Monday, 10 October 2011

10/10/11 Zwerchau again Lesson Plan

So, I think that last week's lesson went quite well, but this week people might still be a little bruised and battered from Saturday. So, we'll crack on with the task at hand - practising and integrating what we've already learnt, drip-feeding in more concepts and techniques, and generally getting better at this whole sword fighting thing. Generally speaking, we're going to be working with the same kind of drill as last week, but this time focusing on the Zwerchau, the dastardly displacing crooked cut into Ochs.

This is a Zwerchau. From MS Germ.Quart.2020 , folio 22r
Want more notes on it from the surviving documentary evidence? Go read this post.

10mins of faffing about. - As with last week's plan, I’m resigned to the idea that there’ll be a period at the beginning of every session sorting out kit, getting water, meeting and greeting and all that stuff.

15mins warm up and stretch. A good ten minute warm up of jogging, sprinting, lunges, walking like Doctor Zoidberg, wrestling steps and so on, depending on my mood. If people are feeling lazy or low on energy, then we're going to warm up harder. What would them Svedes do? Five minutes of stretching after, introducing what we’re going to do this class.

5 mins of everyone going for water and kit. Exactly what it says on the tin. They'll need a sword like object and at least a mask between two, but preferably a mask each.

5-10 mins. Begin the drill. 'Who here knows what a Zwerchau is, and feels that they can comfortably do one?'. Use this to divide the class into experienced and inexperienced people, so we can partner them up against each-other, at least to begin with. Then divide the class so each pair is across the hall. At this stage (side A) just walks up to them and without breaking pace cuts a zornhau and then recovers into Ochs on the left hand side from Langort. Then they reset. After a few tries, swap sides. This is to get people into a sword-y mood, and get them thinking about cutting and recovering. I can wonder around and observe.

5-10mins. Next step. Keeping the same partners, they now thrust up from Pflug, stab their partner in the face or chest, and then recover into Ochs. Simples. Swap sides and so on.

At this stage, if anyone has any questions about structure or footwork or hand positions or wrist positions, I should be addressing them. Ask about it.
5-10 mins. Still sticking with the same partners. Side B, that is to say our previous crash dummies, now walk up and try and deliver a Zornhau to Side A. Side A responds with a thrust from Pflug into Ochs (and their face). Oh look, some kind of displacing going on. Swap sides and so on.

10-15mins. The final bit in this stage of the drill. Side B flounces up with a Zornhau, being as confident as they were in the beginning. Side A is in Vom Tag, and they respond by doing exactly what they did before - thrusting into Ochs, displacing and simultaneously killing. Congradulations, you can has a hidden strike. Swap ends. Then swap partners by rotating around clockwise 1d10 steps. Make sure that everyone can do it comfortably, by having them zwerchau me.

If by this stage everyone can do a Zwechau in isolation then HURRAH! LESSON GOAL ACHIEVED!

By this stage we might be as far as half-way through the available time. Now, there's a whole bloody bucketful of potential plays and directions that we can take from here, just as we did last week. Don't believe me? Somewhere I have a bunch of sketched out decision trees. Here's one of some plays from Ringeck (IIRC):
One day we'll all understand this. One day I'll be able to do it under pressure.
Instead of worrying about all that we can take baby steps depending on the mood and how we feel If people are really up for learning more conceptual/technique stuff, read this next section here. Otherwise, skip ahead to the next bit of italicised text.
Here are some options from the point of view of the zwerchauer. That's a word I just made up. Liechtenauer was a zwerchauer. Anyway:

  • If the zwerchau lands with a cut, protecting yourself, congratulations, you win.
  • If the zornhau lands with its cut, congradu-well-done, you lose.

Now, they're the two basic conditions, however there's a whole bunch of stuff which could happen in between, like

  • The zwerchau succeeded in covering you, but it came up short and you ended up with the point on-line with his throat, but not there yet.

Well, there's an obvious solution. Step forwards, stay covered, stab him in the throat. Kind of like a zorn-ort under the same conditions. Hell, there might be a system here somewhere.
But what, about this situation?

  • The zwerchau succeeded in covering you, but the other guy is putting in lots of pressure and trying to push my point off-line. I won't be able to just stab him in the throat.

Well, you've got two options here, depending on how much pressure he's putting in. This is where that whole being able to read the bind thing comes in. For example you can release the pressure and be soft where he is being strong, by leaving the bind and re-engaging, for example with any of the plays we did last week to cover this situation. Abnehmen, Durchwechseln and Zucken - to use the jargon. Hell, there might be a system here somewhere.
Otherwise though, otherwise you could do a duplieren. What's a duplieren? It's a technique which releases the pressure in the bind to attack behind their blade. It's kind of awesome when it works. We covered it back in... February.

At this point, this isn't really a class plan, just a bunch of reminders saying 'You've got the beginning of a drill, you know what to do from here Mike, go run with it on the spot.'

Want more plays from it? Go watch:

Because all this stuff is really not the point. It's giving you options from the position depending on the pressures of the fight. It's not integrating the Zwerchau into people's plays. It's not a gradient between drills and sparring. It's me indulging sword-fighting-geekiness. Instead:

10-15mins. Swap partners by rotating a position clockwise. Now, mix it up, make it less dead. Either person can enter with an attack, so for example Side A can enter with a Zornhau, while Side B could enter with a Zwerchau.

10-15mins. Swap partners by rotating a position clockwise. Now, mix it up, make it less dead. Either person can either zornhau or zwerchau, no set defenders.

5 mins. End of session thanks, question and answer etc. Let people who want to spar spar.

How'd it go?
All right, ish. To be honest, I was running out of steam at the beginning of the session and absences meant that to begin with the drills were dead and un-useful. We did manage to have everyone doing Zwerchaus in isolation by the end of the class though; and I was impressed by how Dan was doing after a quick one-to-one session working on getting comfortable with Ochs.
For me though the highlight was playing with single-handers against Andy and Jakob. Now, I know nothing about rapier, sidesword or sabre combat. They're just bloody fun to play with. Unfortunately Matt took some footage, so I can see how lazy my footwork was.
Fortunately though, someone also caught Matt and Graham in free-play. You can see it at if that'll work. Looking at it briefly, I thing that Graham needs a bit more confidence reacting to the bind - at the moment it looks as though he's freezing up after contact rather than trying to seize the initiative. On the bright side he's doing the right things - clearing the centre-line, winding his point on and, well, actually trying to incorporate the session into freeplay. Another point is footwork - when Graham's stepping, I think that he's being too linear - I think that I didn't emphasise the need to step forwards and out to the side with the Zwerchau.
Matt's looking good, with neat footwork and lots of attempts to make use of the space by circling. Especially impressive for a man who walks with a cane! I like how he's providing a threat almost all the time, and willing to disengage from the bind at the right times. On the other hand, I think that there are a few times when he didn't commit to entering the fight with a Zornhau, but instead just waved a sword in Graham's direction. Really though, that's a minor quibble - especially if he doesn't feel that comfortable in the bind yet. It might be worth running through pflug, ochs and the cone of protection shabaz with him again.

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