Monday, 19 December 2011

IDC Lesson Plan 19/12/11

Today plan is really a continuation of last week's drill, with a little exercise on getting used to the 'feel of the bind' at the end, if people want to try their new steel toys.

10 mins to meet, greet and sort out kit.

10 mins to warm up. Gazza is welcome to run this.

5 mins to stretch, and discuss today's plans

10 minutes of 'dead' cutting, to get everyone warmed up and used to their training tools/moving like a sword fighter again. The rought plan is:

  • Cuts from above, right and left.
  • Cuts from below, right and left.
  • Thrusts from Ochs with a step forwards, recovering into Ochs.
  • Thrusts from Pflug, recovering into Pflug.
  • Zwerchaus, right and left, and then in combination.

Now that's over, we kit up and drill:

10 mins of last week's blocking/stringing together cuts drill. Again, taking it nice and slow to begin with (especially if using steel), and gradually increasing pressure.

5 mins After a while, focus more on making a cover while keeping the point on the other person. If needs be, we can being in the Scott Brown longsword flow drill of mathematical perfection.

5 mins to explain that we're ignoring doing 'hidden strikes' against the vorschlag for the moment, because we'll run through a liiitle drill. Partner up like weapon with like weapon and do the following until it's time to stop. At all points, switch roles and reset.

  • Agent comes in with a downwards cut, an oberhau.
  • Patient, in response, does a Zornhau.
  • If neither cut lands, then the person with the centre-line stabs the other in the face.
  • If the stabber fails, then the stabbed responds with an absetzen, displacing the oncoming thrust by moving into Ochs or Pflug.
  • If the absetzen failed, it's because the stabber either flinched into Kron, or did their own displacement. The stabbed can get past this with either Duplieren or Mutieren.

Tie this into sparring - Freeplay where entering range is limited to downwards diagonal cuts.

Michael S’s Lichtenauer Tradition Unarmoured Longsword Primer

So, I'm throwing this up, a Copy & Paste of a Google Document that's been languishing for six months or more, to illustrate a point over on the HEMA Alliance forums. Hopefully it'll be useful for you guys, although it's very much a work in progress, my own opinion, not reflective of the majority of Liechtenauer tradition sources, not bloody Meyer, just plain wrong etc. etc. It just reflects my understanding of the KdF. Give feedback please!

This document is an primer for the unarmoured longsword fighting tradition associated with a figure called Johannes Lichtenauer. The tradition refers to itself as the 'Kunst des Fechtens', the 'Art of Fighting/Fencing', although annoyingly there's also a group or two called that.

This is meant to be a reference text, to help IDC members when looking at the texts. It’s designed to supplement group work rather than replace it, so I’ve done by best to keep interpretation to a minimum.
Lichtenauer’s name is associated with a poem in Middle-High-German knows as the Zedel, meaning teachings, or markverse. These "secret and hidden words" were intentionally cryptic, probably to prevent the uninitiated from learning the techniques he presented; they also seem to have offered a system of mnemonic devices to those who did understand. This is similar to Fiore’s Flower of Battle, which is captioned in verse.

Lichtenauer’s Zedel was preserved by students and teachers, and we have copies of  it because subsequent individuals, such as Sigmund von Ein Ringeck, wrote glosses, passages expanding on the Lichtenauer zedel. The tradition lasted from the fourteenth century through to the age of print, with masters such as Meyer working within the Lichtenauer framework in the sixteenth century.

Ultimately the Lichtenauer tradition was superseded by Italian and Spanish rapier systems, as the longsword was replaced by the rapier in civilian contexts such as duelling, and the ‘pike and shot’ method of warfare came to dominate the battlefield with the military developments of the early modern period.
That said, there are differences between earlier and later examples of the Lichtenauer tradition. Some of them were used at a time when there were established fencing guilds in Europe, and play was limited to protect the opponents. For example Meyer downplays the role of thrusting, as it was limited in Guild activities.

