Glossary for Stockholm Manual on Sabre Fencing (1893):

Book referred to is here:

I have finally done up a glossary, not attempting to explain these things (buy the book?) but I wanted to know for myself what was being translated to what. I did not always agree with what was translated (and that’s fine).

I feel this gave me a slightly better understanding of the system, probably not an efficient use of my time though.

Sorry it is not in a table, I should have put it in a table from the start, now it just seems like a lot of effort.

Format = original / Koivuniemi’s translation / literal translation / my translation / comments

Alphabetically arranged, I read somewhere accented characters are on the end of the alphabet in Swedish.

Might bother people but I used google translate and Wiktionary (especially Wiktionary) for this.

Original / Koivuniemi / literal / mine / comment

Afböjning / deflection / deflection / deflection / equated as a parry (a parry or deflection is…)

Anfallet / attack / attack / connotations of assault or seize

Anfallslinie / attack line / attack line / attack line / you could fancy it up with offensive line if you wanted.

Anfallsplanet / plane of attack / attack plane / plane of attack / pretty straightforward

Anfallspunkter / striking points / attack points / targets / points most exposed and close

Anfallstafla / target area / attack stack / opening / the area it is safe or advantageous to attack.

Appeler / stomping / appeals / appel / It’s a fencing term loaned from the French so I’ll keep it how it is. Linguistically it is ‘to call’, in fencing its usually contextually a stomp to distract.

Armar / arms / arms / arms / arms as in arms and armour.

Bågmarsch / chasing march / arc march / circular march / båg means a circular arc, this march follows an offline lunge but involves curving with the rear foot to realign for another lunge.   

Betäckning / covered/ covered / covered / covered by a guard or posture

Blotta / exposed / bare / open / linguistically related to the German bloss

Efterhugg / follow-up strike / after hew / after cut / I am linking efter to after.

Enkelmarsch / single march / single or simple march / simple march / As far as I can tell single makes as much sense as simple, it is a smaller component of more complex marches.  

Fattning / grip / hold / grip / grip is best contextual translation. Grasp works too.

Fint / feint/ feint/ feint

Fri fäktning / free fencing / free fencing / free fencing

Forcerade stötar /forced thrusts / forced shocks / forced thrusts / contextually a thrust with opposition, appears in the section ‘attacking on the weapon’.

Formeringar / formations / formations / formations

Fäktafstånd / measure / fencing distance / fencing distance / pretty much useful/effective distance, measure makes sense, but I just had no desire to create a link to Italian terminology. Can be full or half distance.

Fäkthandskarna / fencing gloves / fencing gloves / fencing gloves / like in German their word for gloves did originally mean handshoes.

Fäktkasken / fencing mask / fencing helmet / fencing mask

Fäktning / fencing / fencing /fencing / an archaic meaning is a battle or fight.

Fäktsabeln / gymnasium sabre / fencing sabre / fencing sabre / I prefer the literal translation is all. It essentially is a gymnasium sabre.

Följande parader / following parries / following parries / following parries

Förflyttningar / marches / relocations / movements / Koivuniemi has chosen to merge this into marches because this is the chapter heading that explains the various marches. The word itself means motion without rotation in mathematics, and is kind of like transport or locomotion more generally.

Förhugg / preparing strike / before hew / Before cut / I am really not sure on this. För kind of just means ‘pre’ so preparing isn’t wrong. I am linking it to vor  in German and Fore in English.

Förlängdt fäktafstånd / extended measure / extended fencing distance / extended fencing distance

Försvaret / defence / defence / defence

Gard / guard / guard / guard / Gard linguistically is like garden or enclosure but the writer uses it for ‘the’ guard as well, as in a defensive posture or stance. Makes translating this word difficult.

gardläge / guard position / guard position / guard position / läge means location or position, clearly contextually its position. Posture would not be a crazy translation.

Gardlinie / centre line / guard line / centre line / This is a hard one, I’m going to side with Koivuniemi on this one. The line between the fencers’ heels makes the arena or courtyard as it were. Was tempted to say defensive line.

Gardombyten / guard changes / guard changes / guard changes / byten is changes/exchange

Gardställning / in guard / guard stance / in guard / I do not know military drills. So, not confident.

Gevär ut / present sabres / rifle out / present sabres / contextually it is presenting the sabres which is a military term in English.

Gif—akt / attention / give attention / attention / I think gif is a dated spelling of giv.

Halfmarsch / half march / half march / half march

Helmarsch / full march / whole march / whole march / whole feels a little clunky but I wanted to keep the linguistic relation of the words (hel and whole).

Hugg / cut / stab wound / cut / contextually a cut, distantly related to English hew.  In the text there are simple (single in translation) and complex cuts.

Huggaren / ‘or another similar weapon’ / chopper / cutlass / generally means cutting weapons

Huggstolpen / pell / cut stopper / chopping block / I can see why they said pell, it is one.

Inre sidan (inåt) / inside (or inwards) / inner side (or inward) / inside (inward) / alternatively inside line.

Kommandoordet /command / command-word / command

kontrafäktning / fencing / counter-fencing / counter fencing / provided as alternate phrasing for fäktning, as in other redundancies Koivuniemi has removed it.

Kontraripost / counter riposte / counter response / provided as an alternative to Motsvar (counter riposte), Koivuniemi has removed it.

Liggande hugg / persisting strike / laying hew / binding cut / Not an easy one to translate, but I’m linking it to the German Ligieren and ligation because it seems to be delivered so quickly it still maintains contact. I could be very wrong on this.

Marsch / march / march / same as in English, including the same associations (music, military, rhythmic stepping).

Midtåt! / eyes front! / front! / front! / think mittåt is the modern spelling. In military terms it means correct to the middle/look to the middle.

Motanfall / counterattack / counterattack / counterattack

Motsvar / counter-riposte / correspondence / counter riposte

Mötande parader / meeting parries / meeting parries / meeting parries / you could also probably say engaging or something, it is a parry that is edge on edge.

Parad/ parry/ parry / parry / the word means this is in this context, and not others. There are simple and compound, high and low.

Plastrongen / plastron / plastron / plastron / the underside of a turtle shell, used to refer to the half-jacket worn on a fencer.

På axel gevär / shoulder sabres / on shoulder rifle / shoulder sabres / Adjusted similarly to Gevär ut. Shoulder sabre exists in English, sometimes called ‘slope sabres’ which can be substituted.

På stället hvila / stand at ease / at rest stance / stand easy / Using the Commonwealth English equivalent, US would be parade rest/stand at ease.

Qvartgard / qvart guard / qvart guard / qvart guard / Qvart derived from the latin word for fourth, inherited through Italian/French fencing.

Ripost / riposte / riposte / riposte / appears very little and only as an alternative to svar, Koivuniemi has removed it from the page.

Rättningsmarsch / adjustment march / righting march / aligning march / kind of means aligning, correcting and adjustment is fine but I wanted to preserve the ‘straightening’ connotation.

Rörelserna / movements / the movements / movements / refers to the movements of the body in the full context/sentence

Sabelfäktning / Sabre Fencing / Sabrefencing / Sabre-fencing

Sabeln / sabre / sabre / sabre / translating to commonwealth spelling

Ställning / in place / position / in position / telling soldiers to get into position.

Stöt / thrust / shock / thrust / contextually a thrust, linguistically like the English ‘thrust upon’

Svar / riposte / response / response / connotations of answer or reply

Tempoanfall / tempo strikes / tempo attack / tempo attacks

Tempohugg / tempo cuts / tempo cut / tempo cuts

tempostöt / tempo thrusts / tempo thrust / tempo thrusts

Tersgard / ters guard / ters guard / ters guard / means guard of ters, ters being derived from the latin word for third, inherited from Italian/French fencing.

Uppställning / organisation/organise / organise / line-up / This is used to refer to organisation or to tell people to line up and used both ways in the text. I’d translate it by context.  

Utfall / lunge / outcome / lunge / contextually lunge is the best fit.  They can be in line and off the line. (online/offline in Koivuniemi’s translation)

Utfallsställning / lunge stance / outcome position / lunge position

Vanligt fäktafstand / regular measure / normal fencing distance / regular fencing distance /

Vapen / weapons / weapon / weapon / could also say arms.

Volter / turns / volts / turns / I would honestly not translate this, technically the French fencing term Volte has been incorporated into English like it has in the Swedish. If I had to translate it turn works, the word in Swedish kind of implies turning over like a roll or somersault.

Yttre sidan (utåt) / outside (or outward) / outer side (outwards) / outside (outward) / alternatively outside line

Transcription of ‘Instruktion i Sabelfäktning’ 1893. (Instruction in Sabre-Fencing).

So, I think in 2015 (certainly have records as early as 2016), I kind of flippantly decided on translating a treatise. I found this one on HROARR and decided on it because it was fairly modern and so cleanly written and scanned. To translate it, I decided it would be a whole lot easier to transcribe it, since I had no understanding of the Swedish language.

It was a lot more work than I thought, and I kept leaving for other projects. I occassionally returned back to it, like every second year or so.
Then, this year, I found out it had been translated by someone (Pentti Koivuniemi), and so I had to kind of decide if I would finish it.

You can find their translation here, and I recommend it. I haven’t translated it, I don’t know Swedish, they did both these things, so check it out. It is a pretty clear manual too:

When I finally acquired their translation (took a few months to get it to Australia through a reseller), I realised that there was no glossary, and that they had not translated the last 60 or so pages. I had transcribed almost all the material they did translate, having been intimidated by finishing off those last few pages which looked like boring lessons and drills.

I am not condemning them for not translating those last few pages, I want to make that clear. I think they were boring drills, and I notice that a scan of the document shared around by the group MHFS doesn’t include them. So, without translating that content, I’m quite willing to disregard it as unimportant.

However, because the entire manual was not translated, and because I wanted to know what the Swedish words were translated to, I decided to finish this. If nothing else, it meant there was a free transcription out there for folks.

Well, a big part of it was also just to say I completed something that had been gnawwing at me over the years.

So anyway, here it is.

Its literally the first time I tried to transcribe something, and its pretty messy, I also changed up how I formatted it when returning to it after large gaps in time. But anyway, if people want to send feedback I’ll try to be receptive.

Maybe in the future I’ll make my own glossary, or translate those last few pages.

Musings on Lightsabers

I have some free time, and kind of impulsively purchased an entry-level duelling lightsaber from Hong Kong. So here is my musings on how to inform it with historical practice. I’m shooting from the hip here, mostly on memory, but it is informed by reading on wookiepedia, the lightsaber and lightsaber combat pages, so by all means check that out.

What I got:

I purchased the Darksaber V3 from Darkwolf ( This is a lightsaber modelled/inspired by the Darksaber from Clone Wars and the Mandalorian. I liked the design and it has a kind of limited crossguard. I do not know the lightsaber scene. While Brisbane has a HUGE historical fencing/HEMA, my inquiries turned up little on competetive lightsabers. By this point I feel pretty informed on historical fencing but I cannot claim to be informed on lightsaber duelling, in Australia or outside of it.

My assumptions about the lightsaber:

I am assuming in real life a glancing hit would be deadly on a molecular level. I assume the handle is made of a lightsaber resistant material. The expanded universe had plenty of lightsaber resistant materials such as beskar, phrik alloy and cortosis weaves. The new continuity at least has Beskar/Mandalorian Steel added back in as per the Mandalorian. This also means I assume the little crossguard my saber has is not just for decoration.

How a saber would move:

My head canon is that the lightsabers function like a gyroscope, which was something explicit in the expanded universe. This means that the lightsaber should be awkward to redirect hence favouring motions that continue the inertia rather than rapid changes. This is the ‘explanation’ of why lightsaber choreography tends to be really spinny (we know in reality that just looks good to peeps). So I want to make some effort to incorporate flow, and curved motions (like Bolognese fencing plays). Also, lightsabers supposedly repel (like seen in the saber clashes) meaning beating and cutting actions are so much better. Better to beat the enemies sword away, or to use the repel effect to prep their next attack/rotation.

Lightsaber styles:

I am passingly familiar with the canonical styles, atleast in Expanded Universe. None of them seem too consistent across media, and they’re pretty poor examples in my opinion.

