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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Tue 29 May, 2007 10:52 pm    Post subject: Longsword Masters -- Which one to choose?         Reply with quote

I've finally gotten a practice partner for learning swordsmanship. While I do like MS I.33 and he is interested in it, longsword training is likely to be the largest focus of our practice bouts.

He owns a book that's an expanded edition of myArmoury's "Call To Arms: The German Longsword" article. If you have not read it, the article is a basic overview of the guards and cuts of Liechtenauer's fight book.

Other than Liechtenauer, I know of Mazzaro, and Ringeck (and likely someone I'm just forgetting) having written books on longsword play. (Might be wrong about Mazzaro) The only difference between them that I know is that Ringeck and Liechtenauer are Germans (Might be wrong on Ringeck) and Mazzaro is an Italian. Other than that, what is the difference? Other than names of terms, I can't imagine there would be a world of difference between their fighting styles, unless one emphasizes one form over another, because if they where vastly different with no overlaps, then none of the writers would be "masters" at all, but novices.

So which do you prefer? Why? And how do they differ from the others?

M.

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Michael Olsen





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PostPosted: Tue 29 May, 2007 11:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello,

Well, it seems like you are certainly off a good start and asking questions. I'll stick to the longsword masters, as that seems to be where your emphasis is. Please keep in mind that the following may very well be factually faulty, though I've tried to check my facts to prevent such.

There are three main schools of longsword swordsmanship: German, Italian, and English.

The Germans have the "Liechtenauer Tradition", so to speak, in that most of what we consider Liechtenauer's teachings are not coming directly from a book written by or under the direct guidance of Master Liechtenauer, but are explanations and missives by students of his style. This tradition extends all the way from MS3227a (Döbringer Fechtbuch) in 1389 to those like Joachim Meyer in 1570 and include individual Masters like Hans Talhoffer, Sigmund Ringeck, Joachim Meyer, and Paulus Kal. However, it is noteworthy that not all German texts on swordfighting are necessarily of the Liechtenauer lineage.

The Italians have two primary early masters that I know of: Fiore dei Liberi who wrote about 1409 and Fillipo Vadi who wrote later in the 1480s. I am, regrettably, unaware of other Italian Masters that published in the 15th Century. Marozzo and others form sources that extend into the 16th century.

The English have, primarily, the work of George Silver. Silver wrote in the very early 17th Century (1605, if I am not mistaken). There are three other earlier English manuscripts that we currently have access to, but the text in them is very cryptic and is still in the very earliest stages of interpretation.

As to whether or not the styles were similar - well, yes and no. Even the historical use of a katana is similar to a longsword in some respects, simply because the physical nature of the human form provides certain motions and actions that are more efficient for the art of killing using a relatively long sharpened metal stick. Likewise, many concepts are similar between martial art forms, regardless of weapon - it doesn't matter if you are using a stick or a gun, if you attack at the wrong distance, the wrong time, or the wrong place you will not be successful in your venture. Rather, it is the explanation, manipulation, and application of these concepts, along with variations in techniques, that separates the three major schools of medieval longsword combat. To the untrained eye, however, it would very likely all look the same.

The degree to which the fighting styles themselves overlap is currently something in question by researchers and scholars of more consequence than myself - the opinion seems to be that there may have been an early relationship between Italian and German swordsmanship that lead to later similarity in techniques. As a counter, however, this may have simply been a case of technique evolution, in which two groups of individuals using a very similar weapon over a relatively long period of time came to similar conclusions as to the best way to use the weapon though, effectively, trial and error. Essentially, there are fundamental elements of each system that are similar - the primary guards, cuts, and motions have a number of similarities that suggest to some a link of some sort between the two.

I personally study German swordmanship. Why? Well...it's what I've got. I'd just as well study Italian or English Masters. German swordsmanship is a good place to get started, it seems. There is a wide variety of sources dating to early periods (when the longsword actually saw use on the battlefield or in duels and was still considered a viable combat weapon) and lots of interpretation work that has already been done on them. Having not spent much time in Italian or English swordsmanship, I cannot speak as to the specifics of their differences.

I hope that helped clear things up a little for you. And please, if anyone notices any error, large or small, in my writings, say so.

Michael Olsen
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Wed 30 May, 2007 12:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello,

I'm a strong advocate of the German or Liechtenauer school of combat. One reason for this is that I'm very focused on armored combat (spear, pollaxe, halfsword, dagger and grappling) and this source is the most comprehensive and varied for that; George Silver, for example, doesn't really cover it at all.'

