Modern Gloss 5.1, Part 1: Schielhau Video

So It's Come to This...

This thing has gone as these things tend to. A few months ago, probably around WMAW 2013, Ben Michels (forever after just “Ben”) comes up with this idea to finally do the videos we’d been planning on for YEARS as a modern gloss to Liechtenauer’s verses. Each one would contain a demonstrations of our interpretations of the technique (hopefully with all the cool of Anton Kohutovič and friends), a short lesson on how to do it, a discussion of the theory behind it, and some drills, exercises, or training games for actually learning to do it. On top of all that, we wanted these to be fairly professional, with voice-overs, text overlays, and better lighting than just whatever was coming down from the ceiling.

A "Making of" in progress...?

A "Making of" in progress...?

So we announced we were going to do it, mostly because we figured that would force us to do it. It took a little longer than we liked, but we finally actually started the thing. Whether or not we’ve actually done something all that “professional” is a matter of comparison. Fact is, this was a first attempt and the learning curve remains steep. I reckon these will get sharper, crisper, and more (comparatively) professional over time. Some planning went a long way. We broke all of Codex Danzig into chapter and verse, then numbered the lessons to go along with it. This allows us to jump around and prioritize the stuff that excites us, or that we’ve been asked for, or that we’re more confident in. It also makes it easy to go back and replace videos if that becomes necessary.

For Lesson 5.1, part 1: Schielhau vs. Oberhau, we prepared a loose script and pre-planned the shots. This took maybe three hours. Shooting went quick—just over an hour, even with setup. The editing…editing is brutal. Ben carried the weight there, and I think it took about 10 hours just to get the first draft. The lovely Emma Graf lent her voice and was our cameraperson.

We’ve learned a lot in the process and it’s a bit intimidating to think that even if we do one of these every week it will take us two years to complete all of Codex Danzig…by which point we’ll need to re-do probably half of it because, yeah, this is HEMA, and if you’re using the same interpretation for more than two years running you’re probably doing it wrong.

On the Schielhau

Gallons of virtual ink have been spilled in arguing over the Schielhau—what is it, how is it done, etc. No point in repeating that here. What I will do is briefly explain where our interpretation came from.

I have this running theory—developed over years of trial and error—that longsword biomechanics shouldn’t be significantly different from messer (i.e., single-hander) mechanics, since the former likely sprang out of the latter. If you can’t perform the technique roughly the same way with both weapons, you’re probably cheating with the left hand on the longsword. It’s been the most fundamentally powerful thing I’ve learned over the last few years, and it’s effected almost every interpretation I have, all for the better. Anyone watching my fights in 2010 compared to 2012 will see a big difference, and it all comes out of that.

So, naturally, when trying to understand the Schiller and all its different forms, I defaulted back to my buddy the messer. Lecküchner’s imagery is crystal clear on a few points, not the least of which being that this is a powerful cut, not some flicky thing that just gashes the top of the head. As that messer whips up and around from the low guard it gains velocity and displaces with both presence and structure.

Leckuechner's Zwingerhau

Leckuechner's Zwingerhau

I dumped the version I’d been using, high up like the imagery in Meÿer, and started one-handing the longsword to get a sense of the proper trajectory of both edge and pommel. That established, the left hand fell into place and all that was left was experimenting with targeting, sweet spots on binds, etc.

The one part that bugged me was the lack of a standard right traverse or triangle step in the cut, but it was Hans Heim (another messer pro) who set my mind at ease on it. I mention the reasons in the video, but in short, not stepping provides better grounding and structure (necessary against a Buffel), more advantageous control of the range (with the option of stepping to correct it), and fits much of the imagery that’s usually ignored.

I don’t get into it in the video much, but I do think that sometimes the hands go really high, like we see Meÿer do. It depends on the opponent, and the location of his weapon and your own point of impact. If it’s very high (which it is in Meÿer’s illustrations), then the hands must go high. And if they go too high, the blow will naturally plunge down more, perhaps even going deeper than level. I’ve done it a lot, but it’s rarely necessary as I’m a tall guy, and not many folks cut so highly.

What I don’t think works with the Schielhau are cuts which come down like Meÿer’s without the right conditions. I mean those versions that are essentially snaps down from an Ochs-like position. I’m not a big fan of two-step/dui-tempi or even tempo-and-a-half versions of the Schiller. They rarely seem to work, and their advocates rarely use them in fencing. There are also version which are essentially push-cuts along the head or neck, or which are thrusts only (instead of as the “B” Plan). I’m not a fan of any of those. My personal standard is any technique that we are told to do powerfully or “with force” by the masters should be able to cut through a mat at least, and the version we show here can.

I think you’ll be happy with this version. Give it some time and try using it against uncooperative opponents or in cutting. I’ve also used it in every longsword competition I’ve been in since mid-2012. The judges often miss it (like many single-time deflection/hits, they often think it was parried), but my opponents never do. If you watch closely in my matches against Mike Edelson (PNWHEMAG 2012, BSG 2012), Keith Cotter-Reilly and Axel Petterson (FA 2013), or Josh Parise (Shortpoint 2014--this one is cool because Josh tries a changing through and I take the Schiller low...and it works) you’ll catch successful, if not flawlessly executed, attempts throughout, both as an offence and a defense.

Our next video will be Modern Gloss Lesson 5.1, part 2, where we’ll show you how we use this same technique against an opponent standing in Pflug. Thanks for reading and watching, and I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Jake Norwood
CKDF - Alexandria
March 12, 2014

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