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  1. Eudemic is offline

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    Posted On:
    5/20/2013 2:07am


     Style: Out of Practice

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!

    Messerfetchen and the Tower Fetchtbuch

    So. . . I recently watched the Agilitas.tv 'Sword & Shield' DVD, which draws almost exclusively on MS I.33 as a historical source (the sword and buckler of Hans Talhoffer, Paulus Kal, and Andres Lignitzer are briefly mentioned, but more for the sake of comparing technical differences due to changes in sword type than actually delving into their instruction.)

    They spent some time discussing their interpretation of the Priest's stance in I.33, and what they've come up with strongly resembles the sort of stance taken by a modern collegiate wrestler (rear heel up, heavy bend in the knees, leaning forward at the waist. . .); this is explained as a way to supplement the limited reach of the weapons used at the time (apparently averaging 33" blade length) and to mitigate the effects of uberlaufen. They said that, apparently, as swords became longer with narrower blades the stances swashbucklers took became more erect, because their reach was better.

    Now, to get to the point of this post, I wanted to ask if anyone else here thinks it would be reasonable to presume a similar "wrestler's" stance would have been used by people when wielding messers for reasons similar to those stated above? They are also single-handed weapons with blades comparable in length to the ones used in I.33, and seem to result in greater emphasis on binding and grappling from a bind than does the sword-and-buckler (I presume the lower, more forward stance should have provided some of the same advantages to the fencers in a bind/clinch that it does to modern wrestlers. . .)

    The illustrations I've been able to find have been inconsistant with how erect the stances are in messerfetchen, but I'm starting to get the impression that the fighters are more upright in the later manuals than they were in the earlier. This could just be a case of me finding what I'm looking for, though.
  2. lklawson is offline

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    Posted On:
    5/20/2013 8:05am


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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    When I look at systems with blades of similar length and reach (such as Cutlass), I very seldom see a weight forward stance and when it does appear (such as in some FMA work), I don't recall the masters relating that it was for the effect of extending reach.

    The closest I can think of off the top of my head is Hope's "New Method" which features a smaller sword and a weight-forward stance in a Hanging Guard. My read on it is that the reason is, as with most Hanging Guards, to create a very strong defensive position. The weight forward pulls the lower torso away from thrusts in something which may be similar to uberlaufen in concept.

    I admit that I have but small and passing interest in I.33, but I would want to see more evidence for what seems to be an unorthodox interpretation.



    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
  3. Eudemic is offline

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    Posted On:
    5/20/2013 12:56pm


     Style: Out of Practice

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Considering Uberlaufen when adopting a weight-forward stance like that (in Hope's New Method) would certainly, if nothing else, make the attacks you're having to deal with much more predictable. Particularly so with a weapon geared towards the thrust, I'd guess.

    When I look at systems with blades of similar length and reach (such as Cutlass), I very seldom see a weight forward stance and when it does appear (such as in some FMA work), I don't recall the masters relating that it was for the effect of extending reach.
    Could you say what you have seen stated as the intended effect?
  4. lklawson is offline

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    Posted On:
    5/20/2013 1:47pm


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    Quote Originally Posted by Eudemic View Post
    Could you say what you have seen stated as the intended effect?
    To generalize, it tends to be associated with an aggressive, offense-oriented, style of fighting. Less about the length of the weapon and more about putting forward "pressure" on the opponent.

    If one must move closer to the opponent due to the length of the weapon, as the original thesis supposes, this means that the opponent's weapon has also moved closer to you. Closer equals less time to react, as Silver reminds us. By default, inverting that equation, attacking rather than defending (the old saw, "The best Defense is a good Offense") presupposes an aggressive style in order to prevent incoming attacks and counter attacks when using such as body-forward positioning.

