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Introduction - Dictionary of Terms - Guards - Footwork - Practice

(Please note: Chivalry-Now does not accept responsibility for anyone who is harmed in the performance of these exercises.)


Discipline of the Sword

We present this resource for edification and non-combative purposes only. If you wish to actually train with the long sword, it is recommended that you take instruction from a reputable teacher. The proper skills and safety protocols of this martial art cannot be dispensed through online training.

Discipline of the Sword provides photos and explanations of the basic concepts utilized by Western medieval swordplay. It incorporates Italian and German techniques, as well as some modern variations.
     
Our purpose is to introduce the scholar participating in the Path to Knighthood program with the art and science of this discipline. If you practice these forms without guidance from a teacher, you should use a safe training sword (with no sharp point or edges) in an open space and with no one anywhere near the reach of your sword. You might model your solitary practice on Tai Chi, another martial art. Never practice with a partner without adequate safety equipment and professional supervision. You should also make sure that you are healthy enough to perform these exercises. Check with a doctor if you are not already certain.

Before practicing, it is important to prepare your body for training by sufficiently stretching and warming-up your joints and muscles, the neck, arms, legs and back especially. It is recommended that you supplement by doing strengthening exercises as well, such as pushups and sit-ups. Lifting weights is also helpful. Although practical medieval swords were not very heavy, good muscle tone and stamina contribute to good technique. What we are striving for is the kind of knowledge, self-discipline, physical health and good posture that contribute to one's knightly stature, the quality known as franchise.
     
Examine the photos and study the narratives to get an idea of each position's balance and utility in detail. If you perform the postures as a form of exercise, use a mirror and refer to the photos often to identify mistakes and correct your form. Don't just memorize what you see. Think of actual applications and their rationale. Use your imagination.

It is important to gain control of the sword so that it moves and stops exactly where you want, with exactly the force that you intended. Only constant practice will help you achieve this goal. Sloppy cuts and careless footwork are unacceptable. Don't be afraid of being critical of your performance. Self-honesty is part of the discipline process.
     
While practicing the movements slowly, get a feel for balance and body dynamics involved, which muscle groups are being used and how best to employ them. Mobility is important. Practice motions that emulate strikes, thrusts and parries in each posture without moving your feet. Let your body inform you as a direct examination of truth. Once the motions become familiar, add a little more speed. Begin and end the motion with precision. Stay alive to the moment so that you can quickly change directions or techniques at will, even by instinct. Keep relaxed yet attentive enough to respond quickly and deliberately. Remember, a tight muscle is a slow muscle - you have to relax it before initiating the move, and that slows you down. Instead, aim for a feeling of explosive readiness.

The benefit of an edged sword is not having to hit with great force, so do not overdo it. Hard hitting can strain muscles, slow reaction time, and exaggerate motions that leave you vulnerable.
     
Step forward for cuts or thrusts, and step backward for blocks and parries. When you feel confident with that, add more foot speed. Try different steps and transitional footwork to sidestep and circle your imaginary opponent, including diagonals. Your goal is freestyle mobility, sort of like shadow-boxing.
     
Repetition is important to help your muscles and nerves become accustomed to their tasks.
     
As you progress, you might ant to learn the names of the stances, strikes and other concepts in order to be conversant in this art. A dictionary of related terms is provided. Do not let foreign vocabulary overwhelm you. Go at your own speed. With some time and thought, it will all become familiar
     
Remember. This is a limited introductory survey meant for edification purposes only. Good swordsmanship involves much more than we show here. If you want more, consider joining a class on swordplay, where protective equipment and a qualified teacher will make learning easier.


Two schools of thought

The guard positions that follow reflect the surviving treatises of two medieval sword masters: Fiori dei Liberi, from Italy, and Johannes Liechtenauer, from Germany. You will note differences and similarities. We are thankful to these masters for providing us with a survey of this martial art heritage.
     
It is a good idea to learn the names of these positions in their original language. What you learn will eventually define you as a knight, if that is your goal.


