The Fight-Book of Hugues Wittenwiller
from Late 15th Century AD

Translation by Jeffrey Hull

From transcription by Didier de Grenier

A joint project of ARMA and Arts d’Armes

Longswordsmen from Triumphzug Maximilians by Albrecht Dürer & Hans Burgkmaier, early 1500s AD.

 

Foreword:

 

The Fechtbuch by Hugues Wittenwiller from late 15th CentAD offers a unique chance to study distinctly Swiss fencing lore, which is parochial in its presentation of lessons common to the larger body of German Renaissance martial arts.  Wittenwiller’s teaching seems meant to help a man cope with threats of battlefield, country road, and tavern.  It is found in the CGM 558 residing at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in München.

 

The CGM 558 is a codex of Mittelhochdeutsch manuscripts covering various subjects of Alemannic Switzerland.  The author of most of the codex is an Otmar Gossow:  Schwabenspiegel 01r-94v; Landfried König Rudolf (1287 AD) 94v-100r; Chronik von Zürich 101r-109v; Chronistische Notizen zur Schweizergeschichte (1385-1446 AD) 109v-113r; Kleine Toggenburger Chronik 113r-124r; Planetenverse 151r-153r; Monatsregimen, mit verworfenen Tagen 153r-160r.  The works by Wittenwiller are thus:  Fechtbuch 125r-136r; Lehre von den Zeichen des Hirsches 136r-141r; Beizbüchlein 141r-150r.  His fight-book is set in 123 stanzas (§).  Unfortunately it is bereft of illustration.

 

Hugues Wittenwiller, also known as Hugo Wittenwiler, likely hailed from the canton of Thurgau.  The nature of Wittenwiller’s work bespeaks that he was likely a fencer if not a fencing master, and also likely a hunter.  Wittenwiller’s fighting covers both pedestrian and equestrian, and is of unarmoured nature, as he makes quite clear.  Wittenwiller presents plays for the fencer already familiar with the basics, and as he suggests, these contain techniques and tactics which are often multiarmamentary, and meant for citizen-soldiery rather than noble-knights.  Wittenwiller seems more concerned with defence than with offence – yet always with deadly ending – and ought to be understood as someone trying to teach his fellow freemen of the Swiss confederacy utilitarian martial arts.  His fight-book lore is composed of eight parts:

 

{1} Longsword (langen schwert / schwert); longsword is likely same as portrayed by Talhoffer and Dürer – also called greatsword or war-sword; passing references to longmesser (lengi messer / messer) with implied similarity of wielding; afoot; § 01-51.

{2} Spear & Staff (spies & stange) versus Halberd (helbarte); spear may be hunting-spear and/or as equated once, shortpike (spiesli); staff is self-explanatory; halberd may be any of similar variety of pole-arms; afoot; § 52-56.

{3} Spear & Sword (spies / spieß & schwert / basler / messer); spear likely same as above and/or light-lance (not tourney-lance); sword may be same as basler below and/or bastard-sword; ahorse; § 57-65.

{4} Basler (basler / bassler / messer); holbein-hilted shortsword and/or sword – also called baselard; may be same as sword above; afoot; § 66-81.

{5} Dagger (tegen); ballock-hilted or rondel-hilted coulter; afoot & ahorse; § 82-86.

{6} Shortmesser / Messer (kurzen messer / messer) (akin to OE mece & ON mækir); hunting-falchion or farming-hacker; afoot; § 87-91.

{7} Unarmed (ön elli waffen) versus Knife-Armed (basler / messer / tegen); afoot; § 92-99.

{8} Wrestling (ringen); both fighter & foe unarmed; afoot; § 100-123.

 

The presence of a garbled merkvers indicates some link to Liechtenauer tradition.  It is easy enough to ascribe Wittenwiller to the tradition of Liechtenauer – even if Wittenwiller’s terms do not always bespeak this as much as the likely practice of Wittenwiller’s techniques and tactics.  The date of 1462 seems likely, but dates of 1415, 1470, and 1493 are indicated – so not past late 15th CentAD.  Wittenwiller deals with many ubiquitous armaments, concepts and moves equivalent to those in other texts such as Ringeck-1440, Ott-1452, Talhoffer-1467, Siber-1491, Dürer-1521, and Meyer-1570, as well as some which seem rather unique.

 

I have read for myself a facsimile of Wittenwiller’s part of CGM 558.  Comparison to the transcription by Didier de Grenier proves that he transcribed it quite well.  That is the transcription I utilised for my translation, and it is found on the Web courtesy of Arts d’Armes and mirrored by HEMAC – my thanks to them.  De Grenier is now working with Daniel Jaquet to make another edition which includes French translation.  De Grenier’s present transcription has corrections and diacritical marks, and useful explanatory notes, wherewith my translation mostly agrees.  I encourage readers to obtain the PDF from the Web of that Alemannisch text:

http://ardamhe.free.fr/biblio/cgm558-transcription-ARDAMHE.pdf

 

Another slightly different transcription by Dieter Bachmann, which is based closely upon De Grenier’s and featuring its own interesting notes, is found in HTML in the Web courtesy of Freywild:

http://www.freywild.ch/cgm558

 

My translation is of mixed nature – sometimes word for word, sometimes sense for sense.  My approach strives to convey what Wittenwiller meant by what he wrote.  Wittenwiller’s vocabulary is mostly comparable to that of the larger Kunst des Fechtens – however, fractured or varied spellings and multiple or esoteric meanings prove that no absolute standards of definition exist for every word in every fight-book, nor even within the same fight-book.  Likewise, contracted if not fractured text and syntax cause translative trouble.  Thus, readers must keep in mind that some wording needed highly contextual translation – especially when dealing with Wittenwiller’s frequent synonymy and homonymy.  Occasionally two tough choices of wording are indicated by *x / y*; reasonable interpolation by *[x]*; and uncertainty by *x (?)*.  The rare confirmed or assumed mistakes in manuscript were dealt with by contextually likely amending in the translation.  I strove to make unity of purpose in my translation, yet also to allow for some diversity of interpretation among today’s serious students of Renaissance fencing, due to future insights and changes as our knowledge betters over time.  I hope you enjoy this rendering and that it would find the approval of Wittenwiller.

