Thursday, January 9, 2014

German Sword Fighting, curriculae of the second class.

second class of the basic course. 
Young knight, learn to love God and honour noble women,
so grows your honour; practice chivalry and learn
art which adorns you and will glorify you in battle.
[Grappling is good, yet better]? lance, spear, sword and knife[3]
to make use of manhood, which in other hands remain useless.
Strike hard towards [the man], rush toward, hit or let go,
[so that the masters who bestow the prize will disapprove of him]?[4]
Understand this, that all things have propriety, length and measure.
Whatever action you intend, you should keep your good judgement.
In earnest or in play, have good cheer with propriety,
so you may perceive and consider with good courage
how you should act and move against him,
as good heart and strength will intimidate your opponent.
Let this guide you: to nobody in aught give advantage.
Avoid foolhardiness, do not move against four or six [foes],
let your overconfidence be tamed, this will be good for you:
He is a brave man who can stand against his equal,
(but) it is no shame to flee from four or six (foes).
Jung Ritter lere / got lip haben / frawen io ere /
So wechst dein ere / Uebe ritterschaft und lere /
Kunst dy dich czyret / vnd in krigen sere hofiret /
Ringens gut fesser / glefney sper swert unde messer /
Menlich bederben / unde in andern henden vorterben /
Haw dreyn vnd hort dar / rawsche hin trif ader la varn /
Das in dy weisen / hassen dy man siet preisen /
Dor auf dich zosze / alle ding haben limpf lenge vnde mosze /
Und was du trei wilt treiben / by guter vornunft saltu bleiben /
Czu ernst ader czu schimpf / habe frölichen mut / mit limpf /
So magstu achten / und mit gutem mute betrachten /
Was du salt füren / und keyn im dich rüren /
Wen guter mut mit kraft / macht eyns wedersache czagehaft /
Dornoch dich richte / gib keynem forteil mit ichte /
Tumkunheit meide / vier ader sechs nicht vortreibe /
Mit deynem öbermut / bis sitik das ist dir gut /
Der ist eyn küner man / der synen gleichen tar bestan /
Is ist nicht schande / vier ader sechze flien von hande /

Anybody who has no feeling is a buffalo. Measure is the distance away from your opponent.  Johanne Lichtenhaur felt that reducing the measure to zero is the way to go.  Length refers to a that is too long will be difficult to use up close.  Propriety...generally assumed that you want a fair fight.  There are times, for instance, when you just want to fight without the intention of actually killing somebody.  An example might be a belligerant armed nobleman who has to be removed from the tavern for the sake of everybody's safety.   We have all seen that happen. 

Well...its hard to disagree with with Mr. Lichtenhauer.  His name, by the way means "Grave Maker".

There are four quarters worth attacking with the double handed sword.  Interestingly enough, they are not the places I attack with a single handed sword.  The single handed sword is used best at arms and legs.  It can be deployed in  a heart beat, and it can come up to a guard just as fast.

 That being said, what actually IS a guard?  Mr Lichtenhauer did not like ANY guards.  He figured if you just stood there, you became a "dead man".   I think his meaning was more along the line of "useless statue" rather than the lethal interpretation of "dead man", but even helps to remember to keep moving.
     Sometimes you can't though.  For example if you find yourself in a shield wall, the game changes rather dramatically.  We will cover shield wall tactics later on in the basic course. In that case, the front line deploys in full guard and protects themselves and the spear men immediately behind them.  Another case is when you find yourself in the mud.  At Agincourt, the weight of each foot was increased by an extra 35 pound, just in clinging mud.  Easier (but more dangerous) to stand there and fight without moving the feet.  The nice thing of course is that your opponent is standing in the same mud.  Again, there are ways to fight even one-on-one without moving your feet.

John Lichtenhaur felt there were only four quadrants to attack.  High on the right, high on the left, low on the right and low on the left.  All these quadrants were  exclusive of the legs...which J.L. did not think were worthy targets.  I disagree...legs are great targets.  But the sword has to moved in a more horizontal manner than is generally employed, and while you are doing that you leave all sorts of targets open.  So leg shots are in my opinion, hazardous to your health.  But when you do them right, they are great.  How do you do them right?  Well, I never deliver a leg shot unless I am actually hugging my opponent.  Remember though, he can do it to you if he thinks of it first!  So have a plan!

And another thing to remember....we are the "Armoured" Company of the sword, so a lot of those unarmoured moves you see in Talhoffer's book will not quite work if you find yourself in the walking tanks we wear on our bodies.

So how do you protect yourself  if you should not fall into guard?  Well, the standard point up...shield forward is great if you have a single handed sword.  If you find yourself shieldless, well your most important detail would be "measure".  If he cannot reach you, you should be safe.  Except against me...I excell at closing the measure enough to take you out.  It is sneaky though.  But kind of fun.

      Mr Talhoffer followed the Lichtenhaur tradition enough to point out several transitional guards.  Any transitional guard is properly called a ward. So, because they were training farmers instead of aristocracy, they named the ward which dangles with the palm out in front of you the "number one ox"  In German, it is spelled "ochs".  When someone fires a shot to your head, you can deflect it and it falls into an "ox" after which you have the choice to fall back into your guard, or to use all that energy your foe put into it by driving the cut into his collarbone.  This works with either the number one strike or the number two strike...with either, you must deflect the sword over your head,  and before he can injure you by coming back, you take his sword side collarbone.   (we call this the throat cutter move because, well, it can so easily be brought under the helmet from a strike on the collarbone)  
      The second ochs is with the turned around hand.  Some find it more comfortable to simply turn the hand around, and then do the strike to the sword side.  I know I do.

Thus endeth the lesson


  1. grave maker? I figured his name just meant where he's from? Which is Lichtenhauer area. I believe that was southwestern germany? Baden? One could also roughly translate the word to perhaps "lightning strike"?...hmmm maybe Johanne was an early marketing genius..hehe

  2. Lichten means grave
    Hauer means maker
    His name came from the town of Lichtenhauer.
    So he was Johann of Lichtenhauer.

    Or so I have been reliably told....grin.
    I just think a fight master by the name of Grave Maker was too cool for words.