Even in the same time period, Lichtenauer’s system was one amongst many - for example different longsword traditions survive in English poems, the treatise written by Fiore dei Liberi, the ‘Gladiatoria’ group of manuscripts and the ‘Nuremberg’ Group. Some, such as von Eyb’s fechtbuch, contain extracts from several traditions!

However, in order to avoid becoming too bogged down this document will stick to the earlier documents 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:

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

This is a very list of technical vocabulary, with a brief explanation of what I think they mean. It isn’t exhaustive, and it isn’t final. I’ve also standardized the spellings in a pretty arbitrary way. You have been warned!
Underlined terms are fundamental, ish.

Guards: These are generally referred to by hut or leger, meaning guard, position, stance, etc. and implying safety.

Four Primary Guards*
The main positions in the Lichtenauer’s tradition, called the ‘Vier Leger. All of these guards can be made with either foot forwards, and generally with the sword held on the same side of the body as the back foot:
  • Vom Tag - ‘From the Roof’. Several positions are described as being Vom Tag, ranging from the sword being on the shoulder to being held above the head. Comparable to Fiore’s Posta di Donna.
  • Ochs - ‘Ox’. A position in which the sword hangs with the point towards the opponent and the hilt held protecting the head. Comparable to Fiore’s Posta di Fenestre.
  • Alber - ‘Fool’. A position that seems to invite attack, with the sword held in from pointing to the floor.
  • Pflug - ‘Plough’. A position which the sword held at waist height, pointing towards the opponent.
  • Pictures of the Guards
The first four, taken from Codex 44.A.8, the ‘Peter von Danzig’ fechtbuch, dating from 1452. See

Secondary Guards
Other positions referred to in the early Lichtenauer tradition:
  • Kron - ‘Crown’. A position with the sword held high in front of the body, with the point not threatening the opponent. The cross is roughly turned parallel to the ground and perpendicular to the ‘center line’, the imaginary line between the two opponents. It is comparable to Fiore’s Posta Frontale/Corona Instabile.
  • Langenort - ‘Long Point’. A position with the sword extended and pointing towards the opponent, creating space between them and a threat. It is comparable to Fiore’s Posta Longa.**
  • Nebenhut - ‘Near Guard’. A position in which the sword is held close to the body, pointing away from the opponent.
  • Schranckhut - ‘Barrier Guard’. A position with the sword held in front of the body, pointing down to protect the side. Ringeck uses the transition between Schrankhut on the right and Schrankhut on the left to illustrate the mechanics of a Krumphau.
  • Pictures of the Guards
Some pictures of secondary guards, taken from Talhoffer’s Codex Icon 394a  fechtbuch, dating from 1467. See

Words for Injuring People:

General Cuts
These are the basic terms that are used to describe cuts:
  • Uberhau – used to describe a cut made downwards, and strongly favoured in the tradition. Comparable to Fiore’s colpi fendenti.
  • Unterhau – used to describe a cut made upwards.
  • Mittelhau – used to describe a horizontal cut made across the ‘middle’. Comparable to Fiore’s colpi mezani.
Master Cuts
These are a group of terms used to describe five ‘secret’, ‘hidden’ or ‘master’ cuts that are at the core of the Lichtenauer tradition. Four of the five are Verstzen, strikes which can be used to attack or disrupt one of the Vier Leger. All of them can be used to regain the initiative as single time counters to specific attacks (regain the Vor when done Indes).
  • Zornhau – ‘Wrathful Cut’. A strong downwards diagonal cut that can displace an opponent’s uberhau.
  • Krumphau - ‘Crooked Cut’. A cut somewhat perpendicular to the ‘center-line’, which from the right hand side is performed with crossed hands. It can be used to engage the opponent’s blade, or cut to their hands, and involves springing out to side. It can be used to attack or disrupt an opponent in one of the Vier Legen (versetzen), in this case ‘breaking’ an opponent in Ochs.
  • 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.
  • Schielhau - ‘Squinting Cut’. A vertical cut using the short/false-edge when made from the right, and the long/true-edge when made from the left, ending in a position similar to Pflug. It is one of the Vier Versetzen, breaking Pflug by displacing thrusts from below. Like the Zwerchau, the Schielhau uses the thumb underneath the blade.
  • Scheitelhau - ‘Parting Cut’. A vertical cut strike to the upper body of the opponent, made with the hands held high. It can be used to versetzen, breaking Alber through the principle of Uberlauffen.