Look at how Soresu, meant to be a defensive stance and good for deflecting blaster bolts has this as its opening stance.

The sword is held back and in a way where it does not defend you, from attacks to and through the centre.

The body is in a posture where to do anything to align itself it needs to step forward.

The point is forwards meaning it covers the smallest area possible.

If you want a basic defensive stance the sword should be held vertically and centre, only slightly tilted. You could have the hand/hands high and the blade hanging, or you could have the hands low and the blade aimed up. This would mean you cover the most area by default, and can deflect or block any attack with minimal movements. If you want a basic defensive stance to start in, that would be it.

That’s just an example of why I would not emulate the styles provided and their illustrations.

Another would be that Makashi firstly never appears the same way in media and secondly when Dooku does it in the films (not entirely bad) it lacks the complex hilt that makes it an effective real-world fencing stance. So all the people who will comment that ‘Dooku did Destreza’ and Destreza is legit, therefor Makashi is best lightsaber style…. I would say you are close in that it is at least informed by Christopher Lee’s fencing experience, but its not quite optimised for lightsabers.

Big difference from real swords:

My impression is that the lightsaber will not favour the thrust. You cannot achieve easily a thrust with opposition (or at all with no crossguard) meaning you are vulnerable even if you hit them.

Point online and extended guards will leave the hand and arm very exposed without a complex hit, which differs from historical fencing where they provide the fastest attack (direct thrust) and greatest defence (through the cone of defence made by the hilt and extended arm).

Getting close to disarm or grapple with your off-hand will also lead to increased danger since a lightsaber can harm you with little movement. A real sword is fairly ineffective when you are inside the enemy’s point and their effective range, since it needs some wind up to start the more harmful actions. If you are ‘really’ good at these options they are viable, but it is just so much more risk than regular swords.

Naturally edge alignment does not matter, body structure will.

One-handed or two-handed:

I am trying to provide guidance that works for both. Which is more viable will depend on your hilt as longer handles favour two hands, and shorter favour one. My own saber had a little extender to make it suited to two-hands, but this was perpetually loose and the bolt fell off so I’ve left it off.

Instead of trying to say how the techniques differ individually I’ll attempt to provide a disclaimer here on the differences.

Two-handed will immediately reduce your reach, you will have both hands tethered to the saber, meaning one part of your body will be dragged across your body if only slightly. This kind of messes up profiles of the body. It is not all disadvantaged though, since with two hands you will be stronger and faster, and can rapidly redirect attacks (not sure how this interacts with the gyroscope effect, but probably mitigates it).

A good example of this is the Zwerchau, as can be demonstrated in Martin Fabian’s video where he does the ‘Zwerchcopter challenge’ ( By using one hand to pull, the other to push, and rotating the body (mostly with the hips) incredibly fast attacks can be made at a mostly horizontal angle. A single hand can do this by rotating the arm/wrist but its not as strong or fast.

For one-handed style, you will more easily profile, and can extend your arm with that profile to achieve greater reach. The two-handed lightsaber fencer can achieve even greater reach hypothetically by releasing one hand from the sword which might actually be very viable with a lightsaber (to be considered more later). The real advantage of the one-handed style is how freeing it is to have only one hand on the sword. You can move the entirety of your body without both hands connecting your shoulder to the sword. you do not need full-body motions like with the longsword because your dominant hand is free to act independently of the rest of the body, the other hand and shoulder are not along for the ride. All reach comes from the shoulder.


I think this is going to be more preference.

Inferring the lessons from historical fencing schools, you will probably want your left foot (or non-dominant foot) forward for the two-handed grip since this allows you to build up some body rotation on your actions, but I expect it to involve shifting between left and right leg forward, just as Longsword treatises typically advise.

Single sword will prefer right foot forward since this allows them to maximise their reach, but in lightsaber I don’t think this will be as important, since you cannot maintain a defense of the right angle (Destreza) or straight posture (pretty much all rapier styles after a certain point, mostly Fabris-influenced). As mentioned before these don’t have a complex hilt, or a good crossguard and leave the hand/arm really vulnerable. I suspect the arms to be fairly retracted since a glancing hit to the arm will leave you defenceless (we see plenty of instances in Star Wars where people lose hands and arms).

As for your lean, probably up to you. No reason not to just have a balanced upright stance. Being manoeuvrable will count for a lot. But I could see reasons for a back lean, or a forward lean. A forward lean will help you press forwards, a backwards lean will help you achieve lunges.

A lightsaber probably does not need too much power so having a wide stance is less necessary. Grappling will be so dangerous you shouldn’t be concerned with sinking your weight into a low stance.

I’d say a natural and upright stance is best and most versatile but no reason not to shift.

Aggressive and Defensive:

We have all the fictional lightsaber styles that don’t really relate to their ‘description’ in ‘practice’. Jedi Knight Academy actually did a much better job, simplifying the styles into three; Standard, Strong, Fast.

The positions in standard, strong and fast were actually pretty faithful to real sword positions and they did some legit actions.

I think I would simplify things even more to Aggressive and Defensive.


A defensive stance would be like the one I described in Soresu before. Hands forward, blade tilted across the centre. This making coverage higher, and parries/blocks quicker.

Since the lightsaber is already extended forward it has less places to go, to build inertia it would need to start a rotation at the wrist, or retract first to prime a more committed attack. Doing actions from the wrist is fairly fast but inherently weaker, and you lose time retracting your sword to do attacks more with the elbow or even shoulder. Think a bit of boxers doing their ‘peak-a-boo’ kind of stance (yes, I love Hajime no Ippo).

They can cover the centre and cautiously press in, but they can’t really throw good punches from there. This would work well for snagging an opportunistic elbow hit if someone forced you into a retreat (When they attack you they open themselves up).

I would separate this into hanging guards like seen in some later German systems, or in Silver (true guardant). A good example of this concept is this blog post:

The other would be to have it forward like Pflug or Langenort in longsword or even more aptly Joachim Meyer’s Gerade Versetzung (straight parrying). A good description here:

Ironically these kind of weapon forward stances appear in the ‘offensive’ styles of lightsaber combat, yeah, more reason why I don’t care for the EU styles.

Main guards:

Joachim Meyer’s Eisenpforte, Gerade Versetzung and Bogen

Recommended style: Joachim Meyer’s Rapier.


Aggressive to me would be the sword retracted so you can do vicious actions, for a lack of better words comboing. Imagine the zwerchau action before used in a way where you press forwards delivering attacks at different angles fast.

Having the sword retracted means you have the burden of launching fierce attacks to make up the time of bringing them forward, and you can also chain them more effectively rolling the cuts through when they fail to maintain the attack.

I guess with the weird gyroscope of the lightsaber you’d turn into whirling death, since its easier to rotate the attack into another attack then to halt and redirect.

I think a good example of this kind of thing is the Bolognese styles where they often throw multiple cuts, or when ending a technique will cut out. The cut is an attack and a defence and they will involve two or three actions typically. So if you think of throwing a horizontal cut, and then a wrist cut out, or throwing a wrist cut, and then rolling through into a wrist cut to another opening.

Basically a lot of feints and clearing cuts.

Think of Joachim Meyer’s Unterhut in rapier ( or the Zornhut (

The attacks are big and powerful rather than minimal and opportunistic.

Main guards:

Joachim Meyer’s Zornhut, Wechsel, Nebenhut/Unterhut

Recommended style: Joachim Meyer’s Dussack.

Why Joachim Meyer:

I probably recommend Joachim Meyer because I am more familiar with his work. The other part is his kind of fencing was very into cuts and dynamic. Since systems optimised for thrusts with opposition are less effective in lightsaber Joachim Meyer works better. He also has that trait of Bolognese fencing of doing multiple cut sequences.

Fighting competitively:

I think the defensive style I have suggested would work best if there are no rules selecting for certain actions. If you are just attempting to hit them without getting hit, to make that touch, then you may as well have your weapon forwards and go for opportunistic attacks. If certain levels of speed or rotation are required then the aggressive style I have painted would work better, and I honestly think it would be more fun and showy.

Dealing with thrusts:

If you are thrust, you should beat it. This can be kind of like a light parry, simply to deflect their attack but this presents very little opportunity since any riposte you do might see them hit you in that same time. So, a more aggressive beat I would suggest something like Joachim Meyer’s knocking cut (bochhaw) where you cut their weapon away to provoke them into giving a response or opening.

Good examples of the kind of parries I am thinking are here:

Slicing off:

Striking out:

Dealing with cuts:

Mostly in the same way as thrusts. If the enemy is giving committed attacks or predictable attacks you can probably make shorter parries with quick ripostes (cuts). A cut has a bit more power to it than a thrust so you might want to step offline at the same time as your parries, more so than thrusts, so you get a better strength or angle (Even a lightsaber probably has strong and weak of the sword? I do not know physics too good).


Feints will matter, especially as people in reality do not have the precognition of the force (probably a bit late to mention that). To feint well, you give minimal commitment to a real attack. By minimal commitment I mean short parries and then a follow up attack as their sword is defeated and they move to their next action. Also things like taking a small gaining step with your rear foot on the first action so you can take a full step with your second intention, and many variations of this kind of thinking.

When delivering feints you should attack to opposite openings e.g. left and right or low and high or any combination. When they parry your initial attack they’ll open the side opposite.


Do Joachim Meyer’s Dussack and Rapier, and assume thrusts are dangerous, and recognise you don’t have a significant crossguard. That’s how I would suggest fencing with a lightsaber efficiently.

Godinho’s starting postures or how he begins the play

So I edited in a little discussion of this on a previous Godinho article but I felt it really deserved its own commentary/ramble. So here is my reasoning on how I interpret the different described postures/set-ups. I have retrieved the images used from Wiktenauer.

Standing with feet together:

When Godinho says this I think it is more of a fencing 101, you start from a neutral standing posture. This is seen mostly (exclusively?) at the beginning as if telling someone for the first time. A double meaning imight be that this is how you begin once you have saluted. I think he uses this to introduce cutting exercises and that this is not where the typical play starts.

When they lower:

For awhile I felt that lowering the sword was simply preparing for a punch thrust, this did not entirely sit well for me as Godinho actually explicitly refers to such an action (I believe using a word that translates to Throwing Thrust) but maybe he just introduces that action in a less generalised way (the book is an organisational mess after all). I eventually shelved that interpretation for the one below and have since revised back to this slightly.

I have heard accounts of Iberian fencers doing a position where they lower their sword, usually with a backweight, and by sword I mean mostly their point. I no longer feel this way but here is two images from Heussler of what I am describing (I have seen it elsewhere). This works as a provokation and does kind of work with the text, though while we’re at it, a disengage could fit too (though he describes such actions in that context as freeing/librar).

Now I am probably thinking more along the lines of a Coda Lunga Stretta position, sword lowered to down to the lead leg and retracted a bit. I believe there was a renaissance notion that such withdrawn positions were necessary to generate power (though that is not really my preference, since I favour the straight posture/extended arm). I believe Saviolo kind of demonstrates this well. He also starts his work with a more forward guard (like established below) and later introduces a more retracted posture. I think fencers when feeling their sword engaged (established) may feel threatened and attempt to lower their sword like this so as to free it, and reintroduce it at a more preferable line with some force. Hence why this action tends to happen after first being established. I certainly am not confident on the interpretation I have landed at but there it is. When teaching I would introduce both as variants because I don’t think a definite call can be made.

Saviolo has profiled his body and lowered his sword, he introduces this as the third ward and seems to be where the more explosive and riskier actions come in, that kind of Italian firm-footed style of play.


I have essentially two theories for what this is. One the blades having met in the narrow measure (hit the opponent with a small movement of the body, or a small movement of the feet), or full on engagement/Stringere. The narrow measure is in contrast to the wide measure where a full movement is required, a complete/big step. The reason for this is the adversary has to lower their weapon meaning they feel the threat or have lost that line (otherwise they could gain or test), and that this is introduced early and is most of the plays. Subjection was big in this period and I think practioners feel it was safer, or a good way to initiate a play, hence why I think Godinho, Saviolo, L’ange and whoever else would introduce it at the start of their books.

