Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Fours of Meyer Dussack

The Fours of Meyer Dussack

What is so cool about Dussack fencing?
Besides it being a very fast paced, and dynamic fight, that requires a mastery of
the measure and tempo, there also exists a rather comprehensive system of
techniques available to us from the works of Joachim Meyer. Not just
techniques, but also actual precepts or rules that governed Meyer's fighting
system. It's one thing to have an original 15th 16th century fencing manuscript
that shows images of fencers in pairs, with a particular weapon, which describes
several cuts or parry's. It is a whole other thing to have one that reveals detailed
rules and advice which ensured success when fighting with this weapon. That is
what Joachim Meyer did within his written Dussack instruction. That's what he
did within all the weapons in his written works. Knowing his Longsword system
will definitely assist learning his Dussack system. Just as learning his Staff, was
meant to teach you rudiments for his Halberd and Pike. Perhaps within Meyer,
the Dussack was a liaison weapon between Longsword and Rappier?
He says it (Dussack) was meant to teach you use of all single hand weapons.
Nowhere better does he reveal this than in the unfinished Manuscript, known as
the Ms 82. Rostock. Wherein, he included a section on single hand weapon
use, aimed at the rappier. This lesson contains twelve cuts. All twelve are the
named cuts from his 1570 Dussack. Yet in the Rostock, he never once used the
word Dussack! He used the word Messer once or twice though. The Rostock
cuts vary from the Dussack cuts of his 1570. But I digress....




If we view certain keywords, from all that he has written about Dussack, several
interesting things are revealed. Overwhelmingly, we see the number 4 as being
used to quantify important principles. I have included four of them here that
Meyer taught. The four main cuts, four main cutting drills, four main rules for the
Guards and of course, the four openings, these are among several things which
he grouped in four. The number 4 featured predominantly in all his art.
If we wish to learn his system, perhaps we ought to look at the Order of his
instruction, while looking for sets of four things that he concluded were
important. Breaking it down is rather easy, as he himself in Dussack Chapter
One, shared what he intended to cover. He reiterated what and how he taught
in Longsword, and interestingly there he says, that he omitted something in the
Longsword, saving it for here, in the Dussack. This was a more thorough
rendering of the divisions of the opponent and how the cuts shall be arranged to
them. see Chapter three, 1570 Dussack. In other words the routes that your
weapon takes, through the lines. Often times these lines and cuts were named
for their intended targets, face, arm, hand etc.
Notice here where he says;
"I will thoroughly teach the division of the combatant, according to which these
cuts shall be arranged, specifically its use and employment, which
I had passed over in the treatise on the sword as being appropriate for here, to
ensure that nothing pertinent to the subject should be left out."
Nothing pertinent will be left out Master. Right there is a glaring and shining
example of something that should be of relevance to us. Something that a 16th
century German Fencing Master considered pertinent enough to omit in the
beginning weapon and better to include it in the Dussack. Why? Why was it
appropriate to put it in with the Dussack?
Something important, I would imagine. It also shows that Meyer was writing
about a complete system. So that any and all precepts from one weapon, can
carry over into any other weapon. Brilliant huh?


4 Openings
Meyer's order of instruction began with the divisions of the opponent. These
directly coincide with the four openings, along with the four main cut lines. We
see them featuring predominantly in Meyer's fighting system. These are nothing
new to the 16th century Kunst des Fechtens, nor did Meyer invent them. He used
them as they were intended. The four openings should form a basis of our
reconstruction attempts. IMO. How you see the targets on the opponent should
be in quarters, four quarters, of the body. But remember that these quarters
move: The skilled opponent is constantly changing which quarter(s) are
protected, and open.
Likewise your opponent is looking at your four quarters. So that your own 4
openings, are also useful, Meyer taught to make certain quadrants open, to bait
and entice the opponent in, to strike. For these, he had prepared and ready
counters.
As to what height the horizontal line was intended, we have Meyer's own advice:
"If you imagine these four lines standing with the Midpoint, at which they cross
over one another, at the level of the chin, such that the Thwart or Middle Line
runs across above the opponent’s shoulders, then the Cross stands correctly."
So that means a low cut would have been aimed at a higher target? hmm.
When we reconstruct unterhauen or low cuts thrown properly to the chin or
lower face, we see a lot of the hard-to-understand cuts or techniques, become
more clear. I think especially with Dussack, we see the 16th cent. Fechtschulen
influence on the art that Meyer taught. Many strikes were from up high, seeking
to strike the head. Many of the plates support this as do the texts and actual
techniques.
For those today who know and practice Meyer's four openings drill with the
Longsword, likewise the Dussack is also to be used when practicing these
series of four cuts to the four openings. The overall importance of the four
openings, and the 4 openings cutting drill that Meyer shared with us, should be
a staple of our practice routines. Always remember to start and finish in a guard.
The Guards form our base from which we launch successful attacks. Meyer
shared with us some advice with 4 things that he considered worth noting.
He used the German word 'regel' to denote these rules that governed his art.
For comparison, look at the 1579 works of Heinrich von Gunderode, wherein it
can be seen how von Gunderode, eight years after the death of Meyer, wrote of
the way that Meyer's art was ordered and ruled. Very interesting.



The 4 Main rules or reasons governing the Guards;
All of the cuts and attacks in Meyer Dussack begin and end in a Guard. The
guards are both the starting and ending points from which you launch your
attacks. Unlike the Longsword though, he does not name any Dussack Guard
as a Main guard.
Meyer must have felt it so important to convey advice on the use of the Guards,
that he wrote four main rules for effective use of the Guards in Dussack. Which
we will see, actually creates effective attacking and defending.
The following are my interpretations of his four reasons or uses for the Guards:
1. do not stay in a guard, change from guard to guard, seek to be the first to
attack. But if you can't attack first, then position yourself in a guard that protects
you, while you size up the situation.
2. the guards are the beginning and ending positions of our attacks. This is
brilliant because when you start your cut in a guard, and end in yet another
guard, you really haven't ended. Having studied the cuts from each of the
guards, your ending point is actually a new beginning attack point. As you are
prepared to begin yet another attack or cut.
3. The Guards reveal what your opponent may do. Where they will cut from,
where they may cut to. The reverse is true of you as well. The guards reveal
what you may have planned.
4. Because the guards reveal what you may do, what you have intended or
planned, do not stay in the Guards but rather, move constantly from guard to
guard. This serves to confuse the opponent, and allows you to inch in or around
them. Confuse the measure, confuse the direction of your potential attacks. It
works.