Ways of Wounding
These are more general terms used for ways to injure people, and some specific technique names.
  • Drei Wunder – ‘Three Wounders’. Three basic ways of injuring an opponent, and a deliberate play on ‘Three Wonders’. They’re thrusting, slicing or striking, and each may be performed from each of the Acht Winden [Eight Windings].
  • Hewe or Hau – ‘Hew’, as in to strike or chop.
  • Stosse & Stich  – ‘Thrust’ and ‘Stab’.
  • Snete & Schnitt – ‘Cut’ and ‘Slice’.
  • Drucken – ‘Press’, as in pressing the sword against the opponent.
  • Streiche – ‘Slash’ or ‘Strike’, which J. Norwood compares to Fiore’s colpi sottanni.

Techniques for Wounding
Well, this is sword fighting, so there are plenty of ways to injure someone...
  • Abschneiden – ‘Cutting off’. Slicing the opponent with the edge of the sword by placing the edge against the body of the opponent and then pushing or pulling the blade.
  • Absetzen - ‘Setting Aside’, deflecting a cut or thrust while at the same time keeping the point online to thrust into the opponent.
  • Ansetzen – ‘Setting Upon’, thrusting as a Nachreisen.
  • Versetzen - ‘’, strikes which can be used to attack or disrupt one of the Vier Leger.
  • Hende Trucken - ‘Hand Pressing’, slicing an opponent’s hands when they attack from above, and keeping pressure and winding against them.
  • Durchlaufen - ‘Running Through’, coming inside the normal reach of the opponent, normally to engage in grappling techniques.
  • Ringen Am Schwert - ‘Wrestling at the sword’.

Binding and Winding
Techniques and terminology for when the two combatants weapons and touching.
  • Binden - ‘Binding’. When the two longswords make contact in such a way that they stay together, for example when one Zornahau meets another.
  • Winden - ‘Winding’. Moving a weapon in the bind so as to affect the geometry and leverage in that moment, for exactly moving from Lang-ort to Ochs when a thrust is displaced.
  • Fulen - ‘Feeling’. The presence of the opponent’s sword in the bind, whether they are structurally supporting their blade or not, how much pressure they are transmitting through it and so on.
  • Sprechsfenster - ‘Speaking-window’. To me, the period in which it is possible to guage the Fulen of the opponents sword, all though it could refer to a specific technique in some contexts.
  • Duplieren - ‘Doubling’. Following up a displaced attack by moving your blade behind your opponent’s in the bind, if they displace hard. Done in the indes.
  • Mutieren - ‘Mutating’. Following up a displaced attack by winding your blade over the opponent’s to thrust to their hips, legs and abdomen, if they displace softly in the bind. Done in the indes.
  • Abnehmen - ‘Removing’ Taking your sword away from the opponent’s in the bind, presumably to put it back on the other side.
  • Durchwechseln - ‘Changing Through’.  From the bind, taking your blade underneath the opponents to come up on the inside.  Used against a hard displacement.
  • Zucken - ‘Twitching’.  Pulling back your sword to thrust, usually to the other side of the opponent’s blade or to another opening.  Compared to Durchwechseln, Zucken is used when the opponent’s blade is more vertical (like Kron) wheras Durchswechseln works better when his blade is more horizontal (like Langenort).