A possible form of Established. Somewhat committed to their engagement but with no clear winner. I think Godinho favours edge on edge kinds of engagement though.
Clearly engaging the blade, Stringieren as L’ange calls it. I hink this is one of the possible established, though I think Godinho would prefer to be finger-nails up when his sword is on the inside.


I figure armed is probably treated interchangably with Established since it is described with similar language and so mingled in the text.

If it isn’t though… armed might be when you are finger-nails up or down and in your stance but where you have not met and contested their blade, so essentially I think of it is established without engagement. I am perfectly willing to think it could be something more withdrawn or lowered than the image I have presented below. I wouldn’t tell someone they’re wrong if they say proposed that it was coda lunga stretta and porto di ferro stretta, but I get the impression when Godinho says your posture should be long, he means something more extended, as you’d expect of someone exposed to Destreza, Agrippa or Fabris. Definitely the plays described as starting ‘armed’ are much further back and less likely to figure blade contact. This is where we see for example his plays where he thrusts finger-nails up and rolls/winds into a curved thrust finger-nails down.

L’ange uses this to demonstrate the wide measure. My best guess is that this is what is described in the armed position since it is finger-nails up or down but not as committed/close as Established.


Crossed is introduced last and I have attached two images below. I believe this is a really commited position where parties have either moved in really close with subjection, or more commonly found themselves crossed by attempting disengages and cutting around the sword (the last one is how Godinho introduces this position. Simply put I think this is a position people find themselves in when they’re doing committed actions to gain the line/strength, often forceful or cutty actions but also heavy-handed engagements. This neatly aligns with the Manciolini’s Gioco Stretto which is a bunch of plays that start at the crossing of swords.

Saviolo’s First Ward, as taught at the beginning of his single sword treatise. Seems to be his preferred engagement for people new to the practice.
Pascha showing the blades crossed. He kind of does this while winding around which is kind of close to the setup Godinho introduces the Crossed with (as having cut around to the other side so that you end up crossed).


I wish I had of written this when it was fresher in my mind, I recently read Godinho again, start to finish, and I feel the positions described start to make sense when tied to the plays. Like when reading the plays established, have in your head that this is taking place kind of close, then when armed gets introduced, think of them as taking place further away. When crossed is introduced Godinho actually pretty thoroughly explained it and it only makes sense if you’re crossed close enough to be middle on middle (middle of the swords). If you read them with this concept in mind you can see how the actions they do work in the timing that distance applies. I really felt I needed to explain myself in some form. Discussions with people have definitely factored into this, so I do not mean to say I arrived at these interpretations on my own, but I do think they really sunk in on my recent read through. Reading it while attempting to infer the ‘context’ or ‘why’ it is where it is and how the actions are grouped. Godinho’s treatise being what it is, I do recognise he starts mixing the start of the plays towards the end, especially his little extra single sword section he puts at the end of hte book but I think there was an intended chronological structure at the beginning and this just makes it make sense.

Thoughts on Saviolo’s wards

Saviolo is not really my area of interest or expertise but there are people who study it near me and I come into contact with them so it got me interested in reading it. I immediately complained whenever it came up in conversation how disorderly I found it, and I still do but essentially today my thoughts fired up on a line of thinking of the guards as this: A general posture, a defensive posture, and an offensive posture. So here’s my short little ramble on that and musing on some other things.

The whole point of this blog was not to worry too much about sourcing so I’ll reference the things I link to and let people find them. I have grabbed the images from wiktenauer and I think there might be a position to be critical of the images, but I am mostly treatin them as true, atleast for key features as I see them. All the Saviolo images from the Wiktenauer page.

First Ward:

The first guard I think of as a balanced stance. He says knees somewhat bent, more weight over the left (so slightly backweighted) and sword in front ready to attack or defend. This is the first guard that he teaches and I think it is to teach well good fundamental things. A good balanced posture, and the sword out and front to defend. This means the body is not extremely profiled or extremely squared, and ready to move to one or the other. The sword being forward means the hands are a little more exposed and you cannot do explosive motions (I favour the straight arm myself for many reasons so I am not saying the sword retracted back is better only that Saviolo might have thought it more advanced). Since the sword is forward the scholar pretty much has to get into that effective combat distance (though not necessarily Saviolo’s ‘just distance’), and it means that strengere/subjection/engagement are needed, and in that time period with short non-complex hilts that is probably the safest way to attack and thrust so teaching a student to do safest methods of attack first, and close the line by default. If I might throw out some wild guessing I’d say this is the kind of distance Saviolo expects to end up in after first moving from his second or third ward. One observation is that the master begins by attacking a little offline to the inside (because the scholar has already closed off the outside) and then the scholar steps offline to counter the master) already teaching offling steps and how to maintain the advantage of the offline movement). The hand is kept ready to cover the upper body or really the entirety of that line if so able. I think of the posture in terms of squaring/profiling in the Spanish way of collateral, such as Rada describes, though I would not argue any connection, its just an example of what I infer this to be.

So all up teaching the fundamentals of aligned body, closing the line, subjection, offline movement, situational hand-parrying, and resulting in a very versatile posture.

First ward images:

On the images, I see Saviolo refers to aiming the point at the opponent’s face so I would deviate from the image in that sense, lowering the sword, or moving away enough that my point aims towards the lower head. The arm should be near the knee but straight enough that you can easily disengage and I think students feeling that out will find there is such a place and it might not look exactly like the image. I relate this to the more forward irongate guards we see (Think of Joachim Meyer or Viggiani), the porto di ferro guards that are infront rather than to the left/inside (which Saviolo fairly explicitly condemns at the end of his single sword section.

Second Ward:

The second ward we see him to have a wide stance but I do not want to make too much of that. As noted in the image the body is squared and the hand is brought forward, and so this is where Saviolo decides to refer to using handparries with the stipulation that people wear a protective glove (in this case mail). I’ve seen this advice elsewhere, particularly Köppe (he suggests a leather glove), who also likes talking about the hand parry in relation to how it protects a squared posture. So that was the connection my mind formed seeing this. That Saviolo has now got a retracted stance where bringing the off-hand forward has squared his posture which also means his sword withdraws somewhat. This is also where he starts talking a lot about just distance, the measura larga/wide distance where you can hit someone with a step. The sword is retracted now and the body is no longer profiled, he has to pass more distance, requiring more time, hence where the instruction comes in. These reasons are why I suggest that this ward is really about a commitment to defence, the hand is out to ward off attacks to any of the opponents not closed by the sword, and time has to pass to make an attack. Pretty much the first instruction he gives is to break their attacks with his offhand and make an attack within the same time. This talks about advancing in increments with the right foot ‘little by little’ its a conservative approach, and he seems to be saying shifting between guards which with only three wards described in single sword means not a lot of variation but it makes sense if you think about the shifting of posture between squared and halved/profiled, and how the first ward is bringing the sword forward so kind of like what you do when moving into narrow measure. Side note Godinho like Saviolo describes beating the sword down with your hand. Saviolo seems to really praise this ward and I think that makes sense if you value defence to the extreme, with proper understanding of timing and distance he says it does well against all wards, stressing that you approach correctly and are ready to defend yourself with thrusts and your hand.

Third Ward:

To be blunt, I think of this as essentially coda lunga stretta, or Joachim Meyer’s right nebenhut. This guard is that kind of conventional pede firma firm footed lunge position. Your legs are close together (you bring them closer like if you were sitting down), kind of backweighted to spring, your body is profiled to make a smaller target (very visibly in the images). Your arm is braced to thrust violently forward. The hand is withdrawn but still readied for use. I think Saviolo saves this for last because a lot of bad habits can come from it, and this is why he says so and so action are dangerous like really committed diving thrusts (presumably big lunges, or passa sotto and things). He says to perform the actions of the guard people have to be really nimble and practised, that the timing has gotten really fine, hence reserving it for the experienced and introducing it third. This is where big thrusts (long stoccata) start coming in, and actions like voiding and passata, things are over quickly and attacks are sudden and committed. He pretty much talks of feinting calling them ‘falsefie’ which makes sense if you’re in this kind of guard, where you have to cover distance and attack very quickly. He already sort of mentions inquartata/girata/volte like actions, but here the section is littered with them. You see ‘passata or remove’ given as the suggested responses to an opponent’s actions. These things would occur more should you be violently covering the distance, or your opponents doing so to you.


I’ve said before that Joachim Meyer is kind of like two different styles in his rapier section with Pflug having like three defences, and being that kind of point online thrust play you expect from rapier, then a bunch of more open guards with a lot more defences including cutty ones. Well Saviolo I think is three kind of similar styles, each guard representing a style of play. One that’s narrow measure, and balanced, subjection orientated and ready to shift into attack or defence. One that’s withdrawn and more defence first, optimised for the hand parry. One that is profiled and ready for the thrust, attack and counter. All are counter time but the orientation of the body, and the position of the sword creates slight adjustments of time and distance and Saviolo actually does a fairly good job of saying what each guard is good for. So when thinking to switch between guards, you might move between profile and squared, with squared favouring handparries and profiled favouring straight thrusts. Maybe thrusting into profile or retreating into squared. The first ward would come out when you carefully approach sword first or are aiming to subject their blade, it would work a lot better when the opponent’s sword is also elevated.


Thrusting to the head or belly: I see people treating belly like torso and I have no real complaint but I figure if everyone has their guard at belly level then that’s the best way to close out their attack so I figure the frequent thrusts to the belly are an artifact of that, as I endeavour to perform safe thrusts by thrusting at the height of the opponent’s point/sword. Thrusting to the head makes sense as a kind of first instance attack and I think Saviolo uses it that way, more often starting with a thrust to the face then finishing with a thrust to the face in the sequences presented. If the sword is low the head is pretty exposed too, and the central nervous system, whereever they think a person’s vitals are they probably knew a thrust to the face stopped a lot of people. By working well as a first instance I mean the threat to the face is really hard for a person to ignore, you will see people instinctly pull their head back when threatened, or they’ll throw their hand out to defend their head (Probably the most frequent broken hands I see in single sword are from people exercising this instinctual reaction). An attack thrown face level is also a good counter which is where we see his imbrocattas being used as a defence against high attacks or thrusts. So I suppose really Saviolo is just targetting low line and high line.

Just distance: Saviolo frequently refers to Just Distance and it seems to be a substitute of the Measura Larga (wide measure) as he describes it as the distance where you can hit them with a step. Though if examining his first ward, the attacks are also being made with a step, so maybe there’s room for speculation on whether that is actually just distance, as you need to be that close to perform offline attacks. Then again he seems to have attacks launched from the second and third wards which are further back (though second ward isn’t really about attacking), and so I think he acknowledges that more advanced people with better understanding of distance and timing will be fighting from further away, some of the text implies that.

Thrusting: I think no matter what system you are doing a thrust should end with the arm aligned with the shoulder. Since Saviolo is fairly specific with how you step and with what leg I think it lines up quite well with Di Grassi, since he often mentions moving the left leg in a circular way to line up your body (profiling for the thrust), and describing essentially a straight arm as the ideal thrust. I think at the end of a thrust there should be little difference between stoccata and imbrocatta since the naming is how they start and I want a thrust to end close to an ideal extension. The more important difference between them is the context they’re used in, are they high or low, what angle they make due to where they started.

Cutting: Saviolo prescribes cuts, he also says many people don’t do them right, striking with the flat, not knowing the correct time to do them. I think Saviolo understands a thrust is always faster than a cut, and generally more lethal. The times the cut is prescribed is often when they’ve well and truly dominated/addressed your sword, so all it can really do is roll around to cut, and he reinforces this with the off-hand to address their weapon because otherwise they could attack in that same time. He mentions the strammazone a lot, and I think a good cut often is done with that circle or wheeling motion so this does not surprise me. If your initial intention is to thrust and it is defeated then it is extended and in a good position to roll with the wrist, and this is a fast way to cut. This is to say I assume cuts with side swords and rapiers are circular cuts unless told otherwise, and that wrist cuts are the fastest and most competetive cuts, and so him referring to these is pretty much expected.

Spanish connection: I see a lot in common with Spanish authors, I see a lot in common with Italian authors, and German authors. I’ve drawn more connections than I have cared to mention. I don’t want to imply more than that because fencing I think often has a lot in common whatever region it is practiced in. I don’t want to feed the exceptionism people had then or now.

