Basic Medieval Long-Sword Terminology
of the German and Italian Masters

Abschneiden - ("cutting aside") in the German > systems of long-sword (langenschwert) and later huge two-handers > (dopplehänder/bidenhänder) short drawing cuts known also as Schnitt ("slices"), used at closer distances against the opponent’s forearms and hands, they can be made with both the lead and the back edges

Absetzen - ("setting aside") the principle of timed counter attack to deflect a thrust or parry a cut, the word was also used to signify a type of trapping move where the sword is hooked over the opponent's and forced downwards, it can also mean a simple parry, generally followed by a thrust

Abwenden - to "ward off", such as with a deflecting parrying action

Am Schwert - ("on the sword") attacks made while maintaining constant pressure on the opposing blade, also known as the Winden (winding or turning)

Anbinden - The engaged position with weapons crossed in the German systems of long-sword (langenschwert) and later the huge two-handers (dopplehänder/bidenhänder)

> Back guard/stance - with the weapon held pointing down and diagonally > backward, called Schrankhut (or sometimes Mittelhut) by medieval German masters, and a Tail guard by the > Italians (or even Serpentino or Leopardo Tail in armored fighting, spada in arme, for which the techniques swordplay are different)

Cuts - The German schools recognized three major forms of cut: Oberhau (over cuts) downward diagonal or vertical, Unterhau (under cuts) upward or rising, and Zwerchhau or Mittelhau, (cross cuts) horizontal right-to-left and horizontal left-to-right. Diagonal cuts were Zornhau and vertical were Scheitelhau. There were several names for various specific individual cuts to forearms, neck, or legs with the either the foreword or back edge, some of these were Schielhau (the "squinting cut"), Streithau (the "battle cut"), Vater Streich (the "father strike"), and a Scheitelhau (vertical "scalp cut"). Variations included others such as Krumphau and Zornhau ("rage cut"), raw cuts and slicing pulls were usually known as Schnitt. Italian masters recognized the eight basic cuts which were formalized in early renaissance systems : vertical down (Fendente), vertical up (Montante), horizontal (Tonda), plus diagonal descending (Squalembrato) and diagonal rising (Ridoppio) which could be made from the left (Roversi) or from the right (Mandritti)

Close guard/stance –the Boar’s Tooth guard in the Italian styles, a transitional position similar to a Middle guard but with the knees lowered and the weapon pulled in low closer to the hip, used to parry attacks to the waist, hip, and grip as well as deliver a low thrust

Drey Wunder - (the "three wonders") as taught in the German schools of swordsmanship there were three principle actions, the thrust, the cut, and schnitt (a slicing or drawing cut), they taught the thrust was used primarily at longer range, the cut at medium range, and the slice more at closer range

Durchwechseln – changing through, name for the move of evading the opponent’s blade as you strike (i.e., evading and counter-cutting)

English great-sword fighting methods – from an English text several terms survive such as: Double Rowdes (possible a molinello), Rakes (possibly draw cuts), Haukse and Halfe Haukes (strikes from the high guard, such as the posta de falcone in Italian schools), the Cockstep (similar perhaps to the balestro in fencing), the Grete steppe (perhaps a simple double step), and the Backsteppe (self-explanatory)

Estoc - a specialized edgeless two-handed anti-armor thrusting sword, called a Stocco in Italian, a Tuck in English, and Panzerstecher or Dreiecker in German, and a Kanzer in Eastern Europe. Some were sharpened only near the point.

> Fechtbuch - ("fight book") a German manual on fighting techniques and methods, particularly swordsmanship, (plural Fechtbuecher), among the more famous are those by the masters Johannes Liechtenauer’s of 1389 (by Hanko Doebringer), Peter von Danzig of 1452, Paulus Kal of c.1460, Johannes Leckuechner ("Lebkomer") of 1482, Peter Falkner of 1490, H. von Speyer of 1491, Joerg Wilhalm of 1523, Hans Lebkommer of 1530, Andre Pauerfeindts of 1516, and Sigmund Ringneck of c. 1440. Hans Talhoffer of 1443, and Gregor Erhart from the early 1500’s. Italian medieval fighting manuals include those of Tarcirotti of c. 1400, Fiore dei Liberi from 1410, Boris Ferres of 1428, Fillipo Vadi of c. 1480, and Pietro Monte of 1509, and possibly even Del Serpente c. 1295, and there is also the Spaniard Diego de Valera’s of c. 1490.

