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Sam Arwas




Location: Australia
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 1:36 am    Post subject: Where does the 'no edge parrying' myth come from?         Reply with quote

The nonsense statement that medieval swordplay features no parrying with the edge whatsoever gets spread a lot by people claiming/thinking that they are well versed in the subject. I'm very curious to understand what brings them to this conclusion. I have read one ridiculous article claiming that edge parrying is not shown in any of the treatises. I have not studied the treatises extensively but even I know that's rubbish. It also seems quite absurd that a person who is in a situation that requires him or her focus on avoiding mortal injury would be particularly concerned about getting their edge damaged.
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Steven Lussenburg





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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 2:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt Easton in one of his Youtube video's mentioned there is an example from parrying with the flat in a Messer treaties.

It is indeed very silly and I doubt anyone who has looked at a sword very closely would support this idea. My feeling is that the idea originates from modern collectors who noticed their expensive collectors blades get damaged with test cutting/playing around. Only in such an innocent environment you could come up with a theory like that.

Anyone realising that swords are to kill and in a fight you have something else to worry about than damaging your edge (like not getting killed) would never buy such a story.
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T. Kew




Location: Cambridge, UK
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 2:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some factions in the Western Martial Arts community have advanced the idea at length. ARMA are noted for it, at least historically, although I don't know their current doctrine on the subject (because they keep their doctrines secret).

For me, I don't care much about damage or practicality, although both can be interesting to consider. What I care about is the instructions of the sources I study. Time and time again throughout Ringeck, we are instructed to turn the edge towards the opponents sword, to fall upon their sword with the edge, to cleave into their sword, and so on. Not once are we instructed* to deliberately bind with the flat of our sword.

Some of these will bind on the opponents edge, and some on their flat. Which happens is irrelevant to me: what's relevant is that the action I do with my sword is what's instructed.

My suspicion is that the reason for this is a practical one. A sword is much stiffer in the plane of the edge, and will be able to receive and transmit much more force without you losing control. If you hold a sword out in langort and have an opponent strike the flat, it will be driven away. Turn the edge towards their cut, and you can bind it much more effectively. You can protect yourself more securely, control their sword better, and wind and so on more easily. You're also much less likely to get your hands cut off, which is always nice.

However, whatever reason they had isn't important. The important thing is to do what the historical source instructs.

*Some translations of one of the krumphaw plays do give this instruction, but it may be an error in translation or in that specific original MS. It seems likely that the intent is to instead strike onto the opponent's flat.

Furthermore, note that I'm talking about a specific source here. Later longsword sources have some hanging parries with the flat, and there are a few plays in the messer sources which use the flat as well. Those are interesting, but irrelevant to the main focus of my study.

Instructor and scholar, Cambridge HEMA
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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 2:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven Lussenburg wrote:
Matt Easton in one of his Youtube video's mentioned there is an example from parrying with the flat in a Messer treaties.

It is indeed very silly and I doubt anyone who has looked at a sword very closely would support this idea. My feeling is that the idea originates from modern collectors who noticed their expensive collectors blades get damaged with test cutting/playing around. Only in such an innocent environment you could come up with a theory like that.

Anyone realising that swords are to kill and in a fight you have something else to worry about than damaging your edge (like not getting killed) would never buy such a story.


Yeah and that it's no coincidence that it is specifically a Messer treatise, since with the "Nagel" it is possible to conduct that technique without huge risk of losing your fingers.
It's a specific technique (probably for surprising your opponent?), not a general use of Messers.

I think your idea could very likely be correct.
In reality if one is so unwilling to dent an expensive sword (apparently can't afford another if it gets heavy damage?), then maybe one should have bought some other weapons instead, if one plan to fight in battles.


Last edited by Niels Just Rasmussen on Sat 30 Apr, 2016 5:27 am; edited 1 time in total
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 4:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

FLAT!