 

Jeffrey Hull – December 2005 – Kansas

 

 

Translation:

 

(§ 1) (125r) Thus will you learn gallant and cunning fighting with the longsword [upon foot].  Therewith you – without gauntlets and without full harness – guard your hands and all your body.  [This goes] for all hand-to-hand weaponry – thus for sword, for spear, for halberd, for longmesser, and for other weapons.

 

(§ 2) So firstly, watch that you can hew and tread well.  And watch that with your hands you always hoist well the crux [which is the T-shaped area spanning cross and blade-blank], and always bury yourself behind the longsword, and have your head blocked by the crux.  And also, always watch that you withdraw with the hind foot, and always wend yourself to one side, and likewise watch that in all shoving.  As you are skilled to the right side with hewing and with treading and with all things, be likewise skilled to the left side.  And also watch that you always are nimble – it be so with thrusting as with striking.

 

(§ 3) Thus here I will teach the first lesson of fighting, out of the overhew: Thus hew a strong overhew, striking at [your] foe’s longsword [with your own longsword], then tug [and withdraw] nimbly out of his longsword – thus tug your longsword from his while you withdraw with the hind foot, as soon as you can from his longsword – only to tread forth with the hind foot and strike with that step. (125v) And wind the crux well and tug off therewith into the low-ward, and then go up nimbly with a changing-thrust.  But if foe wards you, then strike around and beat him to the head.  Or hew at his longsword and tread forth nimbly and thrust with your [longsword] a striking-thrust.  And also always watch that you bury your head beneath the crux, and also always withdraw well, and always wend yourself behind the longsword.

                                                            

(§ 4) Thus with overhewing: Thus when you strike at foe’s longsword, then always tug off nimbly into the low-ward.  So then you make the changer or go up with a thrust.

 

(§ 5) Thus will you take from foe his longsword: So strike at foe’s longsword and grip both longswords nimbly with the left hand, and then tread around with your hind foot, and let your pommel go up under his longsword and off his arm and then press your pommel down, and tread forth with the fore foot and tread back with the hind foot.  So you take from him his longsword.

 

(§ 6) The sword-taking: Or strike at foe’s longsword and let your longsword weaken at his, and tread nimbly behind him, and lift him with your pommel behind his pommel and around his hand – which wields his longsword – and crowd him very tightly as you lift him with your left elbow in his throat and press him over your leg.  Thus take from him the longsword and fell him as well.

 

(§ 7) Sword-taking: Or strike at foe’s longsword and tread forth (126r) with the left hand behind his longsword’s pommel, and let your hand wrap around his arm.  So take from him the longsword.

 

(§ 8) The sword-taking: Or tread forth and lift foe under his longsword between his arms and shove him with your pommel in his throat, and in your hand grip his arm – which wields his longsword – and wind that arm tightly around him, and with your other hand shove him from you, by your longsword’s edge or point put to his neck, and shove him from you.  So take from him the longsword.

 

(§ 9) Thus hard and soft: When indeed foe hews an overhew a little slantedly with lengthy arms [then you] spring forth upon the triangle.  So if foe hews hard yet slantedly then you hew soft – and thus let your longsword follow at his – as you spring nimbly into the triangle with the crux before you, and smite his shoulders as you tread nimbly around that coward.  Thus by hard [or] by soft.

 

(§ 10) The overhew with a thrust: Thus tread forth with a narrow step and strike at foe’s longsword with lengthy arms, then as soon as you sense / provoke his longsword, then tug off a bit and go up directly with a thrust.  But if foe wards you, then you strike around or change.

 

(§ 11) Soft in hard: Also hew at foe’s longsword – soft in hard – with steps to the right / rightly treading, with lengthy arms, and the crux to the right / just before you.

 

(§ 12) Thus you stand in the upheaving – which is thus: Have your longsword at your shoulder and heave it like you would strike from above your head with lengthy arms (126v) at foe’s right shoulder, yet tug off into the low-ward while you also withdraw with the hind foot before he uses a strike around his head.  So have you met [the foe].

 

(§ 13) Pursuing the head: Instead you make upheaving to the left side thusly:  Pursue and tread timely with the fore foot into the crown, and heave your head and your body behind the foe, such that foe strikes you not in the head, then pursue by staunch step forth and hew, with lengthy arms by upheaving, to overhew the head – a strong hew forth to his head – as you watch that you have the crux to the right / rightly – then tug into the low-ward and go at him with three attacks:  A strike to head, to arms, and to hands.

 

(§ 14) A striking-thrust upon the left: Thus thrust to the right / rightly and tread around with the crux, yet if foe wards you, then tread around with a short round-strike – that is before and after – and strike him to the body.

 

(§ 15) Upon the other side: Thus upon the other side: So you stand upon the right side, then do a round-strike by pursuing [after foe attacks, and thus you both come to binding], whereupon you tug off and tread forth nimbly with a thrust.

 

(§ 16) Closing into: Thus will you close into foe.  [But if he makes] warding, then tug off / withdraw.

 

(§ 17) Overhew before and after: Overhew after or before when foe tugs off / withdraws: Thus wait upon his off-tugging / withdrawing, and be nimble as you tread around and wind your longsword with the crux around his longsword, and thrust behind him into the earth and shove him over the longsword. So seek that your heart values such.

 

(§ 18) Hard upon soft: Thus here [at binding] foe would be hard upon soft: So watch, when he (127r) flows around hard, [you get] going – set your longsword at his arms, [going] well up as you shove him from you – and be you strong.

