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Introduction - Dictionary of Terms - Guards - Practice

Dictionary of Terms

Abnehmen - taking off. When your opponent presses his sword against the weak of your own, lift your blade to the point of disengagement, so that the force of his blade makes it pass by, and then strike on the other side.

Absetzen - blocking and thrusting at the same time. This is accomplished by changing Pflug guards, left to right or vice versa, to intercept a rising stroke. Thumb grip provides the hilt control to make this work. Once the opponent's attack is stopped, administer a thrust using the protection of your cross guard. Step forward while during the thrust. It can also be accomplished against a downward stroke by winding up from the Pflug position to that of Ochs. Angle the cross-guard accordingly. One can practice the block alone with feet together, legs slightly bent, shifting from one guard position to the other. Can be used from other stances as well. Remember to include the thumb grip for correct positioning of hilt.

Acresare - small steps, either forward or to the side. The foot closest to the direction you are going moves first. The other foot compensates to maintain a proper stance. For example, moving acresare forward, move the front foot first. The back foot will slide into a new position to reclaim the balance of the stance. Acresare are sometimes used merely to adjust one's position. See Decresare for moving back.

Agreement of hand and foot - always try to lad your foot down as you complete your strike. This enhances timing and balance and adds your weight for power.

Alber - A middle guard position where the hilt is held low and to the center. The sword points upward toward the opponent's face. Similar to the Italian Mezza Porta di Ferro. Can easily transition into an Ochs for upper protection, or Pflug for thrusting.

Ansetzen - A sudden attack with the point of the sword while opponent prepares to attack. As the opponent repositions or pulls back to initiate an oberhau, hit high. Against an unterhau preparation, hit low.

Arte Dello Spadone - the actual name of Fiore di Liberi's style of swordsmanship.

Bach - literally "after," defining an defensive action that responds to the opponent's offense. The opposite is vor, meaning "before," an offensive action that controls the opponent's responses.

Backward Lunge - a quick step back performed while extending a defensive thrust. The resulting front leg is bent and low, with the back leg stretched out behind. The step back may be made with either leg. See Lunge.

Balance - a stance is said to be in balance when you can easily move in any direction.

Beat - striking your opponent's sword offline with your own sword.

Bicornio, Bicorno - Two Horned Guard. See Posta di Bicornio.

Boar's Tooth - See Posta Dente di Chingiale.

Close Guard - A middle guard, like Posta Breve, only the sword is held closer to the chest. With simple turns of the body, this allows middle blocks on either side. It also temporarily alleviates the weight of the sword. It does not hold much power fro blocks, since your own blade is so close to your center.

Coda Lunga - Extended Low Lying Tail. A back guard. See Posta di Coda Lunga.

Corona - Crown Guard, also known as Posta di Fronatale.

Coverta - covering from an attack.

Cross Step - when the rear foot crosses in front of the front foot in a specialized sidestep maneuver. In most martial arts this would be frowned upon, but a well positioned sword defense protects the practitioner during this motion.

Crown Guard - Posta di Corona, also known as Posta di Frontale.

Crucibus - cross guard of the sword.

Culpo, Culpi (plural) - striking with the sword. Not actually a cut, which denotes a push or pull slicing motion.

Culpo Dritti - a blow from the right (Vadi).

Decresare - small step back. The back foot initiates this, and the front foot slides to regain stance. Sometimes used to make small adjustments to one's stance.

Dente di Chinghiale (pronounced dente di chin-golly) - Boar's Tooth guard. See Posta di Denta di Chinghiale.

Disarmo Soprano - upper arm. A Giocco Stretto technique, grabbing the wrist after stifling the blade above the shoulder.

Double Step - a simple step to the side with the other foot following to claim its proper place for balance and direction.

Dritto - cuts made from right to left.

Duplieren - doubling. If your opponent blocks your strike, turn your sword while still in the cross and hit on the other side.

Durchlaufen - running through. Close in trapping that leads to a throw or other wresting move.

Durchwechseln - changing through. When you ropponent tries to displace your downward stroke (oberhau or fendente), dip the point of your sword whil ein transit so that it runs beneath his obstruction. As you pass underneath, wind into the Ox position and thrust. This can be done from either side.

Expended - when a strike is fully extended ad its energy is complete, there is a moment of vulnerability. At this point the movement is said to be expended.

Falconi - hawk. See Posta di Falconi.

Fendente - a downward, usually diagonal strike with the long sword. The same as the German Oberhau,

Finestra - Window Guard, similar, to the Ochs. but more squared, with blade near the temple/forehead area. See Posta di Fenestra.

Frontale or Posta di Corona or Kron - See Posta di Frontale.