    When described that way, it sounds very "German" (if you take my meaning). ;)

    You can see analogs to this concept in various forms of knife fighting and even in some styles of boxing.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
  5. Mordschlag is offline

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    Posted On:
    5/21/2013 10:03am


     Style: ARMA, Antagonistics

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Quote Originally Posted by Eudemic View Post
    Now, to get to the point of this post, I wanted to ask if anyone else here thinks it would be reasonable to presume a similar "wrestler's" stance would have been used by people when wielding messers for reasons similar to those stated above? They are also single-handed weapons with blades comparable in length to the ones used in I.33, and seem to result in greater emphasis on binding and grappling from a bind than does the sword-and-buckler (I presume the lower, more forward stance should have provided some of the same advantages to the fencers in a bind/clinch that it does to modern wrestlers. . .)

    The illustrations I've been able to find have been inconsistant with how erect the stances are in messerfetchen, but I'm starting to get the impression that the fighters are more upright in the later manuals than they were in the earlier. This could just be a case of me finding what I'm looking for, though.
    To begin, let me state that I don't dedicate a huge amount of my practice to sword and buckler or the langes messer. I'm also probably biased against a lifted-heel stance, since it has no place in my practice. I only see the heel up as a depiction of transitory movement (as opposed to a stance adopted in the approach). So that being said....

    Meyer Dussack Plate
    http://www.thearma.org/NewArchive/MeyerDussacken4OL.JPG

    Mair Dussack Plate
    http://www.hroarr.com/wordpress/wp-c...93-1550-07.jpg

    Talhoffer Messer Plate
    http://i.ytimg.com/vi/1p7anaiPo7o/0.jpg

    From what I've seen of messer fighting in the fight books, I'd agree that the stances tend to be more upright. If we also look at Meyer's Dussack fighting, we also don't see many heel-up depictions and instead we see more turning off the body (both in legs and torso). I think we see this because both parties in the fight need to be stable and capable of powerful, large steps both to cover distance and defend against the grappling of your opponent. It has been my experience that those large, leaping steps lead to planted heels and a more upright posture, and I feel better prepared to grapple from that as well.
  6. Eudemic is offline

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    Posted On:
    5/21/2013 12:50pm


     Style: Out of Practice

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mordschlag View Post
    To begin, let me state that I don't dedicate a huge amount of my practice to sword and buckler or the langes messer. I'm also probably biased against a lifted-heel stance, since it has no place in my practice. I only see the heel up as a depiction of transitory movement (as opposed to a stance adopted in the approach). So that being said....

    Meyer Dussack Plate
    http://www.thearma.org/NewArchive/MeyerDussacken4OL.JPG

    Mair Dussack Plate
    http://www.hroarr.com/wordpress/wp-c...93-1550-07.jpg

    Talhoffer Messer Plate
    http://i.ytimg.com/vi/1p7anaiPo7o/0.jpg

    From what I've seen of messer fighting in the fight books, I'd agree that the stances tend to be more upright. If we also look at Meyer's Dussack fighting, we also don't see many heel-up depictions and instead we see more turning off the body (both in legs and torso). I think we see this because both parties in the fight need to be stable and capable of powerful, large steps both to cover distance and defend against the grappling of your opponent. It has been my experience that those large, leaping steps lead to planted heels and a more upright posture, and I feel better prepared to grapple from that as well.
    I don't think the images in I.33 only describe transitions, given that there are several illustrations of the Priest in various wards/guards and not taking any action yet.

    Part of what I was trying to suggest in my OP (which I may not have done very well) was that many later manuals featuring messer/dussack may have displayed a more upright stance because the authors of those manuals placed greater emphasis on the longsword in their practice than on shorter blades. I would guess that this greater emphasis would have influenced messer practice as those masters tended towards postures they were more familiar with. . .

    (It's been my understanding that if you are going to move in a direction you have to first shift your weight to the ball of your foot and then press off of that in the intended direction of travel. It's also been my understanding that in most cases an upright stance is going to be more vulnerable a bind or clinch than a lower one, due to the higher center of gravity. . .)
  7. Mordschlag is offline

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    Posted On:
    5/21/2013 8:35pm


     Style: ARMA, Antagonistics

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Quote Originally Posted by Eudemic View Post
    I don't think the images in I.33 only describe transitions, given that there are several illustrations of the Priest in various wards/guards and not taking any action yet.
    I see the exact opposite when I read I.33 and examine the plates. I see the priest and student moving around each other and constantly moving about, even if they're aren't transitioning from guards or executing cuts at that precise moment.