Godinho One-Lesson Crash Course

I previously published an abridged lesson I used for a grading. It was really an abridged version of this. I decided I needed to condense it more depending on students (so to be more accessible). Since I posted up the abridged copy, here’s the full one.

Godinho One-Lesson Crash Course

Purpose of this course:

This course is to try and squeeze in the most relevant material of Godinho to one lesson. Participants should come away from this course with enough knowledge to look like they are fencing Godinho’s style. The course assumes some basic fluency in the principles of fencing. People having done this course should be able to fence in a way that superficially looks like my interpretation. This course needs to be delivered fast if it is to keep to one lesson. There is a lot of ground to cover.

Introduction: Explain that Domingo Luis Godinho was a Portuguese fencing master and wrote his book in Spanish. He was a contemporary of Carranza so almost predestreza in that the monopoly on Fencing in Spain had not been won. To this end Godinho saw what he did as virtuous and artful fencing, even if his kind were labelled vulgar after. This describes to the student his significance. They can also talk about what weapons he uses (sword, sword and shield, sword and buckler, sword and dagger, sword and cloak, double swords and montante), or his attitude towards bracer (brazal) which he hated. An explanation should be made that his sword resemble what we commonly refer to side sword, as was common in Europa in that period, not just in Iberia. Should be explained as a disclaimer that much is not clear about Godinho.


Stance and Established (Firmado):

Godinho does not say a whole lot about his stance, or what being established means. My idea is that as Godinho states that all guards are finger-nails up or finger-nails down he is not too particularly about height of sword or arm extension. You should ‘definitely’ explain what you mean by finger-nails up and down for clarity), relating them to Fourth and Second if need be. The recommendation I have adopted for Godinho then is to have the arm somewhat extended, so there is room to thrust and do blade actions but it is not entirely withdrawn. I also correspond fingernails-up to an inside posture, and fingernails-down to an outside posture. The alignment of the body then to me should look somewhat Meyeresque, being aligned with the body and shoulder but squared enough to use the off-hand so as to perform mandoplado (slaps). The firmado (established) I initially believed to simply be an extended and ready posture, but I have come to like the interpretation of it being a distance or measure, as brought up to me by Jessica Silvallana.  To this end, I would advise that people should take small non-commital steps until moving into effective combat distance, where their blades are crossed at the weak or maybe even in the middle.

How to move:

Despite having a chapter labelled how to step, Godinho still is not clear on how he moves. As explained to me by Lois, in Spanish what has been translated to ‘put’ and ‘place’ has a different meaning, which is not clear to someone having read the Tim Rivera translation with no understanding of Spanish. This has been instrumental in how I interpret Godinho’s stepping exercise. My interpretation of his stepping exercise is that the left leg gains, while the right leg takes a more definitive step. The cuts are delivered as cross cuts, and the thrusts are delivered as direct parries (in conformity with his thrust-rules). So what is delivered in this course is that they take small and safe steps with a gain (or half-step) and the take big actions with their right, and they use cuts to keep themselves safe, and parry with thrusts in the most direct way. Combined with the stance and firmado prior this gives a very clear form to emulate.

How to attack: You attack to the enemy’s point so your weapon is strong in the attack (strong vs weak).

How to cut: You cut with a conservative lunge, you cut with your dominant foot each time. This is introduced in this way to contrast it with the steps before. Godinho follows this up right after his stepping exercise so it is clear there is a difference between active cuts and passive cuts. Godinho is not a huge fan of cuts. He has situations where he prefers a cut, but I believe that you should make cuts very conservatively as they are very easy to counter with a thrust. Cuts are tajo or reves, forehand and backhand. Cuts can be given be given with a proper arm motion, like with the elbow, or they can be done with the Wrist which is how they refer to wrist cuts.

How to thrust: Like the cutting exercise you thrust with a conservative lunge. Further parameters are given in chapter 1. You thrust towards the enemy’s point or weak, this has the best chance of negating their attack. You would likely thrust higher to gain strength but its best to target their height as rule of thumb, especially as the true edge, body and step add strength to the riposte. You also thrust finger-nails up to attacks made to your left. You thrust finger-nails down to attacks made on your right.

Summarising the three rules of chapter 1:

  1. Finger-nails up to the left. 2. Fingernails-down to the right. 3. Counters are delivered at same height.

So with all this combined you get an aggressive style where you fluidly move into blade presence and can interchange between cuts and thrusts until you have accomplished your goal.

The content following this has been labelled non-core as while it provides versatility and includes some important motions it is no longer seen by me as the fundamental actions.


Treta (trick): Godinho treats treta as feints. A feint should be a genuine threat if they decline to respond. Easiest way to set up feints is to string cuts or thrusts together, but do so to the opposite side you intend to attack.

Gaining (ganar) testing (tentar) and freeing (librar):

You can test (tentar) their sword with beats, this being made against their weak. You should also engage and ganar (gain) on the middle of their blade to set up actions. Against the strong they have advantage and against the weak they can disengage easily. This means you can free (librar) your sword too if they attack towards your weak. Can relate these to stringere, beat and disengage.

Ripping (rasgar) or breaking (romper): Essentially a molinello/Moulinet. Best done against a thrust as you can use it to be past their point. So this is a momentary hanging position followed by a cut.

Mandoble: use the timing of crossing low to attack high, best used as a way to enter distance against someone with their sword low.

Garatusa: Kind of like an envelopment if it ended with a beating motion. You circle around their sword to thrust the leg or push it away and thrust another target. Example given is starting finger-nails up.

Mandoplado (slap): Simply explain you can hand parry and that he describes it as slapping their sword towards the ground. Advise to use it against thrusts.

Arrebatar (carry/cut away): seems to either be cutting through their attack to attack with a follow up cut, or cutting into their attack to reverse direction and cut into them. Not really explained by Godinho. Examples you can provide: tajo followed by a tajo (full), or tajo into their sword and do a reves from there (half).

Wheeling step (Pie de Rueda): Stepping so your feet cross, wheeling in place. The example given is exactly like an inquartatar or girata ending with forth.

Quibro (bend): void out of the way without moving your feet. Usually by leaning back and putting your weight on your left.

Balanzada: Small step back with your non-dominant foot, and then return with a thrust. My preferred way of delivering the thrust is like a Passade with the left leg.

bolver la mano (turning the hand, also enarcada or curved): Best way I understand this is to say thrust finger-nails up and use the motion of turning finger-nails down to curve around their parry. A more arch like motion could be done by finger-nails up thrust to their right, and using the finger-nails down motion to disengage organically under their sword/parry


I have decided to put some images of what I think of as Established/Firmado:

Saviolo’s first ward, image acquired from Wiktenauer. I think this is probably closer to the crossing than the established/armed set ups, since they have gained on the middle.

Examples I think of for established finger-nails up or down.
Images from L’ange, acquired from Reinier van Noort’s blog article on Strengeren

Basically firmado means the swords are somewhat crossed and somewhat equal, not enough to have gained and further enough to make testing viable. When Godinho says armed finger-nails up or down then I assume even further away. In a way, similar to narrow and wide measure.

Abridged lesson: Godinho at a glance

This is a lesson I did up for a grading. It was made for me, with notes, so sometimes it more points out things to remind me, rather than explaining things. I guess the use will probably be how I structured it, as this was my attempt to give a single lesson introduction to a class unfamiliar with the material.

Abridged lesson: Godinho at a glance

Introduction: Godinho was a fencer in Portugal who wrote his book in Spanish. Being published in 1599. It represents the only surviving example of the pre-Destreza esgrima común common fencing. Derogatorily referred to as Vulgar. It has been linked to other masters, such as Tim Rivera’s comparisons to references to Pedro de la Torre’s fencing.  Obviously, this doesn’t resemble Destreza or what we usually teach. This is a crash course, kind of fake at Godinho, at least the impression of Godinho that I’ve built. Upfront, I am going to rush through a lot of stuff. Think of it as taster. Questions will get ‘he doesn’t say’ kind of response, Godinho is not clear.


Godinho’s states that all postures are fingernails-down or fingernails-up regardless of height or position. So, I substitute the blanks with my former practice, and am not going to get prescriptive about things. While doing exercises, think about how you’re positioned when standing or moving. We know he hand parries and punch thrusts so that informs us a little.

Stance exercise: Name some generic footwork. Call out footwork, suggest people change between guards, or make an attack with the step.

Firmado (established):

I thought firmado might mean established as in stance, but I think now that is more like narrow distance in Italian fencing (convinced by Jess), the blades having met but not with either party being in a good position.

Lowering your sword:

Godinho frequently refers to lowering your sword. I have interpreted it two ways. First example of lowering your sword is the punch-thrust, yet Godinho refers to these by name. The second example is literal. This would work when performed with the quiebro and balanzada (demonstrate but no time for this stuff). Point out how the hand naturally wants to go into a neutral position, finger-nails up or down.

Lowering the sword exercise: Practice doing the motion (lowering the tip). Practice both if you want. Afterwards explain the possible use.

Ganar (gaining):

Ganar Pacheco said is gaining on their sword with the tip/weak, but Godinho says the middle, making it in practice like an Atajo, so Pacheco is a liar.

Exercise: Instructor and student. Start out of distance. Move until the weak of your blades are touching. Student will then gain. Swap. Repeat but with a thrust.

How to step: 

Despite having a chapter labelled how to step, Godinho still is not clear on how he moves. As explained to me by Lois, in Spanish what has been translated to ‘put’ and ‘place’ has a different meaning, which is not clear to someone having read the Tim Rivera translation with no understanding of Spanish. This has been instrumental in how I interpret Godinho’s stepping exercise.

My interpretation of his stepping exercise is that the left leg gains, while the right leg takes a more definitive step. The cuts are delivered as cross cuts, and the thrusts are delivered as direct parries (in conformity with his thrust-rules). So what is delivered in this course is that they take small and safe steps with a gain (or half-step) and the take big actions with their right, and they use cuts to keep themselves safe, and parry with thrusts in the most direct way. Combined with the stance and firmado prior this gives a very clear form to emulate.

How to step exercise: Guide students through stepping, as in stepping with the cut. A gaining/passata step with the tajo, and a complete step with the reves.

How to cut:

Godinho’s instruction on cutting is a conservative lunge (a lunge is straightening your back leg with a step). He doesn’t explain if you cut your tajo reves with the same leg or alternate. Not going to be prescriptive on what the cut is (but explain my thoughts, circle cuts).

Exercise: Lunge and recover. Try cutting tajos and reves’ with the left leg, and with the right leg.

How to attack:

Related to this, if you do attack, presumably without gaining first, you aim towards their tip. This means that you are in a position to pre-emptively close them out since the tip of the sword is where their threat comes from. Demonstrate/explain don’t do as an exercise.

Summarising the three rules of chapter 1:

  1. Finger-nails up to the left. 2. Fingernails-down to the right. 3. Counters are delivered at same height.

Explain how this works. This can be made into a partnered exercise.

My summary of Lois’ Figueiredo Translation

So Lois Spangler is a member of one of the clubs I train at. I had access to her translation as she did her drafts. Recently she released her translation to the world seen here:

Before that, I did this summary up, my attempt to say what figuieredo took many words to say, and sometimes I left it pretty much as it is when I was not sure what he was saying. Anyway, in case anyone else gets value out of it I have posted it here.

I think I did this around 01/01/2020.

If you look at the original, you can see what paragraphs I’ve summarised and how I have summarised them.

Lois’ translation of dagger practical summary: 

Chapter 1: 

Off-hand weapons better defend, cover or safeguard the body.

Offensive and defensive.

Accompany the sword.

Sword and dagger is defensive by artifice and offensive by nature. (only the cape was not mentioned as being offensive).

Sword and dagger is pre-eminent.

Chapter 2: 

Spanish are best at sword, so pick offhand weapons complimentary to the sword.

Don’t teach these companions before teaching the sword. Fundamentals get neglected.

The sword alone informs everything else.

Chapter 3: 

Dagger is first due to its defensive and offensive capabilities, and its quickness and grace.

Dagger wielder is obligated to use the sword and dagger to parry ‘blows’ to the body and protect the (off?) hand.

