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.

 

The Four Openings

This section teaches you about the division of the body into Four Openings or Vier Blossen, to which you may direct your attacks, and also how you shall attack these Openings in each phase of the fight.

Four Openings know.
Aim so you hit knowingly
In all driving
Without confusion for how he acts.

This is a fundamental lesson which pertains to all fencing with the sword, namely that you must learn how to skillfully discern and pursue each opening as it is appropriate. The first opening is the upper-right quadrant of the opponent above his waist. The second opening is the upper-left quadrant of the opponent above his waist. The third opening is the lower-right quadrant of the man below the waist, and the fourth opening is the lower-left quadrant of the man below the waist.  Since your opponent only has one sword, he may defend only one opening at a time, meaning that at least three openings are available for you to attack at any given moment.  You should generally attack those openings that are not closed or in the process of closing, but certain techniques exist with which you may break-open the openings, as will be explained later.

There are two separate instances in which you shall search for openings of the opponent with your attacks. The first of these is in the Zufechten or Approach, when you first come against your opponent to fence, and the second is in the Krieg or War, when you have bound with the opponent on the sword. In the Approach, you shall use Nachreisen (Traveling-after) by attacking him with a hew or stab when his sword is moving away from you, such as when he pulls back to attack, or misses you with a hew, thereby creating an opening in himself; otherwise you shall shoot the Longpoint in to his openings, attacking him with your extended point, thus compelling him to parry and further open himself to your subsequent attacks. In the Krieg, you shall use the Eight Windings, which are variations of the Windings you were previously taught, which are utilized to attack your opponent at close distance. The specifics of how to attack your opponent in both of these situations will be explained in detail later.

In general, when you approach your opponent and he has not yet attacked you, then always attack those of the Four Openings to which you may best come while taking into consideration what opening your opponent may be striking from. You shall do this fearlessly and bravely, with whatever attack you deem best for the situation to attack the opening you intend while mitigating the threat from the opening he lies in, fearing not what actions he takes against you once you make this decision, attacking boldly as if your opponent does not even have a sword once you commit. In so doing, and thus limiting the options your opponent may choose from, you force your opponent to interpose their sword into your attack or be struck. This act of forcing or compelling your opponent to respond in obedience to your threatening initiative and pressure is called Zwingen or Constraining, which was introduced in the General Lessons, and it is used to ensure that you may safely continue to attack him with the appropriate techniques. If your opponent then parries, work quickly with the Winding on his sword in the parrying, searching for the next opening with your sword. Be sure to never aim for the opponent’s sword with your attacks, but always attack the opponent’s openings of his body, so that he must parry or be struck, and is not free to offend you himself.

The use of Zwingen is most effective against fearful opponents, experienced fencers, or those who otherwise correctly recognize threats against them and defend accordingly. Caution must be taken against new or erratic fencers who flail or wildly attack when they should defend themselves so that they do not unexpectedly harm you. Nevertheless, you should always attack your opponent bravely with appropriate techniques when you perceive his openings, and then deal with his actions as they arise.
 


Theory

In this section, we are given only two ways we are meant to attack an opponent. In the Zufechten after your opponent has created an opening, with Nachraisen and Ansetzen, and in the Krieg from a bind using the windings. Never are you instructed to use a single instance of or a combination of Oberhau or Unterhau to pass through Zufechten without taking advantage of an opening your opponent creates either through striking and missing, changing position, or preparing to strike. You are given further options for passing through this distance later in the gloss in the Vier Versetzen, as well as much mor instruction on attacking the openings in Krieg.

The division of the four openings may seem arbitrary, but it isn’t. The “nearest opening” could mean the head, the hand, the hip, or the shoulder. Instead, they chose four quadrants, with the dividing line being at the natural waist, allowing a fighter to work with space instead of specific targets and decluttering what a fighter needs to think about. The quadrants are used to plan a sequence of attacks, and this sequences was introduced the Krieg section above. Assuming two right-handers, the default sequence is your opponent’s upper left, then lower left. Transitioning to a defense from the upper left to lower left is very difficult and requires either a very awkward reversal of the sword, from point up to point down, or a very awkward parry by trying to reach low enough without reversing. On the other hand, parrying from upper left to upper right, or even upper left to lower right, is more natural and intuitive. From the lower left, the next opening in the sequence is the lower right, which is likewise very difficult to defend from the position you end up in after defending the lower left. Finally, from lower right you go to upper right, which is almost impossible to defend against from the position you end up when defending the lower right. This also works for strikes, as demonstrated a strike to the head on the opponent’s left followed immediately by striking the lower opening on the same side. The language here supports this, as the words negsten or nagst imply sequence.

 

Breaking the Four Openings

This section teaches you how to attack your opponent’s Four Openings behind his blade, where he thought that he was safe, when you determine whether he is Soft or Hard on the sword.

Will you reckon
The Four Openings artfully to break,
Above Double,
Below correctly Mutate.
I say to you truthfully,
No man protects himself without danger.
Have you understood this,
To strikes may he seldom come.