Overview of Fiore dei Liberi's teaching
For pictures, see Guards  

Low Guards

  • Denti di Cinghale (Boar's Tooth)
  • Tutta Porta di Ferro (Complete Iron Gate)
  • Mezza Porta di Ferro (Middle Iron Gate)
  • Posta di Coda Lunga Distesa (Long and Extended Tail)

Middle Guards

  • Posta Breve (Short Guard)
  • Posta Lungo (Long Guard)
  • Posta Frontali or Posta Corona (Front or Crown Guard)
  • Posta Bicornio (Two Horned Guard)

High Guards

  • Posta Finestra (Window Guard)
  • Posta di Donna (Woman's Guard)
  • Posta di Donna Sinestra (Woman's Guard Left)
  • Posta di Donna Soprana (Proud Woman's Guard)
  • Posta di Falcone (Hawk Guard; Italian, but not attributed to Fiore)

Sword Strikes

  • Fendente (strike from above)
  • Sotanto (strike from below)
  • Mezzane (horizontal strike to the middle)
  • Punta (thrust with point)
  • Mezza Spada (middle sword; one hand holds hilt, the other holds the blade. For close-in fighting and entering into traps, throws and locks.


Overview of Johannes Liechtenauer's teaching
For pictures, see Guards

The Guards

Primary

  • Vom Tag (Vom Dach) on the shoulder
  • Vom Tag (Vom Dach) over the head
  • Alber (Fool)
  • Ochs (Ox)
  • Pflug (Plow), (pronounced flug), use thumb grip

Secondary

  • Zornhut (Guard of Wrth)
  • Schrankhut (Blockade Guard)
  • Langort (Long Guard)
  • Hengetort (Hanging Guard)
  • Schlussel (Guard of the Key)
  • Einhorn (Guard of the Unicorn.
  • Weshsel (Guard of the Changer)
  • Nebenhut (Close Guard)
  • Eisenport (Guard of the Iron Door)


Methods of attack

  • Oberhau (strike from above)
  • Unterhau (strike from below)
  • Mittelhau (horizontal strike)
  • Oberstich (thrust from above)
  • Stechen (stabbing)
  • Unterstich (thurst from below)

The Master Strokes

  • Zornhau - wrath cut, a simple, powerful diagonal attack or block followed by counter. It comes from winding the body for the strike in a Zornhut stance.
  • Scheitelhau - scalp cut. aims high, directly to the top of the head. Its quick, extended reach breaks the lower guards.
  • Zwerchhau - thwart cut. Perfromed from an Ox position, to an Ox position on the other side in a fanning, thumb grip motion. Can block while hitting (fanning sword when initiating guard is high); keep hilt high for protection.
  • Schielhau - squinting cut. A diagonal, pre-emptive oberhau to head or shoulder that incorporates the thumb grip for added control. Can be applied from a sidestep, or by striking your opponrnt's sword to break his line of engagement, followed by a thrust.
  • Krumphau - off-line cut. Performed with a side-step from the Blockade Position, twisting the crossed hands in a fan-like manner to hit you ropponent's hands; you can also side step to hit the head; you can also do the fanning swing to block an incoming sword, and then make a small circle (using the pummel for control) and hit up to the head with the false edge.

Miscellaneous.

Absetzen

  • Blocking and stabbing at the same time. This is accomplished by changing Pflug guards, left to right or vice versa, to intercept a rising stroke. Thumb grip provides the hilt control to make this work.
  • Once the opponent's attack is stopped, administer a thrust.
  • It can also be accomplished against a downward stroke by rising from the Pflug position to that of Ochs. Angle the cross-guard accordingly.
  • One can practice this as an exercise with feet together, legs slightly bent, shifting from one guard position to the other. Remember to include the thumb grip for correct positioning of hilt.

Ansetzen

  • A sudden attack with the point of the sword while opponent prepares to attack. As the opponent repositions or pulls back to initiate an oberhau, hit high. Against an unterhau preparation, hit low.

Durchlaufen, running through, to wresting holds

Durchwechseln, redirect from oberhau, ride under to ochs thrust. Can be used if opponent attacks blade.

Drei Wunder, 3 methods of wounding an opponent: thrust, strike, cut (push or pull sword in order to slice)

Hendtrucken-Schnitt, pressing the wrists with blade

Nachreism, chasing. Pull back from opponent's oberhau that is being used to defend against your oberhau. Redirect strike in the same direction as your opponent's sword.

Überlaufen, over-running

Winden, winding sword.

Zuken, pulling back to avoid block and counter

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