Dagger cannot be subjected.

If dagger alone parry two palmos from yourself.

The dagger can offend, and is good at this if you’re brave and a Diestro acts safely so they have safe opportunity to offend with the dagger.

Diestros keep themselves safe by parrying, deviating, and subjecting the opponent’s weapon.

Dagger atajos like a sword, and deviates incoming thrusts, and can interrupt attacks in the first two circular motions.

Chapter 4: 

Dagger two palmos in length total. Third part o the sword from the cross to the point is one palmo, which is one third of the sword. Otherwise it gets in the way.

Dagger grasped firmly, thumb resting against the cross of the weapon.

Arm is held straight.

Dagger guards/covers the Diestro’s centre.

Guard not held too perpendicular (so to avoid the opponent gaining the weak), or so straight out that it impedes the circles of the sword.

Dagger held a little inclined over the guard of the sword. So it is not in any extreme positions described previously.

If you are more knowledgeable in LVD: Hold the dagger with the arm folded and resting against the body. So it can be applied as needed. Attacks from this position should be given below one’s own dagger, and cover parts that the sword can’t. Particularly during offline movements of tajos and reveses.

Dagger is intended to deviate the opponent’s sword toward one side or the other, and to perform minor parries, primarily against reveses, which are taken within distance.

The remaining movements are taken by the sword, except strikes and attacks, because sometimes the dagger strikes and attacks, so both are equally offensive.

Footwork makes up for the dagger’s shortness and so the dagger and sword exchange roles in many instances.

Chapter 5: 

Dagger is all strong.

Dagger operates close to the centre.

All its circles are best with the wrist.

There are four ways for the dagger to take on the effects of the sword: 

  1. Dagger over opponent’s sword, dagger in middle of opponent’s blade (5) when the opponent seeks to gain from either side. If opponent seeks to gain along the outside, dagger must be above and the sword below. Dagger acts to achieve two things: To deviate thrusts to the face, and to make the opponent withdraw their sword.
  2. Without moving the centre of the dagger, and in termo proporcionado. Dagger applied below the opponent’s sword, you take the opponent’s weak with your strong from the inside or outside (vulgar treta ganar). Dagger is directed toward the floor (as we’ve all discussed shouldn’t be too literal, enough to intercept). Dagger wrist is below and beside the sword wrist. Implies the dagger should be this far forward to compensate for the weak of the sword (so its point being more forward then the strong of the sword).
  3. Place dagger to any side, as needed. Elect for shorter motions (shorter proportion). Intercept liberations. Basically intercepting their sword where it departs from, like dagger high to low, but more broadly.
  4. Movements made to the outside of the dagger, whether opponent or diestro attacking. The dagger serves to parry, to test (vulgar treta tentar, can be contrasted with arrebatar), and to persuade the opponent’s sword whether it is still or in motion.

All ways of applying the dagger summarised above. Sword is easily deviated by dagger since the dagger is strong.

Diestro responds proportionally to the strength of the opponent, if an opponent musters a lot of force, a diestro knows to resist proportionally.

Do not hold the dagger too tightly or loosely.

They do not deviate further than the limits of the body (not too far offline).

Chapter 6: 

How the dagger enters with the sword, and how its movements are different

Many prepositions the dagger has against the sword, entering with it, helped by footwork, profiles of the body, and angles of the sword and arm: to better expand the movements of the opponent  or impede his effects by understanding the principles, and over atajos offend securely.

Consider movements to strike, and ones that are not for purpose of striking, and look for ones that help to strike. In Destreza some actions only serve to help other actions.

Figueieredo doesn’t want to supply applications that communicate intentions, even if they uncover the place you mean to strike. It is no less risky to be the one who anticipates, than the one who attacks without understanding or equalising force, and adjusting movement with movement.

The dagger enters against the sword on the sword’s weak with the dagger’s strong. Does this united with its own centre (without moving). The dagger is applied so the body can make an angle and intercept the opponent’s disengages.

The dagger can enter in circular movements, the first action is violent, and with the dagger united with the sword the opponent is prevented from forming angles or making deceptions.

The dagger enters with pre-eminence against thrusts (when thrusts arrive straight).
The dagger uses circles, with advantage of the right line. In doing this it impedes the circular movements of the opponent since the opponent cannot know the beginning of the dagger’s circular movement.
When the body advances, striking with the advancing foot, the opponent cannot escape the many circles the dagger can make. The opponent will retreat and liberate which the dagger can foil.

Thrusts start from an accidental movement and has one single start. Everything is interrupted if interrupted at the start of the chain. This is not the case for circular movements, because anywhere the sword ends up it can wound with a little or a lot of force, and a violent motion.

Dagger is ineffective against circular motions of the sword because of its reach. All other actions of the sword can be contested by the dagger due to the dagger’s universal proportion. Circular ‘blows’ can be received on the dagger as long as its in the centre of the blade, without uncovering the dagger arm.



Summary of Late German Rapier

This was not made to with the intent of being public or on this blog, so if the translators and publishers of work featured here want this article taken down they can message me and it will be done.


My focus of study has been the Late German Rapier style as derived from Fabris (with some influence from Capoferro and Thibault).

I have from the beginning focused on the German lineage, and for rapier this has been my primary focus as well. I have been investigating this tradition for at least two years. Not all of it has been internalised or committed to memory but I have read 98% (super rough estimate) of the resources available on this style. The remaining books to read being Heussler, and the last quarter of Bruchius. Another remaining work to read is Wilhelm Kreußler’s treatise but there is no available English translation to my knowledge.

This document serves as a rough summary, trying to catch both what is fundamental and what is novel about this fencing system. In truth, little will look out of place to the Italian fencer, especially one familiar with Fabris. There are some stylistic differences, and as Reinier van Noort has pointed out the similarities, particularly in phrasing and structure place them in their own visible tradition.

Some passing mention will be made to other styles, but principally this document refers to Thrust-fencing (Stoßfechten). Not all authors mention cut-fencing (hiebfechten) or other forms of fencing but all named authors feature thrust-fencing.


Disclaimer: I have lent my copies of Salvator Fabris and Johannes Georgius Bruchius’ work and so I cannot confirm details in them, I read them some time ago and am acting from memory. I do not own and have not read Wilhelm Kreußler’s treatise. I have only recently acquired Sebastian Heußler’s work and so have not read it.

The information on authors is taken from the manuscripts, the forewords/their translators, and Wiktenauer. If no citation provided should be assumed it is from those sources.

Salvator Fabris (1544-1618)

Salvator Fabris was a prolific Italian fencing master who published ‘Lo Schermo, overo Scienza d’Arme’ in 1606 and represented two books. Book One resembles conventional Italian fencing, like say Capoferro, Giganti or Alfieri, Fabris dubbing this book firm-footed. Book two is the book that receives way more interest from modern practitioners due to its novel way of fencing, proceeding with revolution. Fabris taught not just in Italy but outside of it in Paris and (what was then) Germany. Throughout the 17th century he had his works copied and translated. Both books became highly influential in the area. He is often referenced by name, and sometimes plays and paragraphs seem copied, this is particularly the case with H.A.V. Fabris’ book included Rapier, Rapier and Dagger, Rapier and Cloak, and Grappling. He also has disarming actions and half-swording (referred to as two-handing). Fabris is mentioned here as he was essentially the progenitor of the tradition, directly or indirectly.

Sebastian Heußler (1581 to mid-late 17th century)

I cannot say much on Sebastian Heußler as I only just acquired his work. It appears to be a blend of Capoferro and Fabris and the plates certainly remind me of Giganti. The treatise Neu Kunstlich Fechtbuch (1615) looks quite extensive. Material covered by Heußler is Rapier, Rapier and Dagger, Rapier and Cloak, Dagger, and Flag-waving. I felt he deserved an honourable mention because he was one of the earlier names in the tradition and not a small or uninfluential treatise it seems.

Joachim Köppe (16th century to mid-17th century)

Joachim Köppe also spelt Köppen was a 17th century fencing Master. Köppe is mentioned as one of my main sources more out of affection than use. His rambling made reading his treatise more engaging and human, and his attempt to tell Thibault’s practitioners they did Spanish fencing wrong was humorous, as after dismissing it he even provided his own diagram to ‘correct’ them. His treatise ‘Newer Discůrs Von der Rittermeszigen und Weitberůmbten Kůnst des Fechtens’ was written in 1619. It was influential enough to be plagerised by Bruchius, who was then copied by Schmidt. He said he received Fabris’ book from his personally in Paris, and he spends some time arguing with a hypothetical practitioner of Thibault. He protests that his work is not copied from Fabris but written to reconcile the old tradition with the new. Of German Rapier authors, I read Köppe’s work entirely first and perhaps due to inexperience found it difficult to interpret, I always intended to give it a revisit to see if it would make more sense now. I do enjoy emulating his posture and regularly think back to his commentary on stance, moving and measure. Köppe’s book lays out an order of the art covered, seemingly by priority.

  1. Single Rapier, pede firmo (firm-footed).
  2. Single rapier per caminada (proceeding and passing).
  3. Rapier and dagger, pede firmo.
  4. Rapier and dagger, per caminada.
  5. Cut-fencing and longsword
  6. What you do when assaulted or ambushed.
  7. Half-staff. Commentary on long pike and Halberd.
  8. Grappling.

Despite these listings, the translation I have is only of a rapier treatise. Seemingly this translation is the pede firmo and per caminada sections. I am unsure if he ever finished writing these works, or if they were ever translated.

Johann Georg Pascha (1628-1678)

Johann Georg Pascha, also spelt Pasch, Paschen and Passchen was a prolific publisher of materials. Wiktenauer lists fifteen published works.  Pascha’s works are interesting for a few ways. His early works were written without a familiarity with Fabris’ work but still show the influence Fabris has had on German fencing. It was clear that the tradition had already been exported to Germany and had become part of the scene. Pascha also attributes one of his works to H.A.V which is the most derivative work of Fabris in the German tradition. Reinier van Noort and Jan Schäfer both speculate on who is H.A.V, the leading guess being Heinrich von und zum Velde.[1] Pascha’s relevance to me is that he presents a very orderly treatise, that is a bit dry but still concise. This makes it easy to study and work from. His principles on thrust-fencing are laid out in five small pages (of the translation) and then the rest is practical lessons that repeat a little bit, adjusting similar plays for different footwork or actions. Pascha published material on Rapier, Pike, Musket, Flag, Partisan, Hunting-staff, vaulting and grappling. Much of this material seems to have been copied or adopted by Johann Andreas Schmidt, and by extension Jonas Thomsen von Wintzleben.

Jéann Daniel L’Ange (Late 17th century)

Almost certainly, Jéan Daniel L’Ange was not a French-men as his name implied. Reinier van Noort has delved into the family history to find a German fencing family of the surname Lange. In recognition of this Wiktenauer has rendered the name Johann Daniel Lange which is the German spelling of his name. L’Ange’s work was published in 1664 and titled Deutliche und gründliche Erklärung der adelichen und ritterlichen freyen Fecth-Kunst. What I personally appreciate about L’Ange is his book’s shortness. It is organised in how it is laid out, and it is easy to read, and never dwells on a subject or lesson for too long. He also has a very refined use of hand-parrying and a more extensive than most section on disarms. I find his style does not quite lend itself to the rapier I use, having more in common with courtswords and smallswords, which would be my only criticism, otherwise he would be my first preference of source. L’ange’s work is only thrust-fencing, though it includes two-handing of the sword, and multiple disarms and grapples.