4 Main Cuts and the Lines on which they are cut. 
It is interesting how Meyer used the same order of instruction for Dussack as he
did for Longsword. Just as in Longsword, the Dussack cuts revolve around the
four main cuts; the High cut, the diagonal Wrath cut, the Middle cut, and the
rising Low cut. These cuts are thrown from both sides, using full and half cuts.
Long edge and sometimes short or crooked edge.
"I will therefore now proceed to teach how to deliver the cuts through these four
lines in four ways and forms, for they will be no small advantage to you in
correctly executing and understanding the devices."
The devices or stücken, are the culmination of all that he shared. No matter
what question we come up with today about a cut or technique in Meyer, the
answer(s) are always in the stücken. Meyer himself stated this quite a few
times. His preceding remarks speak directly to how we benefit by learning the
stücken.
Of further interest to us should be the routes that our weapons take. Meyer
mysteriously omitted this important section from the 1570 Longsword, yet
included it in Chapter three of his Dussack. Where he was very thorough and
included much advice on the lines through which we should cut. We see a
cutting line chart on Plate A of the 1570 Dussack.
Important to note that even though there seems to be a strict set of hard and
fast rules governing the lines and the cuts, we see Meyer here telling us that the
cutting lines are not as strict a thing as it seems.
"But when you send your cut against your opponent in the Before, and he is not
ready with a stroke to encounter your cut, you may then cut to his body under or
over his Dussack, regardless of where the lines indicate, as I will teach
sufficiently later in the devices."
Ah yes, the Stücken. Another mention by Meyer of the relevance of the stücken.
That is where the reason for learning to cut and parry by the lines, really comes
together. So we ought to be concentrating our initial learning efforts on cutting
these lines. For in cutting, we are also learning defense. Cutting away, from low
to high, and from up above to down below are advocated by the Master. As the
most basic of ways to parry. As we shall soon see.
Let's look at another mention by Meyer of something important;
"and correctly describe how to assemble the elements you have been taught, to
make a full combat device from them." This is the line which tells us exactly
what Meyer has laid out previously; all the elements which make up a stück.
And his desire for us to know that he ordered his instruction such that we can
assemble all the parts, into a 'full combat device”. Having a multitude of
technique combinations, enables us to succeed in the fight. So, Meyer taught
in order, those elements that when assembled, will help to ensure victory with
this weapon.
So you are probably wondering where all this is going? How is all this going to
come together? If we remember the order or progression of learning, we see
the Master combining many precepts he had taught separately, into the four
cutting drills. These are four simple things you can do, as advocated and taught
by the Fechtmeister himself, to improve your understanding of Dussack.
Learning and practicing the following cutting drills is a prerequisite almost, to
progressing on to the stücken. Fluid range of cutting motion comes from
practicing these drills. Which is really essential for us, to open up later, a sound
technical understanding of the stücken. Our skills with Footwork, tempo, the
measure.. all these get put to the test, in the stücken. But practiced in the
cutting drills.


Hans Sachs, and his visit to Schlaraffenland

The Poem written by Hans Sachs in the early 16th century, Schlareffenland is a comical  tale of the Fool's Paradise. A land of opposites where losing was winning, and your dreams came true.   Replete with sharp sarcasm, and criticism, but with a moral ending, this farcical tale probably achieved what it set out to do.   Sachs was a man of many talents; a shoe maker by trade, he was like a wandering scholar. A Master Singer of Nüremberg, with a knowledge of the fencing arts during the early 16th century.    His countless Master songs, and poems all revealed his worldly sense.




In fabulous Schlareffenland The Sluggards sit in full command.
It lies three leagues past Christmas Day;
And he who'd go must eat his way
(Digging a tunnel like a mole)
Through hills of porridge, to his goal.
But once he does, with breeches tight,
He'll belch at all the wealth in sight:
There peaked roofs are Pancake-shingled,
Walls and halls are solid Cake,
Porches Pork, and ceilings Steak;
Stout Sausage strings, all crisp and brown,
Are strung for fences in the town.
From every well you crank up Wine;
Malmsey and Mulberry and Rhine;
The hemlock trees are hung with Scones,
Buttered well and shaped like cones;
The pine produces Pies forsooth,
The dogwood - Doughnuts. It's God's truth!
The willows bend with Rolls and Bread
By waters that run Milk instead;
And all streams teem with toothsome Fish
Fried, baked, roasted, as you wish;
In fact they swim so close to land
You reach and catch them with your hand.
Roast Chickens, Geese and Pigeons go
Flying within reach, and slow:
And when the birds are winging South
Just gape - they'll fly into your mouth!
The Hogs you meet on every side
Are sleek and fat and crisply fried:
They carry knives - it's very nice -
And stand by while you carve your slice!
The very horses drop - poached Eggs!
And Figs pile up by donkey's legs;
For Fruit you never climb a tree:
Cherries hang down to each man's knee.
The Fount of Youth flows down past benches
Filled with oldsters mad for wenches;
For others there's the target shoot,
Where he who misses gets the loot.
The last man wins in every race,
And being first is a disgrace.
Thus if you loose while rolling dice
The winning player pays you twice;
If you owe money past one year,
The lender pays you back I hear.
A whpping Fib is worth a crown:
Great Liars gather great renown;
Whereas the man with honest wit
Provokes the populace to spit.
There is no place in all the land
For anyone who works by hand,
And he who calls for Trust and Order
Is promptly shooed across the border.
But any good-for-nothing Ass
Is honored as a man of class;
The laziest lout is crowned the King,
The Boor becomes an Atheling;
The Poltroon, all afraid to fight,
Is promptly dubbed a gallant Knight.
If you have hugely drunk and whored
You're promptly honored as a Lord;
And every kind of Rotter can
Announce himself a Nobleman.
Are you like that? Alack-a-day!
Go to Schlaraffenland and stay!
To warn my hearers this was writ;
Now go and do the opposite!
Not greedy, gross, nor lazy be,
And shun my friends, iniquity;
Be diligent, and work, and pray,
For laziness will never pay.

(Translation by Hans Hinrichs) 















Ein gegent heißt schlauraffenlant,
den faulen leuten wol bekant,
das ligt drei meil hinter weihnachten,
und welcher darein wölle trachten,
der muß sich großer ding vermeßen
und durch ein berg mit hirßbrei eßen,
der ist wol dreier meilen dick;
alsdann ist er im augenblick
in demselbing schlauraffenlant,
da aller reichtum ist bekant.

da sint die heuser deckt mit fladen,
leckkuchen die haustür und laden,

von speckkuchen dillen und went,
die dröm von schweinen braten sent.

umb jedes haus so ist ein zaun
geflochten von bratwürsten braun,
von malvasier so sint die brunnen,
kommen eim selbs ins maul gerunnen;
auf den tannen wachsen die krapfen,
wie hie zu lande die tannzapfen,

. . .

für ein groß lüg gibt man ein kron;
doch muß sich da hüten ein man,
aller vernunft ganz müßig gan;
wer sin und witz gebrauchen wolt,
dem würt kein mensch im lande holt,

und wer gern arbeit mit der hant,
dem verbeut mans schlauraffenlant;
wer zucht und erbarkeit het lieb,
denselben man des lants vertrieb;

wer unnütz ist, wil nichts nit lern,
der komt im lant zu großen ern,
wan wer der faulest wirt erkant,
derselb ist könig in dem lant,
wer wüst, wild und unsinnig ist,
grob, unverstanden alle frist,
aus dem macht man im lant ein fürstn.
wer geren ficht mit leberwürstn,
aus dem ein ritter wirt gemacht;
wer schlüchtisch ist und nichtsen acht,
dan eßn, trinken und vil schlafn,
aus dem macht man im lant ein grafn;

wer tölpisch ist und nichtsen kan,
der ist im lant ein edelman.

wer also lebt wie obgenant,
der ist gut ins schlauraffenlant,

das von den alten ist erdicht,
zu straf der jugent zugericht,
die gwönlich faul ist und gefreßig,
ungeschickt, heillos und nachleßig,
das mans weis ins lant zu schlauraffn,
darmit ir schlüchtisch weis zu straffn,
das sie haben auf arbeit acht,
weil faule weyß nie gutes bracht.
hans sachs 1520s?




Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Four Openings

Fighting to the Four Openings

In the forward of the 1570, written by Joachim Meyer, we see his initial attempt to introduce to the reader, the primary and ancient rule of fighting with the Sword.
that is; that there exists a division of the opponent, into four quadrants, this division is the Spring or beginning from which all other methods and techniques arise.
So that the importance of this is not overlooked by us, as it appears to be, with so many others practicing HEMA today, i have attempted to write this article with
that in mind. I will both quote and paraphrase from Meyer's 1570.