Forteza - the third of the blade closest to the hilt, considered the strong of the blade.

Fuhlen - feeling. Sensing the opponent's intent through the pressure of his blade in a cross. Using that sense to decide how much pressure should be utilized in response, either strong (stark) or weak (swach).

Gioco Largo - fighting at long range.

Gioco Stretto - fighting at close range, incorporating traps, wrestling moves, throws and striking with cross guard or pummel.

Guardia / Guards - Fighting postures.

Halb-Schwert - half-sword. See Mezza Spada

Hanging Point / Hangetort - a fighting posture, usually transitory, where the sword is diagonally angled with point down and hilt up. Seen in Ochs and Posta di Donna Soprana. Posta Finestra can be included in this category, even though the blade is more horizontally squared.

Hanging positions / Hengen - refers to any position where the motion of a sword is stopped on line between you and your opponent for defensive purposes, not pushed out of line. When a sword passes out of the line of engagement, it leaves you open to attack. In the hanging position, point aimed at your opponent, it retains a measure of safety while maintaining distance.

High Guard - holding the sword up over the head at a 45 degree angle. Also known as Guardia Alta, Posta di Falconi, Hawk Guard and Vom Tag Oberhut. The Ochs position and Posta di Finestra are sometimes referred to as high guards, even though the sword is extended horizontally. They are differentiated from low or middle guards.

Hilt - that part of the sword that includes pommel, handle and cross-guard.

Huten - German guard positions. For pictures, see Guards. Liechtenhauer's treatise included the following:

  • Vom Tag - From the Roof. Two fighting positions of the Liechtenauer style. The first, Vom Tag on the shoulder, holds the hilt of the sword near the rib cage on the right side, with the blade resting on the right shoulder. A left Vom Tag on the left shoulder can be used, but is not as strong or versatile. The second position is Vom Tag over the head. The arms are lifted over the head, elbows apart for visibility, and pommel just above the upper sightline. The sword can be held vertically or at a 45 degree angle back. This allows for reaction speed and power, and also adds more tolerance of the sword's weight, which is a factor in prolonged battle.
  • Wechsel - Guard of the Changer. A low guard that might be considered a reverse of Tutta Porte di Ferro, with right foot forward and sword to the left, pointing down. It is the ending point of a Zornhau.
  • Alber - a middle guard position where the hilt is held low and to the center. Similar to Mezza Porta di Ferro. Can easily transition into an Ochs for upper protection, or Pflug for thrusting.
  • Ochs - Ox. a high, somewhat extended hanging position, sword reversed with thumb grip underneath for control. Used for thrusts, blocking and the end point of a strike.
  • Pflug - Plow. a middle guard, with the blade off centerline, held close to the back hip, aiming at opponent's face. Can be held on left or right side, depending which hip and leg are back. It is well-positioned for a thrust and provides good blocking for an unterhau. Can easily transition into an Ochs.
  • Schranckhut - Blockade Guard. A very deceptive, seemingly awkward guard, difficult to describe. The thumb grip is essential to making it work. To practitioners who are familiar with this stance, some of its deceptive qualities are lost. Start with left foot forward. Using the thumb grip, swing the sword down and to the right, until the tip is touching the ground, true edge to the right. The right hand and forearm are quite twisted, and located on the handle underneath the left, which rests on top. It appears that you are resting your sword, which serves as a blockade to the lower right side of the body. There does not appear to be any wind-up energy, but the twisting of the hand and forearm can instantly provide a quick whipping action up and to the left, like a windshield wiper. This can parry an incoming strike or, with a forward sidestep, attack the opponent's hand or head. A left handed version is possible, right foot forward and the blockade resting down on the left, false edge to the left. Generally, this is not as powerful or quick as the right side version.

Incrosada - the crossing of blades, which opens opportunities to controls the sword of one's opponent. Similar to the German Anbinden.

Instabile - refers to fighting pastures that are transitory, or unstable, not for use as a stationary guard. Included in this category are Posta Di Chinghale, Code Lunga, Posta di Frontale, Bicorio, and Posta di Finestra.

Iron Gate Guard - Tutta Porta di Ferro. A low guard in which the sword is held to the lower right, edge aiming at opponent. The Mezzana Porte di Ferro has the sword pointing low, front and center.

Kron or Frontale or Posta di Corona - A center position where the sword is held high with the cross-guard just below eye-level, ready to spring upward to catch an incoming downward strike on the blade, sliding down to the cross-guard. See Posta di Frontale.

