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Benjamin Floyd II





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PostPosted: Mon 15 Oct, 2012 10:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thread necro!
Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
The one-handed katzbalger swords with rounded points intrigue. Why did the Germans favor cutting blades for pikemen when military authors such Fourquevaux suggested only the thrust on the battlefield? Do any instructions for employing these weapons in the press exist?


Quote:
And although these four parts of the combatant would be enough, according to the use of German combatants of former days, who allowed thrusting as well as cutting....


Quote:
You will find the true Irongate presented more fully later in the treatise on rapier combat. For since thrusting with the longsword is abolished among us Germans, this guard has also entirely fallen into disuse and been lost; however these days the Italians and other nations use it.


Quote:
But I will here remind the friendly reader at the outset, since there is a great difference between sword combat in our time and how it was practised by our predecessors and the combat masters of old, that this account of the cuts will only cover what is currently in use and pertinent to the sword. And as to the practice of former days, when they fought dangerously both with cuts and thrusts, I will discuss it in its proper and separate place.


These quotes are from Joachim Meyer in 1570. I believe he's talking about both fechtschulen and war times. The reasoning behind this is a contemporary account from an Italian who talked about the Germans and how they foolishly do not thrust on the battlefield because they do not think it's manly (though I can't remember where I saw that quote now! It was on one of the HEMA forums).

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Roger Norling




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PostPosted: Tue 16 Oct, 2012 2:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is from Francesco Patrizi who in "Paralleli militari" in 1595 says that the Landsknechten thought the trust to not be gallant and that one shouldn’t use it in combat. It is very interesting since it appears to confirm what Meyer says in 1570. And judging from Meyer this was not a new practice, in fact it seems to be well established in his time.

There are quite a few possible explanations for this as war and combat is not necessarily all about killing the opponent, and when it is it is done in a specific context.

Here is what Meyer says a bit more expanded:

Quote:
For although the thrust was permitted by our forefathers in earnest cases against the common enemy, yet not only did they not permit it in sporting practice (schimpflichen übungen), but they would also in no way allow it for their sworn-in soldiers (Kriegsleuten) or others who had come in conflict with each other, except against the common enemy (gemeine feinde), a custom that should still be observed today by honorable soldiers (Kriegsleuten) and by civilian Germans (Burgerlichen Teutschen).


However, keep in mind that Meyer also taught thrusting, not as much with the longsword (though he still does to a degree), but quite a bit with all other weapons. Many mistake him for a sports fencer, but a lot of his techniques would not work in the fechtschulen and were clearly designed for war or self-defense. You simply couldn't break the opponent's arm, grab his testicles, cut to the hands or thrust him in the testicles or face in the fechtschulen. Some techniques could be trained safely though, but the thrust in particular is dangerous to train when you are not wearing protection. And if it wasn't deemed galant to use against your countrymen or equals then there was little point in focusing your training on it.

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Last edited by Roger Norling on Tue 16 Oct, 2012 12:38 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Tue 16 Oct, 2012 10:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm skeptical that soldiers would have completely eschewed the thrust on the battlefield for cultural reason. As Roger shows, Meyer explicitly allowed the thrust against foreign foes.
Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
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To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
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Roger Norling




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PostPosted: Tue 16 Oct, 2012 11:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

... and the thrust was of course also commonly used with other weapons; the pike, the dussack, the rappier and the halberd.

So it was not exactly absent from the battlefields, but there are several reasons that could explain why it would not be used as much with swords for some decades leading up to the 1550s or so. I can speculate about this a bit later. Happy

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José-Manuel Benito




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PostPosted: Tue 16 Oct, 2012 12:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote



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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 19 Oct, 2012 8:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The (relative) lack of thrusts in certain German swordplay traditions from the 16th century onward, odd as it may be, was quite real and not just a figment of several contemporary writers' imaginations. In fact, the cut-only tradition was perpetuated into the early 20th century and known as the Deutsche Hiebfechten (German cut-fencing). The last vestiges of its survival is the Mensur duels that are still practiced (or are being revived) in a few German universities today. J. Cristoph Amberger even has a blog about it.

Of course, that doesn't mean the Germans were ignorant of thrusts. In the 18th and 19th centuries they had a tradition known as the Kreusslersche Stossfechtschule (Kreussler's school of thrust fencing) distinct from the French and Italian ones; from what little I've seen it's less reluctant to employ closing and grappling techniques with the smallsword/epée than the other schools. J.C. Amberger's Fencing Classics blog has more on it.
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Roger Norling




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PostPosted: Sat 20 Oct, 2012 12:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well it is a little bit more complicated than that, since fencing masters and authors of fechtbuchen constantly kept teaching the thrust throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. I can't think of any author that didn't teach thrusting at all. Even Meyer teaches it with all weapons; longsword, dussack, rappier, quarterstaff, halberd and pike. Some 20-30 years before him we have Mair and again 30 years earlier we have Paurnfeindt. And there are plenty of other such examples of 16th cent authors teaching thrusting with swords.

Most 14th and 15th cent fechtbuchen teach for quite specific contexts and does not really speak much about topics like fighting the "common" enemy or reservations or strategies for what techniques to use in various situations. There is some advice for self-defense, ambushes and multiple opponents so on, but generally they teach for judicial dueling with identical weapons. Only rarely do we see other contexts, although what was taught for the dueling was certainly also used in other contexts.
So, to know how the thrusting against your "countrymen" etc was regarded in those centuries I think we might have to look at other sources. However, it is a research area which is little explored yet, as far as I know.

The Mensur most likely stems from the Fechtschule tradition and specificallly the Dussack fencing, which in turn has its roots in the messer fencing, perhaps with some Ottoman influences added to it, although that aspect hasn't really been explored properly yet. The Fechtschulen can trace its roots back to the judicial duelling that was common in Germany but in turn is traced back to Scandinavia and its Germanic tribes. Commonly such fights were performed to defend your honour and the primary intent was not to kill your opponent. Some were fought until first blood after which several outcomes were possible: Either the score was deemed settled or the loser was summarily executed. Thrusting was not needed or very usable in such a context and this may have transferred through to the Fechtschulen too. Standing your ground and proving your honour is very much part of the mensur.

Personally I also think we need to keep in mind Cavalry fencing here as an important factor, with the dussack and the Reitschwert being important swords on the battlefields. Thrusting simply isn't as practical on horse or against many enemies as is the cut. This is something that was debated even in the 19th century.

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