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Tom King




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PostPosted: Tue 26 Aug, 2014 11:14 am    Post subject: Bauernwehr/Hauswehr fighting         Reply with quote

I've been wondering of late how exactly one would fight with one of the knives. Should they be treated like messers or used like a rondel dagger? Or would it depend on size? I've been playing around a bit with a 12" chefs knife and it seems like it would be a savage cutter when going through messer drills, but likely result in superficial injury. As a thrusting weapon it seems both wickedly suited but also lacking due to size if used like a messer. Before I drop the cash on one of Todd's excellent reproductions or modify a donor blade, I'd like to get a complete understanding of how a hauswehr was used outside it's primary function as a tool.

How would one fight someone wielding a messer or sword with one of these knives? Like a sword? like a dagger?

How would one fight a man wielding a dagger with one of these knives? with standard dagger techniques or treat it like a shortsword?

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Jeffrey Faulk




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PostPosted: Tue 26 Aug, 2014 11:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As far as I know, there are no specific historic techniques for these weapons, and it would absolutely depend upon size. Under a certain point (say about a 12" blade) use them as a single-edged dagger, above that point they are essentially a small messer which you can apply some dagger techniques to. They simply aren't quite heavy enough to chop effectively with, though you could easily slice and thrust with them. If you went against someone with a dagger, return the favor; if someone came at you with a messer, you have options though you may be out-matched in size.

I really don't think there's any fechtbuch, or even pages from one, which deal with these weapons specifically. I could certainly be wrong, though.
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Tue 26 Aug, 2014 12:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This will give you a pretty good idea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38sVdx7nzhQ&list=UUSjXHeq8fuL-Je7cashCDqA

Those weapons are slightly longer, of course.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Tue 26 Aug, 2014 5:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would use them for stabbing. I have a 12 inch bauernwehr from Tod, and although it has a long blade, I would not want to hew or slice with it in a life or death situation. I'd simply use it as a longer than "normal" dagger.

There are also rondel daggers of similar size and proportions.
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Mark T




PostPosted: Tue 26 Aug, 2014 5:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As both a bauernwehr aficionado (I have two from Tod, and working on a design for another), as well as having done some training which I think is relevant, here are some thoughts:

Like Jeffrey, I'm yet to come across a period fechtbuch that shows bauernwehr techniques per se - although I'd love to know if one exists.

With all due respect to Sean, I'd say that langes messer video will only get you halfway there; some of the other techniques would be highly unlikely with a bauernhwehr, and some downright dangerous. The half-swording techniques would be the most obvious: these would neither be possible with the blade geometry on a bauernwehr (for why, see Peter Johnsson's Artic Fire lecture), nor would give any benefit on the shorter weapon. Also, some langes messer techniques are designed for a weapon that can be slower to get into motion than a bauernwehr.

However, many of the techniques in that video, showing what today we would call disengages or power passing, would suit perfectly, as would the move that later became known as the passato soto.

For period techniques, given this was primarily a tool and a self-defence weapon, my guess is that for many, 'technique' would have been a matter of what we see today for untrained people: a lot of hack and slash, as best one can. For those with some exposure to, or dedicated training in, the sword and messer arts of the day, then perhaps it would also be similar to today's practice with the closest analogue we have, the modern Bowie knife: a mix of some point-oriented technique, to utliise this aspect of the blade design; some of the disarm techniques found in the dagger sources; some messer techniques; and possibly even some 'back-cutting' techniques using the clipped false edge as seen on some bauernwehr, and rediscovered in modern times by drawing on knowledge from sabre fighting.

In other words, the technique would not only be influenced by the exogenous influences of what techniques were available from other weapons, but also the endogenous features of the knife itself: a point as sharp as (or actually sharper than, with good blade geometry) a dagger; a long curved edge well-designed for cutting; a thick spine and good mass, but also good distal taper, definitely suitable for chopping; a sharpened false edge (on some examples), perfectly suited for the back-cut.

In my research of extant bauernwehr and historical images, I've also found a few that had down-turned guards, which also lend themselves to blade-catching and disarming techniques, as on later parrying daggers, and the modern Bowie equivalent, the Bagwell fighting Bowie, and dagger equivalent, the Crossada, designed by Master-at-Arms James Keating. While this downturned guard is not common on bauernwehr, it seems plausible to me that a thinking person, who wanted to have a bauernwehr that had the most functionality possible as a fighting knife, would have also discovered this concept.

