The Historical Sources
The surviving medieval manuals describe armed and armoured
The focal points at Hammaborg are the so-called bloßfechten
the longsword, sword
messer" and the sabre.
The Tradition of Liechtenauer
Johannes Liechtenauer was a fencing master who lived and taught in the 14th century. Unfortunately, further biographical details do not exist. The first notion of his teachings can be found in the manuscript 3227a, dated 1389. The manuscript is in the possession of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg and is often called the "Hanko Döbringer Hausbuch". Liechtenauer's influence was so tremendous that even in 1570 Joachim Meyer referred to him in his expansive fighting manual "Gründtliche Beschreibung der kunst des Fechtens".
Only very few fechtbücher with commentaries on Liechtenauer's
44 A 8, formerly ascribed to Peter
A translation into modern German of the manuscript 44 A 8 can
be found here.
The oldest surviving fechtbuch in the world is the manuscript MS I.33, the so-called Tower Fechtbuch, which is preserved in the Royal Armouries in Leeds. It dates from about the beginning of the 14th century, the author presumably being a cleric named Lutger (lutegerus), and depicts with words and images fighting techniques with sword and buckler. Despite being written in Latin and kept in a British museum, it is a German manuscript that already precedes some of Liechtenauer's teachings.
Fencer and linguist Dieter Bachmann has put his German translation of the text online for the use of the public domain. Our literature section contains further information on the facsimile of an American publisher.
The interpretation of this manuscript is one of the core
The Langes Messer of Johannes Lecküchner
The Langes Messer (long knife) is a single handed sword with
one sharp edge. The back of the blade is blunt apart from a
short section down from the tip. Being a modification of a
peasant's or workman's tool it was available to the public
and thereby no suitable symbol of status when of plain appearance.
The most important source on the Messer is from 1482: that
year the priest Johannes Lecküchner finished his fully
illustrated and more than 420 pages long treatise on Messer
fencing, the manuscript Cgm 582. This work is one of the most
extensive medieval fencing books and it's entirely on the Messer.
However, it is clearly based in the tradition of Johannes Liechtenauer:
all his main techniques with the long sword are also present
in the Messer of Lecküchner, but the chapters on disarming
and wrestling are considerably expanded. Furthermore it contains
techniques that are clearly described as martial arts demonstrations.
Engagement with sabres - for duel and battlefield
The most special thing about the sabre is its shell, which is part of the hilt. It covers the fencer's hand and allows for techniques that no other weapon has brought forth. Particular is also the curved blade with an obly short false edge on the otherwise blunt back. This curvature makes the edge of the sabre cut more easily than the edges of straight blades.
Its documented use on battlefields but also as a means for self defence and as a duelling weapon makes the training especially interesting and expansive. With F. C. Christmann's “Theoretisch-praktische Anleitung des Hau-Stossfechtens und des Schwadronhauens” (1838) a broad system is offered which occasionally is complemented by other works like Alfred Hutton's “Cold Steel” (1889) or John Musgrave Waite's “Lessons in Sabre, Singlestick, &c.” (1880). Since these books also give a fair bit of information about training methods and even show how to organise a fencing hall, the training is rather similar to an apprenticeship.