These are various ideas and technical terms used in the Lichtenauer tradition. I’ve tried to give a rough idea of what I understand them to mean, and I’ve divided them up by into arbitrary categories.
Distances and Timing
The Lichtenauer tradition didn’t have a modern understanding of mechanics, and instead worked in an Aristotelian framework for how objects interact.
  • Zufechten – ‘To the fighting’. The period when the two opponents are coming to close.
  • Krieg - ‘War’. The period when the two opponents have closed, when Winden and Ringen am Schwert happen.
  • Abzug – ‘Withdrawal’. The period when you get out of the fight.
  • Vor - ‘Before’. Both in the sense of acting before the opponent, and of having the initiative (which Lichtenauer strongly recommends.)
  • Indes - ‘In the moment’.
  • Nach - ‘After’. Both in the sense of acting after the opponent, and of having lost the initiative and so been forced to react to what they are doing.
  • Vorschlag - ‘First Strike’. The first attack, with which you enter from Zufechten to Krieg. It can be a very powerful blow, as in the zufechten it is safe to chamber the blow.
  • Nachschlag - ‘After Strike’. An attack made in the Nach. The attack that follows if the opponent counters the Vorschlag.
  • Nachreisen - ‘Traveling After’. Using timing to regain the initiative, attacking your opponent when he isn’t ready.
  • Uberlaufen – ‘Over running’. The principle that a higher attack out-reaches a lower attack, because of geometry.

Parts of the Sword
Hangen. Ringen am Schwert

Here’s an index of the terms used in the glossary, with references to where they’re used in the text.

Footnotes (aka Pete's comments on the origional document):
*Fairly important point – they're “THE Four Guards” because they're best positions to approach in in the Zufechten – note the hands are all back out of snipining range, and theirs an obvious direct threat from out.  The others are more for use in the Krieg (Kron, Einhorn, Langenort) or very much secondary choices (nebenhut, schrankhut) which seem to be favoured for melees.
**Note various points in manuals where you're told to shoot the point forwards from langenort – KdF's interpretation is not a full extension of hands and sword, but bent at the elbows for strength in the bind.

Monday, 12 December 2011

12/12/11 Lesson Plan

No session last week, on account of a Carol Service in the space we use. We won a pub quiz instead. Go team!

Now, the plan for tonight's session is as follows.

20mins Meet, greet, warm-up, stretch. Ask Gazza if he wants to lead this?

15mins Everyone get as much kit as possible. Practice cuts 'dead', including:
10x Diagonal cuts down from the right shoulder
Diagonal cuts down from the left shoulder
Diagonal cuts up from both sides with the back edge.
Diagonal cuts up from both sides with the front edge.
(Possibly, depending on experience levels - Krumphaus from the dominant side, zwerchaus)

10mins Pair up. In super-slow motion, one person (the Agent) approaches the other (the Patient) from out of distance. The Agent goes for a strike or stab - trying to go slowly, if not telegraph. The Patient has lots of time to consider their options, footwork etc. and then make a cover or a counter.

5mins Now the Agent doesn't stop after one cut, but rather keeps on striking, using all the cuts we ran through earlier. Again, the Patient has time to sonsciously think about stance, feet, weight and blade engagement.

For both these steps, we're running at very low intensity. Winning isn't the point here. Don't rob your partner.

15 mins 'Flurry of blows'/Covering drill, part 1:
Start very well out of distance. Say, four metres apart or more.
both enter range, the Agent entering with a cut. The Agent continues to throw out cuts on different lines until they leave range again, so at least three cuts. Abzug and all that jazz.
The Patient parries/counters, and continues to try to not be cut. Countering with your point 'on-line' is optimal, but not if you try and achieve that at the expense of being struck with a gurt big sharp sword. This drill is designed to pressure test what was going on in the previous drill.
After the Agent has left the fight, reset to very-much-out-of-range and start again, swapping patient and agent.

10 mins 'Flurry of blows'/Covering drill, part 2:
As before. Except that now the Patient tries to get a counter-cut in as the Agent does the vorschlag, ie. a zwerchau, a zornhau, a schielhau. You get the idea.
BUT The Patiest also has to cover themselves from the incoming cuts. As before, they're trying not to get struck by a longsword here.

