I received my copy of the Academy of Historical Arts German Longsword Study Guide (Fallen Rook, 2013) at Swordfish 2013 from Keith Farrell. The book, which Farrell co-authored with fellow Academy of Historical Arts (AHA) instructor (and illustrator) Alex Bourdas, is a brisk 132 digest-sized pages and covers key elements of the so-called German tradition for unarmored longsword. As I’m not aware of any similar project covering the German longsword since Christian Tobler's now out-of-print Fighting With the German Longsword (Chivalry Bookshelf/Freelance Academy Press, 2004), I approached this new work with a wary hope.

Farrell and Bourdas started the project as a textbook for students in their own school, and at some point the project ballooned. I'm sympathetic to that kind of mission creep, having been a victim of it myself on a few occasions. Their extra effort resulted in something useful to most teachers of so-called German Longsword.

The AHAGLSG isn't a book of lesson plans (though, yes, there are some drills and exercises in the back chapters); rather it's something of a student's reference. The section headers are numbered chapter-and-verse, making cross referencing or assigning reading as homework easy and intuitive.  The content is organized in a manner that is accessible to beginners, focusing on areas like "Stance, Footwork, Grip," and "Common Thrusts with the Sword." In this regard it somewhat evokes Joachim Meÿer's 450-year-old attempt to present the art in an orderly fashion.

A side effect of this somewhat agnostic approach is that it contains more information than some purists might like. AHA's choice to join together old Liechtenauer, late Mair and Meÿer, and the smooth stylings of Nuremburgers like the Codex Wallerstein makes the part of me that dedicated myself to the early glosses of the Grandmaster's Zettel cringe (there is a full translation of the Ringeck Zettel in the back, however, so how can you go wrong?). Zealotry aside, as a new student of these arts, having an accessible discussion of so much material under one roof would have been a godsend. This approach introduces readers to more than just Liechtenauer's Blossfechten and, more importantly, provides them with the vocabulary to discuss it.

Vocabulary is, in fact, where the AHAGLSG really shines. The jargon of German longsword is daunting to newcomers, and more schools and clubs prefer to keep the bulk of their terminology in the original rather than suffer through a list of translations every time they want to say Scheitelhau.  In addition to an average of a page or so for each technique or principle, the Study Guide includes a sizable lexicon in the appendices, grouped categorically instead of alphabetically.

One of the fears that any strong-willed instructor has in choosing a non-primary source text for his/her students is the matter of interpretation. There are as many ways to do a Schielhau as there are clubs in HEMA and interpretations are changing constantly. Farrell's and Bourdas' explanations of each technique are intentionally sparse, generally sticking closely to the source material and keeping commentary to the minimum. While I don't subscribe to a handful of their chosen approaches to Liechtenauer's art, there is little--if anything--in the book to which I would object to exposing to xKDFers at any experience level. It's all solid work.

Alex Bourdas' hand-drawn recreations of Ochs from Codex Danzig and Vom Tag from Paulus Hector Mair. The Study Guide is full of these kinds of illustrations.

Alex Bourdas' hand-drawn recreations of Ochs from Codex Danzig and Vom Tag from Paulus Hector Mair. The Study Guide is full of these kinds of illustrations.

The Academy of Historical Arts German Longsword Study Guide is a well rounded, source-based approach for teachers and students of German longsword systems across the gamut from Liechtenauer to Meÿer. The book is slim, well-organized, handsomely illustrated, and accessibly written. I am confident that issuing copies to new students would blunt much of the intimidation that comes with jumping into the modern-day study of the most popular Germanic Blossfechten systems. We liked it enough here at CKDF and MKDF that we're planning on picking up a case or two to roll into the price of our beginners' courses. In short, we recommend it and commend Keith and Alex on their hard work and willingness to share.

The AHA German Longsword Study Guide is available in paperback ($28, 132 pages),  e-book ($16 PDF), or both ($37) from http://www.corsairs-wares.com. --JPN

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