I haven't - yet! - come across anyone specifically teaching/recreating/training in bauernwehr techniques as such. However, in the above context, I think to get an idea of what the historical techniques *might* have been like - but would have certainly made the most sense then, given the weapon's features, as well as what else was known at the time - as well as what would be the most sensible techniques to use with a bauernwehr now, then the work done by Mr Keating to both create and re-create the arts of the Bowie knife would be the best place to turn.

Modern Bowie techniques draw on foil fencing (for point-oriented methods, beats, glissades, passata soto and in quartarta); Phillipino arts, in turn drawing on Spanish techniques (disengages, power passing, logic chains, and disarming); and sabre fencing (for guards, and back-cutting using the clip-pointed sharpened false edge). It all adds up to a very simple, yet also comprehensive, approach to fighting with the long knife.

For a quick example of just one aspect of this, power passing and disarms, here's one video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HG7Fp01sVbk Please note that this was prepared primarily for his existing students, and assumes some background knowledge. Some of the presentation is step-by-step; some shows pausing and a non-verbal highlighting of key points; and some is closer to free-play. Given Mr Keating's style, as well as his intended audience for this, these are blended together in this presentation - so if you don't already know what you're looking at, and when he's 'changing gears', then it may not make sense. However, you'll see the similarities to the disengagements performed at the beginning of the langes messer video, and so favoured as messer techniques of the day - again, because of the features of both of these weapons: as they have longer reach than most daggers (both due to blade length, but also the reach difference of reverse vs forward grips), then they usually require meeting the blade first, rather than the closing that we see in dagger techniques. Again, given their mass, they are also effective at meeting blade-to-blade in this manner.

For a more complete overview of techniques suited to the bauernwehr, check out Mr Keating's Comtech Bowie Knife series, especially vol 1, The Crossada, vol 2, Bowie Basics, and vol 3 The Deadly Backcut: http://www.jamesakeating.com/instructional1.html The single best overview and introduction would be to track down the Legacy of Steel DVDs produced by Paladin Press, which you might also be able to source from Mr Keating.

And for anyone thinking about commissioning a bauernwehr (my recommendation would be from Tod!), then the single best resource you can buy is Bill Bagwell's Bowies, Big Knives, And The Best Of Battle Blades. Along with the design information in Mr Keating's DVDs, this book will explain how it's possible to have a Bowie (or bauernwehr!) that has enough mass to chop effectively, but still be quick, responsive, and sharp. It will explain why the Bowie (or bauernwehr) is shaper than a dagger at the tip; why the false edge can be even more effective than the main edge; why we see the small knob/return on the handle of historical Bowies (and bauernhwehren!); why the wound channel created by a Bowie (and a bauernwehr) is so much more effective than a dagger; and much, much more. Anyone interested in how a bauernwehr should be designed knowing what we now know about the best design aspects for this type of blade should read this book.

I personally think that if people interested in medieval knife design, collecting, and martial techniques were to spend time studying the Bowie, we'd see far more bauernwehr in relation to daggers than we do now. Daggers have their benefits (and, obviously, a lot of romanticisation attached to them, as with the double-edged sword), but the Bowie/baunernwehr-shaped knife, with both a single and sharped false edge, proper profile and distal tapers, and an effective guard, is a superior weapon in almost all respects. I think there's a possible exception of armoured combat, but given that many living history portrayals are not designed to either show someone who'd be facing an opponent in full armour, or that the persona would be better served by having a knife with more functionality than a dagger, it surprises me that there aren't more bauernwehr out there ... they're also certainly there in the period art, including those with clipped points, and my guess is that that design feature wasn't just for aesthetics.

I hope that all makes sense and is vaguely helpful!

Chief Librarian/Curator, Isaac Leibowitz Librarmoury

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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Tue 26 Aug, 2014 6:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

bowie sounds right for Hauswehr and Bauernwehr . is the weapon in the OP in that category? hard to tell. i might call it a rugger.
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Mark T




PostPosted: Tue 26 Aug, 2014 7:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Sean,

I was initially running with the OP's title for the thread. Yes, the knife in that photo would have some limitations for use with modern Bowie techniques.