Fechtmeister - ("Fight Master) a German Master of Defence

Fechtschule - A German medieval or renaissance public fighting exhibition and competition

Federfechter - a German renaissance fighting > guild which favored the rapier among other weapons

Flech - German for the flat of the blade

Gaukler - meaning "jugglers" or "acrobats", a derogatory term for those masters who taught flowery, ineffective forms of swordsmanship

Gioco stretto - ("Close Playing") an Italian name for entering techniques >used for fighting close-in at seizing and grappling range (in the later

>English systems of cut-and-thrust sword of the 1500’s, these were known >as "gryps"). All are based essentially on a handful of key actions: >reaching out to grab the opponent’s hilt or arm, striking with the >pommel or guard, trapping with their forearms with your second arm, >slipping the blade against or between their forearms, using the second >hand to hold the blade while binding/striking/slicing, and tripping and >kicking. Iin the German schools close-in techniques for "wrestling at the >sword" or Ringen Am Schwert, involved throws or grappling and disarming >moves known as or Schwertnemen ("sword-taking")

Guards/Wards/Stances - for Medieval long-swords there are essentially 14 recognizable and effective fighting postures overall (called Leger or "position" in German and Guardia or Posta in Italian), of these five are major universal ones that correspond to High, Middle, Low, Hanging, and Back positions. In the later English systems of cut-and-thrust sword in the 1500’s, the Hanging guard was sometimes known as the Guardant ward, the High as Open ward, Middle as Close ward, and Low as the Variable ward

>>Halb Schwert - ("half-sword") techniques of gripping the blade itself >with the second hand (often by gloves or armored gauntlets), they allow >a wide range of offensive and defensive striking and deflecting actions >as well as thrusts, Italian schools might have called them "Mezza Spada" ("half sword") or possibly even "false-point" blows

Handarbeit – "handwork", also called Krieg or war, the phase of combat once swords have crossed and the distance has been closed

Hanging guard/stance – "Hengen" (left or right) are important and very versatile long-sword postures (they are confused and misunderstood more than any other), called the Ochs ("ox") stance in the German schools (for resemblance to the sloping horns of an ox), and known to the Italians as the Queen’s or Women’s (Donna) guard (possibly because next to the Crown guard it is the most useful), one variation places the blade over the shoulder with the body turned more away

High guard/stance - called a Hawke guard ("posta de falcone") by the Italians and known to the English as a Haukse Bill (as if "striking down like a bird or prey"), German schools usually referred to it as Vom Dach ("from the roof") or even Oberhut (meaning "upper guard"), in some Italian schools there was also a more defensive vertical High called known as a Guardia Alta

In Des Fechten – attacking in the middle of the adversary’s own attack, one of the three ways of overcoming an opponent’s attack

Inside guard/stance - called Finestra ("Window guard") by some Italian masters, one German term for it was apparently Hangentorte ("hanging point") and possibly even Wechsel (meaning "change"), a position with the blade horizontal pointing forward and the hilt pulled in close, used for warding, thrusting and parrying

Klopffechter - ("clown-fighters") itinerant, crude fighting swordsmen performers during the later 1500s and 1600s in Germany, not considered true Fechtmeister

Kron - ("crown") One German name for the Middle guard, called Corona in Italian, also a type of Halb Schwert (half-sword) parry against a vertical downwards cut with the sword held point forward over the head was called the

> Kunst des Fechtens - the German medieval (and renaissance) art of > fighting, consisted primarily of the arts of the langen schwert or long-sword, the messer (a sort of "two-handed falchion"), and Ringkunst or Ringen (wrestling).Unarmored combat was known as blossfechten. Combat in plate armor was known as harnisch fechten (or "harness fighting"). Fighting on foot was also distinguished from rossfechten, or mounted combat. Similar distinctions appear to have been made in Italy and elsewhere in Europe

Leichmeister - ("dance-master") a derogatory term used by the German master Doebringer of 1389, for those instructors who taught flashy but impractical fighting techniques

Long guard/stance - Posta Longa in Italian, a defensive thrusting position with the blade horizontal and arms extended straight forward more, ideal for warding and making stabbing attacks or stop-thrusts, German schools called it Langortt or Langer Ort, meaning "long point", it has limited application in that it is not able to freely cut, can be trapped or deflected, and is not able to recover or parry easily

Long-Sword - langenschwert, spada longa, or espadon, a weapon that has both a long blade and a long grip. Long-swords can include the classes great-sword, bastard-sword, and estoc. They were made in both flatter hacking/chopping versions and thicker thrusting/slashing versions. During the 1300’s, a long bladed weapon useable in two hands was commonly referred to as a "sword of war", or a "war-sword" (epee du guerre). The term bastard-sword was not first used until around 1450 and appears to have referred primarily to longer, typically tapering swords with special half-grips more so than to wide blades. A slender, narrowly pointed Italian long-sword or great-sword might also be known as a Spadone. Though not entirely accurate, a long-sword is often now sometimes called a "hand-and-a-half" sword. Long swords could be used on foot or horseback, one handed or with a shield. Great-swords ("grete swerds", "great sords") were the largest long-swords used only on foot with both hands.