    Take this image for an example:

    http://collections.royalarmouries.or...45&r=2&t=4&x=9

    It's entirely possible that the student is waiting statically in his special long point ward. But I think it's more probable that he is moving, shifting his weight, and\or about to step forward to intercept the incoming cut so that he maintains the Vor. The masters never say to wait and stand still, so I don't see why this book would be the exception. I'd concede that we may never truly know for sure, but I feel safe in making this wager.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eudemic View Post
    Part of what I was trying to suggest in my OP (which I may not have done very well) was that many later manuals featuring messer/dussack may have displayed a more upright stance because the authors of those manuals placed greater emphasis on the longsword in their practice than on shorter blades. I would guess that this greater emphasis would have influenced messer practice as those masters tended towards postures they were more familiar with. . .
    I understood your point but generally the books tell us fighting single handedly is the same as fighting with two hands. So if they are the same, it's because they use the same foundational principles instead of being two separate systems with separate principles. Now it's true that I.33 is the earliest of the book but personally I don't think that it would be radically different from books a mere century or less later. For example:

    The Tower fight book is from around the first part of the 1300s. Fiore wrote his books sometime around the turn of the 1400s. So you have at most 100 years of separation and yet....

    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv...6f/f58.highres

    He too fights single handed in a more upright position. He too greatly utilizes grappling and closing in (as do those in I.33 and in books after his times). Are we to believe that people mostly fought in a forward posture all the way up until the 1400s (due to the long sword) or that people mostly fought upright and continued doing so when the longsword became widespread? I myself think the latter is more probable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eudemic View Post
    (It's been my understanding that if you are going to move in a direction you have to first shift your weight to the ball of your foot and then press off of that in the intended direction of travel. It's also been my understanding that in most cases an upright stance is going to be more vulnerable a bind or clinch than a lower one, due to the higher center of gravity. . .)
    Indeed, you do generally push off on the ball of your foot when stepping (since you need to pivot upon it). But as I stated earlier, I don't think that is means that the books depict people standing on the balls of their feet while in a ward. Instead, as I stated, I think the books depict them in constant motion with them stepping, shifting their feet, and so forth.

    Now as to your latter point, we generally don't see combatants in the books beginning from a forward-leaning stance.

    Fabian von Auerswald (16th century):
    http://wiktenauer.com/images/b/b8/Auerswald_6.jpg

    Fiore (14th-15th century)
    http://wiktenauer.com/images/3/39/Pi...si_MS_3r-c.jpg

    I suspect that this is for multiple reasons. You're probably not going to want to go too far low in the approach; it will leave you open to getting your face attacked and it is telegraphing. Instead you look to see if he is high or low and you maintain your own balance accordingly. You do see people going low but it is done in the context of Indes; the person countering a throw will drop low in the Waage (see: The Codex Wallerstein for detailed explanation) or he will drop low if he needs to execute a leg pick. So yes we do see people grappling from a low stance, but this is a balanced low stance used in the moment and not from the approach range.
  8. Eudemic is offline

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    Posted On:
    5/21/2013 10:41pm


     Style: Out of Practice

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mordschlag View Post
    I see the exact opposite when I read I.33 and examine the plates. I see the priest and student moving around each other and constantly moving about, even if they're aren't transitioning from guards or executing cuts at that precise moment.

    Take this image for an example:

    http://collections.royalarmouries.or...45&r=2&t=4&x=9

    It's entirely possible that the student is waiting statically in his special long point ward. But I think it's more probable that he is moving, shifting his weight, and\or about to step forward to intercept the incoming cut so that he maintains the Vor. The masters never say to wait and stand still, so I don't see why this book would be the exception. I'd concede that we may never truly know for sure, but I feel safe in making this wager.
    Please bear in mind that it's not unreasonable to assume that whoever illustrated MS I.33 was working with fencers who were posing for the benefit of the production; I say this in-part on the basis of the seemingly random inclusion of "Walpurgis" for the demonstration of a guard that didn't actually require a new person to show. If it is the case they were working off of models then those models likely would not be showing very much action.