Because Joachim Meyer knew the importance of these 4 targets, he says they go all the way back to the time of Liechtenauer, he wrote several chapters explaining
this. And if one truly reads and studies the works of Meyer, they will see just how important it is to understand these four divisions.
Chapter one is titled: Concerning the Combatant and his Divisions. In this chapter, Joachim Meyer seeks to introduce to his readers, this ancient principle that the opponent is merely divided into four, he goes on to show this in Plate A, by drawing a cross of lines on the opponent. It appears that the intersection of the
horizontal and vertical lines is found at about chest level. This is the traditional divider that the fencers had always used. Liechtenauer himself based his strikes and thrusts on this division. Meyer is definitley in keeping with the Liechtenauer tradition in this respect. However, Joachim Meyer knew that his contemporary Germans did not thrust at each other. And as was the custom then in the late 16th century, the Fechtschulen dictated the target. The head was the primary target, and that to draw blood from the head, was the intended goal. In keeping with this, the fechtmeister was wise to further divide the head into four quadrants. Also shown by the same image on the right side of Plate A. From this we see the nose is now where the Horizontal and Vertical lines intersect.
This becomes very apparent to us when we delve deeper into his teachings and actually see the various targets named. these targets exist not only for us to strike to, but to deceive to. They are the openings, that we create when we follow the Master's advice.

"Now although this division may seem very childish to some people, (since all things have more critics than improvers)" Meyer goes on to say that the reader must
understand that it is the very heart of the Art. We come to learn this when we learn his techniques and how they seek to deceive the opponent or lure him from the
advantage. making himself open in one of these four places. Actually eight if we view the additional head being divided into four. It is probably best to learn all
eight of these targets. As there seem to be many today who are studying the various forms of Liechtenauer's teachings, and that while these works are not nearly as
concise as Meyer, or even explained, I am positive someone, somewhere, someday, will realize, that Joachim Meyer knew the targets Liechtenauer intended! And furthermore, shared them with us in both Line drawing and print
Chapter One concludes with the statement that Meyer feels this initial introduction has been sufficient.

In Chapter Three: Concerning the Postures or Guards, we also see the Four openings implied. The Guards that he names also come from these Four Openings.
Look at the description of the OX, where Meyer says, " The upper part of the opponent is given to the OX, and that has two quarters the left and the Right.
So we see that the very Guards are named concerning these divisions of the Man. The Lower openings belong to the Plow, and protect and defend the lower two
openings or to the left and right. Again, this sense of the rudimentary basis for the Art is given, and this is all based on the four openings. These first two guards are considered Primary or Chief Guards and were not invented by Joachim Meyer. No, they go way back, probably before Liechtenauer himself. So the importance of the Four Quadrants of the Opponent should seem that much more critical to us today. All other Guards, or the secondary Guards that the Fechtmeister taught, arise from these first Four main guards. they are not simple inventions meant to confuse the reader or baffle our minds'. They take their basis from the Four Main guards, we then could assume that the same principle of Diviions of Four, apply to these secondary Guards. And they do.
The handworks that the Masters taught, also target the openings consistent with his previous teachings. Especially to the four openings of the head, we see many of
the Windings targeting the various quadrants of the Head. Everywhere we read this man's instruction, we see the openings, eiher directly mentioned or implied.

Chapter 10: How one Shall Attack to the Four Openings
Here is where we see the actual advice the Fechtmeister gave us for attacking to these quadrants. This Chapter serves as a prelude or preface to the Chapter on the
devices, where he teaches actual fighting techniques, which arise from all of his previous teachings in the 1570 fencing book. It is here in Chapter 10 that we also see his numbered Line drawing, which gives four combinations, with four strikes each. The numbering system that he used is simple and easy to follow. His also gave writteninstruction on how to use this most effectively. And it becomes apparent very quickly, that the many variations of these four targets of attack, are
increased exponentially by altering the types of cuts, the edges used (all three), and the Guards from which we start.
It is also mentioned by the Master, that when we ourselves cut to an opening, we must remember that we too are making ourselves open, in opposition or reverse
from our intended cut. That is as important to us as the usefulness of understanding the Four Targets of the Opponent!

The very first example Meyer gives is device-like, in its own nature. And that is: when you come before an opponent, slash up from your right, throwing undercut
after undercut, two three or more times, these snipping vexing cuts serve to confound your true intentions and alter the opponents sense of measure and timing.
Finally on the last cut upwards stop it in Lonpoint, then allow your blade to run off or ablauffen, by dropping the point to the left and raising the hands high to the right somewhat, this is the gathering for the first cut of the four openings, which diagonally down towards his Left ear, this diagonal cut is done with a step off line and to him. Once this has hit, we are then told to pull back and away and in a single motion, cut from your lower left diagonally up towards his right arm, keeping your hands high, your cross above your head, this cut should be done with a step off line to your left, or towards the opponents right side somewhat. When this
has hit, you must pull quickly back, and preferably hands held high, to your right, to cut the third from your lower right, up towards his lower left opening. then just when this has connected, again pull back and around your head towards your left, and cut the fourth diagonally downward at his right ear. From there deliver a
thwart around and in this clearing thwart, you may withdraw. Meyer further advises us to deliver these quickly, one after the other, along with their appropriate
steps. We have seen the efficiency of doing this in freeplay and this eficiency comes from drilling and practicing these four combinations of four cuts exercises.
It is also advised by the fechtmeister, that we alternate the edges when practicing these four cuts. using all Long edge cuts, all short edge cuts, and all flat strikes. Furthermore, we may combine long edge and short and flat strikes, we may combine full cuts or cutting thru, with half cuts which stop in Longpoint. By doing this last variation, we are able o see the efficiency of his principle of cutting in oppostition. In other words, if you throw a long edge cut to the opponents upper right opening, and stop this at the mid way opint or in Longpoint, then cut the next to his lower left with a full cut, it is as if you have just completed a Change cut, or wechselhau. You have draw the opponent up to his upper right opening and thereby made his lower left opening available to you, to which your next cut is thrown.

So we see the efficiency of these four openings drills especially when we "pull them off" in freeplay. It is confounding and confusing and centuries old. Nothing
new or modern here. this is the Art of Joachim Meyer, and is based on the time honored tradition of the four quadrants of the opponent.
the fechtmesiter says for good reason that it is in one of these four targets all opponents are struck.

The following is an excerpt from the Meyer Freifechter Site, and was written and conceived of by Mike Cartier. Who has realized early on, in the reconstruction of the Art of Joachim Meyer, the critical importance of understanding the four openings of the German Kunst des Fechtens. He goes on to include a computer generated, randomly changing practice drill that has proven very useful to many of us, who wish to learn the true art of Combat as taught by Joachim Meyer:

The Four Openings drill is the bread and butter drill for the entire Meyer art of combat. This endlessly customizable drill teaches us much of what we need for combat in the Meyer system, footwork, weapon projection and reach, triangular footwork, Pulling and blade control to name a few.

# This drill has three main Variables Guard
# Cutting Edge
# Cutting Method
Guard is our starting point, we can do any of the 4 openings from any guard, some more efficiently than others but from all nonetheless. Guard can also be distributed in the drill in 2 main ways.
1) Start in a guard and make all the cuts and return to the guard
2) Start in a guard and return to that guard (or any other for that matter) before beginning the next strike

Cutting Edge is the edge we cut through the drill with, the edge types are Long Edge, Short Edge and Flat. These can be used singularly or mixed together in the drill as needed.

Cutting Method is how we cut, our choices are
Full Cut (Cutting all the way through the target)
Half Cut (Cut to the center of the target and stop)
Opposition Cut (Cut a half cut to a target and then pull the weapon around to strike a full cut through the targt from the oppositte angle to the original target) [You can also reverse the Opposition cut and cut a Full Cut followed by a Half Cut to the original target]
Doppelhau (cut thru the target twice before moving on to the next cut)

Four Openings Drill Videos (all videos only show the first of the Four Openings to avoid confusion, all 4 of the Openings are shown at the bottom of this page in the diagrams and in the Four Openings Randomizer below.

