century, but probably composed in the 1440s or ‘50s. A translation is available from

Yes, it's mostly technical gobbledee-gook and no pretty pictures. To help remedy this, I began working on a glossary/primer back when we shifted from Fiore to Lichtenauer many moons ago. You can find it at

If you're desperate for pretty pictures, there are also some associated with Paulus Kal from the same period, available online at that illustrate some of the system. And yes Matt, they're shown standing in quite high stances! In later sources fencers are often shown deeper (

If you like reading material, then that should cover it for this week... ;)

At the moment, your best bet is to ask someone who has been a member of the club for a while, although there's a great big list of HEMA-related equipment online at - I'd recommend getting protective gear before getting a sword like object, but I understand the temptation to buy something to swing first!

Generally speaking though, the training tools we use are Knight's Shop Dave Rawlings Line Synthetic Waster Sparring Swords. AKA plastic toy swords. You can find them online at
In terms of gloves, the bare minimum that I would recommend are a pair of cheap Men's Lacrosse gloves (most of us use Warrior Tempo Elite ones, although they seem to be out of stock or production). Your best bet is uklacrosse on this side of the pond:
When it comes to masks, you have a basic choice between 'white' bib and 'black' bib. Netwon ratings refer to the puncture-resistance of the material of the bib, not the mask itself. The most cheap and cheerful one that I can recommend at the moment is the the Leon Paul club sabre mask -

Congrats on making it through the wall of text. Have an unrelated webcomic:

Now, I need to go and grab some sleep. I've got a busy day tomorrow, and hopefully some short notice test-cutting in the evening...

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

19/09/11 Training - stabbing him in the face.

As normal, a quick place holder until I get around to writing something up properly.
The content of the class was very similar to last week - bind mechanics and entering the fight. The big difference was that rather than hitting the other guy with your sword, it was centred on stabbing them in the face...

Another good turn out - this week there were the same recent faces, and as well as a few more chaps. Some of who apparently know my brother from years back. Small world. The only down side to this that we're running out of space and loaner kit - I'll have a scout around Exeter again to look for alternative venues.

Everyone seemed to get something out of it and enjoy themselves, but I'm beginning to feel that I can start bringing in different drills, now we've got the absolute basics down.

And now, because no blog post is complete without a distracting picture to break up the wall of text, have something completely unrelated:

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

12/11/11 Training - Longsword 101

This post is mainly a place holder until I have some time...
Edit: Now being edited by a very tired Mike, being fuelled by Red Fang, courtesy of Johann.

The IDC session was split into two groups - one, mostly of regulars, had a play with the sabre material that they've been looking at lately. The other, a mix of new and old faces, were subjected to a class on my current, temporary and probably incorrect interpretation of the Zornhau. A zornhau is essentially the fancy name for what is essentially a gurt big cut. I mean, erm, 'When you are angry and raging, then no strike is as ready as this upper strike [Oberhaw] struck from the shoulder at the opponent'. Yeees.
For more information on the Zornhau I'd recommend taking a gander at the old post, Just Hurry Up and Hit Them With Your Sword.  

Ran a session introducing fighting with a longsword, the main point of which was to get across that yes, there is a system underlying all of this, we're not just wailing on each other with glorified sticks. Interesting mix of previous backgrounds and time spent in HEMA - hopefully everyone was able to get something out of it. Lesson plan (Don't judge me! This was for personal reference and saves me having to type it all out) was something like:
The doodle is terrifically important. It adds gravitas.
The warmups were covered by Johann in the end, which I'm perfectly okay with. 

although, of course, no plans survive contact with the enemy. It ended up taking up almost all of the two hours we had available. I'm okay with this, for this kind of lesson and the intended audience that it had. People did seem to improve over the session, from JP's footwork to Bruce's willingness to actually hit the other guy with his sword. 'Crazy arse Zwerchau' is a technical term, from the manuscripts.

I need to send various emails when I have time - Links to sources, links to equipment, the IDC logo to JP, etc.  This has been done. Now, for something a bit more wordy...

To break it down, I guess it ended up being something like:
A downwards, diagonal cut as the most natural aggressive motion.
Letting people get a feel for what we're up to, and also used to moving in a fight-like manner, yet being watched over. This means hitting eachother on their masks. Tangent: I'm completely in favour of absolute new people being allowed to swing at eachother in a monitored and controlled (but as natural and like-a-real-fencing-as-possible) enviroment. How else are you meant to learn if they're safe, what they need to work on, how to go about changing their behaviour in a fight etc? Ooooh, controversial. Artifacts etc.
Refine that from a mechanical point of view a bit. Already, we're playing with some of the principles behind a fight as well - vorschlag, nachreisen, tempo, initiative, other zufecthen type stuff. To be honest, I don't think that I can teach that material in a coherent way right now, it's something that I'll keep focusing drills on.

Introduced the same cut as a response against the first cut. Explained the possible outcomes, depending on who does it better from a structural point of view. Again, letting people have a play with it in the same manner.

After that though, I think that I made the mistake of trying to explain yielding to strong pressure before I did zorn-ort/just stabbing him in the face. Je ne sais pas. But options wise, that was 'Your opponent wins with his first cut', 'You win with your counter-cut' possibilities covered. 'Opponent overbearing in the bind' partially covered in terms of abnehmen, zucken and other disengages (but leaving out duplieren), and 'You end up in a structurally good position in the bind'.

Finally, I introduced the concept of displacement/absetzen, on the ground that it's pretty important. It also meant that we got to play with Ochs and Pflug. Which meant that 'Opponent ends up in a structurally good position in the bind' was covered a bit too. Hell, you could make flow-charts out of this, bro.

Which is a lot of material introduced. From there the session was mostly just trying to train and incorporate that. I've promised a session next week on similar stuff, and I intend to deliver. I think we'll need to cover the same ground again, especially since we've had a fair bit of interest from people in giving HEMA and IDC a try. Which is nice! This time I might focus on displacement a bit more, and perhaps bring in the zwerchau if it happens naturally and people are doing well with the material so far.

The feedback that I've had so far has been, well, very good. This makes me happy, and also sets a target for next week. Especially if we have even more people, which of course might begin to make space and kit an issue, although it wasn't really this week with a group of seven using half the hall.

I need to lay my hands on a camera to record some of this stuff...

As always, feedback and C&C are more than welcome.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

World's Quickest Update

I didn't manage to make last Monday's practice, and there weren't any other meetings in the park this week on account of the lovely English autumn. Looking forwards to Monday's session though, in the dry and the warm.

Feedback to the last post has been general agreement, but with no real commitment to training.

Finally, awesome engravings are awesome: