© 2016 by MASHS.  Created with Wix.com

LONGSWORD RESOURCES

A CURRICULUM for the GERMAN LONGSWORD

and OTHER COMPANION WEAPONS

PREFACE: 

This curriculum is based on the manuscript of 14th century German Master Johannes Liechtenauer, as interpreted in the commentary by Sigmund Ringeck, and embodied in the books Secrets of German Medieval Swordsmanship and Fighting with the German Longsword, both by Christian Tobler.

 

The curriculum is designed to be progressive and cumulative, so that each lesson builds upon the previous one.  Novice level includes Lessons 1 through 8 and Advanced level includes Lessons 9 through 15.

 

LESSON 1.  THEORETICAL BASIS:

Goal/Milestone:  Understanding the basic theory of Longsword play and learning Larry’s four “cardinal rules” of longsword (see below)

  • Merkeverse of Lichtenauer, the commentary by Ringeck, and the interpretation by Christian Tobler.

  • Fluidity in motion: footwork, transitioning through the guards and the three wounders.

  • Concepts of the Before and the After (Vor und Nach).

  • The art of wounding:  Cutting with Oberhau, Mittelhau, and Unterhau; Thrusting; Slicing with Oberschnitt and Unterschnitt

  • Working from engagement, or the bind; the concepts of hard and soft.

  • Close quarter combat.

  • Hierarchy of defense.

           1.  Attack before your opponent.

2.  Void the attack and counter-attack in time.

3.  Deflect the attack and immediately counter-attack.

4.  Static parry and immediately counter-attack.

5.  Void the attack without counter-attack.

6.  Static parry with flat or edge without counter-attack.

  • Larry’s four “cardinal rules” for longsword:

1.   If your sword is on your right side, lead with the left leg; and if your sword is on left side, lead with your right leg.  Conversely, which    ever your lead leg, make sure your sword is on the opposite side of your body.

2.   As much as possible keep your sword in between your opponent’s sword and your body.

3.   As much as possible, keep the edge or tip of your sword threatening your opponent.

4.   In moving, do not cross your feet.

 

LESSON 2.  MOVEMENT:

Goal/Milestone:  Developing the ability to move with fluidity and stability in multiple directions.

  • The stance.

  • Learning the principal footwork of passing steps, slope pace, gathering steps, compass steps. 

  • Learning the additional steps of transverse and change steps. 

  • Concepts regarding distance and measure.

  • Concepts regarding timing and tempo.

 

LESSON 3.  THE FOUR PRIMARY GUARDS (Vier Leger):

Goal/Milestone:  Practicing the four primary guards until they become second nature, and understanding their tactical applications. 

  • Holding the sword.

  • Vom Tag (from the roof)

  • Ochs (ox),

  • Pflug (plow)

  • Alber (fools)

 

LESSON 4.  THE SECONDARY GUARDS:

Goal/Milestone:  Practicing the four secondary guards until they become second nature, and understanding their tactical applications. 

  • Langenort (long point)

  • Schranckhut (barrier guard)

  • Nebenhut (near guard, aka tail guard)

  • Kron (the Crown)

 

LESSON 5.  THE THREE WOUNDERS:

Goal/Milestones:  Learning how to wound with cutting, thrusting, and slicing actions; and understanding the tactical applications of each.  Developing the ability to move from defensive actions into attacks, while maintaining balance and fluidness in motion. 

  • Understanding the four openings.

  • Cutting Oberhau, Mittelhau, and Uberhau.

  • Thrusting with the Sword

  • Slicing with the Sword 

 

LESSON 6.  INITIATIVE:

Goal/Milestones: Understanding how to gain the initiative and regain it if you loose it.

  • Vor, Nach and Indes

  • The concept of Fuhlen.

 

LESSON 7.  DEFENDING WITH ATTACKS:

Goal/Milestones:  Learning how to defend and counterattack in the same action. 

  • Defenses from the right side.

  • Defenses from the left side.

 

LESSON 8.  THE FIVE MEISTERHAU (Master Strokes):

Goal/Milestone:  Learning how to execute all five of the Meisterhau and understanding the tactical applications of each strike. 

  • Zornhau (strike of wrath)

  • Krumphau (crooked strike)

  • Zwerchhau (cross strike)

  • Schielhau (squinting strike)

  • Scheitelhau (parting or scalp strike)

 

LESSON 9.  THE SPRECHFENSTER (Speaking Window):

Goal/Milestone:  Learning fuhlen with langenort, and learning to probe without contact with your opponent’s blade.

  • Sprechfenster at the Sword

  • Sprechfenster Disengaged

 

LESSON 10.  THE EIGHT WINDINGS (Winden Techniques):

Goal/Milestone:  Learning to fight off the bind, using the two hangers (high and low).

  • The windings from right ochs.

  • The windings from left ochs.

  • The windings form left pflug.

  • The windings from right pflug.

  • The three wounders and the eight windings.

 

LESSON 11.  WRESTLING:

Goal/Milestone:  Learning the various unarmed combat techniques and their application to longsword.

  • Principles of medieval wrestling.

  • The three wrestlings at the sword.

 

LESSON 12. ARMOURED COMBAT AND THE HALF-SWORD:

Goal/Milestone:  Learning to fight with the longsword in close measure.

  • The half-sword guards.

  • Thrusting with the half-sword.

  • Wrestling at the half-sword.

  • Grabbing the sword.

  • Disarming techniques.

  • Pommel strikes.

 

LESSON 13.  THE SPEAR:

Goal/Milestone:  Learning the use of the spear.

  • The three guards.

  • Thrusting with the spear.

  • Winding at the spear.

 

LESSON 14.  THE DAGGER:

Goal/Milstone:  Learning the use of the dagger

 

LESSON 15.  SWORD AND BUCKLER (See the separate curriclum on this page):

Goal/Milestone:  Learning to fight with the single sword and buckler.

DRILLS for USE in the TRAINING of the GERMAN LONGSWORD

and OTHER COMPANION WEAPONS

PREFACE:  The following drills are to be considered foundational. Over time, other variations of these drills, as well as new drills, will be added.  These drills come from a variety of sources.  Many were developed by MASHS instructors.  Others come from Christian Tobler’s book Fighting with the German Longsword, and are credited as such.  Drills from other sources are also credited.  Unless noted otherwise, all drills are with weapons.

 

NOTE:  For two-person drills the Agent is the one who initiates the action (the attacker), and the Patient is the one who responds to the action (the defender).  During training sessions, the solo drills will be performed in a group.  Away from training, the solo drills can be done individually.

 

LESSON 2:  MOVEMENT

DRILL 1:  FOOTWORK, LINEAR MOVEMENT, SOLO, WITHOUT WEAPONS

  1. Participants are set in lines facing the instructor, in the proper stance with left leg forward.  At the instructor’s count, and at a moderate pace, the participants take passing steps forward until impeded.  Participants turn.  Repeat at the instructor’s discretion.  Variation: Increase the pace between repetitions.

  2. At the instructor’s count, and at a moderate pace, the participants take passing steps backward until impeded.  Participants turn.  Repeat at the instructor’s discretion.  Variation: Increase the pace between repetitions.

  3. Participants begin with the left leg lead.  At the instructor’s count, the participants take gathering steps forward until impeded.  Participants turn and take a right leg lead.  Upon the instructor’s count, the participants take gathering steps forward until impeded.  Repeat at the instructor’s discretion.  Variation: Increase the pace between repetitions.

  4. Repeat No. 3 gathering backwards.

 

DRILL 2:  FOOTWORK, MOVING OFF LINE, SOLO, WITHOUT WEAPONS

  1. Participants are set in lines facing the instructor, in the proper stance with left leg forward.  At the instructor’s first count, the participants take a slope pace forward and to the right.  At the instructor’s second count, the participants recover back to their starting stance.  Repeat at the instructor’s discretion.  Variation: Increase the pace between repetitions.

  2. Participants face the instructor, in the proper stance with right leg forward.  At the instructor’s first count, the participants take a slope step forward and to the left.  At the instructor’s second count, the participants recover back to their starting stance.  Repeat at the instructor’s discretion.  Variation: Increase the pace between repetitions.

  3. Participants face the instructor, in the proper stance with left leg forward.  At the instructor’s first count, the participants take a slope step backwards and to the right.  At the instructor’s second count, the participants recover forward to their starting stance.  Repeat at the instructor’s discretion.  Variation: Increase the pace between repetitions.

  4. Participants face the instructor, in the proper stance with right leg forward.  At the instructor’s first count, the participants take a slope step backwards and to the left.  At the instructor’s second count, the participants recover forward to their starting stance.  Repeat at the instructor’s discretion.  Variation: increase the pace between repetitions.

  5. Participants face the instructor, in the proper stance with left leg forward.  At the instructor’s first count, the line takes a compass step forward with the right foot, pivoting on the left foot.  At the instructor’s second count, the participants recover back to their starting stance.  Repeat at the instructor’s discretion.  Variation 1:  Switching to right leg lead, participants will compass forward by stepping with the left foot while pivoting on the right. Variation 2: Increase the pace between repetitions.

  6. Participants face the instructor, in the proper stance with left leg forward.  At the instructor’s first count, the line takes a compass step backward and to the left, pivoting on the left foot.  At the instructor’s second count, the participants recover back to their starting stance.  Repeat at the instructor’s discretion.  Variation 1:  Switching to right leg lead, participants will compass backward by stepping with the left foot while pivoting on the right. Variation 2: Increase the pace between repetitions.

  7. Participants face the instructor, in the proper stance with left leg forward.  At the instructor’s first count, participants take a transverse step to the right.  At the instructor’s second count participants take a transverse step to the left.  Variation: Increase the pace between repetitions.

  8. Repeat No. 7, however at the start of each count, the participants do a change step before each transverse step.  Variation: Increase the pace between repetitions.

LESSON 3:  THE PRIMARY GUARDS

DRILL 1:  THE GUARDS, SOLO

  1. Participants are set in lines facing the instructor, in right Vom Tag.  At the instructor’s count, the participants take passing steps forward, alternating from left Vom Tag to right Vom Tag.  Repeat at the instructor’s discretion.  Variation 1: Increase the pace between repetitions.  Variation 2: Repeat stepping backwards.

  2. Participants are set in lines facing the instructor, in right Ochs.  At the instructor’s count, the participants take passing steps forward, alternating from left Ochs to right Ochs.  Repeat at the instructor’s discretion.  Variation 1: Increase the pace between repetitions.  Variation 2: Repeat stepping backwards.

  3. Participants are set in lines facing the instructor, in right Pflug.  At the instructor’s count, the participants take passing steps forward, alternating from left Pflus to right Pflug.  Repeat at the instructor’s discretion.  Variation 1: Increase the pace between repetitions.  Variation 2: Repeat stepping backwards.

 

DRILL 2:  CHANGING GUARDS, FOOTWORK FIRST, SOLO

  1. Participants are set in lines facing the instructor, in right Ochs. The instructor calls out passing steps or changes in weight distribution. Participants determine what guard to shift to based on the footwork.

  2. Weight forward, shift to Pflug.

  3. Weight back, shift to Ochs

  4. Pass forward, shift to same guard on other side.

  5. Variation 1: Start in Vom Tag with left leg lead. Pass forward results in Alber with right leg lead. Variation 2: Pass backwards.

     

DRILL 3:  WORKING THROUGH THE GUARDS, SOLO

Use Christian Tobler’s Drills No. 1, 2 & 3, found on pages 37 and 38 of Fighting with the German Longsword.

LESSON 4:  THE SECONDARY GUARDS

DRILL 1:  THE GUARDS, SOLO

       Use Christian Tobler’s Drill No. 4, found on page 48 of Fighting.

LESSON 5:  THE THREE WOUNDERS

DRILL 1:  CUTTING, SOLO

  1. Participants are set in a line facing the instructor, in right Vom Tag.  At the instructors count, the participants take a passing step forward and cut an Oberhau to the left to Alber, then recovers into left Vom Tag.  At the next count, the participants will be cutting from left Vom Tag to Alber and recovering into right Vom Tag.  Repeat at the instructor’s discretion.  Repeat the same drill cutting Unterhau.  Repeat the same drill cutting Mittelhau. Variation 1: increase the pace between repetitions.  Variation 2: repeat stepping backwards.

  2. Repeat all three cuts from Nebenhut and then from Schranckhut.

 

DRILL 2:  CUTTING AGAINST A PELL. SOLO

  1. Participants line up in front of a pell, in right Vom Tag, in measure (one step back).  Participants then take a passing step forward to strike an Oberhau.  After the strike the participant recovers backward into right Vom Tag.  Each participant should do at least five repetitions, then move to the back of the line.  The drill can be repeated at the discretion of the instructor.  Repeat the drill starting from left Vom Tag.

  2. Repeat the drill cutting an Unterhau, from both right and left Vom Tag.

  3. Repeat the drill cutting a Mittelhau, from both right and left Vom Tag.

  4. Repeat the drill, performing all three cuts from right and left Nebenhut.

  5. Repeat the drill, performing all three cuts from right and left Schranckhut.

  6. Variation:  The Participants can strike making multiple cuts into different quadrants.

 

DRILL 3:  STRIKING WITH THE SWORD

Use Christian Tobler’s drill No. 5, found on page 65 of Fighting.

 

DRILL 4:  THRUSTING WITH THE SWORD

Use Christian Tobler’s drill No. 6, found on page 70 of Fighting.

 

DRILL 5:  SLICING WITH THE SWORD

Use Christian Tobler’s drill No. 7, found on page 73 of Fighting.

 

DRILL 6:  ‘PUTTING IT TOGTHER” MOVEMENT DRILL, SOLO

NOTE: At this stage of training, it is important that the participant to be able to move into all the actions with fluidity and mobility.  This is an important drill that will help achieve this goal.

Participants are asked to spread throughout the training area making sure they have ample room to move around without interference.  At the instructor’s command, each participant should move freely, moving from and into all the guards, cuts, and thrusts, using all the footwork patterns.  They should move from defensive positions into offensive actions, and visa-versa.  All this should be done without stopping.  During this drill, the instructor should observe each participant carefully to ensure that they are moving in multiple directions with their footwork, and that their sword work maintains proper form.  Instructors should stop the drill periodically to share general observations.  Start this drill slowly at first and then speed up the pace at subsequent repetitions.

LESSON 6:  INITIATIVE

DRILL 1:  FUHLEN

Use Christian Tobler’s drill No. 8, found on page 81 of Fighting.

 

DRILL 2:  “TIC-TOC” TWO PERSON DRILL

  1. Participants pair up in two opposing lines. Select one line to be the Agent and the other to be the Patient. The Agents assume right Vom Tag, while the Patients assume right leg lead Alber.

  2. Start slowly.  On the instructors count, the Agents throw an Oberhau with a passing step forward.  At the same time the Patient responds by cutting upward from Alber, with a passing step backwards.  The blades should make contact with each other. 

  3. Since the Patient is now in right Vom Tag and the Agent is now in right leg lead Alber, the roles are reversed and at the instructors next count the drill is repeated.

  4. Repeat at the Instructor’s discretion.

  5. Variation 1:  Both the Agent and the Patient switch to left Vom Tag.

  6. Variation 2:  Repeat drill cutting Unterhau, with both the Agent and the Patient in right Vom Tag.

  7. Variation 3:  Both the Agent and the Patient switch to left Vom Tag.

LESSON 7:  DEFENDING WITH ATTACKS, TWO PERSON DRILLS

DRILL 1:  Use Christian Tobler’s drills No. 9 through 16 starting on page 85 of Fighting.

 

DRILL 2:  DEFENDING AGAINST A SELECTION OF ATTACKS, IN ROTATION

  1. Participants pair up in two opposing lines, in right Vom Tag.  Instructors select one line to be the Agents and the other to be the Patients. Start slowly.

  2. On the instructor’s count, Agents throw one of five possible attacks: Vertical Oberhau, diagonal Oberhau, Mittlehau, or Unterhau, or leg cut at their choice without announcing it.

  3. Passive agents must recognize the attack and provide the appropriate defense; Ochs, Pflug, or Schranckhut.

  4. After five repetitions, rotate clockwise to give new partners. Do this until everyone has had a chance to be a Patient 3 times.

  5. Variation 1: Patients may start in the guard of their choice.

  6. Variation 2: Start with all participants in a left side guard.

  7. Variation 3: Constrain the Patients to start in Ochs, Pflug, Nebenhut or Schranckhut.

 

DRILL 3: DEFENDING AGAINST A SELECTION OF ATTACKS WHILE MOVING.

  1. Participants line up in pairs in close measure, with room for the Patient to move backward. This drill must start slowly, with the more experienced person being the Agent.

  2. Starting in right Vom Tag, at the instructor’s count, the Agent steps forward while the Patient steps backward. The Agent throws one of four attacks; a vertical Oberhau, diagonal Oberhau, Mittlehau, or an Unterhau. The Patient must determine which attack is presented and provide the proper defense; Ochs, Pflug, or Schranckhut.

  3. At the instructor’s next count, the Agent recovers into the over the head version of Vom Tag and then attacks to the other side. Again, the Patient must identify the attack and provide the proper defense.

  4. When impeded, change directions so that the Patient becomes the Agent.

 

LESSON 8:  THE FIVE MEISTERHAU, SOLO AND TWO PERSON DRILLS

NOTE:  The solo drills would be very effective against a pell.

DRILL 1:  ZORNHAU:

Use Christian Tobler’s drills No. 17 on page 96 of Fighting, and No 18 on page 104 of Fighting.

 

DRILL 2:  KRUMPHAU

Use Christian Tobler’s drills No. 19 on page 108 of Fighting, and drills Nos. 20 and 21 on page 117 of Fighting.

 

DRILL 3:  ZWERCHHAU

Use Christian Tobler’s drills No. 22 on page 120 of Fighting, and No 23 on page 124 of Fighting.

 

DRILL 4:  SCHIELHAU

Use Christian Tobler’s drills No. 24 on page 131 of Fighting, and Nos. 25 and 26 on page 135 of Fighting.

 

DRILL 5:  SCHEITELHAU

Use Christian Tobler’s drills No. 27 on page 138 of Fighting, and No. 28  on page 142 of Fighting.

 

DRILL 6:  THE WALLER-DUCKLIN DRILL

NOTE:  This is a drill based on a stage combat scenario developed by John Waller and Keith Ducklin, authors of the book, Sword Fighting: A Manual for Actors and Directors (Applause Books, 2001).  This drill gets the participants moving around each other as opposed to just moving linearly, incorporates many of the cutting actions, and many of the primary and secondary guards.  It also enhances the concepts of measure and tempo, and introduces some half-sword techniques.

  1. The Agent (A) stands in right Vom Tag, while the Patient (P) assumes right Nebenhut.

  2. A takes a slope pace to the right and proceeds to cut at P’s leading leg.

  3. P blocks A’s cut with a left Schranckhut.  P takes a passing step forward and cuts at A’s leg.

  4. A blocks P’s cut with his own left Schranckhut, and counters by taking another slope pace cutting an Oberhau towards the left side of P’s head.

  5. P blocks A’s Oberhau with a hangen guard (Ochs with tip very low) on the left side so that the Oberhau glances off P’s blade.

  6. P counters with a Mittelhau from the right.

  7. A pivots and blocks the on-coming Mittelhau with a low Kron.  A counters by pushing P’s blade away, pivots so that he is facing P and thrust to P’s chest.

  8. P passes back, performs a Krumphau catching the inside surface of A’s blade and sets the thrust aside to the outside.  Continuing the action without stopping P attempts an Oberhau to the top of A’s head.

  9. A quickly blocks the on-coming Oberhau by bringing his sword up to his head into a modified 1st guard of the Half-sword (aka, St George).  A counters by quickly snapping his sword to the left, setting aside the blocked Oberhau and thrusting into P’s face with the pommel.

  10. P performs a passing step back.  P stops the pommel strike by extending his left arm and catching the elbow of A’s right arm, in the midst of the pommel strike.  At the same time, P brings his sword up to thrust A in the torso.

  11. Partners reverse roles.

  12. Repeat at the instructor’s discretion.

 

DRILL 7:  ATTACK/COUNTER-ATTACK, TWO PERSON DRILL 

NOTE:  Participants must wear the minimum safety equipment which includes a mask, hand protection, a jacket, tunic, or gambeson, chest and groin protection for the men, and chest protector for the ladies.  

  1. The instructor chooses the Agent and the Patient.

  2. The instructor gives the Agent a specific area to attack.  Likewise, the instructor gives the Patient a specific target area in which to counter-attack.  These instructions are given so that neither  participant is aware of the other’s assigned targets.

  3. On the instructor’s count the Agent commences to attack to his/her assigned target area.  The patient must defend (using any of the techniques in the Hierarchy of Defense in Lesson 1), and if successful can counter-attack at his/her assigned target.

  4. Depending on the number of participants, this can be repeated. The roles are then reversed with different target areas assigned.

  5. The entire drill is repeated until all participants have had an opportunity to perform this drill as both Agent and Patient.

LESSON 9:  THE SPRECHFENSTER, TWO PERSON DRILLS

NOTE TO INSTRUCTORS:  Have participants practice and perform the techniques shown in the photographic illustrations in Chapter 15 of Fighting.

LESSON 10:  THE EIGHT WINDINGS, TWO PERSON DRILLS

NOTE TO INSTRUCTORS:  Have participants practice and perform the techniques shown in the photographic illustrations in Chapter 16 of Fighting.

LESSON 11:  WRESTLING, TWO PERSON DRILLS

NOTE TO INSTRUCTORS:  Have participants practice and perform the techniques shown in the photographic illustrations in Chapter 14 of Fighting.  Also refer to Section 3 on wrestling in Secrets of German Medieval combat.

LESSON 12:  HALFSWORD, TWO PERSON DRILLS

NOTE TO INSTRUCTORS:  Have participants practice and perform the techniques shown in the photographic illustrations in Chapter 14 of Fighting.  Also refer Section 4 on armored combat in Secrets.

 

DRILL 1:  FUHLEN

Use Christian Tobler’s drill on page 206 of Fighting.

 

DRILL 2:  USING THE THIRD GUARD

Use Christian Tobler’s drill on page 217 of Fighting.

 

DRILL 3:  USING THE POMMEL

Use Christian Tobler’s drill on page 223 of Fighting.

LESSON 13:  THE SPEAR, TWO PERSON DRILLS

NOTE TO INSTRUCTORS:  Have participants practice and perform the techniques shown in the photographic illustrations in Chapter 19 of Figting.  Also refer to Section 4 on armored combat in Secrets.

     

DRILL 1:  THRUSTING

Use Christian Tobler’s drill on page 196 of Fighting.

 

DRILL 2:  FUHLEN

Use Christian Tobler’s drill on page 199 of Fighting.

LESSON 14:  THE DAGGER

 

LESSON 15:  SWORD AND BUCKLER

NOTE TO INSTRUCTORS:  Have participants practice and perform the techniques shown in the photographic illustrations in Section 2 in Secrets.

COMBAT TACTICS for the GERMAN LONGSWORD

PREFACE:

In the modern study of historic swordsmanship bouting becomes the substitute for actual combat.  This is not just mere simulation.  At MASHS we bout as if the swords are sharp.  So the tactical applications of the techniques that we learn become important in surviving the encounter.  As mentioned on numerous occasions during training at MASHS, success in the study of all swordplay is based on an integrated comprehension of four fundamental precepts.  These are:

 

  1. Understanding the offensive system of the weapon; i.e., knowing how the sword is used to attack.

  2. Understanding the defensive system of the weapon; i.e., knowing how the sword is used to defend against attacks.

  3. Understanding tempo; i.e., knowing how timing is used in swordplay.  This involves knowing that every action by you or your opponent constitutes a tempo and how that is integrated into the offensive and defensive actions.

  4. Understanding measure; i.e., knowing how distance is used in swordplay.  This involves knowing that there is a proper distance between you and your opponent from which offensive and defensive actions can be made, and that measure is based on your own stature.

 

Further, as an aid to novice practitioners in their understanding of the use of the Geman longsword, the following four basic foundational precepts specific to the weapon have been devised.  These “cardinal rules” bear repeating here because they also form the basis for good tactics that intermediate and advanced practitioners should employ when in combat.

 

  1. If your sword is on your right side, lead with the left leg; and if your sword is on left side, lead with your right leg.  Conversely, which ever your lead leg, make sure your sword is on the opposite side of your body.

  2. As much as possible keep your sword in between your opponent’s sword and your body.

  3. As much as possible, keep the edge or tip of your sword threatening your opponent.

  4. In moving, do not cross your feet.

 

Another foundational precept in German longsword is a thorough understanding of the concept of the Vor, the Nach, and the Indes.  Knowing how these three concepts relate to combat initiative allows the practitioner to maintain control of fight, and how to regain it if it is lost.  So these also bear repeating.

 

  1. Vor – The Before:  This is the offensive principle of longsword tactics.  It demands that you develop a keen sense of when to safely attack.  For example, can you attack during your opponent’s preparation? Can you break your opponent’s guard and find an opening?  Can you provoke an attack that forces a certain strike that you can defend and counter? Can you launch a feint that will draw a desirable action from your opponent that will allow you to finish in a different line of attack?  Can you upset your opponent’s tempo or measure?  These are just a few of the dynamics of being in the Vor.

  2. Nach – The After:  This is the defensive principle of longsword tactics.  It demands that you develop a keen sense of how to respond if your opponent attacks first, not only in a manner that keeps you from getting hit, but also allows you to regain the Vor.  For example, can you defend an attack with an action that simultaneously protects you and strikes your opponent?  Can you safely attack your opponent during his attack by out timing him?  What opportunities do you have to regain the Vor if you and your opponent cross swords?  These are just a few of the dynamics of being in the Nach.

  3.  Indes – Immediately:  This is the principle of being able to judge what is going on at the moment of engagement, or sword contact.  In other words, you must development a keen understanding of Fuhlen (feeling) or blade pressure so that you know how to react properly.  From this you must instantaneously decide what technique to employ to allow you to regain the Vor.  The principles of Indes and Fuhlen are inseparable.

 

TACTICAL COMBAT RULES:

So keeping all the above in mind, how do we integrate them into an effective combat system.  Here are some rules and tactical applications that can lead to success in combat.

 

1.  Remember the Hierarchy of Defense.  With this you can see how the Vor and the Nach come into play.

           a.   Attack before your opponent, either in the preparation of his or her attack or by breaking his or her guard.

b.   Void the opponent’s attack and counter attack in time.

c.   Defeat the attack and counter attack in single tempo time.

d.   Static parry and immediately counter attack.

e.   Void the attack without counter attack.

f.    Static parry without counter attack.

2.  The Rule of Fuhlen.  The rule is simple.  If your opponent goes hard you go soft, and conversely if he or she goes soft you go hard.  This involves two dynamics, applied first to the sword and secondly (but no less importantly) to the body.  The majority of initial actions will lead to the swords crossing.  Usually referred to as coming to the bind.  You must instantly sense the pressure applied to your blade by your opponent.  If he is pressing hard, go soft and yield your sword thus freeing it for a counter strike.  If your opponent goes soft at the bind, you can offset it with hard pressure thus opening a line for the attack.  If at the bind you feel your opponent trying to push forward with footwork, yield by stepping off line.  If you feel your opponent may have been off balance on his attack, you can try to press him and further weaken his stance.

 

3.  Keep your Sword Free.  This is the corollary to the rule of Fuhlen. Remember that your sword is needed not only for offensive actions but for defense as well.  You must keep your sword free as much as possible so that you can quickly move from attack to defense.  Your sword is your shield.  Use your primary guards such as ochs and pflug to defend instead of attempting more complex defensive actions.  Use of simple blade work enhances your chances of keeping your sword free.

 

4.  Fight in your own Measure.  This recognizes that it is very likely that you and your opponent will not be of the same stature.  Why is this important?  In order to execute your attack correctly, it must be done from your measure.  Put another way, in order not to miss your target you must execute your attack from a distance where it will properly land.  You should not let your opponent’s stature dictate where your measure is.  So if your opponent is taller than you, don’t let that difference force you to fight at a greater distance than what would be effective to complete the attack.

 

5.  Acknowledge Tempo.  Tempo can be defined as the time in which a simple fencing action occurs.  Put another way, the time that it takes to make an attack that is executed in one simple action constitutes a tempo.  For example, you move from alber to ochs to defend against a cut.  That action is a single tempo.  Even changing footwork with a simple passing step constitutes a single tempo.  Tempo can be short or long.  Why is this understanding important from a tactical perspective?  More often than not, a successful attack requires more than one fencing tempo.  Knowing this, when you attack you must maintain continuity of tempo.  In other words, don’t break off your attack if you are fully committed.  Conversely, if you are in the Nach, you can thwart your opponent’s attack by interrupting his or her tempo thus regaining the Vor. 

 

6.  Keep your Footwork Simple and Fluid.  Good balance and a strong foundation are essential for effective blade work.  A wider stance is often preferred over a narrower one.  In moving, if a gathering step is more effective to maintain measure over another passing step, use it.  If a lateral or compass step can help you void an on-coming attack rather than a retreating passing step, use it.  Remember the “cardinal rule” about footwork.  It is very important not to stay in one position or one guard too long.  Keep moving! 

 

7.  Do not Chase your Opponent.  Continuity of your attack may require that you have to gain on your opponent in order to maintain your measure, especially if he or she retreats.  However, there is an inherent danger in pursuing your opponent haphazardly in that the more you chase your opponent the more your own tempo and measure become skewed.  It is better not to pursue, but return to guard and await your opponent to come back to measure.

 

8.  Do not Retreat (if at all possible).  This is the corollary to number 7 above.  Staying in the Vor requires that you not give up ground unnecessarily.  Retreating can save you from an attack, but it also puts you in the Nach and forces you to take more tempo to get back into measure.  Simply stated, giving ground results in loss of measure and puts you in a disadvantage.  If you do find you need to back away from an attack, consider moving off line in your retreat rather than in a straight line.  By voiding the line of the attack, you have a better chance of staying in the Vor. Remember the hierarchy of defense.   

 

9.  Control the Center Line.  After the initial engagement of blades (binding), try to stay centered to your opponent.  In doing so, you have more options to maintaining the Vor.  Also, you have more options in finding openings for attacking your opponent as both sides of your opponent’s body is available.  If you move to one side of your opponent’s body to attack, and are thwarted in that attempt, the measure to your opponent’s opposite side is a little longer. This makes attacks to those openings more difficult.

 

10.  Know how to Break your Opponents Guard.  Many of the Meisterhau are designed to break your opponent’s guard.  Here’s a list of these:

           a.   Use Zwerchhau to break Vom Tag.

b.   Use Krumphau to break Ochs.

c.   Use Schielhau or Krumphau to break Pflug or Langenort.

d.   Use Scheitelhau to break Alber or Kron.

 

11.  Remember the Windings and other Special Techniques.  As mentioned, sword engagement comes more often than not with the initial actions.  In that instance, when in the bind, you and your opponent are in the Indes.  You have that tempo to free your sword and regain the Vor.  Decisions about what would be the most appropriate technique must be made almost instantaneously.  For example, can you execute a Winden technique.  These allow you, in essentially one action, to displace your opponent’s sword, take the Vor and counter attack with a thrust.  Against a hard bind, can you free your sword with Zucken and attack on the opposite line of engagement?  If your opponent takes the initiative and attacks, instead of a hard parry can you plan to go soft in your defense, thus allowing your opponent’s momentum to carry his/her sword away from you; thus freeing your sword to counter-attack in an open line.  Can you use an Absetzen technique against someone in pflug or ochs or langenort?  Can you attack with one of the Meisterhau, such as krumphau, zwerchhau or schielhau?  Can you employ a half sword technique when in close range instead of grappling?

 

12.  Do not Grapple if You Can Avoid Doing So.  Because it is unpredictable, grappling is inherently very dangerous.  However, sometimes it is unavoidable.  This is the concept of “Wrestling at the Sword” and is another way of fighting once in the bind.  What is the proper measure from which to grapple your opponent?  If you can touch your opponent’s hands, that is the proper measure.  The goal in grappling is to upset your opponent’s stance and balance while maintaining your own.  At the same time you also want to keep your sword free.  How is this done?  Here are a few ways:

a.   You can find an opportunity to control your opponent’s sword hand long enough to prevent a strike, especially from the outside line with your free hand. This will free your sword to make an attack. 

b.   You attack your opponent both high and low to upset his/her balance.

c.   You attack your opponent frontally by stepping toward him/her forcefully, using your sword to leverage his/her sword up and away.  You now have an opening to strike.  A variation is to use your free hand instead of your sword.

d.   When you grapple, be swift and decisive.  To do anything less will give your opponent an opportunity to take your tempo and turn the tables on you.

 

CONCLUSIONS

While it is a daunting endeavor to summarize an entire combat system into a few precepts, it is hoped that by understanding these twelve tactical combat rules and incorporating them in your bouting, you will have a better chance to prevail in the fight.  By successfully applying these tactical applications in your longsword play you should be able to maintain the Vor as much as possible.  But once in the Nach, you also should be able to regain the Vor.  Keep your actions as simple as possible.  Do no more than is necessary to find and attack any opening your opponent makes available to you.  And if an opening is not readily available, use the most direct action to create one.  If your initial attack fails press the attack, especially if you are still in measure.  However, be mindful of Rule 7 above.  Focus on tempo and measure, and make sure your blade work is integrated with your footwork. 

 

GOOD LUCK IN YOUR COMBAT

CURRICULUM for MEDIEVAL SWORD and BUCKLER

PREFACE:

As an addition to the German longsword, MASHS offers training in the sword and buckler.  This curriculum on the sword and buckler is based on the 13th century manuscript I.33 of the Royal Armoury collection.   It is one of the earliest fighting treatises available to the modern practitioner of historic swordsmanship.  The primary resource for MASHS study of this weapon system is the book Medieval Sword and Shield, by Paul Wagner and Stephen Hand (Chivalry Bookshelf, 2003).

 

LESSON 1.  PRELIMINARIES:

  • The Weapons

  • Distance

  • Basic Footwork

  • Hand Positions

  • Lines of Attack

  • Parries

 

LESSON 2.  FUNDAMENTALS:

  • Wards and Counterwards

  • Attacking and Defending the Arm

  • The Stab-Knock

  • Binding; with Sword, with Shield

 

LESSON 3.  THE FIRST WARD, UNDERARM:

  • The Underarm Ward and the Half-Shield

  • Counters to the Half-Shield (Shield Knock, Crutch, Longpoint)

  • Falling Under the Sword

  • Defending from Half-Shield, the Shield Knock

  • Attacks Against the Half-Shield

  • The Crutch

  • The Longpoint

  • Other Counters to Half-Shield

 

LESSON 4.  THE SECOND WARD, RIGHT SHOULDER:

  • The Right Shoulder Ward, application

  • Counters to the Right Shoulder (Right Cover, Half-Shield)

 

LESSON 5.  THE THIRD WARD, LEFT SHOULDER:

  • The Left Shoulder Ward, application

  • Counters to the Left Shoulder (Left Cover, Half Shield, Longpoint)

 

LESSON 6.  THE  FOURTH WARD, VOM TAG:

  • Vom Tag, application

  • Counters to Vom Tag (Underarm, Half Shield)

 

LESSON 7.  THE SIXTH WARD, PFLUG:

  • Pflug, application

  • Countering Pflug with Half Shield

 

LESSON 8.  THE FIFTH WARD, NEBENHUT

  • Nebenhut, application

  • Counters to Nebenhut (Half Shield, Tail Cover

 

LESSON 9.  THE SEVENTH WARD, LONGPOINT

  • Longpoint applications; Low, Middle, High

  • Counters to Longpoint - Use of the Binds

  • Fiddlebow

 

LESSON 10.  PRIEST’S SPECIAL WARDS:

  • Priest’s Special Longsword

  • Counter’s - Half Shield, Special Cover

  • Walpurgis’ Ward