I am sorry I couldn't resist but I think Clements popularized it a lot.
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Adam Bohnstengel




Location: Spring, TX
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 10:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My opinion is that it comes from older movies and such. The characters are fighting for show and are purposefully coming together at an edge to edge 90* parry, like this +. That's crazy hard on a blade. Anything less than that though, I don't really count as "edge to edge". The idea that you can only parry with the flat is equally crazy goofy. I'm still beginner/ok level, but most of the parries I see are more like 30-60* and closer to a scissor type cross than anything.
Violence is the supreme authority from which all other authority is derived.
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Michael Beeching





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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 10:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am inclined to say that "parrying with the flat" is a reaction to the countless years of misunderstanding about swordfighting in conjunction with bad Hollywood acting. In these instances, actors and bad fighters spend their time fighting each other's swords, and in the process, ruin them.

That said, I do not think parrying with the flat is a bad concept, so long as it is executed sensibly. With my experience limited to reading Ringeck, "Dobringer," and thus Liechtenaur, "pattying with the flat" simultaneously makes sense while also having no meaning whatsoever. This is because we are told to make no "empty voiders" in Master Liechtenaur's teaching - so, if one strikes a zornhau at an adversary, they void the opponent's weapon while cutting into one of their openings; presumably, the opponent is also cutting into one of theirs. The nature of this engagement should imply that when the zornhau intercepts the incoming blade, it is striking (mostly) against the flat, because the opponent is trying to cut the defender (or perhaps offender) rather than strike at the sword. The edges may bind, but serious damage should be mitigated because the angle will be slight.

It has been pointed out many times that a sword will inevitibly be damaged at some level in any serious combat. I believe a good swordsman (or woman) would first work to save their life in a fight, and through good technique, would work to preserve their livelihood as well - this livelihood includes their sword. So, in conclusion, I'd argue that parrying with the flat as an absolute doctrine (which I suppose ARMA claims not to be quite the case?) is just an overreaction to bad technique demonstrated through popular culture for quite a long time.

*EDIT*

Adam, it looks like you finished your post just a few minutes before I finished mine! I had to step away for a few minutes and was not trying to parrot any of your thoughts.
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Travis Canaday




Location: Overland Park, Kansas
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 11:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
I am sorry I couldn't resist but I think Clements popularized it a lot.


JOHN CLEMENTS!

He is the reason for this ridiculous and unhistorical idea. It's a silly topic that has been beaten to death for years. I thought it was settled a decade ago.

Somewhere there is a video of him hitting a sword clamped in vice at a perfect 90 degree angle, and surprise the edges were damaged! Never mind that is completely not analogous to a sword fight.

Travis
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Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 11:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Honestly I don't know how it got started but it was a commonly held belief in the 20th century and pre-dates Clements' influence though he did popularize it as part of his now thoroughly debunkable "clean break" theory. You can't even do the standard "blame the Victorians" thing on this, they primarily parried with the edge even in their thrust fencing. There are valid flat parries in the Med/Ren sources but they're definitely the exception rather than the rule. My guess is two main things got this myth going,

-We wanted ancient and indestructible swords like we hear about in other myths but swords clearly wear out with use, flat parrying seemed like a way to extend service life.


-People, even today, tend to endlessly repeat information from a perceived authority that they encounter early on. Somewhere out there in the wild there's probably an old arms and armor book that mentions the idea.

The wildcard is that it may have been influenced by Japanese swordsmanship or at least common perceptions of such. I have had the opportunity to fence with a few koryu guys who had about as much experience in their art as I have in mine and they did have a distinctly different approach to parrying.
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Philip Dyer





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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 4:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

First of all, Blood and Iron HEMA practitioners have demonstrated that you can parry safely with the flat without a nagel , ask long as it isn't a hard parry. Second, I think it came from sword collectors and Arma's over reaction to ridiculous Hollywood fencing where they treat swords like sharpened bats, which would turn swords into hacksaws, probably break them in short order and cause lot of pointless locks and jams. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9b8q7-M_dQ Here is two Blood and Iron sword master showing a flat parry with a sword just a normal crossguard. Also there are ( few) examples of blades that have been passed down for generations.
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Travis Canaday




Location: Overland Park, Kansas
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 7:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mike Ruhala wrote:

-We wanted ancient and indestructible swords like we hear about in other myths but swords clearly wear out with use, flat parrying seemed like a way to extend service life.


