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 Zornhau and its Techniques
The Zornhau or Wrath-hew is the first of the Five Hidden Hews to be described. It is the most powerful of all hews, and it goes diagonally downwards from the shoulder along the same trajectory that an angry unskilled fencer would most likely strike at his target, hence its name. The simple yet powerful execution of the Zornhau makes it easy to employ once understood, and therefore highly useful in combat. The ingenuousness of this hew is not in how it is physically executed, but in how it is tactically implemented. Used in the correct manner, the Wrath-hew counters all hews from above, which are the most common type of attack encountered, and is particularly useful against quick attacks from the opponent.
Pedagogically, the purpose of the Zornhau section of the zettel is to teach a fencer starting out in Liechtenauer’s art how to control the fight by inviting an anticipated attack and breaking that attack with a counter, which is a technique that protects and causes harm to the opponent either in the same motion or nearly the same motion. The plays of the Zornhau are not true invitations, but they do contain elements of inviting attacks which allow the student to learn such invitations through fencing without consciously attempting to do so. For example, in the approach, lifting your sword to your shoulder invites an attack, being as how it is not a point forward defensive position.
The lessons of the Zornhau teach you how to fight from the lower bind, and include teachings on counter-attacking, binding, Feeling, fighting in close combat, and attacking the openings on the opponent, forming a foundation upon which the other teachings stand.
Who Over-hews you,
Wrath-hew point threatens him.
Perform the Wrath-hew thus:
When you come to the opponent at the onset of the fight and he acts Before you by hewing to your head from above on his right side, then go After him by hewing wrathfully against his sword with your long edge, also from above your right side. With this hew you defend yourself against his attack, but in doing so you should not parry his sword widely by letting your point go up or out to the side, which would not threaten him, and therefore leave you open to another attack, but instead always direct your point towards his face or chest as you bind against his sword, so that you have a shorter path to your opponent with your weapon than he has to you. Do not make any concessions towards a parry—do not turn your edge against his hew, do not move your hands out to the side, etc. Hew to the centerline and not past it, or you may fall victim to a failer. As you bind, you must be sure to remain centered with the sword by using proper structure and body mechanics, as you have previously been taught. If when you bind on his sword with yours you then perceive that he is Soft on the sword, that is, if he allows your point to get on target by yielding in the bind and allowing you to take control of the centerline between you and him, then Indes shoot in your point long out before you, using your core to drive the action, straight into his face or chest, where you stab him. This stab must follow your hew as quickly as you perceive that the opponent is Soft and susceptible, lest you give him time to attack you once more. This counter-attack sequence of hew and stab is called the Zornhau Ort, or Wrath-hew Point, sometimes also referred to as the Lang Zornort or Long Wrath-Point due to its full extension of the point with the stab.
As with all techniques, footwork facilitates sword-work, placing your body in the proper position in space at the correct time. With this particular technique, since the opponent is closing the distance, you may step to switch which foot is forward and which is back while remaining in place or you may choose not to take a step at all, and instead turn the hips with the strike. Alternatively, you may find it necessary to step a little forward or backward and to your right with the right foot while hewing the Zornhau, immediately following the hew with the left foot quickly behind you, a bit out to your right side, which brings your body back into a proper stance against your opponent. This will provide an advantageous angle slightly out to your opponent’s left side, with the stab following this step.
Becomes he aware of it,
Then take off above without danger.
This is the description of the technique which follows the Zornhau Ort, if it is defended against by the opponent. If you have executed the Zornhau against the opponent’s attack, as described previously, and he perceives your stab and parries it widely to his left side with his Strong on your Weak and his point upwards or outwards away from you, then as he does so, pull your sword’s blade up and over his, keeping pressure along his own blade, going no farther up with the blade than it must travel to clear his point, and then strike down to his head on the other side of his sword, along a similar angle to which your sword first ascended over your opponent’s. This action is called Taking-Off Above, or Oben Abgenomen, and may be performed whenever your opponent parries your sword widely in this way. Be sure to not only use your arms to provide power for this technique, but the whole body, as you have been taught.
You may employ Oben Abgenomen without danger because while you are attacking your opponent he is preoccupied with only defending himself, instead of attacking or counter-attacking you. In order for your opponent to most effectively parry your Zornhau Ort, if you have performed it correctly with adequate force, he must parry your Weak with his Strong, well out to his left side, thus defending one opening only to expose another, which you may immediately attack. This technique should be performed quickly and efficiently so that the opponent is struck before he realizes what you are doing, and does not have an opportunity to parry you once more.
The Oben Abgenomen is an illustration of the concept of using Weak against Strong. When the opponent realizes that you have taken the center away from him with the Zornhau and panics when he sees the Ort shooting towards him, he naturally overcompensates in his defense, crossing the centerline with his sword by defending against your Weak with his Strong, positioning his blade harmlessly away from you to the side. Instead of attempting to fight against his Strong dominant mechanical advantage, you wisely leave the useless bind with your Weak, giving into his misguided action, and strike him to the other side where he has widely exposed himself. It is important to remain in the bind as long as possible, and thus keep pressure along his sword as you drive up and over it. In this way, you deprive him as long as possible of any feedback indicating that you are looking to leave the bind.