Another important thing to remember about this drill is that Meyer does not give us this drill in this exact manner but often preceds his drill with a series of cuts designed to draw the opponents attention somewhere else, often this is a series of cuts done to the same target often without even the intention of hitting the opponent, but done with body comportment and position designed to decieve the opponent about your true intentions.








link to above excerpt, which includes computer generated, random 4 openings drill:
http://freifechter.com/fouropenings.cfm?#4


Many of the practices today of the historic European Martial Arts appear devoid of this very basic premise. Many complaints arise of the amounts of Hand hitting
and hits to the legs. It is hoped that a continuing study of these Four Openings will improve the quality of the fighting Arts being reconstructed today.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Who were the Freifechter?

While much today is being written and researched about the Fencing Guilds of Europe during the 15th-17th centuries, not much is presented about the vast portion of
fencers who perhaps did not all belong to these Guilds. The Freifechters existed throughout the renaissance in Europe, they were the epitome of the principle of Free Will.

Many of these fencers traveled throughout the Empire and beyond, learning and teaching the Art of Combat. The Freifechters or Free Fencers, having been influenced by these travels, are also known to have written Fencing manuals.
Masters like Andres Pauernfeindt, Joachim Meyer, Jakob Sutor, Sebastian Heussler and others have all left behind, interestingly similar works. Through their signatures, we are helped to understand the place they occupied in the Knightly Arts being practiced. For instance, in 1626, Sebastian Heussler, a Kriegsmann and Freifechter, from Nurnberg, published a treatise on the Rappier and dagger in the Italian manner. Plainly seen is his occupation, that of Warrior or Soldier. And in addition we see he was a Freifechter.
This fact is very revealing of the many occupations and levels of knowledge, these Fencers possessed. In addition, we see the name Freifechter associated with Student and Warrior alike. The many different Trades Guilds that are represented by the Freifechter, reveal a sense of the free will that was inherent with the Title.
Also of interest from the various occupations of the Freifechter, We see contained in the works of J.P. Rissler, in his 1853 Alsatia
That in the 16th century, many fencers known as Freifechters, travelled to the Free City of Strassbourg, and petitioned the City Council for the authority to hold a fechtschulen. These events were countless, according to the data from the above mentioned works. We see several names and occupations of freifechter given. It is also stated that there were always several Freifechter, who resided within the City, teaching others, and who did not travel widely. So yet, a further example of what a Freifechter was and was not.

Perhaps the most perplexing, yet revealing bit of history comes from page 184 of the works of Rissler, where he relayed archived portions of the correspondence between the Town Council, and the Fencers. he quotes: "Saturday the 4th of November, 1559, there appears before the gentlemen and leaders of the Strassbourg Town council, one Conrad Mendeler,
from Ulm, a Furrier AND a Freifechter."
This is most fascinating because the Furriers Guild WERE the Marxbrüder! All throughout the written fechtschulen history, is overwhelming evidence that this organized and Royally decreed TradeWorkers Guild of the Furriers, were synonymous with the Brotherhood of Saint Mark. Further clarification of this relationship can be had through their respective, patron saints. The patron Saint of the Furriers or Kürschner, was Saint John the Baptist, while the brotherhood clearly owed their spiritual allegiance to the Holy and virulent Apostolic, martyred, Saint Mark. this should serve to clarify the difference between the actual trade guild known as the Kürschners, and the Brotherhood of Fencers that were always associated with them, although not exclusively. The marxbruder were comprised of many different Tradesmen. But the fact that Mendeler names himself both a Kürschner and a Freifechter, is an indication that perhaps the word was used both within the Brotherhood of St Mark and without. And was undoubtedly used to denote an individual fencers' level of understanding, a rank. Further clarification of the meaning of the Title Freifechter, can be seen in an article from a 1589 edition of Sebastian Munsters Cosmographi, (C. Amberger collection), wherein it is plainly stated that the Freifechter were "certified through testing" at the fall Festival in Frankfurt am Main, and nowhere else in the empire. This testing was conducted by the Masters of the Longsword, of the Marxbrüder.
And we can only assume that the physical testing for the Title of master of the longsword, was different than the certification for the title Freifechter?

Again from Alstia we see that having traveled to Strassbourg, in the year 1559, Georg Oswald Gernreich, a student from Nurnberg, also a Freifechter, is written about as having had the audacity to hang a wooden placard with the following poem on it:
"God and all Students are Friends
And those of the Saint Marks Brotherhood and all Furriers, are enemies."

This didnt go over too well, and the Marxbrüder immediately complained to the town Council, which took swift action. the Trades workers guilds, had a hierarchy of
leadership with influences greater than any "Student".

Through select translations of the Codex I 625, which contains a portion of actual Fechtschulen Rules and Ordinances for an Event taking place in, presumably the year
1491. The division that exists between the Masters of the Sword of the Brotherhood of St Mark and their opponents; the Freifechters, becomes obvious when reading these
Rules for the bout.

From the Principles of the Free Fencers
Lately and up to now, it having been, that each one
of the Freifechter, would like to certify another Freifechter
thus they should be led by the following ordnance,
When alone, such a more recent Freifechter
wants to hold a school, or will, He should himself
with the test, be made to take, and others of these
ordinances be compliant with. Still he is expected to
remain as every free willed Freifechter, if he wants to be
an Avowed master of the Longsword, or not.


The early date of this and the content of the above would seem to indicate that the Freifechter had already existed, and that the newly formed and authorized Brotherhood of St Mark was already instituting rules to govern the Teaching of the Arts. Making it necessary to be Tested and approved by the Masters of the Longsword, of Loewenberg and St Mark.
The I 625 Codex intimates a hierarchy, that existed, wherein the Marxbrüder Masters of the Longsword were above the Freifechters in Rank. This is also revealed through
select translations of the Original Federfechter Articles. The Freifechters von der Feder, or free fencers of the feather, had unified and created their own coat of arms in the Year 1570, in Mecklenburg. Where a Prince had promised his patronage. this is documented in several sources of original history. Much to the chagrin of the Marxbrüder! But it wasnt till the year 1607, that they would be given royal privileges, by the Emperor Rudolf II, in Prague. Part of this included the authority to certify Masters of the Longsword. Which had up until that time, only been done by the Marxbrüder in Frankfurt am Main. And yet even with their recent authority to name masters of the longsword, it was on the condition that there appeared in Prague, no masters of the Longsword, of the marxbrüder. So it seems the marxbrüder retained an absolute power over the Freifechter still? In addition, we see the hierarchy that existed above the rank of freifechter:
Here from an original Article of the Federfechter dated 1610:

When a master of the long sword into a city has come, and therein a Freifechter school is being held, thus should the Lesser step back, and the master of the Longsword be allowed to hold the school

and then there this, which reveals that a Freifechter could recommend someone to become an avowed master, who promises to take the Masters test in frankfurt within two or three years:

When a Master of the Longsword or else a Freifechter, recommends someone , and with the intent to be made a Master thus should he his Pledge make, that he, within
Two years or the Longest Three, should to Prague appear and there be made a Master of the LongSword.

This tells us that the Freifechter had the ability to name someone to be a master. Which was a process which first included, becoming an avowed master. this vow was
taken seriously. And perhaps most revealing of all is this Article which actually defines the rank of Freifechter:

When a Master of the Longsword, comes to a City, or lives there, and how it has often procceeded, that several Fencers have the misunderstanding of school to teach, often myself has not gone unnoticed, thus should this Master of the Longsword have the Right, because such Elbowfencers have acquired their fencing lowly, and that they should discontinue the idea of becoming a named Master, and be made a Freifechter first, and should be known as none other than that, in that he within three years be caused to be made a master of the Longsword in Prague, thereupon should he be granted the right to teach school. Thus he who his Pledge does not keep, in this time, how he pledged, should he discontinue fencing, unitl after he comes to Prague and be stirred by the Masters of the Longsword.

