Curriculum Overview

xKDF clubs approach learning historical martial arts in a modern way, using a curriculum developed by top HEMA coaches and fighters. We emphasize historical technique supported by strength, speed, and assertive execution. Members learn the art of fighting though hands-on instruction, sparring, technique drills, cutting with sharps, and study of historical sources.

Our core curriculum begins with elements of common fencing, or Gemeyn Fechten, based primarily in teachings from Codex Döbringer (MS 3227a, ca. 1389). Once a fencer displays a firm understanding of these basic principles, he or she undertakes a focused study of the German grandmaster Johannes Liechtenauer’s Zettel, or epitome, recorded and explained by several later masters from the late 14th through mid 16th centuries. Club members work toward the achievement of degrees, based on the traditions of the German fencing guilds, each taking several years to achieve.

Club members will learn to perform historical techniques, spar in full competitive gear and without, cut targets with sharp swords, and coach others in the same. As a network of clubs—not schools—xKDF depends on the advancement of every member’s understanding and abilities as a fighter, coach, and leader.

Along the way, clubs add variety to their training with non-core sources or weapons, providing members with unique experiences, fresh perspectives, and potentially new martial obsessions.

Modern Gloss

Grandmaster Johannes Liechtenauer’s cryptic verses were recorded and explained in glosses written by his students or students of his students. These passages frequently begin with the phrase, “A lesson on the longsword” or similar. The xKDF Modern Gloss project is an attempt to provide video lessons featuring Liechtenauer’s original verses, our interpretations of the techniques and lessons contained therein, the theory behind our conclusions, and drills or exercises for training Liechtenauer’s art as modern practitioners.

These lessons form the basis of the xKDF approach to studying Liechtenauer’s Kunst des Fechtens, with an emphasis on learning to use historical techniques through fencing. We expect this project, which will be presented lesson by lesson as each is completed, to be years in the making. And, as is the nature of HEMA, once we’re finished, new interpretations and discoveries may lead us to start over again…


In the 17th century and later, Europeans demonstrated and practiced their ability with sharp weapons on animals, clay, or similar targets. Contact with Japanese sword arts introduced tatami, or rolled and soaked grass mats, as viable, readily available, and educational tool for calibrating one’s cuts with sharps. Tatami has the added benefit of providing instant feedback for common errors in cutting mechanics.

xKDF clubs helped pioneer cutting as a competitive outlet for the HEMA community and have helped raise awareness of the importance of learning to cut with sharp swords as a key part of testing the validity of any edge-based technique. We believe that if you can’t cut properly with a sharp sword, you can’t call yourself a swordsman.


  • Novice - A newer member who has not yet completed the common fencing material.

  • Fechter - A Fechter, or “fencer/fighter” has shown a firm grasp of the Gemeyn Fechten, or common fencing. He/she has also demonstrated the ability to perform basic cuts with a sharp sword.
  • Lehrling - A Fechter who is taken on by a fighter with a higher degree becomes a Lehrling, or apprentice. Lehrlinge undergo intense one-on-one training with their coach outside of the normal classroom hours for periods of six months or longer.
  • Geselle - Several years of study prepare the Lehrling to become a Gesell, or Journeyman. Gesellen act as coaches or assistant coaches and formally represent their club as travelling students on a Wandertour, or period of intense study abroad with outside clubs. Gesellen have demonstrated in depth knowledge of the xKDF curriculum, the works of multiple ancient masters, the art of coaching, and are able to perform complicated series of cuts with a sharp sword.
  • Freifechter - Freifechter are highly advanced students of Kunst des Fechtens who act as senior coaches. Freifechter, or “Free Fencers” continue to train Lehrlinge while preparing for the Master’s test in Frankfurt am Main.
  • Angelobten Meister - The avowed master is a Freifechter or Gesell who has been accepted to stand for the Master’s test in Frankfurt am Main within the next two years.
  • Meister des Langen Schwerts des Marxbrüder - A “Master of the Longsword of the Marxbruder” in Frankfurt am Main, who has completed the historic test once held in that place by the Marxbruder fencing guild.