Johannes Georgious Bruchius (Late 17th century)

Like L’Ange previously, Bruchius was active on the upper end of the century, perhaps being born a few years after L’ange. The sword depicted in his illustrations looks even more like a smallsword than L’ange’s. I never quite finished Bruchius’ treatise. I got frustrated trying to interpret his Graduren and moved onto other treatises. This seems a shame as Bruchius’ system looks very thorough and complete, and built upon Fabris, Köppe and Thibault. Having lent the work away to a friend, I cannot investigate it much for this summary. He is neither Italian like Fabris, nor German like other authors mentioned so far, but Dutch. His work is titled Grondige Beschryvinge van de Edele ende Ridderlijcke Scherm- ofte Wapen-Konste and was published in 1671. It includes thrust-fencing, and like previously, it has some disarms and two-handing of the sword. Brian Kirk did a comparison of Bruchius with other texts to show how rounded the influences on his treatise are.[2]

Johann Andreas Schmidt (1650-1730)

Firmly in the smallsword era is Johann Andreas Schmidt. Schmidt published his work Leib-beschirmende und Feinden Trotz-bietende Fecht-Kunst in 1713. It appears to have copied from Bruchius (as noted by Reinier van Noort) and Pascha in sections (at least looks that way to me). Schmidt shows how the lineage survived into a much later era, having been still in practice in the 18th century. Technically I believe Reinier van Noort made the argument that this tradition survived all the way up to SiemenKahne practicing in 1945. Schmidt took onboard the mission to instruct German youth to be proper gentlemen, a rant Köppe made himself much earlier. For example, Schmidt suggests were you not instructed to defend yourself against a water pitcher correctly, you would humiliate yourself by ducking under a table to avoid it. Schmidt mostly adjusts the system in posture, as it is now a smallsword and he is very much imitating the French and perhaps the English. He includes instruction on Thrust-fencing, Cut-fencing, Vaulting, and grappling (seemingly copied from Nicolaes Petter). Notably he includes an extensive section on Proceeding (Caminiren) and includes two sets of rules to advise on it.

Jonas Thomsen von Wintzleben (18th century)

Von Wintzleben published a treatise in Danish, but appears to be German, and uses German and French terminology. Not much worth adding to this, as much of his work is comparable to Schmidt, indeed it seems largely copied from it, even in regard to the illustrations. A novel thing von Wintzleben does add is a kind of spadroon/cut-fencing section that is not an exact correlate with Schmidt and includes a decent commentary on cross-cutting, though I will confess I am not quite picking up on the significance of what he states. His work was published in Fegte-kunst was published in 1756.

Wilhelm Kreußler and August Fehn

I will not say much on Wilhelm Kreußler and August Fehn. I have no copy of Kreußler’s text, and I have only recently acquired August Fehn’s, and have not read it. I have heard the two texts are linked and that they are their own off-shoot, not easily linked to the tradition that is discussed in this summary.

Fencing Concepts and Swordsmanship:

A lot of these concepts will be principally derived from Köppe. While Köppe is often verbose, he is also often clear. There is very little deviation of concepts, though perhaps Köppe differs a little in his understanding of binding and engaging. Basically, Köppe is the theory heavy weight of the team. Some images are taken from the paper form of books I have, others are taken from Wiktenauer, Brian Kirk’s Elegant Weapon blog, or simply found on a google image search. Merely to save me taking photos on my phone.


Best handled by Köppe but there is a strong emphasis placed on being aggressive (though not recklessly so). You generally want them to be responding to you, much like Fabris forcing the opponent to act in the first intention so he is prepared to counter whatever action they make.  There is a metaphor Köppe uses in regard to Luck, that becomes a commentary on initiative.

“Luck’s forehead is bestowed with hair, but from, her skin is bare.”

Working from memory I believe this metaphor is repeated in Bruchius and L’ange. The message seems to be, you take luck, you make your own luck. To Köppe, tempo and measure are arriving at the right time, and this creates luck. He can grab lady Luck by her fringe, but if she has gone past, she is bald, with no hair to grab.

Working to initiative, at some part of the book, and I have difficulty finding where, Köppe describes meeting an old soldier as a youth, and this soldier saying he had survived so long by essentially playing a game of chicken. He would just advance at them and make his attack the first attack, and the surest attack. Köppe relays that story with humour but it does seem to reflect his thinking on seizing the fight, at least somewhat.

There is plenty of caution advised in the various sources, especially against a cagey opponent, which if I recall, all comment on. So more talk of how to approach the enemy should be in the engagement/binding and camineren (proceeding) sections.

The Sword (schwert):

This is a lineage over hundreds of years, as Reinier van Noort pointed out, it is the longest recorded lineage practiced within Germany. Naturally, this means that various swords were practiced within the Lineage. This includes Rapiers, Smallswords, Spadroons/broadswords (pallasche?). Sometimes rappier is mentioned, sometimes schwert, but more often than not what is referred to is a Degen. Now this can be a stoßdegen, or a hiebdegen, even I believe a hau-rappier. I would not be surprised if somewhere there was a mentioning of Reitschwert but I have not seen it. Degen mostly means sword. Contextually it means duelling sword, and referred to smallswords, courtswords, and rapiers. I believe it was even used to refer to sabres (Säbel). Sometimes within the same treatise there are different weapons, like L’ange has an example sword for dividing the blade, but the swords are greatly stripped down from this in the illustrations, implying they might be training swords. In Pascha the cut-fencing and thrust-fencing appear to have a slightly different sword, but they are very visibly different in Schmidt and von Wintzleben. In those two treatises, the cut-fencing appears to be performed with more of a Spadroon or Pallasch. The principles in these works are universal, but they usually are tailored for a specific purpose. This is why I believe Bruchius and L’ange make better use of a short-bladed weapon, and Köppe and Pascha make better use of a long bladed weapon. They all depend on a complex hilt to an extent, but Fabris, Köppe and H.A.V more so, a similar argument could be made for Schmidt and von Wintzleben in their cut-fencing. The argument being that the hand is more vulnerable when the arm is extended, or when it is at risk of cuts.

My theory on how best to use the sword you have:

Through practice I have come to believe that if you have a short and light blade, it is far better to have a rear-weighted stance, and the arm somewhat retracted in fourth. Then you can make fast attacks, and quick disengages. Meanwhile if you have a long blade that is somewhat heavy, you want to be in Third and extended so you can calmly gain on their blade and switch to Prima (First), Secunda (Second), or Quarta (Fourth) as necessary (as Fabris himself argued). These guards to be explained later, though for the record they correspond mostly with Italian guards, particularly Fabris.  Virtually all the authors in this text recommend Quarta (Fourth), with an upright to slight backwards-lean and this explanation is why I think that is so. They also start upright and forward leaning, and gradually move further back in their balance, this is seen as early as Pascha. Köppe and H.A.V would be the key exception, having inherited the Fabris style more strongly, maintaining the extension with a forward lean. Bruchius also tends to have a forward lean as well, though it varies. This makes sense as he plagiarised Köppe and admired Thibault.


The authors do not talk a whole lot about the grips and it can be hard to make out how they are gripping a sword in the illustrations, even when they have deliberately provided a close up and detailed illustration of the hand holding the sword. I believe Köppe recommends a tight grip, while usually it is recommended that they grip the sword lightly. I default to placing a finger around the ricasso (I do not have a German word for this, maybe Starke or One when numbering the swords), though this is not clear in illustrations, only sometimes being visible in say L’ange’s treatise. Köppe with his large pappenheimer style rapier very visibly in the illustration holds the sword below the cross (Kreuz), without wrapping a finger around the cross or ricasso. L’ange sometimes has his thumb on the blade or at least the quillon block. His grip can be described as a smallsword grip, and by extension this is true of von Wintzleben and Schmidt. More often it is stressed to not hold the grip too tightly or rigidly, only firming the grip when necessary such as riposting (versetzen/displace) or delivering a thrust (stoß). This means you are more responsive, and they gain less feedback when gaining your blade. Some of these authors subscribe to Fabris’ theory that you should ideally find or engage their sword without contact.

Divisions of the sword:

The sword is divided into three or four parts depending on author, and it should be mentioned they all vary the spelling, including putting e on the end (which usually pluralises a word or changes it into an adjective in German). Köppe divides it into three, Strong (Starke), Middle (Mitte) and Weak (Schweche). This corresponds with Heußler though in practice Heußler will make the odd reference to half-weak (halb-schwech) and half-strong (halb-stark) effectively making it four like some authors. Pascha, Bruchius, L’ange and Schmidt divide the blade into four breaking the middle into half-weak and half-strong. Sometimes the word Gantze/Gantse/Gantsen is used to refer to ‘whole’ or ‘full’ as in fully-weak or whole-weak. The four divisions of the blade correspond to Fabris. As with other authors who divide up the blade, the principle in place is to be able to refer to parts of the blade by use. The stronger parts of the blade subject, the weaker parts are used to thrust or cut. Ideally you have your strong on a weaker part of the blade, often the middle to reduce their capacity to disengage, though like Fabris the ideal is often to have thrust with your hilt coming close to their hilt to completely close out their ability to counter. A word commonly used to describe this is Inteilen (partitioning). Contextually it is like referring to having your stronger part over their weaker part. Like using the word dividing more actively to refer to gaining or graduating on their blade.


L’ange’s division of the sword. Note the difference between it and the swords used in later illustrations.


Köppe’s division of the sword. Note the grip as cited before.

Posture (postura) and stance:

All authors agree that the legs should be somewhat close together, as they all favour a somewhat upright stance. There is a lot of nuance in the differences. Köppe uses multiple latin proverbs and makes fun of people who prance around too upright, and also people who stand with their legs too far apart, accusing them of seeming to sacrifice mobility in favour of looking proud and manly (well before Rock musicians were using the power stance). Most of the authors favour a balanced stance, sometimes with a slight lean back, or a slight lean forward. Often the difference is that Prima (First) is extended with a light lean forward and Quarta (Fourth) is retracted with a slight lean back (though usually more just upright). L’ange and Bruchius I believe point this out for comparison. Bruchius himself seems to have made a compromise between extended and retracted in his stances. I already previously mentioned my theory, so just as a recap, I believe shorter blades favour upright-Quarta and longer blades favour extended Third. Like Bruchius, often there is a middle ground between these extremes in practice. Only Köppe and H.A.V seem wholly committed to a forward lean (like Fabris’ 2nd Book). It could be said all of these are a mellowing of Fabris’ stance. The principles remain the same, mostly upright, feet kept fairly close together so as to make many small steps before making a large step at the right moment. They are all mostly extended in the arm, and they all lunge or pass (passade/passada) into full extension when they strike. All mention deliberate shifting of weight and the counter posture (gegen-postur/contra-postura) though there is also contramotion (counter-motio). For clarity, until Schmidt it is recommended to have your body squared on rather than profiled, there is a process of gradually transitioning to a more profiled stance as the tradition progressed. The logic is that you approach square on and can cover part of your torso with the off-hand, then as you come closer to the opponent you can profile yourself removing one side of your body from threat and achieving maximum extension. Basically, to keep this part of yourself exposed as an invitation until you are actually in distance. In theory you can move faster and more naturally if you are not profiled. Köppe gives the largest explanation of this. Schmidt explains reasons for or against but remains committed to his profiled stance as many fencers had gone by his era.


Köppe explains how to get into his posture, it is much like his picture made to demonstrate the openings (depicted later) but you lean forward and take a tiny step forward, while keeping your hands up and in front of your face. One hand holds the rapier, the other is in that position to hand parry. Köppe’s posture is different to most of these authors.

Openings (blössen):

“There is no Art or Science that does not have her certain matter and peculiar profit, and so it is also with this Art and Science. Thus it is then necessary to understand, know, see and acknowledge the openings of your Body and those of your Enemy. Considering these openings, there are three. The first is on the outside, over the right arm, the second is on the inside of the body, to the left breast, the third is below the belt of the pants, to below the hip. For arms or legs are not counted to be openings, because there deadly wounds are rarely or never caused by thrusting. But in a cutting-fight it is very different, for there the head and other limbs cannot be excluded. How subtly these openings must be observed, each can be taught by his master.”-Bruchius

They vary in how they describe the openings but usually their stance is made in consideration of the openings. The arm or limbs are usually only targeted in the cut-fencing, and even then this is a feint (finte) a considerable amount of the time. H.A.V appears to have copied Fabris’ diagram for the openings, and Köppe has done his own version of it. Köppe’s divides the openings into three, basically three divisions of the body, just different heights. His advice is pretty specific. Only target the body, in his region the head was off-target (and I think this might have been true for Fabris?). Köppe explains that the limbs are harder to hit and can be easily moved, not so much the body. The impression you get is to aim your thrusts towards their upper body, through their sword, and in respect to their hand/hilt height. The head being off-target partially explains why some authors like Köppe, H.A.V and Fabris are willing to set it forward while tucking their lower body away. There is also a logic in that their sword and off-hand are at shoulder height to guard the face. Heußler divides the openings into three, and then three again. Essentially upper, middle, and inside and outside for each height.