The medieval Italian school is limited, in my mind, because it has only two sources, Fiore and Vadi. And while Vadi shows some distinct differences from Fiore, they are still very, very similar. This means they don't have the breadth of explanation you get from having a lot of different authors writing about the same thing. For example, my unarmored longsword studies focus on the writings of the anonymous author of MS 3227a (aka The Doebringer Hausbuch), Sigmund Ringeck and Peter von Danzig with additional explanations from sources such as Hans Talhoffer and Paulus Kal. When you have five different sources all writing differently about the same thing you get, in my opinion, a broader appreciation of the nuances of the material being presented.

I also find the armored material in Fiore and Vadi to be extremely simplistic and unsophisticated... But beware, that will start a firestorm I decline to get into yet again! Let's just leave it at the fact that Fiore seems to think the pollaxe has only a hammer head and a spike, and he forgets the entire rest of the weapon. I bring this up not to start a fight, but to tell you my honest take on it.

From a beginner's standpoint the German school has much to recommend it in that you have more published sources to work from (meaning interpretive), such as Christian Tobler's excellent books. There is one interpretive work on the Italian school written by Guy Windsor, but while I've read many good comments about it I haven't read it myself and so can't comment.

Regards,
Hugh
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Mike Nericcio




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PostPosted: Wed 30 May, 2007 7:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree with what Michael has already stated. These different systems or techniques would not have survived if they were not each effective in their own ways. At the core of each style, they all seem the same. What differs from there is their preference to push the fight to allow the use of one technique over another. I can tell you that personally, my technique will change depending on which sword I am fighting with (bastard or two-handed).
As with anything else, these styles will differ within themselves depending on whose translation you use or from whom you are learning. Two people looking at the same plate and accompanying text will often have two different ideas on the transitioning, and sometimes what is right for one person simply doesn't work for someone else.
Either way, learn whatever is readily at hand. Once you are comfortable with that system, branch out and experiance another.

Best of luck,
Mike
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Nicholas Zeman





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PostPosted: Wed 30 May, 2007 12:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh is correct that with the German tradition you get a much wider resource library. Fiore and Vadi are clearly from the same tradition, and the Italian school of Medieval combat (which would include grappling, dagger, single-sword, longsword, pollaxe, spear, and mounted combat) is most definitely a viable and long-standing tradition. I'm not going to get into a "which is best" discussion because I think it's silly to downplay or make judgments on martial systems that NOBODY LIVING has a mastery or complete understanding of.

You will have much more difficulties in studying the Italian school than you would the German, There is more source material, more interpretive works published, and many more practitioners as well. That doesn't mean the German school is better. It just means that it's more popular and more accessible. In order to understand Fiore you must learn the entire system, you cannot flip through the pollaxe section and really get much from it, if you have not studied and trained his grappling, dagger, longsword, armored sword, and spear. Right now there is not even a published translation of ANY of the 3 Fiore manuscripts in English (there is one in Italian) and Guy Windsor's book is the only Italian longsword interpretive material available. And while it is an excellent resource, it is a generalized introduction to the basic attacks, defenses, guards, and some body mechanic aspects, as well as a lot of work on distance, tempo, and some more advanced concepts. We are still waiting for a comprehensive interpretive text that is accessible and acceptable to the community.

I am a dedicated Fiore scholar, but I recognize the frustrations of having such a limited amount of material to work with. I would often advocate to a complete beginner to practice what they can find people in their community doing, over what is supposedly the "best" system or what people advise them to do based on which system they practice themselves.
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Wed 30 May, 2007 1:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nicholas Zeman wrote:
I would often advocate to a complete beginner to practice what they can find people in their community doing, over what is supposedly the "best" system or what people advise them to do based on which system they practice themselves.


I heartily second what Nicholas said: Find someone who really put a lot of effort into his art who is near you and work with him. If you later decide you have a greater interest in a different style your initial efforts certainly won't have been wasted, and in the meantime you get a solid grounding in fencing.

Regards,
Hugh
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Wed 30 May, 2007 10:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, the German school seems to be the place to start. Do any of the masters teach spear, halberd, or pollaxe fighting as well? IIRC the Letch. study (who you say is a compilation of works by a number of authors?) has something on the spear.

Also, which of the German schools is dueling and which is actual combat stuff? (I would assume there would be hybrids) For training gear I think the only armour I would be wearing would be a gambeson for padding. Maybe a brigidine. That and some gloves. That aside armour fighting (battlefield fighting) sounds like it would be good to know as well.

M.

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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Thu 31 May, 2007 12:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
Well, the German school seems to be the place to start. Do any of the masters teach spear, halberd, or pollaxe fighting as well? IIRC the Letch. study (who you say is a compilation of works by a number of authors?) has something on the spear.