 

(§ 19) Becoming / Warding soft: Thus make foe become / ward soft [at binding] with any thrust: So be nimble, and indeed, tread around with the other foot, as you hoist the crux well and put the point to him.

 

(§ 20) Throwing over longsword: Hew up, overhew, hoist, thrust up, bind foe’s longsword: That is thus when you overhew – so hoist [your crux] and tread forth with the other foot, thrust behind him into the earth, and throw him over your longsword.

 

(§ 21) Thus will I teach fighting out of the underhew: Thus hew an underhew and smite foe’s legs or beneath to the arms or hands – or wherever you flow – under the shoulders / oxen, or under his weapon.  But if foe wards you or you fail, then you hew a strong round-strike and beat him to the head and [either] tug off, and thus you come into the underchanger, or thrust up, and thus you come into the crown.

 

(§ 22) Pursue out of the underhew: Thus pursue with the underhew: Tread with the hind foot well into the crown and hew with a strong underhew, and then tread around with the other foot and hew a round-strike and tug off.

 

(§ 23) Underhew: Thus go up with the underhew into the crown with a thrust – and always watch that however skilled you are to the right side is also how skilled you are to the left side – yet if you fail, then always strike around or thrust.

 

(§ 24) Underhew: Thus underhew with the longsword or with the basler: There you smite foe’s elbow(s) and tug off into the crown, and tread around with a thrust.  But if he wards, then do one round-strike and (127v) always tug off into the low-ward.

 

(§ 25) Hard and soft: Also in the low-ward:  Hard and soft in the measure – a round-strike be the thing.

 

(§ 26) Going through: Thus going through – which is thus: Hew the underhew and tread with the winding-crown, and hew up behind foe’s longsword or longmesser, and smite his elbow and hoist well the crux before your head, and tug off into the high-ward, into the crown, and tread forth with one thrust or with a round-strike and thus level him, and bury yourself well behind the crux.

 

(§ 27) Thus here will I teach fighting out of the simple-crown: Thus go up with one thrust so you can go into the crown: When you stand in the crown then strike around and hew one strong overhew and tug again into the crown – and withdraw always with the hind foot – so out of crown you make thrusting and striking.  So make hewing – overhew and underhew – and then overchanger, as you like.  So strike around and tug into the low-ward, wherefrom you make either changing or thrusting – whichever you will.

 

(§ 28) A round-strike: Thus out of the crown: Hew one long round-strike, around and around – or out of the crown into the overchanger with the same round-strike out of the overchanger.  Make likewise thrusting or striking.

 

(§ 29) Thus the crown-thrust with two steps, which is thus: Tread forth with the fore foot, and then forth with the hind foot, to both sides.

 

(§ 30) Thus here I will teach fighting out of the winding-crown: Thus tread out of the changer into the winding-crown and do round-strike or thrust, or underhew, or strike (128r) around and hew one strong overhew or thrust above, nether or beneath, wherever you flow – or hew the gutter-hew.  And watch always that you have the head blocked by the crux, and the crux well hoisted.

 

(§ 31) Thrust out of the winding-crown: Thus thrust out of the winding-crown and hew a round-strike and underhew and change.  Or hew with the same crown treading.

 

(§ 32) Thus here will I teach fighting out of the gutter [and then] hew: Thus you stand [ready] in the gutter [and] hew: Foe hews so you thrust up quickly, and hew one round-strike, thus come into the changer.  Or thrust and strike a round-strike again down.  Or hew up staunchly from beneath and round-strike again down.  Or tread forth and change and spring near to him into the triangle.

 

(§ 33) Gutter-hew: Thus gutter-hew: Do one swipe / swat and wind as you go – that is thus when you have stricken foe’s longsword one way only to tread forth and strike around and hew him to the head – and then tug off.

                                                                   

(§ 34) Out of the overchanger and middlehew: Thus out of the overchanger you make the brancher – warding hin and yon – and thus out of this middlehew or brancher, make sweeping back and forth.

 

(§ 35) Thus here will I teach fighting out of the changer: Thus when you stand in the overchanger, then do a round-strike and hew an overhew and tug off as you can into the underchanger.  Ward with that as you thrust and strike.

 

(§ 36) Thrust to the left side: Thus when you stand in the underchanger and foe hews at you: So thrust a striking-thrust while treading, and tread now with the fore foot a little further (128v) and thrust under his longsword.  And watch that his longsword comes not beneath yours, lest foe gives you a beat.  And watch that your hands nimbly hoist the crux lest foe hews, [most likely] by hewing you in the hands.  And that is to the left side.

 

(§ 37) Thrust to the right side: Thus to the right side: So watch that your longsword passes before foe’s [longsword], and tread not toward him too much – yet with your fore foot a little bit toward him as stated earlier – and if foe wards you or you fail, then strike around and beat him to the head.

 

(§ 38) The sword-taking: Thus will you take from foe the longsword: Thus as with the basler, change and tread forth and grip foe’s hand – which wields his longsword – and wind him tightly around and lift him with your elbow under his chin and throw him over your shank.  Or behead him with your longsword.

 

(§ 39) Against halberds: Thus when you go at foe with the changer: So tread with the fore foot in time with the crown-hew, but if foe wards you, then wind the longsword near him again into the crown-hew, but if foe wards you, then strike around and tug off.  Thus do the changer against him to whichever side you can.

 

(§ 40) Failure with two steps: Thus the failure with two steps: This is like unto a changer – yet rather you spring around and strike foe to the side-rings (?) [of his hilt], as to the triangle.

 

(§ 41) Thrust up into all pursuing: Thus thrust up into all pursuing: Thrust up into foe’s shield / ward – wit it is thus when you stand in the underchanger – so go up (129r) with thrusting when he upheaves his longsword, and so you pierce [between] his arms.  [Or else] tread around and wind the crux well, and thrust also behind into the earth and shove him.  Thus foe falls.