H.A.V using Fabris’ openings.


Köppe’s openings looking somewhat comical.


Universally all authors support the off-hand. In the case of L’ange and Schmidt they believe it should always be applied if possible, to allow for a safer attack/thrust. They all give explanations usually riffed from Fabris, though Köppe’s as usual uses a lot more words. This is consistent between them, if the hand is not necessary to support the thrust, then it is at least necessary to cover one of the openings. Referring back to Köppe, there are four real openings, and at any one time one is covered by the hilt, and one is covered by the hand. Bruchius gives an anecdote where he saw someone thrust in the chest, but before it got deep the man grabbed it and pulled it out and went onto win the fight. Often it is mentioned that the hand should be shoulder height, or in front of the face. The hand is mentioned a few times as needing to be very slightly cupped/curved. Köppe suggests a leather glove to protect the hand.


For L’ange, applying the hand is part of a correct thrust. L’ange and Bruchius make extensive use of the hand to compliment their thrusts or responses.

Dagger (Dolch):

Unfortunately, I have not read the books with dagger sections like Heußler. If I was to use a dagger within this tradition, I would either work from Fabris’ use of the dagger (both arms extended, points meeting in the high-middle) or I would merely substitute the dagger for my hand, applying it like a hand-parry.


Example of Fabris using dagger.


Honestly, too many names are used for engaging and what Italians would call Stringere to name. I admit my memory is pretty faint in this area but I recall Köppe making a dinstinction between two of these (Ligiren and Stringiren), and H.A.V (and perhaps Heußler) uses his own version of ‘finding the sword’ as Fabris would say. I am going to place a commentary below, but I am actually not sure on any of this, except how Köppe has used two of the words (ligiren and Engagiren).

Ligiren (binding) or anbinden (to bind): This is often used to refer to what the Spanish would call tentar or testing. It serves a similar role to a beat. Contact is made at the weak to feel out pressure and openings. This can also be used to move your blade’s point past theirs, as in to cover it or close it out.

Attaquiren (engaging): Sometimes but rarely this is used literally for attack, attaquiren naturally shares a similar meaning. Also shares a meaning with below.

Engagiren (engaging): Basically, make contact with their blade. Usually with contact but who knows, it can be used like Ligiren

Stringiren (to engage): According to Köppe, this means to make contact with your blades, and strike along it with no hesitation. Could call it a hard subject in his language. L’ange and Pascha seem to use it the same way.
Other authors do not always agree. It is often left ambiguous what differences they set between binding, winding and engaging, and the multiple words for engaging do not help. At least Köppe has set a definition.

There are also words for subjecting and suppressing independent of the ones given here, just to confuse matters.

To provide some commentary, I would reconcile both of these terms in practice. If you can engage their blade, gain strength, subject, and thrust, then that is advantageous, but often enough this means they disengage and you’re in the second or third intention. So it is better to leave the process of actually touching their blade until the last moment, basically manoeuvring it until it has already won and cannot be stopped. By the same virtue it is usually good to pre-emptively disengage to seek greater strength, as long as your distance or measure allows. Finally, the usual example of a good thrust is given through the example of a straightforward engage and lunge.

Measure (Mensura):

Köppe uses Measure to refer to how strong you are on their blade. I do not think this is common outside of him, though in practice with the association of time (tempo) and distance it does not really matter. I will explain the Italian use of the words, which is a lot more common even in the German tradition.

Long measure (Mensura Larga): Distance where you can hit them with a step.

Narrow measure (Mensura Stricta): Distance where you can hit them without a step, like a lean or full extension of the arm.

Out of measure: This is not really mentioned but Köppe does have a few rants about people who never want to come into measure. He usually thinks they are cowards, and that they should eventually lose if they keep retreating. Personally, I am inclined to agree that there is no value in sitting out of measure, it just stalls the fight, and you will not always have the room to evade. I also often can punish someone for perpetually retreating. A retreating offers a tempo if they have gradually lost their distancing.

Motion (Motio):

There is much said on movement. It is given large attention in virtually every work. Köppe as usual has the most to say. I do not want to do it a disservice by saying too much here. it is much like Fabris’ idea of movement (not quite his rules of resolution though). You are upright, and already extended, so you take small steps, moving with your feet more than the rest of your body, then as expected, when you are in an advantageous position you extend, with a lunge, or passing step. They do not seem to favour offline or linear but instead are about using whatever step suits the action, whatever step you need to go under, or over their blade with your thrust. It should be mentioned, Pascha sees the time the enemy is stepping (particularly big steps) as the best moment to strike, for they are not firm-footed or balanced if one or more feet are off the ground. Pascha has half-thrusts (and I think Schmidt does too), and these are sometimes sold with a small movement or step, either a lean or tiny ‘gaining’ step (to borrow a term from others). Köppe strongly emphasises small motions with hand or feet. The impression you get is that the German authors want to make small non-committal motions and only make big actions when it is ideal. If they need to advance straight and under the blade, or offline and over the blade so be it.

Three styles of fencing:

Pede firmo, Passada and Camineren are all given attention by the masters though it varies how much, and the explanations vary somewhat. All three do seem to be considered essential to the practice.

Pede Firmo (firm-footed): Pede Firmo is the subject of Fabris’ first book, basically fairly upright, foot-planted and making lunge and recover kind of actions. This is considered pretty typical and standard of Italian Rapier of the time. Fabris considered this the fundamental style of play before he sells you on his second book with proceeding where these kinds of fundamentals are performed on the fly with a different kind of step. Pedefirmo is the predominate style of fencing in the German tradition, and normally what they introduce first though they give strong attention to passing, and varying levels of attention to proceeding. For example, L’ange is mostly pede firmo and has some passade and only gives a page to proceeding. Meanwhile Pascha is probably 5/10 pede firmo, 3/10 passada and 2/10 proceeding in ratio.

Passada/Passade (passing): This is often used to mean stepping, without a lunge, more then it is used with a clear purpose. Occasionally it is used to describe a step where the rear leg passes the front, but most commonly it is stepping offline with your right or left leg (as opposed to a lunge). This is hyped up to varying degrees. The passada is often highly revered as a form of fencing and movement. Sometimes the passada and caminiren are linked in that you are advised to simply take small steps until you can make an attack with the passada safely.

Caminiren (proceeding): Often this is talked up but less unexplained, or quickly dismissed as something that is merely passada with shorter steps. Köppe gives a fairly lengthy section but does not manage to say a huge amount. Obviously, this comes from Fabris’ ‘proceeding with resolution’ (Resolution actually is literally spelt that way in these books too). L’ange is the curtest about caminiren, giving it only a page and saying it is so vain it must have been invented by a Spaniard. He also suggests that it is good for old fencers and retired soldiers who have bad legs. Pascha adds caminiren variants for his earlier plays. Schmidt of all people, and well into the smallsword period adds multiple rules to caminiren, far more than Fabris did.

To expand on Caminiren it is a type of walking fencing. By moving naturally as if you were stepping you can gain ground with little risk. Since you are using uncommitted steps, and keeping your arm extended, you can move into threaten someone so they are provoked into attacking, but as you instigated this, you can then act in the second intention to thrust and as you did it by proceeding and are already in a good position and posture, you can essentially thrust in ways you would not get away with otherwise. The hardest difficulty I have with this is getting low enough. As seen in Fabris’ illustrations, and argued convincingly by the fencer and blogger Brian Kirk, Fabris keeps his arm mostly aligned with his shoulder height and would lower himself until his arm was at his opponent’s hilt height[3]. This is awfully awkward for someone tall or who has not conditioned their leg and back to this (and hip-hinging only alleviates so much). It does seem to be the physically most efficient way to shut out their attack and advance on someone safely.


L’ange emphasising the casualness of caminiren

The Disengages:

These form a big part of the swordplay. Though they are simple to explain or summarise, they are often given their own plays, and variations depending on footwork, such as the default (pede firmo) or passing (passade) or proceeding (caminiren). The counter to a disengage is both a counter-disengage (cocaviren) or to interrupt it by moving your blade into Secunda (Second) or Quarta (Fourth). The play setting up the last sentence is usually starting with a thrust in Third.

Disengage (caviren, durchgehen) or disengagement (cavation):

To go under their blade.


To go over their blade.

Re-disengage (recaviren):

To go to disengage and then cancel it (go back to where you were)

Counter-disengage (cocaviren) or counter-disengagement (concavation):

As the disengage, you disengage.

Circling (circuliren):

This is when you circle their sword, either to gain measure (strength) or to break it (like a retreating motion). Corresponds to the fencing term envelopment.

Voltiren (turning):

Like Fabris’ Girata the German authors make use of various degrees of turning. The most common being when you step with your non-dominant leg around to void your body, usually with a thrust of Quarta (fourth) and often against a thrust of Quarta. Sometimes this is called the false step (as it steps with the non-dominant leg, sometimes even forwards rather than merely offline). Fabris’ other giratas might be referred to as voltiren, or they may be referred to as another example of passade.


Pascha performing a voltire to counter another.

Feinting (Fitiren, verführen):

Most of the authors give rules for feinting. Köppe and

Schmidt’s are quite extensive, I have not checked but I believe this is often the case. My

favourite would be Pascha’s use of a ‘half-thrusts (halbe-stoß). This is to perform feints by thrusting only with the rear foot moving closer to the thrust foot so you are not all in on your feint though obviously prepared to extend it.


Explained in multiple places but very succinctly explained by Heußler as stepping back slightly with the left foot, so you can void an attack. This is much like the Spanish Balanzada (and Quibro) and almost matches Godinho’s description of those actions.

Battire (used by Heußler and others) and Appel (used by Schmidt and others):

Used to refer to a beat, or a stomp of the right foot and usually both. The implication is that an association is built between them making it into an effective feint. My personal experience is that this association needs to be built and does not work if that kind of trigger has not been set. Fabris and others would hate the idea of giving someone a tempo by doing an action like this, I believe it does not mesh with all the authors in the tradition.


According to Köppe there are no guards, and the translation for the Italian Postura should be Stellung (position). Lager, Garnison and Guardi to him are useless unless referring to First (Prima), which is the only time you are waiting or at rest, having just drawn it. Having said that, the others are not so pedantic about this distinction. It is totally acceptable to use any of the words he just described. Guard or Posture both work fine for a English translation.

The guards are often translated into different forms for example Prime or Prima, Secunda or Seconde. Those differences are not that different within German pronunciation but there is also differences such as Tertia and Tertie which are less similar.  For convenience I have again gone with the Köppe spelling for preference/convenience, that is Prima (though he also uses Prime), Secunda, Tertia and Quarta.

As others would note the guards correspond to the convention seen in contemporary Italian sources. They often describe them by where the knuckles, thumb or palm is facing. This means we end up with high and low Secunda and low Tertia and variations like that, who are named such for their hand position rather than their height or extension. It would be too much to show every variation of the guard, so I have picked a few by their relevancy, or novelty.


Fabris showing a poor Tertia


Köppe is not as negative of it though it is not his preferred Tertia and he does criticise it.


Fabris’ Tertia being compared with Köppe’s Tertia and Thibault’s portrayal of Fabris’ Tertia. Image like some others taken from Brian Kirk’s blog.[4]


Köppe’s preferred tertia like seen above.

bruchius Tertia.jpg

Pascha tertia.png

Bruchius and Pascha’s Tertia. Pascha does a more extreme Tertia as a parry too.


Example of L’ange’s Secunda (left) and Quarta (right).

pasca low secunda.png

Pascha’s low Secunda, used to parry a low attack or address a lowered sword.


L’ange’s high secunda.

Bastards (Bastarde): Just as Fabris used the word bastard to describe a guard between two guards, so do most of the authors presented here. They are not mentioned too often, it seems to be assumed you find yourself in these positions naturally in motion between them. Notably Schmidt considers the left bastard (between Quarta and Tertia) the best hand position.


It would be too much to explain all there is to Thrust fencing. It makes up the bulk of their commentary, all their principles are made to inform on it. The plays/variations/exercises are easily in the hundreds, even if you don’t count the ones that are the same between authors.