There is definitely this modern idea that swords should be this heirloom were damage should always be avoided. When in reality they were using these things to protect their lives. What's more important?

Mike Ruhala wrote:
The wildcard is that it may have been influenced by Japanese swordsmanship or at least common perceptions of such. I have had the opportunity to fence with a few koryu guys who had about as much experience in their art as I have in mine and they did have a distinctly different approach to parrying.


Agreed. Despite all the well preserved Japanese swords, damage to edges was common as documented in ukiyo-e (woodblook art) pieces where their swords looked like saw blades. Although these were made artists and not swordsmen, I believe that this shows that swords used in combat were expected to receive damage.

Travis
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Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 10:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's a large part of the reason I wanted a high quality forged Dane axe like the one Eric McHugh made for me. Because all the steel is concentrated into a single durable piece and the haft is easily replaceable an axe has certain natural advantages as an heirloom.
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Nat Lamb




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PostPosted: Sun 01 May, 2016 5:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In Australia there is a (recent, like 30 years) reason, I think. At least in N.S.W. and Victoria, the New Varangian Guard was more or less the only show in town for steel weapon re-creationists. They have, since the early 90s at least, had a "only parry with the flat" policy. To the best of my knowledge this is not due to any claims made about historical accuracy, just that 60% of the swords being used were semi home made, and the other 40% were stupidly over priced due to the cost of shipping anything to Convict-Island. As a result, everyone wanted to preserve their precious toys as much as possible.
I think that this has persisted as a habit in the re-enactment community here, rather than as a considered ideology.
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Houston P.




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PostPosted: Sun 01 May, 2016 6:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would just like to point out that the ARMA does not teach to completely avoid edge contact. In techniques such as Absetzen, you bind with the edge, and a vast majority of the techniques Mr. Clements shows from the Kron he is specifically showing from edge contact. We teach that a deflectional parry and especially a strike that simultaneously attacks and defends are preferable to making a strictly defensive motion of any sort. There are also many cases where the sources tell you to receive a strike on the flat or to " displace him with your long edge ", and one of Andre Pauernfeindt's 12 rules admonishes us to " remember the flat ". Indeed, I have never ( and I welcome correction on this, I am far from omniscient ) found a place where any of the Renaissance Masters tell you to receive a strike on your edge, only to bind or displace with it. We take things such as " when he cuts so you too cut, when he thrusts so you too thrust", to " avoid parrying, if the need befalls you, it will cause you trouble", " avoid...wide and ungainly motions ... Holding out their weapons and allowing them to be struck upon", and so on; to mean that parrying at all is less preferable than attacking. Thus we try to focus on attacking and defending in one motion, or seizing control of the fight and pressuring our opponent into remaining on the defensive ( rushing in boldly and seizing the Vorschlag ) . I hope that helps to shed some light on this issue.
...and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. (‭Luke‬ ‭22‬:‭36‬) To be without silver is better than to be without honor. -Norse proverb
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Mario M.




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PostPosted: Sun 01 May, 2016 9:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am not sure about how it spread within the martial arts community, but in case of the internet itself, it was this video by Clements;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtNZQBc4RpE

The amount of views it has is huge, I believe there was another one with even more views that disappeared some time ago.

I recall it also being reposted at a couple other sites, including Facebook, where it got millions of views(from memory, I could be wrong, but facebook videos often get several times more views than youtube videos) before all mirrors disappeared except the one I provided above.

“The stream of Time, irresistible, ever moving, carries off and bears away all things that come to birth and plunges them into utter darkness...Nevertheless, the science of History is a great bulwark against this stream of Time; in a way it checks this irresistible flood, it holds in a tight grasp whatever it can seize floating on the surface and will not allow it to slip away into the depths of Oblivion." - Anna Comnena
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T. Kew