 

(§ 42) Up the triangle: Thus you stand in the underchanger.  So tread with the fore foot into the crown and hoist your crux and sense / provoke foe’s strike or thrust, then simply tread around, and tug into and flow into [whatever] ward you will.

 

(§ 43) Hew up into all pursuing: Thus [strike] up into all pursuing: Thrust up into foe’s shield / ward – wit it is so – then hew up, throw him over your longsword.  So seek that as your heart’s desire.

 

(§ 44) Young man, learn master-lore, have for God love, and for Women honour.

 

(§ 45) Slanted-hew: Thus the slanted-hew: Tread well around, with the crux well up and with the point down, and tread then around with the thrust, and so you make the round-strike, then again pulling into the high-ward or into the low-ward.

 

(§ 46) Hew up into the triangle: Thus hew up into the triangle, which is thus: Overhew and tread therewith – and be ever somewhat soft [in striking, yet] tread around staunchly therewith – so that you go behind at foe’s back and strike him to the head or in the back or in the leg or wherever you will.

 

(§ 47) Unicorn: Thus the unicorn is the winding-crown: Tread and displace with a thrust into the low-ward – thrust with the same treading – and slantedly overhew out of the unicorn upon the low-ward, such that the crux be beneath and the point well up.

 

(§ 48) Thus here I teach thrusting – crumple-thrust and changing-thrust and the striking-thrust – and the changer-forsetting: Thus will you thrust out of the crown: So thrust one long-thrust (129v) and withdraw with the hind foot – and always tug off again into the high-ward – and wind the longsword well around.

 

(§ 49) Changing-thrust: Thus will [you] thrust foe out of the changer: You stand in the high-ward, so do a round-strike and hew an overhew and tug off into the low-ward, then tread with the fore foot into the changer and thrust with the changing-thrust – as with the striking-thrust – wherever you will.  And watch that you always withdraw with the hind foot well, and wind the crux well, so that foe hews you not.  And watch also that you are skilled – be it with striking or thrusting.  Be skilled at whatever, with lengthy arms and with wide strides, such that no foe can beat you, such that you fight thus [as well] with shortened arms as with lengthy arms and with wide strides.  You then meet foe to your vantage.

 

(§ 50) Forsetting: Thus will you forset foe his longsword [with your longsword]: Because he can either thrust or change, then watch when he tugs off into changer.  Thus you weigh upon him nimbly, with your longsword upon his, and put his longsword toward his belly – and watch that you wind the crux well so that foe may not come at you with his longsword, lest foe thrusts you with the upheaving.  Thus by pursuing you indeed make forsetting of foe.

 

(§ 51) Forsetting the high-ward: Thus will you forset foe his high-ward, such that he cannot tug off or withdraw: So watch when he hews at you with the overhew, (130r) thus strike at foe’s longsword with your longsword – and nimbly too – and grip his right arm in your left hand and press the arm behind him as you tread with the left foot behind him, and pull your longsword between his hands and his neck, and then shove him from you as you throw him over your foot.

 

(§52) Thus now that I have taught gallant and cunning fighting with the longsword, I now will teach you fighting with the spear and with the staff [upon foot] against a halberd.

 

(§ 53) Thus with the staff [or spear]: Strike [and avoid], pursue and tread at foe – therewith you be out of his strike in time [with your strike] under his halberd.

 

(§ 54) Against a halberd: Thus you have a shortpike against a halberd:  So tread forth with the fore foot and thrust beneath, up under foe’s arms and halberd – to the highest you can, to the neck – as he has loomed for his strike.  So could he not strike down again.

 

(§ 55) With the spear against another: Thus when you stand / thrust with the left foot forward, against another spear: So let your spear go through, and beat foe’s spear and set upon him – so now you have the other side forward, and so thus do likewise.

 

(§ 56) One spear against another: So make the same thrust while foe makes his – thus warding that – and pass your spear around his and set it behind him and shove him thereover to the other side.  Or instead you tread forth and behind him with a leg and grip him with your left arm and throw him.

 

(§ 57) Thus now have (130v) I taught fighting with the longsword and with a spear upon foot.  Now will I teach fighting upon horse with spears and swords.

 

(§ 58) So you and foe be upon horses [with swords]: You will ward the thrust and you will thrust: So lay your sword then upon your arm and fan his thrust with your sword – thus repulse his stab and stab him.  Thus you will strike beneath with your sword by waiting upon his thrust.  [Thus] aim your point at his neck with the left arm, and wind the crux and guard your flank – thus ward you his thrusting and then thrust for yourself – and thrust the point well forth with your left arm, well upon the right side.

 

(§ 59) Thus will you displace: Thus will you displace: When you charge against foe with sword drawn / withdrawn, thus having the sword in your hand as if you will be thrusting – as per old custom – yet set your pommel behind your left arm and put the point to his neck when he would thrust or strike you, so that you ward him therewith.

 

(§ 60) The sword-taking: Thus also make taking of foe’s sword: If you have trapped his [sword], then charge forth around thusly.

 

(§ 61) Overhew: Thus when you make striking of foe to his head with the overhew while warding his strike or thrust, then put the point to his neck as you set your pommel behind your left arm at the elbow.

 

(§ 62) The sword-tugging: You make tugging of your sword likewise to the outside of your (131r) left arm, then strike up to ward foe’s sword-striking, then tug and lengthen [your sword], lay on and set upon him.

 

(§ 63) One spear against another: Thus ride with a spear against the foe and lay your spear over your neck / shoulders, and when it approaches the meeting, then duck / tuck your head, strike his spear away, and set upon him.

 

(§ 64) Counter-striking: Thus you make also understriking: Make your spear lengthen and set upon the left breast – thereby at the left – and lay your spear upon the left arm and set upon him.

 

(§ 65) Against charging: Thus will you ward foe’s charging: So draw off / avoid.

 

(§ 66) Thus now have I taught gallant and cunning fighting upon horse and upon foot with the sword and with the spear – so now will I teach fighting with the basler [upon foot], out of the same plays that you take with spear and longsword.