The thrusts are all named after the hand position (Prima, Secunda, Tertia, Quarta). Initially the examples given tend to be straight forward, engage their sword (with contact) and thrust on the inside or outside, which ever has the true edge against their sword. Sometimes hand parries are added into this, particularly in the case of L’ange, Bruchius and Schmidt. All the repertoire mentioned before is usually added in, such as passada, voltiren, and caviren. A common enough play is to thrust and be driven up and then pass or void low to deliver a thrust now their weapon is committed up and outside of you.

As the authors will often say, the thrusts are delivered above and below the arm. Usually an attack made over the arm is done with a lunge and below with a passada but this is far from always the case. Some like Schmidt recommend thrusting under the sword (like in Prima or Secunda) for shorter fencers and point out that all other actions are easier for someone taller. I suspect if you managed to memorise every play and did a complete reading you would find insight into what distance and footwork you need to counter every situation or engagement. Being in the right distance or responding with the right footwork are far more important than hand position or height of the sword.

Some general advice provided by virtually all the authors included here is that you look to where their blade is and their openings. This is the advice Fabris originally gave as well. An example is if their point aims towards their left, you attack at their right. It echoes the principle of strong and weak and partitioning the blade. How they compose themselves will leave openings and mean the weak of their blade is in another place. You are aiming to target the weak in a way that you can gain strength and close off their retaliation. All these factors are what informs you whether you thrust over or under the arm.

Changing the hand position can be used to gain strength or curve around or disengage. Feints can be made high, low, left or right, with or without a step. Parries can be made high, low, or middle.  A riposte is often considered more virtuous than a parry.

As mentioned before some prefer hand-parrying more than others, but it is often employed to reinforce a thrust or to parry an attack (so you can thrust safely in the same time). Hand parries and voiding, sometimes together, are very important parts of the system.


Often the illustrations of the blade and quillons are deceiving. L’ange is thrusting with Tertia and Pascha is thrusting in Quarta.

Pascha quarta thrust.png

Pascha delivering a thrust of Quarta.


Köppe delivering a thrust of Tertia with opposition, note his hand is not applied but remains reserved for use.


L’ange demonstrating the correct thrust of Quarta using the left hand for further safety.


A very similar action from Bruchius.


L’ange calls this the quarta under the arm. It resembles the flanconade which appears in multiple sources, almost certainly being taken from the French (as sometimes they will themselves will cite).


L’ange demonstrates the gliding thrust. Showing where they start and where they finish.


Another example of the gliding thrust this time going over and in second.


Like other rapier treatises these authors have instances where they two-hand their sword or half-sword. It seems to be an unsubstantiated myth that these kind of actions do not exist in rapier treatises. I started with Fabris and this treatise so I too thought there was some novelty to two-handing the sword but Brian Kirk demonstrated pretty conclusively that these actions appeared in other treatises.[5] Fabris used it to compete with the strength of a spear, and I believe Figueyredo in his dagger section recommends half-swording the sword to compete with the nimbleness and strength of a dagger. The explanation found in the German treatises seems to be if you are tired, so you can parry quickly and strongly this way. In practice I have found it is an excellent position to kind of fling or sling the sword from (which are actions the sources condemn). It becomes deceptively long range, much the same reasoning that justifies one-handed thrusts with two-handed swords in the Italian treatises. The use can sometimes resemble Thibault, such as Bruchius emulating Thibault’s Torneada (Tornado).


Fabris two-handing his sword to compete with a polearm.


Bruchius two-handing his sword after being past their point.


L’ange blocking with two-hands


Pascha two-handing his sword.


Virtually all the authors feature some form of disarming action. Often this is simply just to deflect with the hand. Sometimes it is to grab the hilt and work from there to secure a thrust, even pivoting and pulling much like you can see in other traditions (Spanish comes to mind, and relatedly Thibault). Sometimes they can be quite forceful which is uncharacteristic for rapier treatises. Some treatises are accompanied by grappling sections so it makes sense that they would integrate this knowledge into their fencing. L’ange seems to view his fencing as a system of self-defence rather than for duelling. He is not the only to say this, but maybe the most explicit. Extension of this he has a section on dirty fighting but also many disarming actions that appear quite brutal such as breaking the arm or knee. It seems just as L’ange has advice on drawing your weapon in an ambush, or moving your opponent into the sun, he also has advice on disabling them if you and your opponent end up too close. For a good example of what other authors like Pascha have to author check out David Coblentz Pascha Part 5[6] and 6[7]  videos have some of Pascha’s disarms, though to me they seem a little altered.



Two examples of L’ange breaking measure, first like the Spanish ripping or breaking (called Rompeiren in German). Second is like a conclusion having pulled their weapon after they are committed and over-extended.


L’ange also has instances where he goes for a throw, before or after thrusting them. The trip/throw working for added safety.



Not too often seen in treatises, L’ange is willing to break the arm or leg.


Schmidt’s passade look like disarms such as this one which resembles an action seen in Joachim Meyer as Robert Rutherfoord has dubbed the hidden stucke (hidden thrusts).[8]


Dirty fighting:

Sometimes you will find the odd recommendation to what could only be described as fighting dirty, or on the street. Köppe refers to what you should do when ambushed or attacked. For many of the authors the selection of the sword factors in the ability to draw it in the case you need to use it for defence (not just a duelling environment). This is discussed in regard to ideal length though they usually do not give specifics but generalisations such as not too long to draw or carry. L’ange talks about picking your location if you are to fight with sharps. This includes advice such as moving your opponent so the sun is in their eyes, or driving them up a hill. This seems related to the use of grappling, and other tricks (two-handing the sword). There is an idea that what they teach is not just an art for a fencing school or to resolve disputes but a means to defend yourself.

Cut-fencing (hiebfechten):

Fabris speaks really briefly on cuts and for the most part this is true of the German authors. They may offer some words on what the cuts are named. They may say how best to cut. They may have a few token examples of cuts (such as L’ange and Bruchius doing the cut with a rumpieren). Still, for the most part their fencing does not feature cuts. Curiously, authors such as Pascha, Schmidt and von Wintzleben dedicate sections to cut-fencing, and honestly they do seem derived from Pascha’s version. Since Schmidt and von Wintzleben wrote in an era where there was sabres, broadswords, pallasch’s and spadroons (and however else you would refer these weapons) it is less unusual that they would include these sections, making Pascha look the odd one out. The weapons in these sections look different to the thrust-optimised weapons in their cut section, though it is really hard to tell if Pascha is depicting a separate weapon, the weapons seem by Schmidt and von Wintzleben are clearly different resembling spadroons or pallasch. August Fehn of Kreußler’s tradition has a section on the Pallasch too.

Pascha changes his posture placing his left hand behind his back and stretching out the right hand more (since his guard was a little less outstretched than the other authors to begin with). The language for his cuts are similar to the guards in his thrust-fencing, that is where the hand position is after completing the cut is what the guard is named. So his cut of second is from left to right ending up with the palm down. For cutting he favours the guard of Tertie (Tertia). Most of the cut fencing is simple parry and riposte, and sequences with feints added in. I am unsure if his false cuts are a result of coming at an odd angle (such as below) or are explicitly with the false edge.

pacha parrying a cut of 4th.png

Pascha parrying a cut of quarta.

Schmidt’s manual reads fairly similar in the introduction, he reminds the reader that the cuts are termed like in thrust-fencing and that what has been covered can be applied to the cut-fencing (which echoes Pascha’s introduction). He has made the system perhaps more efficient and similar to conventional cut fencing of his time by moving towards a default hanging posture. Schmidt has less exercises than Pascha but the actions within them seem much less repetitive, and more specialised. Schmidt’s treatise reads more like a military treatise, like the formal cut-fencing of the time. It feels like he covers more ground than Pascha’s broad actions and repetitive sequences.



Examples of Schmidt’s cut-fencing. Format appears to be assigning a cut to one party, and a counter to the other.

Von Wintzleben offers less than Schmidt, and as noted previously appears to have copied Schmidt. He has a nearly identical image to what is presented just above. In his cut section he appears to offer general advice and rules more than the specific actions or plays Schmidt has a wealth of. Von Wintzleben does give special attention to circular parries (at least a late image of such) and cross-cutting. Though I am unable to derive any special insight to his cross-cutting compared to the general definition and utility of a cross cut having close the line.



Von Wintzleben demonstrating circular parries and cross cuts. Note the similarity to Schmidt’s illustrations.

It should be noted that all the cut-fencing sections start to target arm, limb and head more than the torso, which is the de facto primary target of the tradition.

Advice both to myself and others on practicing this system:

Look to Köppe for the theory. Look to L’ange for a short easy summary (and some interesting grappling). Look to Pascha for structure (and if you want to cut with sidesword-like rapiers). Look to Bruchius for a more complete understanding.

Also Heußler appears to be a good introduction especially if you are fencing more with sideswords.

If your focus is on smallsword you should definitely be reading Schmidt, especially if you want to transition from an Italian Rapier system into Smallsword (so you do not have to learn the French/English conventions).


The German tradition imported what they considered to be of best utility and applied it pragmatically, writing these lessons down in a very well-structured format. This offers the German tradition a versatility not often seen in fencing traditions as they have encountered many influences and formulated responses to such. This summary has only applied to single sword with some mention of dagger, but the authors also covered other weapons as mentioned in the Authors section, such as partisan or grappling. As Reinier van Noort noted, this is the longest recorded German fencing lineage, if drawing a line from Fabris to Siemen-Kahne.[9] Having been practicing this style of fencing for some time, I feel like it is nearly as streamlined as the Neopolitan fencing tradition, and probably a bit more robust. I think in the future a better summary could be provided. One that aims to identify each action as it appears (how much it appears) and so give a more complete overview of this tradition.

[1] Noort, R., & Schäfer, J. (2017). An analysis and comparison of two German thrust-fencing manuscripts, Acta Periodica Duellatorum, 5(1), 63-74. doi:









Godinho’s Chapter Four: A follow up

Godinho’s chapter four describes a particular stepping exercise and I have commented on this repeatedly. For anyone who has read it, I have moved forward with my interpretation somewhat. As usual, working from Tim Rivera’s translation (available at freelance academy press and amazon).

The exercise describes tajos being delivered with the left-foot, and a reves being delivered with the right-foot. This makes for cross-cuts, and he says that doing crossing parrying is not as effective (as cross cuts) so he describes a simpler and more aligned (with the body) parries instead. Fingernails-down with the retreat of the right-foot, fingernails-up with the retreat of the left foot. There is a lot of implications to take from this action for how Godinho moves, and it makes one think on how he steps in his cutting plays when he describes the footwork very little or not at all.

I have presented multiple interpretations before when instructing at Brisbane School of Iberian Swordsmanship. Firstly, large passing steps with strong crosscuts. Secondly, smaller steps (so the left foot is more like a small gain with the right foot remaining infront at the completion of each step) and less commital cuts, this passively transitioning between the fingernails-up and fingernails-down postures. Either way the cuts cross the line, but more of a tempo shift. Both options leave effective follow ups if the tajo/reves is parried.

On stepping, taking advantage of the description used, they talk about ‘placing’ the left foot, and then ‘stepping’ with the right foot in the Rivera translation. I have been told by a Spanish speaker (the helpful Lois Spangler) that there is a difference between those two descriptions. So my inclination now, is to interpret the left foot as less committed than the right foot, somewhere between a gain and a pass. Probably always going to be unsure about how committed the tajo/reves’s are.

I have seen much thought put into how you step in fencing systems like German Longsword and Bolognese fencing, and aligning with that I imagine the left leg is serving the purpose of the gain or a transitional step, this means the initial tajo is a safe way of entering and the reves delivered with a right foot re-aligns the posture to right-leg forward and gives the intended finishing attack.  Since I have mentioned German Longsword am obligated to reference this here, that talk of stepping left with a right attack and keeping the option open of then acting with the right leg has become awfully topical in the last few months. Bill Carew at CIA has talked of the theory for awhile, linking it to the ‘go left with the right’ descriptions in early sources. As well there is this blog submission (not by Bill Carew) from August, 2018.

This update has been to record where I have arrived in the interpretive process.