Location: Cambridge, UK
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PostPosted: Mon 02 May, 2016 2:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Houston P. wrote:
I would just like to point out that the ARMA does not teach to completely avoid edge contact. In techniques such as Absetzen, you bind with the edge, and a vast majority of the techniques Mr. Clements shows from the Kron he is specifically showing from edge contact. We teach that a deflectional parry and especially a strike that simultaneously attacks and defends are preferable to making a strictly defensive motion of any sort. There are also many cases where the sources tell you to receive a strike on the flat or to " displace him with your long edge ", and one of Andre Pauernfeindt's 12 rules admonishes us to " remember the flat ". Indeed, I have never ( and I welcome correction on this, I am far from omniscient ) found a place where any of the Renaissance Masters tell you to receive a strike on your edge, only to bind or displace with it. We take things such as " when he cuts so you too cut, when he thrusts so you too thrust", to " avoid parrying, if the need befalls you, it will cause you trouble", " avoid...wide and ungainly motions ... Holding out their weapons and allowing them to be struck upon", and so on; to mean that parrying at all is less preferable than attacking. Thus we try to focus on attacking and defending in one motion, or seizing control of the fight and pressuring our opponent into remaining on the defensive ( rushing in boldly and seizing the Vorschlag ) . I hope that helps to shed some light on this issue.


This has been round and round again.

There are buckets of techniques which explicitly instruct binding onto the sword with the long edge, turning the long edge into the cut, parrying with the true edge, and so on. The clearest example which springs immediately to mind from my primary system (Ringeck) is in the plays from Sprechfenster (emphasis mine):

Ringeck, trans. Trosclair. wrote:

Gloss. Note, this called the speaking-window: when he binds you on the sword with cuts or with parrying, so remain strong from extended arms with the long edge upon the sword, with the point in front of the face, and stand freely and seek out his thing (whatever he will execute against you).

[103] Item. If he strikes-around from the sword with an over-cut to the other side, so bind-after with the long edge against his cut with strength, above into the head.


The critical thing we see here is a lack of concern about whether you will be binding the edge or flat of the enemy sword. Another example of this would be the plays from the sweeps: you set up all of these techniques by sweeping up with your short edge against the enemy cut. If you hit them on the flat and displace them, great. But if they turn their edge towards you and bind strongly, you don't go "aah, my poor sword edge", you wind from that position.

In short: when attacking, you drive in with an edge because that's what actually wounds or kills your opponent. When defending, you defend with an edge because that's what gives you a strong position from which to act to wound or kill your opponent. Maybe this causes edge contact, maybe it doesn't - in almost all cases, the zettel doesn't care.

(I've restricted this commentary to early Liechtenauer. If you move beyond this system, there are plenty of even more explicit sets of instructions. Viggiani has a lovely discussion around 81v. For example: "pay heed that in this delivering of the rovescio, the swords meet each other true edge to true edge, but that the forte of your sword will have met the debole of mine, whereby mine could be easily broken by virtue of the disadvantage of such a meeting, and also because of the fall of the cut; and you will also be more secure, being shielded by the forte of your sword." (Viggiani trans. Swanger, 82v),

Instructor and scholar, Cambridge HEMA
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Mike Ruhala




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PostPosted: Mon 02 May, 2016 8:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

T. Kew wrote:

There are buckets of techniques which explicitly instruct binding onto the sword with the long edge, turning the long edge into the cut, parrying with the true edge, and so on.


Yup! I was going to come up with an an expansive list but it'll be a few days before I'd have the time to sit down and go through all the material.
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Randall Pleasant




Location: Flower Mound, Texas
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PostPosted: Mon 02 May, 2016 1:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Where does the 'no edge parrying' myth come from?         Reply with quote

Sam Arwas wrote:
The nonsense statement that medieval swordplay features no parrying with the edge whatsoever gets spread a lot by people claiming/thinking that they are well versed in the subject. I'm very curious to understand what brings them to this conclusion. I have read one ridiculous article claiming that edge parrying is not shown in any of the treatises. I have not studied the treatises extensively but even I know that's rubbish. It also seems quite absurd that a person who is in a situation that requires him or her focus on avoiding mortal injury would be particularly concerned about getting their edge damaged.

Sam

Let me start by saying that I am no longer a member of ARMA, thus in no way should you take me as speaking for them. I'm sharing what I know as a former member of ARMA.