Langort - This position extends the sword forward toward the opponent's face to protect one's distance. It is risky in that it offers the sword as an easy target for your opponent to cross blades and take control of the situation. This can be used deceptively, however, inviting a reaction that you can be ready for and work from. The point of the sword can also be used to probe your opponent's guard, testing reactions and therefore skill, and opening your opponent's guard. Similar to Posta Longa.

Line of Attack - the imaginary line between your ready to strike sword and your opponent. A sword is considered in-line when it is properly aimed to attack. It is considered off-line when the sword is not. Breaking a line is when you either sidestep away from your opponent's line, while maintaining your own, or beating your opponent's sword to the side as a preliminary move for entry.

Long Guard - see Posta Frontale or Langhort.

Low Guard - see Mazzana Porte di Ferro, or Alber.

Lunge - a quick step forward, usually with the front foot, while executing an extended thrust. The resulting front leg is bent and low, with the back leg stretched out behind. Can be initiated with either leg, as a lunge with the front, or pass with the rear. See Backward Lunge.

Manroverso - horizontal cut from the left.

Manudextri - strikes launched from the right side.

Manusinistri - strikes delivered from the left.

Master Strokes, Liechtenauer named the following:

Zornhau (Strike of Wrath)

  • Begin in a right Vom Tag (left foot forward). Double sidestep to the right. Strike with oberhau to head or shoulder.
  • Can also be used to block incoming oberhau, catching the sword in cross-guard, point aimed at opponent's face, followed by a thrust.
  • Reverse instructions to initiate from left sided Vom Tag position.

Krumphau (Off-line Strike)

  • Used against Ochs. Begin in Schranckhut. Double sidestep to far right. Swing to hit opponent's hand with false edge in semi-circular fanning motion (like windshield wipers). Use thumb grip.
  • To block underhau, step back, turn hands quickly to hit opponent's sword in circular motion. Pull sword back to close centerline and strike head with false edge.
  • From Vom Tag, strike opponent's sword with oberhau, turn slightly left, pull right wrist in and up toward left shoulder. Strike downward to hit opponents face with false edge.
  • Reverse for left sided positions, but hit with true edge.

Zwerchhau (Thwart Strike - pronounced zwersh-how)

  • From Vom Tag, take a double sidestep to right into an Ochs position, striking hand or head with high, horizontal, semi-circular backhand stroke to the left using false edge. Motion of point looks like a spiral.
  • Against an oberhau, move in quickly to intercept blade with cross-guard. Block and hit simultaneously.
  • From left stance, reverse moves but hit with true edge.
  • Practice circular, overhead fanning motion, left to right with head-level strikes.
  • Effective strike to break the opponent's Vom Tag on the shoulder.
  • Can be directed against Vom Tag over the head by striking the opponent's hands.

Schielhau (Squinting Strike)

  • A diagonal, pre-emptive oberhau to head or shoulder that incorporates the thumb grip for added control. It is aimed so that the opponent's sword is pushed off your centerline. A short sidestep forward and to the right places your centerline off of the opponent's just enough to make this work. Your cross-guard is slightly tilted to block any oberhau counter. Ending position resembles a middle guard or Pflug, with point up at 45 degree angle and hilt down.
  • Block and hit simultaneously.
  • Against a Longhort, the shielhau can administer a deflective beat that can then slide into a thrust.
  • Effective against Pflug and Longhort.
  • Can be administered from either a left or right position.
  • From a Vom Tag over the head position, the stroke is vertical but still ends on a middle guard.

Scheitelhau (Scalp Strike - as in aiming at the head)

  • Because the arms are based at shoulder level, a high stroke gains more reach than a lower stroke. The scheitelhau's quick high strike to the head presents an excellent attack against an opponent residing in a low guard (such as Alber).
  • If the opponent tries to strike at your front leg, pull leg back and strike with high oberhau at the same time.

Versetzen (Displace)

  • Countering guards against master cuts.
  • Move from right Pflug to left Ochs. Use as a simultaneous block and hit. Use thumb grip.
  • Move from right Pflug to left Pflug (with step) to block unterhau, and them counter-thrust.
  • Can move from left to right Pflug for upper block as well.

Durchwechselm (Changing Through)

  • Swing sword beneath the incoming block and step forward in an Ochs position administering and upper thrust (oberstich) to head.

Mezza - Italian for the middle section of the blade.

Mezza Spada - half-sword. Halb-Schwert in German. Techniques using one hand on the hilt and the other to hold the blade. Ideal for in-fighting, fighting in armor, and times when there is little room to swing a lengthy sword. Can be used for blocking, hitting, stabbing, slicing, and trapping. It has been suggested that medieval swords were not sharpened from the middle of the blade down to the hilt, to allow this hand hold. Protective gloves were also popular, especially when armor was employed. One technique, with both hands on the blade, uses the cross guard of the sword as a hammer to break through armor.