Low guard/stance - called Alber, the Fool’s guard In the Germans schools (apparently since it was thought foolish to rely only on defense), depending on placement of the blade, to the Italian’s this was known as the Iron Door (right or middle) or when on the left it was called a Boar’s tooth guard (in the sense of thrusting up) or, German schools also sometimes called it Eiserne Pforte ("iron gate")

Luxbrueder (Company of St. Luke) – another major Medieval German fighting

> guilds, similar to later English schools of defence, they were headed by > four adepts and a captain

Marxbrüder - (Brotherhood of St. Mark) a successful group of masters who at one time organized and regulated the teaching of the fighting arts and the licensing of new masters from the city of Frankfurt, they lasted well into the Renaissance

Middle guard/stance - called Corona (crown) in Italian since it was the foundation of all other stances, and Pflug ("plow") in the German schools for its resemblance to the position of plowing behind a yoke, the blade is held centered out from the lower abdomen at a 45-degree angle aimed at the opponent’s chest, throat or face

Mordschlag - (or Morteschlag, "death blow") a type of rare Halb Schwert blow made by holding the sword blade itself with both hands and striking with the pommel or guard

Nach – the defensive or countering principle of fighting, opposite of Vor

Nachreissen – attacking immediately after the adversary’s own attack, one of the three ways of overcoming an opponent’s attack

Obere Ansetzen - techniques delivered over or above the opponent’s guard (opposite of Untere Ansetzen)

Ort - German for the point of the sword

Pressing-the-hands – a move to push your blade in against the opponent’s forearms or hands just as they lift to strike or just as they lower to strike

Ringen Am Schwert – ("wrestling at the >sword"), also known as Schwertnemen ("sword-taking") close in disarming >moves and grappling

Schwech – (weak) German masters divided the long-sword into two portions, the weaker section of blade from middle to point was known as Schwech, used for most thrusting and slicing (equivalent to the Foible of later renaissance fencing)

Short guard/stance - Posta Breve in Italian, an "entering" or close-range posture with the blade held more vertical, the hilt pulled in low and the knees bent more, it is used for both parrying and preparing to slice, thrust, or bind, it has limited application in that it is not able to freely cut, is vulnerable to thrusts and is not favorable to side and low parries

Stark - (strong) German masters referred to the long-sword in two portions, the strong section of blade from middle to hilt was known as Stark, used for most parrying and cutting (equivalent to the Forte of later renaissance fencing)

Stuck and Bruch – "technique and counter", two major components of the German systems of swordsmanship, the idea that every technique has a counter and every counter has a technique

Throwing-the-point - A German technique of turning a false cutting blow into a sudden straight thrust

Two-handed sword - (or "two-hander") true two-handed swords (epee deux main, spada da due mani, or espada de man) were actually Renaissance, not Medieval weapons and are really those specialized forms of the later 1500-1600's, such as the Swiss/German dopplehänder ("both-hander") or bidenhänder ("double-hander") or zweihander/zweyhander (which are relatively modern terms not historical ones)

Starting around 1480, English ones were sometimes referred to as slaughterswords after the German Schlachterschwerter ("battle swords"). In Germany and Switzerland during the Renaissance they were used by the dopplesoldner, the strongest fighters who received double pay. In battle they protected the banner and leaders as well as charging into pike and halberd formations to clear paths through them for others. Some schools even taught dueling with two-handers. Many had large pointed flanges or flukes on their ricasso called Parrierhaken. Certain wave or flame-bladed two-handed swords have come to be known by collectors as flamberges, but are more appropriately known as flammards or flambards (or the German Flammenschwert).

Ueberlauffen - (overrunning) the concept of timed counter-attack by outreaching the adversary just as they attack, you move into or out of their action and strike their closer targets exposed by their own attack

Untere Ansetzen - techniques delivered under or below the opponent’s guard (opposite of Obere Ansetzen)

Unterhalten - sometimes known as "holding down", ground-fighting techniques wresting or grappling moves included in the curriculum of the German systems of fighting, > entering techniques involving stepping in to trap the opponent’s > forearms or grip with you second hand or arm

Versatzung – (or Versetzen), literally to displace, a defensive action to put off an attack by a deflecting blow or counter strike as opposed to an opposition block, employed with evasive stepping

Von Fechten – attacking before, one of the three ways of overcoming an opponent’s attack

Vor – the offensive principle of fighting, aggressively taking the initiative, opposite of Nach

Zornhut – ("guard of wrath" or "rage guard") sparingly used vulnerable posture with the weapon pulled all the way point down behind the back, but which allows the most powerful blows

Zuefechten – one of the two phases of combat where the combatants are closing together and their weapons make contact >


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