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.
A Lesson on Binding
This precisely mark,
Hew, stab, Leaguer, Soft or Hard,
Indes, and Before, After,
Without haste. Your War should not be rushed.
This is a lesson of the Zornhau that deals with the Binden or binding of the swords, and the Winding that follows therefrom. When your opponent has bound with you from any attack, whether it be a hew or a stab or something else, then do not act with haste and quickly leave his sword without first assessing the bind. If you act thus with undue haste and leave his sword when it is not appropriate, then this may place you in great danger because you open yourself to his attacks, especially if his sword is nearer to you than you must travel with yours to reach him. Instead, when the swords initially clash upon each other, before you make any other action, first determine if the opponent is Soft or Hard in the bind, that is, if you can reasonably move or manipulate his sword or not. As soon as you determine this, then Indes, that is, at the right moment, while he is still giving the pressure that you have assessed, use the technique that is appropriate against his Soft or Hard pressure, working against the Weak or Strong of his sword, and always attacking the closest opening, as you will be taught in more detail later.
When your opponent has bound with you on the sword when he cuts or thrusts or otherwise, stick to his sword for a moment. If you leave the bind prematurely you will be struck, most likely with a thrust. Instead, stick to his blade a moment and actively feel the strength of his pressure. This is easiest with two sharp blades, which actually stick to one another, but even with blunts or feders you can feel a great deal if you apply "active feeling" by pushing, prodding, and groping a little bit with your sword. Do not stand and wait passively, seeing what he will do, for such a fencer is often defeated, but rather test his pressure with your own. If he yields, thrust into the next opening. If he leaves the bind, stab him. If he pushes past, yield and wind or leave the bind and strike to the next opening. Fencing without attempting to employ feeling to make decisions is counter to the system described throughout this work.
It is important to note here the words hard and soft. To reiterate, hard does not necessarily mean that your opponent is moving your sword. It could simply mean that their sword is unyielding to your pressure, rather than yielding to it.
This section is on the middle phase of the fight, called the Krieg or War, which occurs after the initial attack has been made from the Approach, and consists of Winding and subsequent techniques which attack the Four Openings of the opponent’s body with the point, ending when a withdrawal from or sufficient stifling of the opponent is made. This phase is called the Krieg because while in it you are actively engaged in fighting against your opponent at close distance, as in a War. The following teaches you how to attack one opening after another in succession until the opponent is struck.
Who enters the War
above, he becomes ashamed below.
This is a lesson on attacking your opponent above and below in the Krieg.
- When your opponent hews at you from above, and you respond with the Zornhau, if he then parries your sword somewhat, so that you may not immediately stab him with your point and leaves his sword in control of the center, then Wind up on your left side with your short-edge on his blade, moving your strong to his weak, and stab above into his upper opening on his left side.
- If your opponent parries this high stab of yours away from his opening to his left side, then remain in the position into which you have Wound, with your hands high and the hilt before your head, and move your point down to his lower opening on his left side, stabbing him there.
- If your opponent then follows after your sword to parry you again, move your point to the lower opening of his right side, and stab him there.
- If he follows after your sword once again to parry, then raise your blade up on your left side, and hang the point in above to the upper opening on his right side, on the inside of his sword, and stab him there.
In this sequence, you have attacked him high and low on both sides with the Winding, responding to his parrying by attacking from one opening to the next. It is important to remember to never skip an opening, but always attack the nearest in the most direct way possible in order to take the most advantage of time. Attacking quickly in this way keeps the opponent in the Nach, and allows you to keep attacking in the Vor, until the opponent is outmaneuvered and eventually hit. Be sure to drive ever forward towards his openings with your sword with the Winding, never hesitating and giving him an instant’s opportunity to attack you.
It is important to note here that there is an alternative interpretation to the order of steps listed above. The interpretation above was selected due to the associated image in MS CL23842, shown to the right. In Step 1, the instructions of the original glosses may be read as if the attacker should wind up to the right instead of up to the left. This drastically changes the movements through the play, as winding up to the right necessitates further winding through all of the hangers to get to the end as you continue to seek the openings with your point instead of just moving the point around their defenses.
It is possible that this play could be acceptable in both ways, depending on how your opponent parries the initial Zornhau. If the opponent parries in such a way that their point is threatening you, winding up to the right is too risky, while the wind up to the left will clear their threat and allow you to continue through the instruction. If they parry you but are not threatening you with their point, the wind to the right is both safe and easier to perform due to the relationships between the weak and the strong.
The sequence of attacks, meaning, which openings are attacked and in what order, are significant here. The student has not yet been introduced to the four openings, which are not an arbitrary division but rather a map of quadrants that dictate the manner and order of your attacks against your opponent. This will be described further under the section on the four openings.
In all Winding,
Hew, stab, slice, learn to find.
Also shall you with
Proving hew, stab, or slice.
In all hits
You will trick the Masters.
This is a lesson contained in the Zornhau which applies to all Winding with the sword, and it should be very well practiced so that you will be able to execute it correctly and quickly when the situation arises. When you employ the Winding from the Zornhau, as has been explained previously, or from any other binding of the swords, then know that each Winding may employ one of three particular types of attacks, or Wounders; namely, a stab, a hew, or a slice. You should utilize the one of these that is most direct, quick, and appropriate for attacking the target to which you are Winding.
Stabs are useful against all of the opponent’s openings; hews in the Winding are not as powerful as when they are free, and so should be limited to the head, face, or neck; and slices must be drawn across bare flesh to be most effective, and so they should be limited to the face and the neck, or hands and wrists in the case of an over or under slice. Do not recklessly attack with one of these techniques if another would have been more appropriate, but train yourself to recognize and quickly employ the best one for the circumstances. If you master this skill and utilize these techniques at the appropriate times whenever you bind with your opponents, then it will be very hard for even experienced fencers or masters to defend against you. A more complete explanation of the particular attacks in Winding will be discussed later in the Conclusion of the Epitome.
Engagement distance can help determine which of the three wounders you should employ. If you are at a distance where your point can comfortably be brought to bear, usually a further distance, you should consider the thrust. If you are slightly closer, at a distance where a cut can comfortably be made from the bind, you should consider the cut. If you are at a much closer distance, or if your opponent's structure is collapsing, you should consider the slice or press. In a following section, the Duplieren is described as a cut. However, in following plays where the opponent ends up closer, the same motion is described as a slice across the mouth instead of a cut. Alternatively, the Winding action described in a previous section can employ a thrust, a cut, or an under slice. If at at a further distance, it works as described with a thrust. If slightly closer, the wind may result in a horizontal cut to the left side of their head. At a closer distance, and with some collapsing from your opponent, the same motion may place the edge on their wrists, employing the under slice.