Like many others on this thread you are greatly misunderstanding the issue and it is far from being a silly issue. The one single issue is about edge hacking with hard high speed edge-on-edge block parries, ie high speek impacts at roughly 90 degrees. Why this is bad is easy to test with cheap kitchens. Just lay one knife on the kitchen counter facing up and then slam the other knife into it several times. When you see how the edges are ruined you're be glad you used cheap knifes rather than high quality (Albion, etc.) swords for the test. If you do the test do wear safety equipment just in case something breaks.

So what is not the issue? There are absolutely no issues with Edge-to-Flat parries and Flat-to-Edge parries as both are taught by the historical masters and neither does great damage to the blades. Of course anytime two pieces of metal impact at high speed there is some damage but what the issue is major blade damage. And of course the blades rarely impact perfectly, thus in almost all cases the edges will touch first in an Edge-to-Flat parry but the great majority of the impact of the edge will go into the flat of the other blade. There is also not an issue is one edge sliding down another edge at a very low angle or edge-on-edge pushing, such as setting aside a thrust.

If you properly follow the instructions of the historical master you will never need to hack your blades Edge-on-Edge. Personally I strong question any longsword or cut & thrust interpretation that requires a high speed Edge-on-Edge impact. So to make clear once again, throughout my 14 years as his student John Clements taught a longsword interpretation that involved both Edge-to-Flat parries and Flat-to-Edge parries. Only the edge-on-edge blocks were discourage by Clements.

Ran Pleasant
Instructor of I.33 Sword & Buckler
Accademia del Leone


Last edited by Randall Pleasant on Mon 02 May, 2016 2:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Randall Pleasant




Location: Flower Mound, Texas
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PostPosted: Mon 02 May, 2016 2:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

T. Kew wrote:


This has been round and round again.

Ringeck, trans. Trosclair. wrote:

Gloss. Note, this called the speaking-window: when he binds you on the sword with cuts or with parrying, so remain strong from extended arms with the long edge upon the sword, with the point in front of the face, and stand freely and seek out his thing (whatever he will execute against you).

[103] Item. If he strikes-around from the sword with an over-cut to the other side, so bind-after with the long edge against his cut with strength, above into the head.


The critical thing we see here is a lack of concern about whether you will be binding the edge or flat of the enemy sword. Another example of this would be the plays from the sweeps: you set up all of these techniques by sweeping up with your short edge against the enemy cut. If you hit them on the flat and displace them, great. But if they turn their edge towards you and bind strongly, you don't go "aah, my poor sword edge", you wind from that position.

When your adversary performs an over-cut to the other side of your blade he is cutting downward, thus in the rebind an edge-on-edge impact is not involved.


Quote:
Viggiani has a lovely discussion around 81v. For example: "pay heed that in this delivering of the rovescio, the swords meet each other true edge to true edge, but that the forte of your sword will have met the debole of mine, whereby mine could be easily broken by virtue of the disadvantage of such a meeting, and also because of the fall of the cut; and you will also be more secure, being shielded by the forte of your sword." (Viggiani trans. Swanger, 82v),


Some interpretations of this play do involve edge-into-edge impact. Other interpretations of the play do not involve an edge-into-edge hack.

Ran Pleasant
Instructor of I.33 Sword & Buckler
Accademia del Leone
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Houston P.




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PostPosted: Mon 02 May, 2016 2:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was referring to strictly doing an idle parry with the edge, as in saber fencing, or to move into edge contact at high speeds. That's why I mentioned the quote about allowing your weapons to be struck. I didn't mean not to seek a bind with the edge. We are taught to seek a bind with the edge and wind in to attack. You can also receive a strike on the flat as you turn your edge into it. I don't disagree with that. I also don't disagree that you cannot fully control your opponent, and so if they change direction mid cut and your defensive maneuver was already begun, you may very well hack their edge, and you would have to proceed from there. However, that Ringeck quote is really interesting. Mair only mentioned Sprechfennster as a flat on edge defense. I haven't read Ringeck yet, but I may have to now. So overall, thank you Mr. Kew. You have given me my next manual to research. As for Randall, I almost fully agree.
...and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. (‭Luke‬ ‭22‬:‭36‬) To be without silver is better than to be without honor. -Norse proverb
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