Also, which of the German schools is dueling and which is actual combat stuff? (I would assume there would be hybrids) For training gear I think the only armour I would be wearing would be a gambeson for padding. Maybe a brigidine. That and some gloves. That aside armour fighting (battlefield fighting) sounds like it would be good to know as well.

M.


A number of German masters teach spear and pollaxe; the halberd shows up in later texts (e.g., Meyer and Mair) mostly, although there seems to be some in the Peter Falkner Fechtbuch. I don't know who you mean by "Letch"; are you referring to Liechtenauer? He was the founder of the main line of German masters that we study today.

There is one good book on spear, that's Christian Tobler's Fencing With the German Longsword which is, in my opinion, the very best "starter book" on the German system you can get. I just completed a book on spear and halfsword, but I did it with lousy pictures just to give my students a study guide; there will be a better version forthcoming. As far as I know no one has published a book on the pollaxe, however that is my particular specialty and I'm working on a book on that subject right now. In the meantime, you can look at some pollaxe techniques on my Schule's webpage here:
www.schlachtschule.org (then go to the "Instruction" page and then to the Streitaxt link.

As for armor, that's just not enough for serious bouting. You really need a full harness, not just for protection but in order to ensure that you're limited the way a real harness would limit you.

Here is a site with some pollaxe material:
http://ardamhe.free.fr/biblio/talhoffer/hache...rgsell.htm
Here's another:
http://base.kb.dk/pls/hsk_web/hsk_vis.side?p_...p_lang=eng
Here's another, and this site also includes spear play:
http://mdz10.bib-bvb.de/~db/bsb00001840/images/index.html
And here's another with spear:
http://www.thehaca.com/Manuals/Gladiatoria/Gladiatoria.htm
And here's a translation of a text-only manual with a number of spear plays:
http://www.schielhau.org/liechtenauer-armoured1.html

If you have any specific questions about this material feel free to ask. My Schule focuses on German armored combat so we do a lot with that form of combat.

Regards,
Hugh
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Thu 31 May, 2007 2:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[url="http://www.revival.us/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=178"]Fighting with the German Longsword[/url] is on my to buy list, along with the I.33 one by the same publisher. It has spear play in it, if memory servers. My practice partner has a copy of both so that takes care of that on his end.

As for protection, I was under the impression that a lot of Liechtenauer (Never going to remember how to spell that.) teachings where mostly unarmoured exercises?

M.

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Martin Wallgren




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PostPosted: Thu 31 May, 2007 2:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You Could also make a visit to Schola Gladiatorias page: Ask around there on the forum. Lot´s of people who work with both the German and Italian tradition there! http://www.fioredeiliberi.org/intro/
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Thu 31 May, 2007 2:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
As for protection, I was under the impression that a lot of Liechtenauer (Never going to remember how to spell that.) teachings where mostly unarmoured exercises?


Not at all. Everyone focuses on Liechtenauer's unarmored longsword, so that's what you see the most of, but the Liechtenauer Society (a term for the masters in the Liechtenauer lineage, basically) masters include a lot of armored material. Ringeck includes spear, halfsword and grappling in armor; the von Danzig Fechtbuch (which includes Hundfeldt and Lignitzer) includes the same plus armored dagger; and Paulus Kal has spear, halfsword, dagger and pollaxe in armor. Stepping *slightly* outside of the Liechtenauer lineage (i.e., masters who are teaching something similar to the Liechtenauer Society masters but who may have a slightly different take on things), we have Talhoffer who teaches spear, halfsword, dagger and pollaxe; the Gladiatoria Fechtbuch which contains spear, halfsword, dagger and grappling; and Codex Wallerstein (part B) that contains spear, halfsword and dagger. Then there are works such as Codex 11093 that includes spear, halfsword and dagger and the Czynner Fechtbuch with halfsword, dagger and grappling in armor. Finally, there's a book called Le Jeu de La Hache which, while Burgundian in origin, matches incredibly closely with Talhoffer's pollaxe material but gives a much broader, richer pallette of techniques than any other pollaxe source. So, as you can see, there are a tremendous number of readily-available primary sources for you to study once you learn the basics from some interpretive work (e.g., the Tobler book I mentioned).

Regards,
Hugh
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Jonathan Blair




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PostPosted: Thu 31 May, 2007 4:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One of the guys in my living history group said that the Italian seems centered on fighting for one's life, while the German seems to have a sport fighting side to it in addition to the fighting for one's life. In Fiore, you'll see techniques that would be used to fight street toughs and wrestling seems to be the foundation. The German techniques I have seen, while very useful against those same street toughs, has a bit of flair to it with odd battleshields and such.