This is a lesson on the techniques that you shall use to break the Four Openings. You have learned previously how to attack the openings of the opponent from one to the next in succession as they become available, attacking in a way that stays ahead of his defense. Now you will learn how to attack these same openings behind his sword, where he does not perceive himself to be open, and thus you break through to the openings there with skill.

When your opponent earnestly attacks you with an Oberhau, that is, when he hews at you so closely that you are unable to effectively use the Ort (point), as in the Zornhau Ort, and you want to finish him quickly, then use the Duplieren or Doubling against the Strong of his sword, and the Mutieren or Mutating against the Weak of his sword. Thus, he will be unable to protect himself from your attacks, even if he thinks that he will be safe behind his sword. Because you incessantly attack the opponent, forcing him further and further into the Nach, he cannot ever get the chance to attack you himself, has to further and further overextend to continue defending himself, and will therefore be defeated. You may execute these two techniques from all hews as you find the Weak and Strong of the sword and utilize them accordingly, as you will learn from the descriptions of the Duplieren and Mutieren, which follow.

This is a description of the Duplieren, originating from the Zornhau. The Duplieren is a technique which is used against the Strong of the opponent’s sword in order to break the opponent’s upper openings by attacking them behind his weapon. It is called Doubling because with it you follow your initial hew above to your opponent’s opening, where you had originally intended to hit, with a second hew quickly and unexpectedly above to the other side, so that the two attacks come one right after the other, or are doubled.

  • When your opponent hews to you above from his right shoulder, then hew strongly with force back at his head with the Zornhau, in the same way that he has hewn at you.
  • In the resulting bind, he holds strongly against the Strong of your sword, and your point is already past his head or body.
  • Then Indes, as soon as you perceive this, raise your arms up and thrust your pommel under your right arm towards your right side, crossing your wrists, and strike with your long edge with crossed arms behind his blade on his head or through his mouth, with his sword having maintained contact with yours.

Thus, you have doubled your strike on your right side by instantly yielding to his hard pressure in the bind. The same Duplieren may also be performed when you bind him from your left side, but instead with the short edge and uncrossed hands to his head or mouth. You may also execute the Duplieren when your opponent parries your Oberhau, or any other hew which you have launched in the Vor in the same Strong manner described above.

This is a description of the Mutieren, originating from the Zornhau. The Mutieren is a technique used against the opponent when he is Soft in the bind, which attacks his lower openings behind his weapon by manipulating his sword. It is called Mutating because with it you transform your attack quickly and unexpectedly from a hew to your opponent’s opening above on one side, where you had originally intended to hit, into a stab to his opening below on the other side.

  • When your opponent hews to you above from his right shoulder, then hew strongly with force back at his head with the Zornhau, in the same way that he has hewn at you.
  • In the resulting bind, he is Soft and does not hold strongly against you. The point of your sword is already past his head or body, preventing a thrust.
  • Then Indes, as soon as you perceive this, Wind high up with your arms on your left side with your short edge on the Weak of his sword, and move your sword’s blade above over his blade, and stab him in his lower opening on his right side.

If in the resulting binding of the swords he Soft, and does not hold strongly against you, Thus, you have altered or mutated your attack from a hew to his upper left side to a stab on his lower right. The same Mutating can be performed from your left side, but will target your opponent’s lower left opening. You may also execute the Mutieren when your opponent parries your Oberhau, or any other hew which you launch in the Vor and is Soft in the bind as is described above.

 

Theory

Both the Oben Abgenomen & Winden and the Duplieren & Mutieren contexts are included under the Zornhau. The context for which of these choices you need to decide between depends on your distance. As was described in a previous section, Oben Abgenomen and Winden work best in a context of your point remaining, more or less, in the space between you and your opponent. Duplieren and Mutieren, in contrast, work best when your point has already reached or past the head or body of your opponent. The Duplieren is a shortened strike, working better at this closer distance, and the Mutieren allows you to manipulate your sword into an attack that to an opening that works better at this closer range. In the case of the play described above for Mutieren, it allows you to bring your point back into line while keeping contact with your opponent’s blade by reorienting to a lower opening, which allows enough space to threaten with the point.

This section of the gloss includes the phrase “you shall always aim at the Four Openings boldly without any fear (with a hew or with a stab, to whichever you may best come on) and regard not what he drives or fences against you.” The wording here, on top of the concepts encapsulated by the Five Words, causes some practitioners to assume that Liechtenauer’s system encourages us to attack without regard to our opponent at all. This is incorrect. Conversely, many of us go into training with a mentality that boils down to ‘Not getting hit is more important than hitting our opponent’, which can also be harmful. What we should be getting out of these sections is that we fully regard and orient towards what our opponent is doing while in the approach, or especially while we are in the Nach, but that once we make a decision, take or regain the Vor, or otherwise see an opporunity, we act fully committed to that decision, putting our whole being behind it.

 

Comment