That's the main bit of drilling. After that, people are welcome to spar, and I'd like to do one-to-one work with lots of people. In no particular order:
Any first time attendees.
Jamie - Say, on introducing closing and grappling into longsword fights, if he's ready for that.
JP - Any questions, see how his fighting is getting along. Ask him to teach me something!
Dan - Any questions, see how his fighting is getting along.
Ben - Catch up, any questions, see how his fighting is getting along. Having spoken to him, give him positive mind-rays until he feels healthier.

Now, let's see how it goes.
Have a funky looking walrus by Albrecht 'I sketch fechtbuchs' Dürer... 
Edit: Well, that went more or less to plan, more of less on time. An all-right turn out, given the weather, but a few faces missing. A couple of new ones too, who did great. Any feedback guys?

Oh, and there WILL be a session next Monday (the 19th).

Saturday, 3 December 2011

How to do ‘not too bad’ in a sword fight: 2. How to cover yourself.

How to do ‘not too bad’ in a sword fight: 2. How to cover yourself.

The last post in this series was looking at the earlier surviving evidence from the longsword fighting tradition associated with Liechtenauer, the Kunst des Fechtens. This post will do the same. However, where the last post was cherry-picking evidence about 'how to cut and thrust', this post will concern itself with 'how to cover yourself'. Simples? Then let's get on with it...

First up, let's start with good old MS 3227a. Now, the anonymous description of the fundamentals of combat, before the gloss itself, contains gems of wisdom such as:
'For in this righteous fencing do not make wide or ungainly parries or fence in large movements by which people restrict themselves.' - 14r
'Many Masters of play fighting say that they themselves have thought out a new art of fencing that they improve from day to day. But I would like to see one who could think up a fencing move or a strike which does not come from Liechtenauer’s art. Often they want to alter or give a new name to a technique, all out of their own heads and think up wide reaching fencing and parries and often make two or three strikes when one would be enough or stepping through and thrust, and for this they receive praise from the ignorant. With their bad parries and wide fencing they try to look dangerous with wide and long strikes that are slow and with these they perform strikes that miss and create openings in themselves.' - 14r-v
Now, I don't want to jump the gun here. But I think that it's reasonable to say that the anonymous author behind this seems to value covers with are tight; - from which it's possible to step through and stab someone in the face as easily as possible.

Another point which is emphasised in this 'fundamentals of combat' is that you should keep moving. This applies to covers too - it's not good to defend yourself and then stop and see what your opponent does next:
'When you fence with another, then in this you are well taught, and remain fast in movement, and do not tarry when he starts to fence with you.
Then make without limit and end that which is skillfull. Be quick and steady without faltering, at once so that he cannot strike. That is fortunate and he will be hurt, when he cannot strike away, as the other cannot part without being beaten. And after the teaching that is here described, I say truly, that the other cannot defend without danger. If you have understood this he will not come to strikes.' - 17v

Now, some people have interpreted this as saying that you should attack, attack and attack again. Personally, I don't think so. Instead, I believe that it is emphasising the importance of siezing the initiative in a fight, not hesitating and letting your opponent dictate how you act. In fact Hans Talhoffer (the anonymous blogger) has pointed out that it might mean that an opponent is dangerous when defending!

The other point it's worth making before we get onto the gloss is that the evidence so far supports 'Be Efficient' and 'Stab him in the face', even when making covers.