The other thing is that Fiore doesn't like crossing the wrists much at all, something that the German schools didn't have a problem with.

Minor points all. Basically, I'd love to have a regular teacher of any school appropriate to my period (late 14th/early 15th). Hopefully that school in York, PA opens soon.

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." - The Lord Jesus Christ, from The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, chapter x, verse 34, Authorized Version of 1611
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Dietrich Dellinger




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PostPosted: Thu 31 May, 2007 8:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jonathan Blair wrote:

Hopefully that school in York, PA opens soon.


Jonathan,

I live in York. Are you talking about the Swordguild of York? We're currently studying longsword, singlestick, and classical foil, but our instructor is open to people bringing in other forms. I'll send you a PM with more information if you're interested.

Dietrich Dellinger
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 31 May, 2007 11:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jonathan Blair wrote:
One of the guys in my living history group said that the Italian seems centered on fighting for one's life, while the German seems to have a sport fighting side to it in addition to the fighting for one's life. In Fiore, you'll see techniques that would be used to fight street toughs and wrestling seems to be the foundation. The German techniques I have seen, while very useful against those same street toughs, has a bit of flair to it with odd battleshields and such.

The other thing is that Fiore doesn't like crossing the wrists much at all, something that the German schools didn't have a problem with.

Minor points all. Basically, I'd love to have a regular teacher of any school appropriate to my period (late 14th/early 15th). Hopefully that school in York, PA opens soon.


I don't entirely agree with your friend's sentiments. The unusual weaponry found in some German manuscripts was specifically designed for judicial duels, which meant that one's still fighting for one's life. And even with these oddities (which I might add appear in only some of the German manuals) the German system in my view is still far more complete than the Italian one.

The German masters also advise that crossing the wrists is weak. One of the first things you are instructed to do is to fence striking from the right side if you are right handed. The main reason the German masters include crossed wrist techniques is to illustrate how to do them, and they acknowledge that they can be useful in some contexts, even if in general, they're a bad idea.
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Kel Rekuta




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PostPosted: Thu 31 May, 2007 12:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jonathan Blair wrote:
One of the guys in my living history group said that the Italian seems centered on fighting for one's life, while the German seems to have a sport fighting side to it in addition to the fighting for one's life. In Fiore, you'll see techniques that would be used to fight street toughs and wrestling seems to be the foundation. The German techniques I have seen, while very useful against those same street toughs, has a bit of flair to it with odd battleshields and such.

The other thing is that Fiore doesn't like crossing the wrists much at all, something that the German schools didn't have a problem with.


Sorry, you need to look at both traditions more deeply. Fiore and Vadi, both Italian masters one late 14th -early 15th C the other late 15thC, demonstrate guard positions, transitions and locks with crossed wrists in grappling, dagger, sword and spear. People make up a lot of differences instead of looking at the similarities. There is only one Art of combat, there are many, many perspectives on it, depending on the time and focus of a particular treatise.

Fiore explains "so that much experience of military service did not become lost negligently, so that it supplies in war or in any other commotion, a most valid subsidy to the expert men, I have decided to compose a book with regard to the things most useful in this splendid Art." (courtesy; The Exiles translation from the Pissani-Dossi prologue) In this and the other two versions of the treatise, Fiore explains that he learned from Germans and Italians and others at great expense, from fight masters and noblemen as well. These things are useful in comradely play, riots, war and most desirably, in the barriers, for honour and advancement.

It is in the latter that Fiore's teaching services were most in demand. The same may be said for other masters the HEMA community studies, be they known authors or anonymous. I can't agree enough with both Nicolas and Hugh on the last point though. Find a local study group and work with them. If no one is around, get whatever material you can off the internet or from the numerous books and videos currently available and form your own study group! You can't get very far in these studies by yourself. Exclamation

Good luck!
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Bob Burns




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PostPosted: Fri 01 Jun, 2007 8:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For me, I prefer the German style of Longsword, and though I do not belong to any school I do especially study my books by "My" favorite instructor "Christian Henry Tobler"!

Speaking as a person who earned a black belt in karate in Oct. 2004 at age 47 from a very tough instructor "Keith Hackney", but a novice in swordsmanship.
I would describe Christian Tobler as "Poetry In Motion"!

