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Swords, Cutting and Military History

Test cutting with the German longsword

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One of the most popular of the Western Martial Arts / Historical European Martial Arts weapons. studied by groups around the globe, is the German longsword, or langes schwert

The German School of Fencing, as it is known,  “…comprises the techniques of the two-handed longsword, but also describes many other types of combat, notably mounted combat, unarmed grappling, fighting with polearms, with the dagger, the messer with or without buckler, and the staff.”

One of the earliest Fechtbuch (fight or training books) known is the The I.33 manuscript, also called Walpurgis  or Tower Fechtbuch.  This German manuscript, with illustrations (available online with translations and commentary) is a basic manual of fighting techniques for the German longsword as they appeared in around 1290 A.C.

While some parts this style of combat have similarities to the techniques used with the Japanese katana — there being, after all,  only so many ways the human body can manipulate a weapon held in two hands — there are distinct stylistic differences.  Perhaps the two greatest differences come from the fact the longsword is double-edged and so can cut quickly on a backhand or reverse cut, and that the blade had an area above the cross-guard which  — with properly padded gloves — a user could grasp, allowing fully-supported thrusts, or the reversal of the sword so the wielder  could perform two-hand strikes with the pommel or cross-guard (often called “murder strokes”)

Both of these techniques, as well as a wealth of others can be seen in this demonstration video:

 

Test cutting with the German longsword reveals both the stylistic differences of the German techniques, and their effectiveness

 

Comments or clarifications on the techniques from practitioners would be welcomed!  Email me at:  [email protected]

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