Moving onto the core Zedel, or Epitome of the art, and this Gloss, the subject of making covers first comes up in the section concerning the Zornhau:
'And also know that from two strikes alone come all other strikes that are possible to name: these are the upper strike and the lower strike from both sides. [Mike's note: That is to say rising and descending cuts, from the right and from the left hand sides. I tend to bastard-gerlish them as 'oberhau-s' and 'unterhau-s'.] These are the main strikes and form the foundation for all other strikes. They are in themselves basic and come from the point of the sword, which is the centre and core of all other pieces that is well described to you. And from these strikes come the four displacements from each side with which all strikes or thrusts are broken and also all guards, and from them you come into the four hangings and from these one can do fine art as you will hear later. No matter how you fence always aim the point at the opponent’s face or breast, then he will always have to worry that you will be faster since you will have a shorter way to go in to him than he has to you.' - 24v-r

Congradulations, we now have the hanging guards - Ochs and Pflug, on the left and the right hand sides. Now, where was that picture?
Picture? Singular? Why, I made a whole album of them!

Oh, and for the sake of completeness, that section carries on with:
'And if it happens that the opponent wins the first strike then you must be sure, precise and quick in the turning and as soon as you have turned in to him you shall move at once with speed and your point should always desire his breast and turn and seek its way there as you shall hear later on. And as soon as the opponent binds your sword then your point should not be more than half an ell [30-40cm] from the opponent’s breast or face. You shall be careful and note if you can get in behind and always go the nearest way and never too wide, so that the opponent does not come before you in case you hesitated and again find yourself to be left hanging or that you defended too weakly or defended too wide and with too much force.' - 24v
The next real mention of how to cover yourself (apart from using the hidden strikes), comes a fair bit later in the text:
'This is regarding the four displacements
There are four displacements that also hurt the guards seriously.[...]
Glossa. Note here that there are four displacements to both sides, to each side one above and one below. They break all guards, and no matter how you set aside a strike or thrust from above or from below, this can well be called a displacement. If he displaces you, then no matter how he does it, leave (his sword) and strike quickly at him. If it happens that you displace the opponent’s strike or thrust, then you should at once step in and follow at the sword so that he cannot move away from you. And if the other does the same when you are hanging again and gather yourself, then you will get hurt. You should also turn well and always aim your point at his breast so that he must consider this.' - 32v

In other words, you should displace the opponent's thrust or cut, keeping your own sword pointing at the other guy, and step into the incoming attack. Normally this involves adopting one of the hanging guards. From the 'Ringeck' gloss:

Or, from the 'Pseudo-Peter von Danzig' gloss:

Read those images. I won't bother to copy them out again.

Now, onto the other glosses to see what they have to say. We'll start with the 'Pseudo-Pete von Danzig' gloss since that tab is open. Folio references are to Codex 44.A.8:
'There are four hangings, the Ox above on both sides, these are the upper two hangings, and the plough below on both sides, these are the lower two hangings. From the four hangings you shall deploy eight windings, four from the Ox and four from the Plough, and you shall deploy these very eight windings, so consider and judge that you shall deploy the three wisdoms from every winding, that is one strike, one stab, and one slice.' - 37v

It then goes on to describe the various windings from each of the hanging guards.
The 'Ringeck' gloss, on the other hand, has this to add (folio references are to MS Dresden C 487):
'Mark, that which is called "After".
Mark, that if you cannot come in the "Before", wait for the "After". This will defeat all techniques that he does against you. When he comes at you so that you must defend yourself against him, so work deftly "in the Instant" with your defence against his nearest opening, so strike him before he can finish his technique. Thus you win the "Before" and he is left in the "After". You shall also know how you can use "the Instant" against his "weak" and "strong" parts of the sword.' 15v-16r
'These are the four displacements, which obstruct or break the four guards.
The displacements are four,
that also greatly trouble the four guards.
Beware, for to defend,
it becomes very difficult for you. [...]
And beware of all displacements, when they are used by poor fencers. When he cuts, strike also, and when he thrusts, you thrust too. And how you shall strike and thrust, that you will find described for the five cuts and in this section.' 34v-35r

Now, in conclusion it's probably worth spelling out that the sources I've quoted and used reflect how the author(s) imagine their art, their Kunst des Fechtens, rather than 'common fencing'. But then again it's better to have lost the initiative with a wild parry than to have been struck by a sword...