Sincerely,

Bob
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Jason G. Smith




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Jun, 2007 7:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just a bit more insight into the different masters:

Longsword is longsword, no matter how you slice it (pun intended). In contrast, however, to what has been put forth so far, I find the "italian" system to be more complete, though less studied and interpreted. In essence, everything is an extension of the wrestling plays. It requires you to be well grounded, and have knowledge of locks and binds. You then move on to dagger, which is an extension of the arm. Then longsword, which is an extension yet again, etc. You build upon what you have learned previously, which for me seems a logical way to go. While many groups focus on longsword for the sake of longsword, I find Fiore's approach to be a more complete martial art. And please, don't take the plates to be gospel - they are teaching tools meant to demonstrate principles, and not the be-all and end-all in techniques. If you understand the underlying principles, you're well on your way to understanding the art.

Also, it strikes me that Fiore's work is simpler to learn - and thus teach - for beginners, allowing someone to train quickly for a duel, battle, etc. It's the hallmark of a teacher who needed to be expedient - get people ready quickly. The "German" system is a bit fancier in its techniques, and more difficult for a beginner to master, IMO. That being said, if one looks closely at the Italian system, it is no less complex nor complete than the German tradition. I leave it to you to figure out the rest for yourself.

In the end, longsword is still longsword, and while many debates rage on about the merits of each tradition, I sometimes wonder if it's not just a matter of personal style. I'll bet any number of people here can attest to having preferred techniques, or techniques that work better for them than their sparring partners based on build, size, speed, etc. Who's to say Liechtenauer wasn't some tall skinny guy who had a vested interest in keeping his enemy at bay with the point, while Fiore was a small burly man who preferred to power through and engage in close-quarters combat? You'll find techniques that work better for you because of your build etc...

To cap it off - find a group near you and train - regardless of tradition. You can't lose! Big Grin

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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Jun, 2007 1:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, build wise, I am short and thick. 5'3" and 215ish pounds, most of which is bone. (I am supposed to be around 112, but if I lost ALL my body fat I doubt I would fall below 160) How much does the German tradition focus on the grapple? I've always imagined that regardless of melee weapon, the abilitiy of your enemy to take it away from you, or prevent your arms from using it, was key. (Such as in I.33 the arresting technique in which you trap both your opponents sword and shield arm in the crux of your shield arm)

M.

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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Sun 03 Jun, 2007 6:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
Well, build wise, I am short and thick. 5'3" and 215ish pounds, most of which is bone. (I am supposed to be around 112, but if I lost ALL my body fat I doubt I would fall below 160) How much does the German tradition focus on the grapple? I've always imagined that regardless of melee weapon, the abilitiy of your enemy to take it away from you, or prevent your arms from using it, was key. (Such as in I.33 the arresting technique in which you trap both your opponents sword and shield arm in the crux of your shield arm)

M.


I think a good analogy to use for the German tradition is that wrestling and armed combat were two sides of the same coin in their view. In order to be skilled with a long sword, you needed to be capable of effectively fighting at a close quarters range so that if the need to arise ever occurs you are competent and able to protect yourself. That having been said, I don't think disarms are normally part of ringen for the long sword (though my statement certainly isn't true for the dagger). To the best of my knowledge, most long sword disarms involve you using your long sword against your foe in such away that you can disarm them, rather than using wrestling to take it away. Within the German tradition, however, the far greater emphasis is upon getting the first strike in with the long sword and following up rapidly with cuts and thrusts afterwards so that your opponent is forced to defend themselves and cannot cause you harm. Therefore, disarms are not particularly important to the German system, since they don't really fit in with this philosophy.
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Jason G. Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Jun, 2007 8:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I think a good analogy to use for the German tradition is that wrestling and armed combat were two sides of the same coin in their view. In order to be skilled with a long sword, you needed to be capable of effectively fighting at a close quarters range so that if the need to arise ever occurs you are competent and able to protect yourself. That having been said, I don't think disarms are normally part of ringen for the long sword (though my statement certainly isn't true for the dagger). To the best of my knowledge, most long sword disarms involve you using your long sword against your foe in such away that you can disarm them, rather than using wrestling to take it away. Within the German tradition, however, the far greater emphasis is upon getting the first strike in with the long sword and following up rapidly with cuts and thrusts afterwards so that your opponent is forced to defend themselves and cannot cause you harm. Therefore, disarms are not particularly important to the German system, since they don't really fit in with this philosophy.


Ah, but that's where I think you may be mistaken, and why it's important to study more than one "system". Everything is inferred - should you get into Ringen or ringen am schwert with your opponent - what do you do? Simple - if he changes through with a pommel, it is essentially a dagger disarm. If he comes at y ou with half sword, that too is a dagger, and many of the same techniques and principles apply.

Sorry - wife and kids are harrying me... gotta go!

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