The Modern Gloss is a project created by, written by, and edited by Cory Winslow (MEMAG), Jake Norwood (CKDF), Mike Edelson (NYHFA), and Ben Michels (BP). It is a modern take on Liechtenauer's zettel documenting our understanding of the early Kunst des Fechtens system for fighting with the longsword. This is a living project and, as such, the posts are subject to being updated or added to as we move forward. The posts themselves should not be taken in isolation, but as part of the system as a whole. All currently available posts will be catalogued on this page for easy reference.
The Techniques of the Epitome
This section teaches you about the core pieces of fencing within Grandmaster Liechtenauer’s Art of the Sword, including how many there are and what they are named.
The Seventeen Hauptstuecke
Wrath hew, Crooked, Thwart,
Have Squinter with Parter.
Travelling-after, Over-running, Set hews,
Run-through, Slice-off, Press hands,
Hang, Wind, with openings,
Blows, grasp, strike, stab with thrusting.
This is a listing of the Seventeen Hauptstuecke or Chief Techniques of the Epitome of the long sword. These are the particular techniques or categories of actions used in the Art of Fencing, each given a name so that they may be more easily remembered. You shall learn how to fight with these Seventeen Chief Techniques later on in this text, one following after another according to the order which follows.
The first five are the Hidden Hews:
- The Wrath-Hew
- The Crooked-hew
- The Thwart-hew
- The Squint-hew
- The Parting-hew
Next are the Twelve Techniques:
- The Four Guards
- The Four Forfendings
- The Travelling-after
- The Over-running
- The Setting-off
- The Changing-through
- The Pulling
- The Running-through
- The Slicing-off
- The Hand Pressing
- The Hangings
- The Windings
These Hauptstuecke are used to illustrate both broadly applicable lessons and specific technical actions, and to provide examples of applications of the principles described by the Five Words. They are the physical manifestations of these principles, which are presented in concrete forms in order to help you better learn the nature and use of the Art. Although each technique is usually presented with one or more specific examples, they should be applied freely in any situation in which the required stimulus for their use is met. Any such extrapolation of the techniques should always be guided by the principles of the Five Words in order to be congruent with the Art. You must learn how, why, when, and against what to use each technique before your fencing will be effective. You will find all of these things written in this book, but should know that it is much easier to learn with the hand under the watch of an experienced teacher than it is to be taught from a book; so study these words well and practice often if you wish to learn this Art.
Of the 17 Hauptstuecke, first are presented the Five Hews, which provide a series of structured set plays, consisting of techniques and counters, containing practical examples of all the following 12 Hauptstuecke. This section gives you an introduction to the use of the Art, and functional lessons on how to apply its core lessons in an orderly manner. The nature of these examples is that most of them are interchangeable between the Five Hews. As a result, the first hew, the Zornhau, contains a great number of plays and largely describes the actions that may be taken from a lower, inside bind. The second hew, the Krumphau, is more specialized in its use and contains a limited number of unique plays; however, because it often results in an inside bind, a failed Krumphau can quickly become an exercise in Zornhau’s plays from the lower inside bind. The third hew, the Zwerchau, like the Zornhau, is fleshed out with a wide array of additional movements, relevant techniques, and opportune principles. Many of these techniques do not so much belong to the Zwerchau as they are most easily illustrated from it. Thus the plays of the Zwerchau describe the actions that may be taken from an upper, inside bind. The fourth hew, the Schielhau, like Krumphau, focuses on its more limited applications; however, like the Krumphau, a failed Schielhau benefits from the many plays of its predecessor—in this case, the Zwerchau. The final hew, the Scheitelhau contains a very limited number of extended play, as most other probable engagements from it have been previously covered.
Following the Five Hews are the other 12 Hauptstuecke, which detail the main components of the Art in isolation. These too are described using practical examples, but are also explained abstractly, allowing you to understand in detail all of the separate components inherent in the earlier section on the Five Hews, and also how they may freely work together in different ways than the examples given. All of these lessons together present a highly adaptable system comprised of various individual components, which is grounded in the practice of several set illustrative techniques.
You should know that, although each fencer who studies Grandmaster Liechtenauer’s teachings learns the same Art according to the Zettel, since everyone thinks differently from everyone else and has different physical abilities, the Art may be applied in varying ways accordingly. One fencer may be aggressive, another wary, one quick, another slow, according to their temperaments and physiques. As long as a fencer follows the principles of the Art, he will hardly be defeated. Learning to apply these principles takes a great deal of training and practice with the techniques which manifest them.
It is also important to know that there is a difference between fencing in play and fencing in earnest. He who is stronger and makes much use of his strength often has an advantage in play, but in earnest it is the fencer with the greatest skill who has the advantage. Fencing in play must be done as realistically as possible in order to be useful for training; otherwise it is done only in vanity, and may teach bad habits.
Know also that fencers are not weighted down with the burden of trying to adhere to these teachings before they begin learning the Art, and so they act easily and freely when they fence, but do so ignorantly, according only to their natural abilities. While learning the Art, students become knowledgeable and skilled, but often act slowly, incorrectly, erratically, unconfidently, or dangerously, due to the fact that they are attempting to inexpertly act in accordance with the teachings, but cannot do so easily or freely. After having internalized the Art, masters act with great skill, correctly using all manner of techniques freely and easily. These masters do not need to actively think about the actions that they take, but effortlessly follow the teachings in everything that they do. Although they do not consciously consider each technique, they freely and fluidly use them based on opportunity according to the teachings.