This technique is a counter to the Oben Abgenomen. If you have mistakenly parried widely out of fear, and your opponent takes off above and will hew down upon your head, as was previously described, then as his sword comes down towards you, hew also strongly against his head from above on your left, binding against his sword and deflecting it off to the right. Afterwards, whether you have hit him or not, work against him with attacks as you determine if he is Soft or Hard on the sword with the techniques that you see fit, as you will learn later in the teachings. With this counter, you have successfully defended yourself and taken back the Vor using the Nach, after having initially lost your advantage with a wide parry which did not threaten the opponent.
The Oben Agbenomen represents one of the four ways Liechtenauer presents to get to the other side of an opponent’s sword. The four ways to get to the other side of an opponent's sword are:
1. Oben Ab Genommen (Taking Away Above), which goes over the parrying blade.
2. Durchwechseln/Durchgehen (Changing through), which passes under the parrying or attacking blade
3. Zucken (Pulling), which is a pull back towards yourself to break or prevent the bind of a parrying blade, letting it pass by)
4. Umbschlagen (Striking around), which comes away from one side, goes around/behind the head, and strikes in from the opposite side ]
Be Stronger against,
Wind, Stab. Sees he, then take it down.
This is a lesson on what to do if, when you hew a Zornhau against your opponent’s Oberhau, you feel that he is Hard in the bind rather than Soft. In this situation, instead of being Soft and allowing you to take the center with your sword and stab into his face or chest with the Ort, your opponent is Hard and resists your pressure, holding strongly with his sword directed against your head or upper body. In such a situation, you may not stab his face as with the Zornhau Ort, since your point is not on line, and you may not safely leave his sword as with the Oben Abgenomen, since he is threatening you with the point or edge of his blade. Instead, you must use a technique called Winding or Winden, which allows you to remain safely in the bind while using your Strong to gain a mechanical advantage in order to manipulate your opponent’s threat away from you and simultaneously offend him with your Weak.
To do this, when you bind with the Zornhau against his Oberhau and he is Hard and unyielding with his sword, then remain firm in the bind with your sword, and drive high up with your arms and with your sword along his sword so that the Strong of your sword is in contact with his Weak. Simultaneously Wind or turn your short edge underneath and then against his sword, positioning your grip so that the pad of your thumb is below, in contact with the inside flat of your blade, and direct your point against his face from above, making sure to keep your hilt before your head to defend yourself against his blade, and then stab into his face. Winding this way, on the inside of his sword, protects you from his threatening blade while dominating the bind, overcoming his strength by using Art to gain superior leverage, and giving you control of the centerline so that you may attack him with your point. Be sure not to be feeble in your Winding, but utilize strong mechanics, keeping your wrists and elbows from being overly bent and collapsed in toward you. Note that whenever you Wind, you shorten your reach with the sword because your hands must travel away from the centerline where you have the most extension with your sword towards your opponent. Therefore, when employing Winding, you may find it necessary to adjust your body’s distance from your opponent in order to reach him, which you should do as necessary, being sure not to compromise the structural integrity or leverage advantage of your sword’s position.
If your opponent notices that you are stabbing at him in time to defend himself, and does so by lifting his arms up and parrying with the hilt above his head, which does not threaten you, then remain in the position into which you have wound, with your hilt before your head, and Indes leave his sword with your point by moving it around his hilt to the right side, and in the same motion, take it down below to stab his throat or chest between his arms, which is the nearest opening. This action is the quickest and most efficient means of defeating his high defense against your stab from Winding, and should be executed with economy of motion, moving only the point of your sword around his hilt to the target. With your sword and hilt still over your head, you are protected from any desperate attack he makes while you stab him. As with all such techniques, it is best if you stab him while he is still in the process of defending himself from your previous attack, because his sword cannot travel in two directions at once.
The majority of Zornhau plays, up to mutieren and duplieren, deal with attacks out of distance, whether these are long and free hews, the sort of cut to center and press with the point attacks discussed in the general teachings (which Zornhau counters quite effectively) or the result of a manipulation of distance by the person being attacked (the one executing the zornhau). Some of these same principles apply to a committed attack, but the Zornhau offers dedicated ways to deal with that in duplieren and mutieren. Since so much of the Zornhau deals with out of distance binds, we can also assume that creating that distance, or anticipating it—i.e. working from that distance in Krieg—is an important element of KDF fencing. The Oben Abgenomen is a second oberhau delivered as a nachschlag (After strike), and thus must be performed at an effective cutting range. The Winding is a re-orientation of your point to the centerline by gaining superior leverage, which must be done at a range in which your point can effectively and quickly be brought back to the center line. If your point ends up past your opponent’s head or body, generally due to the fighters being closer together and almost cross to cross on the swords, the Duplieren and Mutieren options that will follow later would be more appropriate.
The Winden play above is the beginning of a concept we will see a bit later in the Edel Krieg, or "Noble War," which emphasizes constantly seeking the openings and keeping your opponent under continuous pressure. Here we start with an attack to the upper left opening, but having been parried we seek a thrust to the upper right opening through the use of the "first winding," or a twisting motion into left ochs when bound on the inside. Should that thrust fail, we seek the upper left opening (the neck) or leave the bind altogether to seek the breast between the arms and under the opponent's raised hands, fulfilling the maxim, "He who parries above is ashamed below."
When drilling the Zornhau or any of its derivatives, make sure that neither partner is over-exaggerating their cuts so to pass over or across an opponent instead of driving at the opponent. A Zorn-ort, especially, will never come to fruition against an oberhau pushed far to the right of it's target, for example. This is a common drilling problem with the Zornhau that we tend to look for first.