 

(§ 67) Cross-hew: Thus foe stands before you and closes into you, and will strike you through the head: So tread nimbly into the crown and hew forth a strong overhew, and again around there crosswise, and withdraw with the hind foot.

 

(§ 68) The changer: Thus you stand with the left foot forward, standing in the low-ward, and foe flows to stab: So wait upon his stab and tread forth with the fore foot – into the changer as with the longsword – and lay the basler upon the left [side], thus before / covering [your left] elbow and hand, and tread around [between his legs] with the hind foot and grip him by his arm behind his hand, thus clamping him with your right arm – which wields your basler – (131v) and throw him over your leg with your left arm.  Or grip him by the arm and wind it tightly around him, and behead him.

 

(§ 69) The underthrust: Thus go forth with the underthrust and wend yourself behind foe.  But if he wards, then tread forth – as with the longsword – and take from him the basler or messer, or strike around, wherever you flow.

 

(§ 70) Stab to left side: Thus to the left side, go up with a stab.  But if foe wards you, then strike around and take from him the basler.

 

(§ 71) Changer to left side: Thus to the left side: [Strike or] stab or change, wherever you will.  But if foe wards you, then strike around or take from him the basler, as with the longsword.

 

(§ 72) Overhew to left side: Thus from the left side hew a long overhew and tug off / withdraw.

 

(§ 73) Likewise with left arm: Thus also you make warding of foe’s stab: Tread around with a stab and wind the crux with lengthy arm.  But if he wards, then clobber him with your left arm wherever you will – but if that does it not, then change and strike and hew [him] from you.

 

(§ 74) Slanted: Thus foe hews an overhew: So wait upon him, and then you hew slantedly and tread with the fore foot in time with that – and then however, by hard [or] soft – you just clobber him with the left arm, and then tread back with the hind foot.  Thus you stand yet in the ward.

 

(§ 75) Overhew: Thus high-ward with overhew: Hew forth, let the basler go with the body, and wait upon foe’s tactic, withdraw with the hind foot, and go nimbly with a stab and wind the crux cunningly.

 

(§ 76) Pursue: Thus you stand with the right foot forward: You have tugged, and thus have the point above in the high-ward, and so wait upon (132r) foe’s tactic, and tread around and strike around.  Pursue and smite him to his body, and with the arm before you, wind the crux to the right / rightly.

 

(§ 77) Withdrawing: Or rather thusly: Withdraw with the hind foot into the low-ward – and have the left foot forward – so then do what you will out of the low-ward, [yet] always with foresight.

 

(§ 78) Out of the crown: Thus you stand in the crown: So hew an underhew and one round-strike upon both sides.  Crown-hew, round-strike and stab, and take from foe the basler upon either side.

 

(§ 79) Underhew from the left side: Thus hew one underhew from the left side and grip foe inside with the left hand under and around his arm – which wields his basler – and wind your arm tightly around his, and so take from him his basler.  And if he lingers, though you took from him the basler, then slash the basler across his neck and then stab him.

 

(§ 80) An underbolt to the right side: Thus an underbolt to the right side: Hew one underhew beneath foe’s basler, behind and above, again around crosswise – like unto the cross-hew – and tread well into the crown and hew him beneath to his arm, and above again around behind to his head – like when you do the cross-hew – with treading and off-tugging and with hinter-hewing (?), and again around behind crosswise.  Thus indeed shut / lock the underbolt.

 

(§ 81) Pursuing to the left side: Thus pursue to the left side: Have the basler near you and turn the point behind you – and watch when foe hews at you that you tread nimbly with (132v) the fore foot – and hew off his hand.  And such pursuing is good for messer and for basler.

 

(§ 82) Thus now have I taught fighting with the sword and with the spear, and against halberds, upon horse and upon foot, and with the basler.  Now will I teach fighting with the dagger, also upon horse and upon foot.

 

(§ 83) Foe would slap the dagger around your neck: Thus he slaps his dagger around your neck and would wring your neck: So grip him by his arms nimbly, by the elbows, and press his arms over one another tightly, and tread behind and shove him from you, upon whatever side you will, or just straight back.

 

(§ 84) You will slap the dagger around foe’s neck: Thus will you slap your dagger around his neck: So slap your dagger with stretched arms around foe’s neck, and grip the dagger behind his neck in the other hand by the blade – and so you have the dagger in both hands, with one hand on the haft and with the other hand on the blade – then pull him firmly to yourself and wring his neck.

 

(§ 85) Foe would stab you with fisted dagger: Thus will he strike you with fisted dagger: So watch always when foe infists his dagger that you likewise infist your dagger, and when he flows to stab you, then upheave your hand with its dagger before you, and stand presently still, and catch / block his stab upon your dagger, then nimbly wind your dagger around his arm – so to take from him his dagger –  and grip him then by his elbow with your left hand (133r) and upheave his arm firmly and shove him from you, or tread behind him and shove him from you.  So you fell foe and take from him his dagger.  And watch also always when foe infists his dagger that you also infist your dagger.

 

(§ 86) To left side with left arm: Thus throw up the left arm and tread in time into the crown and slap your dagger around foe’s arm, as aforesaid, and grip him by the arm and tread forth and shove him from you and throw him.

 

(§ 87) Thus now have I taught you fighting with the sword and with the spear, and with such upon horse and upon foot, and with the basler and with the dagger, likewise upon horse and upon foot.  Now will I teach you fighting with the shortmesser [upon foot, among] spears, and among baslers and among other messers.

 

(§ 88) Thus with the shortmesser: Tread out of foe’s stab and weigh upon him, with your messer upon his hand – which wields his messer – and then with the elbow under the chin you tread with one foot behind him and throw him, or grip him by his hand and throw him – whichever you will.

 

(§ 89) Changer: Thus change and tread forth and grip foe’s hand – which wields his messer – and tread behind him with one foot and throw him.

 

(§ 90) Fork: Thus out of the fork: Foe would stab you, so throw your arms over one another, up before yourself, and grip him nimbly by the arm – which wields his messer – and tread behind him, as aforesaid, and throw him [as you] flow up [whichever] side you will.  Or heave his arm with one hand and shove him from you with the other hand.  And that is good [whether] you have a (133v) messer or not.

 

(§ 91) Arm-breaking: Thus then would foe close into you, and would lift with the arm under the chin, and would throw you and take the messer:  So watch that you clamp nimbly your messer in your left hand – or let it fall – and grip him by his left arm, and thusly stretched, lift him upon / with your shoulder while you press down his arm with both hands firmly.  So you break his arm and throw him over your head.

 

(§ 92) Thus now have I taught you fighting with the spear and with the sword, upon horse and foot, and with the spear and with the sword against a halberd, and with the baselard and dagger, and with the shortmesser.  Now will I teach you fighting without any weaponry [upon foot] – such that you take from foe any basler, and any dagger or shortmesser [thus any knife], and what is more, throw him on his back.

 

(§ 93) Changer: Thus foe closes into you with a basler or with a shortmesser or with a dagger [thus any knife], and you have not any armament – so watch when he flows to stab or to strike you: So change and tread with the fore foot, in time with the changing, and slap your left arm around his arm – which wields his knife – and tread around and take from him the knife and throw him over your leg.  And that is thus when you have the left foot forward or have the left side forward.  And so when foe would stab you, then tread around in time and jab him nimbly with your right hand, behind / within his knife, and grip him by his arm and set (134r) your left elbow at his throat, and throw him over your leg with your left arm.

 

(§ 94) The knife-taking: Thus instead: Lengthen the left arm to strike foe’s [knife] arm, and then let your hand go around his arm, so to take from him the knife, as you tread forth and throw him over your leg.

 

(§ 95) Drawing-forsetting: Thus instead: Watch when foe grips his knife and flows to draw [it from sheath] – so tread forth nimbly and grip his hand and set your foot toward him and shove him thereover.  Or grip him by the hand – which would draw – and lift him with your elbow at his throat and tread behind him and throw him over your leg.

 

(§ 96) Thus when foe draws [his knife] as soon as he gets up [from sitting]: So grip foe with your left hand by his [knife] arm, and let your hand go around his arm, and take from him the knife, and tread forth and throw him over your leg with your right hand.

 

(§ 97) Against stabbing: Thus would foe stab you: So grip him with your left hand by his [knife] arm and heave him as you tread forth and throw him over your leg.  Or tread forth with the right foot and attack him with the right hand upon the arm which wields his knife.

 

(§ 98) The knife-taking: Or attack foe’s [knife] arm with the right hand while you grip the knife-haft within the left hand – and thus take from him the knife.

 

(§ 99) Foe has lunged: Thus foe has lunged [as you have avoided]: So tread back with the hind foot as you grip his knife / knife-arm.

 

(§ 100) Thus now have I taught you fighting with the sword and with the spear, upon horse and upon foot, and with the (134r) basler and with the dagger and with the shortmesser and without any safeguards.  Now will I teach gallant and cunning wrestling [upon foot] – with the rush or without the rush, even as you be wrenched and as foe assaults you, such that you throw him / take him down, whether he attacks you back or front, such that you [may even] do the double-takedown.

 

(§ 101) Rush: Thus will you wrestle with the rush: So put yourself always upon one side and tread forth nimbly, and watch that you lift with your elbow at foe’s throat as you grip his arm in your hand, and tread behind him nimbly and throw him backward over your shank.  Thus it works for both sides.

 

(§ 102) Rush: Or tread forth and lift foe with your arm under his arm, and grip him by the arm and set your elbow at his throat as you tread behind him, as aforesaid, and lift his leg in the other hand, and heave him up and throw him wherever you will.

 

(§ 103) Rush: Thus foe rushes upon you above, and would throw you on your back: So in your hand grip his arm – wherewith he flows under your chin – and in the other hand grip his shank, as always [you] tread behind him, and so you throw him.  And always watch when foe flows with flowing-arm (?) under your chin, and that you grip [his] same arm in your [same] hand as you grip the shank in the other hand.  So could foe not bring you down – [yet you] throw him.

 

(§ 104) Foe rushes upon you above: Thus foe rushes upon you above and would throw you: So with your hand grip the arm – wherewith he flows under (135r) your chin – and [with your other hand] grip him, there beneath the crotch, and tread with one foot behind him and shove him from you with the hand wherewith you have his arm.  So you fell him on his back.

 

(§ 105) Furthermore: Or instead: Grip foe’s arm instead by the hand and wind that arm tightly under him, and grip him with the other hand upon the shoulder, and tread forth and shove him staunchly from you.  Thus it works for both sides.

 

(§ 106) Furthermore: Or instead: Grip foe’s arm by the hand, and [grip] with [your] other hand at [his] elbow, and wind that arm around as you tread forth, [and then tread] back as you pull foe toward you and flow up [whichever] side you will.

 

(§ 107) Furthermore: Or instead: Grip foe as aforesaid, and tread forth and shove him from you and flow up [whichever] side you will.  And watch that you tightly wind the arm around him.

 

(§ 108) When foe grips you by the jaws: Thus foe attacks you instead, and he grips you by the jaws with both hands: So you grip him by the elbows and wind his arms over one another tightly, and shove him from you.

 

(§ 109) Furthermore: Or put your arms under foe’s arms – behind the elbows – and tread forth as you shove him from you.

 

(§ 110) When you have one arm above and one arm below: Thus when you have one arm under and the other over: So let the low arm go above and around foe’s, and wind his arm tightly around him with your arm.  Thus it works for both sides.

 

(§ 111) Changer: Thus foe flows [with his] arm under your face: So tread around likewise with the same side, and wend yourself upon / hoist yourself one changer, and let the arm go under around and behind – thus under his chin – as you tread behind him and throw him.  Thus it works for both sides.

 

(§ 112) [Foe has] both arms beneath: Thus foe has both arms below [as he closes into you]: So slap (135v) your arms around both his arms, then kick yourself away [at his belly] as you staunchly pull your arms together [with his arms] and [roll underneath to] throw him over your feet and far behind.

 

(§ 113) Furthermore: Or [if foe gets a hold of your waist, then you] grip foe under his ears in the hollows – with twain fingers [there] and with thumbs under the chin – and press him as you tread behind him and shove him over your leg.

 

(§ 114) Both arms: Thus you and foe handle one another by the arms: So watch that you always have one arm taken to [you] and the other out toward [foe], then always slap the outer arm inwards around that of foe, then press him to you as you shove him from you with the other arm.

 

(§ 115) Furthermore: Or grip across with the outer arm – thus grip foe’s arm by the hand – and grip him with [your] other hand upon / at [his] shoulder(s) or at [his] elbow, and wind the arm tightly under him as you shove him from you.

 

(§ 116) You have one arm below and another above: Thus you and foe manhandle, [each with] one arm under and one arm over: So watch when he swivels you, that you swivel him upon his swiveling, such that he falls over your shank.

 

(§ 117) Foe seizes behind and slaps around: Thus foe seizes you behind [your back] as he slaps his arms around you: So grip both his arms by the hands and wend yourself upon / hoist yourself one changer, then grip [under] both his shanks with your hands, and lift him up and throw him, or drag him wherever you will.

 

(§ 118) Furthermore: Or grip both foe’s shanks in [only] one hand and lift him up and throw him from you.

 

(§ 119) Furthermore: Or if foe grips [you], however he would, so that you may not come behind him, then you crumple / wriggle one shank between his legs – around behind one of his feet – and sink yourself tightly, down and back, as you grip that foot’s leg in your hand and lift up, so that he falls on his back.

 

(§ 120) You will do double-takedown: (136r) Thus you will do the double-takedown: Foe grapples you by the loins / hips, so grip between the legs behind any [of foe’s legs] – therein with one hand – and grip [that hand] likewise [with your] other [hand], and then you lift up tightly.  So you both fall head-to-head.

 

(§ 121) [You] will [counter] foe: So you will it that no foe throws you – thus tread upon one changer.

 

(§ 122) Thus will you have foe with one hand so that he cannot tackle: Thus you will have foe with one hand so that he cannot tackle you low: Foe lurches at your belly, so set upon / surmount him flankwise as you catch / intercept him, thus clamping him to you heartwise with the left hand under the chin as you let your arm underhang his nose, and then lift him up tightly by the head, heaving him staunchly, until he stirs not.

 

(§ 123) Thus if foe lurches at your back: So catch / intercept him by the right arm and lay / put the left elbow under the chin, and grip him by the arm in your hand, and heave him staunchly.  ~That is thus~

 

 

Contemporary Imagery:

 

As stated before, the Wittenwiller fight-book has no illustrations of it own.  However, a collection of various images mostly coeval to its inscribing are offered here as likely suggestions to help the reader envision what sort of weaponry and fighting were probably meant for the Schweizer of Wittenwiller’s time.  The artifactal photos are roughly to scale with each other, but are not guaranteed as such.  It is hoped that these serve as reasonably accurate depictions relevant to Wittenwiller's fight-lore.

 

 

Saint Eustace or Saint Hubert (depending whom you ask) as Landsknecht  in half-gauntlets & partial harness, with shortpike, longsword & dagger from Paumgartner Altar by Albrecht Duerer, 1503 AD.  Banner betokens hunting patronage (Alte Pinakothek).

Longsword, German or Swiss 1425-1525 AD (Morges Museum).

 

 

 

 

Longsword & Sheath of Kaiser Sigismund, via Order of Garter, English & German 1416 AD.  Albeit quite fancy, this basic design was ubiquitous to Wittenwiller’s Europe (Victoria & Albert Museum).

 

Swiss Wachtmeister with spear & sword, from woodcut of 1500-25 AD, by artist NM, whom no one seems able to identify.

 

 

 

 

 

Basler, Swiss 1450-1500 AD.

 

Dagger, Dutch 1450-1500 AD.

 

Dagger and Sheath, 1450-1500 AD.

 

 

Spear, modern replica by Windlass, of a general European form of the weapon, for hunting and fighting, 300 BC -1500 AD (Lepping collection).

Voulge 1400-50 AD and Halberd 1475-1525 AD, both either Swiss or German.  Whatever the name, each of these works the same (Wallace Collection).

 

 

 

Damsel versus Knight, from 1500s AD Swiss storybook.  Without gauntlets & without full harness, she guards her hands & all her body, just as Wittenwiller says you may do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Fencing Landesknechte by Hans Baldung Grien, 1516 AD.  These men fight each other with longmesser and longsword, like unto Wittenwiller's equating of such.

 

Longmesser, Tyrolean-German, about 1500 AD.  Fit for fighting or hunting.

 

Shortmesser / Messer, German, 1575-1625 AD.  Although a century later than Wittenwiller, the design is basically the same as his time (Private Collection).

 

Sword / Bastard-Sword, German 1510 AD; note its side-rings.  Hunting-Tuck, German 1530 AD; not dealt with by his text, but perhaps such was familiar to Wittenwiller.  Sword / Bastard-Sword; with blade as late as 1620 AD yet hilt of 1520 AD.  Langmesser, German 1520 AD; likely for hunting; note side-rings, one bent down (Wallace Collection).

 

 

 

 

 

Sword, European, about 1400 AD.  Although somewhat earlier than Wittenwiller, weapons of this design were still common during Wittenwiller's time (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

 

 

 

 

Longswordsmen, from Dürer Fechtbuch, 1521 AD.  Here are sword-taking and crux-hoisting similar to such described by Wittenwiller.

Messermen, from Dürer Fechtbuch, 1521 AD.  These first two moves match Wittenwiller's general tactics of controlling foe's weapon/body, and the last move specifically matches Wittenwiller's weighing down-treading-throwing play.

 

Stavesmen, from a German card 1400s AD.

Fighting with staves and spears, from another German card 1400s AD.  Wittenwiller equates their use closely.

 

Spearman riding, from Talhoffer-1459-Thott, who also seems to carry two daggers.

Riders in full harness with spears, from Talhoffer-1459-Hergsell.

 

Messermen from Talhoffer-1467.  The one turns his point behind him to pursue and hew off his foe’s hand.  Wittenwiller tells us this is good for messer and for basler.

 

Daggermen from Talhoffer-1467.  These guys do arm-wringing & neck-wringing as described by Wittenwiller.

 

Unarmed versus knife-armed, from Dürer Fechtbuch of 1521 AD.  Wittenwiller had similar concern for such defence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrestlers from Talhoffer-1467, throwing over shank and swiveling, as described by Wittenwiller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrestlers from Talhoffer-1467, gripping legs, lifting & throwing, as described by Wittenwiller.

 

Wrestlers from Talhoffer-1467, gripping jaws, gripping legs & throwing.  Wittenwiller tells how to deal with such and/or deal out such.

 

Again, wrestlers from Talhoffer-1467.  The one play shows move identical to Wittenwiller’s crafty under-rolling & throwing versus closing into.  The other play shows counter to such.

 

Bear-Hunt from Hunting Scenes engravings by Flemish artist Stradanus, 1567-77 AD, from cartoons for tapestry for Italian Medici family.  Although a century later than Wittenwiller, the hunting weaponry is the same as his time.  Wittenwiller likely partook or witnessed such chaos as a hunter (Deutsches Jagdmuseum).

 

*****

 

Primary Source:

 

CGM 558 Fechtbuch Transcription; Hugues Wittenwiller (auth); Didier de Grenier (transcr); Michäel Huber (edit); Philippe Errard (edit); Arts d’Armes web-site & HEMAC web-site; 2004 (from late 15th CentAD); <www.ardamhe.free.fr> & <www.hemac.org>

 

Secondary Sources:

 

Albrecht Dürers Fechtbuch von Friedrich Dörnhöffer; Michigan State University Libraries; East Lansing; 2001; <http://digital.lib.msu.edu/collections/index.cfm?action=view&TitleID=28&Format=gif>

 

The Archaeology of Weapons; Ewart Oakeshott (auth & illus); Barnes & Noble; New York; 1994 (2nd edit)

 

Danzig Fechtbuch; Peter von Danzig (auth); Monika Maziarz (transcr); Preuszen; 1452; ARMA-Poland; 2004; <www.arma.lh.pl/index.html>

 

Das Deutsches Wörterbuch; Jacob Grimm (auth) & Wilhelm Grimm (auth); Universität Trier; 2003; <www.dwb.uni-trier.de/index.html>

 

Das ist herr hannsen Lecküchner von Nurenberg künst vnd zedel ym messer; Johannes Lecküchner (auth); Brunner, Heim, Kiermayer, Lorbeer & Lorbeer (transcr) and Meier, Wiedner (edit); from Fechthandschrift CGM 582; Gesellschaft für Pragmatische Schriftlichkeit web-site; 2005 (from 1478); <http://www.pragmatische-schriftlichkeit.de>

 

Edged Weapons; Frederick Wilkinson (auth); Doubleday / Guinness; New York / London; 1970

 

Fechtbuch von Albrecht Dürer; Albrecht Dürer (illus); Handschrift 26-232; Nürnberg; 1520; Armaria; 2003

 

Joachim Meyer’s Staff Guards; Stacy Clifford (auth) & David Lindholm (transl); Armaria; 2004

 

Medieval Combat; Mark Rector (transl & interp); Hans Talhoffer (auth); Bayern; 1467; Greenhill Books; London; 2000

 

Mertin Siber’s Longsword Fight-Lore of 1491 AD; Mertin Siber (auth); Jeffrey Hull (transcr, transl, edit); ARMA web-site; 2005 (from 1491); <www.thearma.org/Manuals/Mertin_Siber/MS-Web.htm>

 

Records of the Medieval Sword; Ewart Oakeshott (auth); Boydell Press; Woodbridge; 1991

 

The Swiss at War: 1300-1500; Douglas Miller (auth) & Gerry Embleton (illus); Osprey; Oxford; 1979

 

Wittenwiller: Schweizer Fechtzettel; Hugues Wittenwiller (auth); Freywild web-site; 2005; <www.freywild.ch>

 

*****

 

Acknowledgements:  Any mistakes are mine.  My thanks to Arts d’Armes; Dieter Bachmann; Casper Bradak; Stacy Clifford; Eli Combs; Dodge City Community College; Dodge City Public Library; Freywild; Didier de Grenier; Historical European Martial Arts Coalition; Brian Hunt; David Knight; Donald Lepping; Michigan State University; Chris Thies; and Hugues Wittenwiller.

 

Warning: The combative moves of the fight-book are maiming and/or deadly.  Any martial arts practice thereof must be done wisely and carefully.  Such is always at ones own risk.

 

About the Author:  Jeffrey Hull has been training in European fighting arts the ARMA way for about five years now.  Previously he trained in Asian martial arts.  He holds a BA in Humanities.

 

Copyright 2005 by Jeffrey Hull.

 

 
 

Note: ARMA - The Association for Renaissance Martial Arts and the ARMA logo are federally registered trademarks, copyright © 2001. All rights reserved. No use of the ARMA name or emblem is permitted without authorization. Reproduction of material from this site without written permission of the authors is strictly prohibited. HACA and The Historical Armed Combat Association copyright © 1999 by John Clements. All rights reserved. Contents of this site © 1999 by ARMA.

 

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