As for terminology, it's tricky, isn't it? ... I've seen some auction houses use 'Rugger/Bauernwehr'; Tod also has one currently listed as 'Rugger or Bauernwehr'. I'm reminded of the discussion here about Schweizerdegen a few years back, when a German-speaker chimed in and suggested some typology/terminology that was apparently correct but no so well-known to many arms and armour historians! But, if by the common (modern) conventions, we use 'Rugger' to mean something that looks more to our eyes like a large kitchen knife, and 'Bauernwehr' to resemble something closer to a Bowie knife, then, yes, I'd rather have the latter.

We also have a similar terminology issue with Bowies themselves, though: as Flayderman's book shows well - both in the images, but also his research into period sources - some Bowie knives were more like big kitchen knives, while some were more like small cutlasses ... and everything in between!

Perhaps it's a case of 'a rose by any other name' as well as 'form follows function' ... there are a lot of 'Bowie' knives out there, both historical and modern, that it would be very hard to perform what we now have as modern Bowie techniques. On the other hand, as Mr Keating has commented, some modern 'Bowie' techniques can be performed effectively with a car aerial!

However, I think we can apply the same understandings of form and function of modern Bowie design to modern Bowie technique as we can for bauernwehren: a knife that has a strong spine will stand up better to parries, while one that has a profile more like a thin kitchen knife will not; one with a swage will be able to do back-cuts no matter how thick the spine; and so on.

Chief Librarian/Curator, Isaac Leibowitz Librarmoury

Schallern sind sehr sexy!
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Mark T




PostPosted: Tue 26 Aug, 2014 9:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Regarding terminology, I just remembered Peter Grassman's post from the Messer, Bauerwehr, Hauswehr? thread.

Interestingly, while 'Bauernwehr' and 'Hauswehr' are often used interchangeably terms, Peter suggests that Hauswehr were also called 'Rugger'.

I remember he later said he'd written an article about Bauernwehr in German, but he thought about translating it into English if anyone was interested ... if anyone knows whether he did this and can let me know, I'd appreciate it.

Chief Librarian/Curator, Isaac Leibowitz Librarmoury

Schallern sind sehr sexy!
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Tom King




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Aug, 2014 3:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The nagel is the one aspect of this style of knife/dagger that makes it so hard to decide how you would fight with it, at least from my perspective. It serves little purpose in it's primary function as a tool, yet for the most part if utilized in an "ice pick" grip it might as well not be there. Same goes for most standard dagger play.

Yet if you were to use it like a messer, well... it'd act like a messer. For larger examples, as well as the more chopping oriented styles of these knives, it makes perfect sense. Yet on examples not well north of a foot long...
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Mike Ruhala




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Aug, 2014 3:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Going blade to blade for parries with short weapons is inefficient because they are all strong and their reset time is essentially "0" which changes the relevant tempos that make such parrying advantageous in swordplay. On a short weapon a nagel will act as a blade stop and provides a little protection to the fingers/hand when your opponent tries to cut them... if it's substantial enough it's still sensible to kron on it vs a larger weapon, thumb on the flat and you're pretty well protected. Check out Meyer's 1570 for some daggerwork that isn't strictly reverse grip.
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Mark T




PostPosted: Fri 29 Aug, 2014 6:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the interests of completeness, there's more discussion of terminology in the A mess of messers thread here, as well as the German bauernwehr/rugger thread over on SFI.
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Daniel Wallace




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Aug, 2014 12:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was pretty interested in 'Bauernwehr' - intend to make one. all the terms used seemed to relate to the same thing. although, a rugger is termed to be more like a slender pointy knife, all the other terms general suggest the same thing, big knife/big present knife/etc. although I haven't seen many historical examples of them that aren't slender and pointy to categorize them is difficult at least as far as I've seen. there is also 'Waidbaltt' for large cleaver like knifes - which are interesting because they have the same grip style just meat cleaver like blades intended as part of a hunting trouse. most times I seen them labeled as 'messer.' personally I use the term messer for a big knife with quillons, the 'Bauernwehr' terms for knifes without quillons.
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