    I understood your point but generally the books tell us fighting single handedly is the same as fighting with two hands. So if they are the same, it's because they use the same foundational principles instead of being two separate systems with separate principles. Now it's true that I.33 is the earliest of the book but personally I don't think that it would be radically different from books a mere century or less later. For example:

    The Tower fight book is from around the first part of the 1300s. Fiore wrote his books sometime around the turn of the 1400s. So you have at most 100 years of separation and yet....

    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv...6f/f58.highres

    He too fights single handed in a more upright position. He too greatly utilizes grappling and closing in (as do those in I.33 and in books after his times). Are we to believe that people mostly fought in a forward posture all the way up until the 1400s (due to the long sword) or that people mostly fought upright and continued doing so when the longsword became widespread? I myself think the latter is more probable.
    I hope you can agree with me that fighting under the same, or similar, principles does not imply technically identical fighting. For example, if you compare most of the stances used with the longsword at later dates they are much more upright than the stance shown in I.33. This is also true of most examples of messer-fighting I've seen, as well as later sword & buckler, when they are also compared to what is shown in I.33. I wasn't trying to suggest that people had completely abandoned a more forward stance when using shorter weapons (which they clearly hadn't) or that the bind/clinch was no longer important, just that the more upright stances shown in later examples of fighting with shorter weapons was the result of habits developed with the longsword.

    Indeed, you do generally push off on the ball of your foot when stepping (since you need to pivot upon it). But as I stated earlier, I don't think that is means that the books depict people standing on the balls of their feet while in a ward. Instead, as I stated, I think the books depict them in constant motion with them stepping, shifting their feet, and so forth.
    We can agree that working from the bind or from a clinch is important in fighting with either sword & buckler or messer? So why wouldn't a fencer assume a stance which provides some of the benefits of a wrestling stance?

    Please allow me to also point out that keeping one's heel raised does not have any more of a significant/noticeable impact on your mobility than turning your toe outwards.

    Now as to your latter point, we generally don't see combatants in the books beginning from a forward-leaning stance.

    Fabian von Auerswald (16th century):
    http://wiktenauer.com/images/b/b8/Auerswald_6.jpg

    Fiore (14th-15th century)
    http://wiktenauer.com/images/3/39/Pi...si_MS_3r-c.jpg

    I suspect that this is for multiple reasons. You're probably not going to want to go too far low in the approach; it will leave you open to getting your face attacked and it is telegraphing. Instead you look to see if he is high or low and you maintain your own balance accordingly. You do see people going low but it is done in the context of Indes; the person countering a throw will drop low in the Waage (see: The Codex Wallerstein for detailed explanation) or he will drop low if he needs to execute a leg pick. So yes we do see people grappling from a low stance, but this is a balanced low stance used in the moment and not from the approach range.
    My response to this is that in MS I.33 the fencer's forward knees are more bent than in later treatises, that their backs are more forward-leaning in relation to their hips, and that their shoulders are more-or-less above their forward knee in many cases. The benefits to this are that it removes your lower body as a target (which additionally makes your opponent's attacks more predictable) and provides you greater stability/power in the bind or the clinch.

    These are also important considerations with the messer.
  9. Permalost is offline
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    Posted On:
    5/21/2013 10:55pm

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    I am not a historical fencer, but I have some thoughts on the one handed chopper, being a cornerstone of my FMA practice.

    On the raised heel: picking up the back heel may limit your ability to do a nice stable fencing lunge, but it can improve mobility and quickness in other ways. For example, from a right lead, you can more easily step through on a 45 degree angle forward and to the left. Or, you could sidestep directly to the left against a thrust as you cut across the torso. Outside of strict forward and backwards a raised heel can be a good starting point.
  10. Eudemic is offline

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    Posted On:
    5/22/2013 4:11pm


     Style: Out of Practice

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    Lateral and triangular footwork were both very important parts of fighting with the messer.
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