Interesting that the order of becoming a master is given here. that "he be made a Freifechter first" So perhaps this intimates that there were fencers who werent even at the Freifechter level yet! And the word Winckelfechter I have roughly translated as meaning Elbowfencer. Probably a derisive term used for fencers who had not been properly taught.

Hopefully the above presented facts, should lead us to a slightly better understanding of who the Freifechter were, and what it meant to be a Freifechter: They were famous Warriors and Authors of fencing manuals, they were bodyguards of the princes and nobles. They were also common tradesmen, like shoemakers and cutlers. they were students. Their positions in history are clearly defined, the role they played in the historic European martial arts, becomes obvious when we see the wide spectrum of life that they represented. And yet they were not officially sanctioned, or acknowledged as such until a group of prominent men, came together and formed a Guild. For at least one hundred years, this Rank was used by many to denote a level of physical understanding of the Kunst des Fechtens.

The fact that they were also, potentially, members of the Marxbrüder guild, is telling. It may confirm that this was in fact a Rank, that existed. This Rank was probably not as relevant as the Angelobten or Avowed masters, or even the actual Masters of the Longsword, but that it is mentioned alongside them, is certainly comparative proof of its usage.
And that even after a Group of Freifechters came together and formed a fencing guild, there remained Freifechters who were not members of said fencing guild should also be considered. Given that many of the titles of their works included the words "Free Knightly and Noble" This indicates that the Free will, and free spirit of these fencers' art, was not to be hemmed in. Their disappearance is a mystery. They seem to just fade to black, in the pages of history. It seems the last mention of the fechtschulen events only contain references to the two known fencing guilds, the Marxbrüder and the Federfechter. So it can be surmised that the declining popularity of the Events ushered out a tradition that had achieved a great and lasting impression on the Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe.

Kevin Maurer
Meyer Freifechter Guild

2 November 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How religion affected the Fencing Arts

The affects that Religion had on the Fencers of the Rennaisance era have often been overlooked in many Modern day, Scholarly reconstructions of the Kunst des Fechtens. Especially with regard to the Middle High Rennaisance period of the Holy Roman Empire. Christianity was in turmoil and the effects of the reformists were changing the allegiances of many in Germany. The Church was all powerful, and influenced many of the decisions of the day. As well as the Leadership of Countries, the Leadership of Armies, was heavily influenced by the Church. Successors were arranged for by ubiquitous Marriages, all sanctioned by the Church.

Even after the decline of the Knight, and the rise of more Freedoms, the Church remained a predominant factor in all things.
The Fechschulen were not excluded. That all the known Orders or Guilds of Fencers, had chosen a Holy Saint as their Patron, is a very revealing source of how the Church influenced them. The Guild Histories are repleat with examples of the role that Christianity played.
Many poems were written by the fencers, celebrating and detailing their own personal participation in the Fighting Games. These poems were almost prayer-like in their textual formats. In addition, one has only to look at the earliest known fechtbuch to see Tonsured Monks, wielding Sword and Buckler.

With the coming of such Freedoms as the decline in Knightly Rule provided, Man soon questioned the very Faith that was so pervasive throughout all the Lands. The Reformation certainly changed the Face of Europe, and not just in ways Spiritual, the various fractions that further broke from the Reformed church, have all influenced their Trade Guilds. These changes can be seen in updates to traditonally accepted ways. The Kunst des Fechtens does not go untouched either. The fighting arts were Quick to adapt and evolve in the presence of danger.
These Wars Arts eventually evolved into a pastime of sorts. Whose many purposes can only be speculated at

In addition to being a Guiding Light to many great civilizations, Organized Western Religion has historically proven to have a dark and destructive side to it.
And early in the beginning of Christianity, there were provisions made for the preservatiuon of the Faith. One has only to look at the Crusades to the Holy Lands, to see the Power of the Cross. A symbol of Christian Faith, that inspired men to Fight and Die.
Written into the inceptive rules of the Religion is the Right to preserve the religion by whatever means necessary. this usually meant exterminating any threat. That the Jews of Europe were always considered a threat, is characterized by the following:


"In the end I come back again to the baptized Jew Ott. He probably still came to honours, because he was baptized, just as before as Lienhard Sollinger swears , no disbelievers did he want to teach, so were the fencing pupils also often very strictly against the Jews. The Prague Federfechter had in their charters, confirmed by Emperor Rudolf II, sub: 9 this sentence:
"Because it is found that in the City of Prague and also elsewhere the Jews of the Marxbruder, only for the disdainful profit do they act in a scholarly and informed manner. Thus that they sometimes in the schools publicly fenced and themselves were mentioned as Marxbruder, Who is unadorned and a Christian reproved, for this reason, will those of the Feather be forbidden from teaching Jews and/or the Unbaptized, neither around nor for any money are they to be taught the art of fencing nor are they permitted to know it's secret techniques and parts; but if one Jew there for himself steps forward, is he abolished and none is permitted to wave the sword against him. The masters of the Feather however, may apply commoner tests, but such an overstepping of bounds would unite the Jews through their informed masses by being taught, so only after they are recognized by the first Hauptleut either with enrollment in the school, trained for one year long, or should in other ways by a Monetary fine be subjected to . (Dr R. Naumann Serapeum 1844)


It is unclear whether the Marxbruder allowed the Jews to be members, it would seem apparent that some were Baptized and therefore considered acceptable to the Christians. It almost appears that this was an attempt by the Federfechter to cast insult at the Marxbruder. The later is highly doubtful, as this was an official portion of the Charters for the Newly Privileged Fencing Guild of the Feather. Remembering that Kaiser Rudolf II had also, re-granted the Marxbruder their longstanding privileges. it is highly unlikely that the Kaiser would be pitting one group against another. Perhaps the Marxbruder were not so discriminating as to who they would accept money from to teach. Clearly, the Federfechter were!
And yet this may be a sign that the Marxbruder had fallen slightly in favor with the Kaiser.
For there to be another Guild given privilege by the Emporer, is a telling sign of Politics at work. And given this particular Hapsburg Emporer's peculiarities and penchants, it is believeable. Rudolph II became known as the "Mad Emperor" largely due to his love of collecting things. And also his knowledge of historical Hapsburg genealogy ensured the continuation of several important aspects there. Most significantly, the ancient right of the Hapsburg rulers' Privelegium Maius, this was asserted by Rudolph IV, in the 14th century, and was nothing short of assuming the right to total Power, more than just approval of the Papacy in Rome, because it was put forth that the Hapsburg Lineage was traceable back to the Caesars of Early Rome. Not all Hapsburgs Rulers used this Privelege, but those involved with the Fencing Arts surely did. Frederick III, Maximillian I, Rudolph II, all invoked the right to Ordain and establish Knightly Orders through this. It was Frederich III who established the Knightly Order of St George, in the 1460s. Also the Marxbruder in 1480's and the Landesknecht also in the 1460's. Yet the Brotherhood of St George had already existed for centuries.

The religous implications here are obvious as well. The year 1608 was only too close to the thirty years war that decimated Germany, based on religious differences. There is no indication from known Marxbruder works that this inclussion of the Jews was encouraged. And does seem antithetical to the whole Christian Religous overtones of a Guild like the Marxbruder. Which have always been associated with Not only the Holiest Mother the Virgin Mary, but the Celestial and Virulent Apostle Saint Mark.

Revealingly, the above works are indicative of the early anti-semitism, practiced throughout Europe. One has only to look at a cross section of the Jewish Histories of Medievel to rennaisance Europe to see the persecution, that these people were subjected to. Series of bad weather, that hampered crop growth, could be blamed on the Jews. Losses on the battlefield could conveniently be blamed on them as well. The emergence of many extremist forms of Christianity owe their inception to anti-semitism. That the Jews were housed in a segregated section of a city is well known, Through the histories of German cities are portions telling of how the Townspeople, coming together, marching to the Jewish Quarter, and burning it down, killed many of the inhabitants. Many early 19th century German writers include accounts of this in their Histories of Early Germany. One has only to read the works of Abrahm a Sancta Clara, the Court preacher of Leopold I, whose seething hatred of all non Chistians was unfortunately, regarded as Gospel.

There are many examples of Christianity throughout the Fechtschulen Poems written by both Marxbruder and Federfechter.
Examples of this can be found in simple poems.
The 1589 works of Schwerdt Meister Christoph Roesner are repleat with prayers,hymns, praises and Glories. And even the lyrics to a Song, sung to the tune of a popular Church Hymn. These lyrics also tell a concise tale of the Kunst des Fechtens then practiced by the Marxbruder. From begininng to end, he does all things in the name of God. And give thanks and praise to God, with all of his endeavours.

Here is an excerpt from the dedication page of Roesner's Poem:
To Honor The worthy and Nobleborn Sir Mr.
Wentzelao from Schmirsitzksi
Squire from Nacht and Quartz
Your most Gracious Sir
God's grace and Blessings through Christ our Savior Amen

And later in the poem:

Sir May God award us Grace and favor
Its right to use the Knightly Arts
that you yourself would like to learn
With it you'll earn great Gentlemans Honor

And here he even speaks of Maximillian the First:

Roman Emperor Majesty
Maximilian the First
Through Chistian Love he led


The following short Poem is from an avowed Marxbruder and Master of the Sword by the name of Hansen from Ulm, writing about a Fechtschulen in Dusseldorf in 1585; *3

I swing in the Name of Jesus Christ
And fear no Fencer no matter how wild he is
Is an Obstinate Brother at Hand
When encountered, you must yield with shame
Therefore Drummer, drum on
I've something in store for his Head

Religion is by far, the most grossly overlooked Historical aspect in modern reconstructions of the Original Fencing Arts. The very motivations of the Original Fencers were often influenced by Faith. And yet, today, where do we see mention of this? Why, you ask is it important to understand this phenomenon? Because it was an integral part of these Arts. If we wish to fully understand the whole of these Arts, then I believe it is imperative we understand the Motivations behind the Courage needed to fence without fear. While it won't teach us any particular techniques, it will show us the confidence these Original fencers were endowed with. That confidence, combined with diligent practice and training, allows for a greater physical understanding.

What exactly were the Fechtschulen?

The fechtschule was often a public spectacle that involved Men trained in the Arts of fencing, with the Longsword, the Dussack, the Rappier, the Dagger the Halberd, the Half Staff and the Long Pike. The longswords, amd rappiers were almost always of the Steel, Blunted edge variety. While the Dussacks and Staffs were of traditional Hardwood, with the exception of Leather Dussacks being made for special bouts.1 From various plates we see the Halberd were of all Hardwood. These men would fight till First Blood was drawn. Under an agreed upon set of rules
fatalities were few and far between. This ultimate goal of striking to the Head, actually
formed the Arts that were taught.
In the early part of the 16th Century, we see mention of the Marxbruder Guild versus the Freyfechter. Not until the mid to late 1570s do we see mantion of the Federfechter vs the Marxbruder. However, not much is needed when it comes to man's desire to compete. And given the Combative nature of fencing, its reasonable to assume the two Guilds met and did fight against one another with some animosity. The fechtschule should not conjure an image of a Sport, but rather a competition where in the loser went away bleeding. It was a known fact that the Blutigkusse, or Bloody kiss, was required to "win" the bout. As we have seen, money was awarded to the Winner, but of greater import is the idea of Honor, much has been written about the earning of Honor, by the deeds accomplished in the Fechtschule. All of the written evidence by the fechters, both Federfechter and Marxbruder, reveals a sense of Knightly Honor and Glory achieved through the study of the Kunst des Fechtens. Realizing of course that Duelling was one of the precursors to the fechtschule. Up until the late 15th century, duelling was a common method of determining Guilt or Innocence. We see in Christoph Roesner's Poem this:

Was still the Customs of German Nobles
When one found at the other a blame
thus it required him soon to fight

And then later Roesner says:

Such that now all of that is allayed
That such fighting is forbidden by
Roman Emperor Majesty
Maximilian the First

This was written in 1589, So that it was then not legal to duel. I believe it was too alluring to the german to not duel. With the memories of Wars, the cultural norm would be to maintain a Martial Art. What better way than to maintain this costly Art, than by mutually agreeing, that certain strikes and Techniques, inherently lethal, would not be permitted? And furthermore that Blood drawn from the head by a fair strike, was considered the winning blow.

It is frequently written into many Poems, a list of techniques that weren't permitted. this list rarely deviated. This is from the Poem below: "And what is also forbidden to do, Pommel and also the point, running in at one and all other unmanly techniques." These unmanly other things usually included, Fingerbreaking, Stabbing to the Groin, or Head, Murder Strikes, seizing the unmentionables, Breaking legs or arms. All indicative of disabling techniques, meant to Harm and Kill. This was not the intention of the Fechtschulen. It was considered a Pastime, a step down from duelling. Yet throughout the written history of the Guilds, we see an inspiration from the Knightly and Chivalric Arts of previous years. Also it is written that in the School there can be no Envy, or animosity. Something that would feed the fires of Anger. And given the lethal nature of a Sword, it is no wonder this part of the Art would be controlled. Again and again it is written, the idea of Fresh and Happy Courage, carefree almost. The Marxbruder recommend this quite often. As do the Federfechter. Swing Freely, freshly, having faith in God's luck and in your Arts would allow for this. yet it is not clearly understood the way it was Practiced. The inherent dangers of recklessness,. seem pretty obvious. But this advice may be an attempt to allay fear. So what was meant by Frische Muth, or Fresh Courage, is lost in modernization. But that it was an inegral part of the Practice is obvious through its many mentions.


Inevitably, there existed competetive rivalries. As opposed to Death Grudges. This is revealed through the opposing Groups' respective Poems. While the Ego has no place in martial Arts, it is apparent that men were embued with a certain sense of Pride. This should not be confused with Boldness and Courage. for that was surely a requirement. It is well documented that those who are Scared easily, should not learn to fence. There is a reason this was repeated in the many fencing Manuals. An inherent audacity is required to fence successfully. And so the fechtschulen could have represented an outlet of sorts, for those predisposed to compete. With an added incentive of earning some Gold, the Honor that men fought for is often written about. Perhaps some men sought only Great Honor from their study of the Kunst des Fechtens. We see all throughout the written reports and Plates of fencing in those days, the mention of the "Krantzlein" or the "Schonen Krantz". This was a Crown or Wreath of Olive Branches and Leaves, the traditional Greek symbol of the Origin of their much beloved Art of War. The Wreath was often hung on a Parade Sword at a Fechtschulen Event.

Wherever the Wreath hung, it may have been an event where No money was earned, but that the Winner would earn a Crown, and with it the utmost of Honor amongst his piers. Ehren fechten translates literally as Honor fencing. PreizFechten is obviously Prize playing for Gold. In the Nuremberg Fechtschulen Rhymes of 1579, found in the sechs fechtschulen by Wassmans., the Prizes awarded are given. Some are clearly these Crowns of Olive branches and Leaves. And whether it was Marxbruder or Federfechter, also telling how many they Bloodied. Some men were motivated by the Financial gain of applying these Arts. The Fechtschulen were often organized by Men of Means. And when the often generous Municipalities of the Town or City was involved, that usually meant the availability of Money. But often it was a Prince or Duke that held the most lavish of affairs, and it was he who would offer up the Prize Money. In addition to bringing his own Men, or lackeys, who seem to have represented the Prince. The fechtschulen was only one of the Spectacles to be seen at these Royal Fests and Celebrations. Primarily we see Shooting festivals, that included Long Bows and Crossbows. This was also popular as we see a Fechtschulen ending with the men going back to the Shooting fest.


The Individual Prize was often Two Gold Tallers, and we see that the Marxbruder had a tradition that required a newly named Master of the Sword, upon completion of his Prob or test, to be struck crosswises on his back, and then he places Two Gold Coins on the Captains' Sword. Thus he was a named Fencer. Plus from the Codex I625:

" 15. It should also be that each one of the incoming Masters gives 2$ in the dues box, that with it, one may receive Kingly Freedoms. "
That a Master had to place Two Coins in the Buro to receive Knightly Majesty, is apparently speaking of his dues. Is it coincidence that the amount of Prize money was the same amount as the Marxbruders dues? This money was shared with the Masters and Captains, as well, the Codex I625 has several pages of Ordnances instructing the Marxbruder captains, on the disposition of the Monies collected from the Spectators.
But that is for a whole other Blog, which will soon be shared here!

The Fechtmeister who had requested permission for a Fechtschule to be held, had to submit in writing, the Rules and Ordnances for said event. In the great Cities, this was common, and some records exist of the Rules and Orndances, as well as the names of the Fencers. For it was mainly they who would request permission to hold an event. And thereby ensure the safety of the townspeople, and the students. There was official Notice posted, especially when the fechtschule included a Probieren or testing. On a Placard was given the Time and Place of this event. In the year 1579 in Nuremberg , there were between the Months; Apr - Oct 1579, many fechtschulen held. These Rhyming Poems were written, by acutal participants. they provide us with great details of the individual bouts.

One of the Earliest writings with details of fechtschulen being held is in 1509 and was called the Great Augsburg Shoot*, wherein, under the auspices of Prince Wilhelm of Bavaria a
shooting match was held with HandBows, and Guns, with over 500 in participation.
Only briefly mentioned in Werlich's Chronicles from Augsburg. Afterwards, the
Fechtschulen was held in addition to other games, like Wrestling, Dancing, and
Stone tossing*. The Fechtschulen were often held in conjunction with a Royal Festival, or
occasion, such as a Wedding, the fechtschulen was one of many events that took
place at these Festivals primarily called Shooting Events, For instance one that took
place in Stuttgart in September 1560 was held by a Prince Christoff of Wurtemberg,
Ulrich Erttell the Britschmeister or Shootfest MC, and Burger from Augsburg
wrote that this was a Herren Schiessen or Gentlemens Shooting Match, the weapon
being the Stachel or stinger, otherwise known as the Crossbow specifically with
Iron Brackets. First Prize was 100 Hungarian Ducats, After the shooting fest, there
came the Fechtschulen, A poem was written that includes the details, by another
Britschmeister named Flexel and his works were found by Wassmans. at the
Heidelberg Library Handwritten doc #325*. A more lavish affair was held again in
Stuttgart, in 1575 this time to celebrate the Wedding of Prince Ludwig to a Princess
Dorothea Ursula from Baden. In a part of his seven Book collection written in
Latin, , the great German Poet Frischlin recounts the 8 days of events that included
the fechtschulen.
The poem contains many verses well written and detailing an incredible knowldege
of the Kunst des Fechtens. Synonymous use of words that can be found throughout the History of the Kunst des Fechtens:
Den Zornhau und auch den Krumphau
Zwerch hau, Schiel hau und die Sheitel hau
Wunder versatztung und Nachreisen
Durchwechsel uberlauff auch heissen
Auch Schneiden, hauen , stich in winden
Abschneiden, hengen und anbinden
also here:
Ein jeder Fechter hat kein gemerkt Auff die vier Bloessen, auff schwech und Sterck
Ten years later the same Prince celebrated his second marriage, this time the Bride
was a Princess from Bavaria. Prince Ludwig again held a massive celebration that
concluded with the Fechtschulen, with the Marxbruder versus the Federfechter, a
Farmer named Volke who couldn't be bested with the longsword took the Prize.
Again the Poet Frischlin writing in Latin commemorates this event with such huge
regaliia. They must have been spectacular events! Many fencers came from near
and far to be a part of this. Many were motivated by monetary gain. Especially
mentioned is Strasbourg, which is relatively close to Stuttgart. And then famous for
its schools of Fence.



On the 26th of August 1573 in Zwickau was held a famous Fechtschulen where in the participants were either Marxbruder or the Princely Fighters of the feather. Landbaron Georg Friederich from Ansbach had 40 fencers there, the Festivities were to Honor the Prince August from Sachsen. A poem was written to commemorate the event, by the Britschmeister Benedict Edelbeck, A fechtmaister: Here is a portion of that.

There are the Princely Lackeys coming
Melchior from Bern he was named
A Freyfechter and thus quite agile
With his Fists very fast and round
And to them was a school permitted
To hold Freely on the ShootingFields
For Princes, Nobles and everyman
In the usual Knightly Weapons
And how men had brought so many here
And what still more there is to hear
Long Staff, Dussack and also Swords
Halberd and Half Staff
Dagger and still what now is going on
A pair of Leather Dussacks were made
These were also brought out to the Place
The same there were also rappiers
A nice Paradesword, I think
Thereupon was such a Beautiful CrownWreath
Who would risk his own skin for it in this Dance
And who there what knowledge and had learned
Whether Freyfechter or a Master of the Sword
Or from the avowed masters
That there they should strike out Gladly
And should fence after Honor's worth
After the contents use of the Long Sword
From Half and also Long Edges
And ????????????????????
All the false techniques that you could want
That in no school never the practice is done
And what is also forbidden to do
Pommel and also the point, running in at one
and all other unmanly techniques
That should one there leave behind
It should be for Princes and also for Nobles
For a correct event to be held
It is for who it is, Great or Small
Then also should there forbidden be
With the staff you shouldn't strike
Also nothing beneath it, causes you to say
It should that all fencers know that
There is In my School no Envy and no Hatred
To carry out how he who knows
One has well another point and end
That to them knowledge was done, Mark what I report
The Prince gave first also Gold
then often one a strike gave
In the Highest Honor, and that is Blood
(excerpt from Wassmans)

The last bit there about not striking above or below the Staff, I think, refers to the fact that the fechtmeister who refereed the bout held a Quarterstaff, and no strikes were permitted above or below this staff, that would mean no giant Powerful strikes to the head could be given, also no striking at the feet. That is written many times into these fechtschulen Poems.


Also from that same Poem is a unique look at the Names and in some cases, the Occupations of many fencers who participated.
this style of Poem, rhymes in the original German version, but is not easily translatable to English, much of the Beauty is Lost.

Follow the Names of the fencers Who one or the other had struck

Melchior the Princely Satellite
Thrust Hans from Eschenbach with the Staff freely
Hans from Eschenbach was still so worthy
that he defeated Lauxen Ernprecht with the Sword
then had Hans from Eschenbach and alot of them
Stabbed Alexander with the Staff
Georg from Leipzig soon stood forth
Defeated with Dussack Bartel Helt
Bartel Helt remained in defeat not long
Defeated Georg from Leipzig with the Staff
Bartel Helt was not very scared
Defeated with the Dussack a Butner
Bartel Helt, what can I say
The Butner with Dussack he did strike
The good old hans from Eisleben
With Dussack gave a good one to the Schwarzferber
Hans from Eisleben was so Round
The Schwarzferber he struck with knowledge????????
Also who came here was Matthes from Vienna
With the Dussack he defeated a Muller
There was also present Caspar Strauch
Defeated Georg from Eger with the Dussack also
Caspar Strauch had still more luck and strength
Defeated Georg from Eger still one more time
Hans from Eisleben with more Dussack
Defeated the Schwarzeferber once again
Hans Beir from Brixen must i say
Had Matt from Leipzig with the Dussack defeated
Peter Mastel I to you now report
Had Conrad Herman with Dussack scolded
Bernhart from Freiburg was so worthy
Defeated the Goldsmith with the Longsword
The schwarzferber had still luck to bear
he struck the Youngblood with the Sword
the Schwarzeferber was first cheerful
With Dussack he defeated Eisleben soundly
Bastel from Munich came a coming
Defeated the Mullner well with the staff
Next to them came a Beutler leading forth
Defeated the candlemaker with the Rappier
The Beutler wished for more still there
Defeated the candlemaker with Dussack soundly
the Beutler he was still so fresh
Defeated with Dussaack the Candlemaker (again)
then Coleman Hacker I to you now report
With Dussack he defeated Balten Eschfeldt
One knows a fechter a small cutter
Defeated herman with Dussack just fine
Niclaus from Tacha gave such a snapping
With the dussck to a Tuchknapper
then Christoph Arndt came here acoming
And defeated the Youngblood with the staff
Peter Muller I should speak now
Stabbed Lentz Schuchknecht with the dagger
Simon Heipach not to be beaten
Defeated the Butner with the Staff
then came also Donat from Goerlitz
Gave Fritz Bauer with Dussack a gash
he continued without any danger

So it would seem that many fechtschulen were held by Princes and their representatives, it is also plausible that some were held by others who were not of the Noble class. Mainly, the poems that were written to commemorate an event were done so by Educated and famous writers and Poets. We see the word Britchmeister or Pritschmeister used in Wassmanns. This would seem to inidcate a Master of Ceremonies, a writer or Chronicler of Events. The Media of those days! Much of which was written in Latin. Also mentioned are Engraved Plates made of certain Events.

The Brotherhood that existed between these men becomes apparent when reading the Rhymes. Several speak of Friends, "Very well known to me" by the Author, who then goes on to reveal the exploits of said friend. It is further plausible that within the many Guilds of Tradesmen and Craftsmen, the ability to be distinguished was made ready by the fechtschulen.

In 1583 another Fechtschulen was held this time in Troppau, (Silesia)*, in the
present day Czechoslovakia. Hans Ulrich Krafft , on his return home, from his
service in the "East", Turkey, where he was jailed in Bankrott for 3 years, published
his memoirs "Reisen und Gefangenschaft" Travels and Captivity. He tells of a
earlier Fechtschulen held in Honor of the Marriage of Prince Hans Friederich of
Liegnitz, to a sister of Prince Ludwig of Wurtemberg, however the event was not as
Lavish an affair as described by the Poet Frischlin's earlier Wedding Celebrations
of Prince Ludwig. The Fechtmeister was a Swabian, from Augsburg, by the name of
Hans Mamhoffer. Whose Brother Elias was known to Hans Krafft, through their
servitude together in Tripoli and in Syria. *
There were more MarxBruder present than Federfechters and they were eager to
Fight! With Trumpeters in the Town Square, all the people had their seats with
windows thrown open to see this spectacle. Through the streets went men with
Armfulls of Swords, Rappiers and Staffs, There were two Royal Spears full of
hanging Dussacks, and what's a Fechtschule without them!!! 1)
All the Parties put their Capes and Swords in a pile. The Fechtmeister was holding
onto a wooden Halberd. The trumpets blared, Just then the Old Prince Georgen zum
Brigg, who is considered a Father of the Fatherland*, marshalled in the event and
together with the Bishops of Preslaw, a pair of Reichs Tallers were offered as the
Prize to every winner, so long as Blood was drawn, the loser should live with his
shoddyness in defeat. The youthful Dussack fencers got out of control at one point
and had to be Halted by the Fechtmeister. So great was their thirst for 2 Gold
Tallers, but yet they brought little blood and so little Gold was awarded to the
Dussack fencers. The Rappiers, Staffs and Longswords however, proved very
bloody, and much Gold was awarded. The best was a Marxbruder , a Schlosser with
his strong Handworks and his Stork from above, he landed strikes on their heads.
He was awarded two gold tallers and was ready to go to the Pub, just then a short,
little Hatmaker, from Nerlingen (Swabia) came at him with Longsword, and gave
the Schlosser, the Spitze or point. the Fechmeister halted the fight instantly and said
" Landsman, whats with this Reckless and wild Start? have you not seen, that he
who is without Art only stabs at the Head. The reply was: Ich Lieg noch nitt.
or "Sorry, I don't lie still". This response could be compared to the earliest known
Handwritten German fechtkunst history and is attributed to Liechtenauers statement
in 1389: Wer do Liegt, der ist tot, wer sich Ruret, der lebt noch. Who stays still is
dead, who moves still lives.* As no blood was drawn, the match continued with the
little Hatmaker, splitting the Marxbruder's Nose in two! For all to see. So, off to the
Pub He went!! Then there came an accidental retalliation, a Marxbruder, while
Staff fighting, put out an eye of a Federfechter! And the sight of how high the clear
, eye fluid went was horrible to behold.*



Winding down of the fechtschulen:
The ending of the Fechtschulen as practiced during the Middle high to late High rennaisance, can be attributed to the late 17th century. The following dates give some indication as to when the Practice of Holding these events was ending. Acutally leading up to the various decisions, were complaints in writing about the Holding of Fechtschulen. And yet interestingly, we see into the mid 1700s certain documents that indicate the Guilds were alive and well.

Nuremberg
- Town Council decision to cease all Fechtschulen from the year 1698.

From Augsburg
- Town Council decision to the Abolishment of Fechtschulen in the year 1700.

From Breslau
- Last Town Council Decree concerning the Fechtschulen 6 Dec 1674.

And with this we see the end of a great era. And the beginning of the TurnKunst, which these Arts further evolved into. Interesting still, is to look at a list of Fencing manuals and their dates of re-print. For instance, Joachim Meyer's 1570 works, were re-printed in 1600, 1610 and 1660. Almost one hundred years after initial release. Many other Fencing Masters works' were re-printed one hundred or so years later as well. What does all this mean?
It means that the Deadly duel, and the Battlefield Sword Art, which dominated the Fighting Arts had evolved into this Fechtschule manner of Fencing. Why is that overlooked today? In many Modern reconstructions of these Arts this isnt even acknowledged. And yet is only a stone's throw from Dueling Arts. the fechtschulen takes its form from the evolution of these Arts.
And IMO is more applicable to reconstruction today. How do you simulate a Killing Blow? A lethal running in , crumpling the opponent, bashing them to death with the Pommel. How do you accurately and safely simulate this? I have tried and found this to alter the intent. So much so, that it negates the technique. Much of this must be done at speed, how can that be safely done? But the Fechtschulen lends itself quite well to the re-construction of these Arts. there is no desire to "Kill" the opponent, but merely through technique, to strike him in the Head. With the Proper safety equipment, this is readily facilitated. But unfortunately, is overlooked by just about everyone attempting reconstruction of these Arts today. Perhaps in time, when more History is brought to light, this will be understood by many. I predict a day in the not so distant future, when, this is regularly practiced. The Historically known evolution of these fencing Arts will be repeated. It is inevitable that we come to this. If we are to follow the course of the Original Fencing Arts.