Mezza / Mezzane / Mezani - horizontal cuts, using either the true or false edges. The same as Mittelhau.

Mezzo Tempo - a timing maneuvere in which you strike while your opponent is attempting to strike you.

Mittelhau - horizontal strike, at the middle or low level, from either side. The same as Mezzane.

Nachreisen - chasing. When your adversary attacks your lead leg, withdarw your leg so that the blade harmlessly passes by. Step forward and strike high, following the direction of your opponent's sword for safety. Remember, striking high gives you more reach than a lower strike.

Oberhau - a downward strike from above, usually at an angle. Preferably, it should end in a hanger position to protect your line of engagement.

Oberstich - a thrust executed from the Ox position, left or right.

Ochs - a high, somewhat extended hanging position, sword reversed with thumb grip underneath for control. Used for thrusts, blocking and the end point of a strike.

Parare - Italian for parry. Versetzen, in German. A defensive maneuver which uses one's weapon to redirect the opponent's weapon to another line. Not really a block, which stands as a barrier, force against force.

Pass - a step, forward or back, in which one foot passes the other, similar to normal walking but while maintaining one's stance. Known as passare in Italian.

Passo, Passare - a pass. A step in which one foot passes the other.

Pflug (pronounced floog) - a middle guard, with the blade off centerline, held close to the back hip, aiming at opponent's face. Can be held on left or right side, depending which hip and leg are back. It is well-positioned for a thrust and provides good blocking for an unterhau. Can easily transition into an Ochs.

Posta, Poste (plural) - Italian for fighting posture or stance. For pictures, see Guards. Fiore dei Liberi's style Includes the following positions:

  • Posta Breve - A middle guard position where the hilt is held low and to the center. The sword points upward toward the opponent's face.
  • Posta di Bicornio - A position that prepares for a strong thrust. Originally, one lifted the sword's hilt on the centerline from a Posta Breve position to about the middle of one's chest. The left hand naturally slides to the base of the pummel, so that the pummel is braced in the palm of the hand. From here, a strong push is possible. Later alternatives include pulling the sword back toward either armpit to generate thrusting power.
  • Posta di Coda Lunga - A guard position with the sword in back. With the left foot forward, the sword is pulled back and down behind the right leg, like a tail dragging behind. It is hidden from the opponent's view. Powerful strokes can be generated from this position. It is not good for close distance, since it takes time to make defensive responses. Hiding the sword in such a fashion conceals its length and throws off the opponent's sense of distance. It opens the body up to attack, while issuing an unseen threat at the same time. Coda Lunga is considered a transitional position (instabile), during which the sword is swung back to gain power and direction, and then quickly swings forward.
  • Posta Dente di Chinghale - A very stable guard (stabile) with the right foot forward, hilt position at the left hip, with sword pointing down and forward, false edge up. Weight can be distributed on the front leg more than usual so that the back leg is in a position to quickly spring forward. This position can cut upward with the false edge at the opponent's hands, or administer a quick thrust to the abdomen. Lifting the hilt, it can assume a Posta Bicornio for added power. For defensive purposes, it pays to practice guard transitions from this position. For example, moving to a quick hanging guard, like Posta Finestra. Although the weight of the body is slightly forward, leaning in an aggressive posture, the front leg should be set and ready to push back or to the side for evasive maneuvers.
  • Posta di Donna - A position that pulls back the sword dramatically over the should and behind in order to generate as much power as possible. Can be administered from back or front stance. Pull the sword over the right shoulder, winding the arms like a baseball player, yet even more so. The point can actually be aiming at the opponent. While this looks exaggerated and slow with the blade way off centerline, it is also provocatively threatening. A blow from this position is difficult to block.
  • Posta di Donna Sinstra - The left side version of Posta di Donna. Right foot forward, pull the sword over the left shoulder.
  • Posta di Donna Soprana - An interesting variation of Posta di Donna in which the body is turned even more in a back stance, the heels facing the opponent. The sword runs down the back as is to cover from behind. The arms should be up and open, so that you can see in back with a turn of the head. This position is valuable when fighting multiple opponents who surround you. It is a strong, threatening position that provides good visibility, and easily transitions to a guard facing in the opposite direction. It pays to remember on such occasions that holding the head slightly down increases the range of peripheral vision.
  • Posta Longa - This position extends the sword forward toward the opponent's face to protect one's distance. Do not lock the arms straight. It is a risky guard in that it offers the sword as an easy target for your opponent to cross blades and steal control. This can be used deceptively, however, inviting a reaction that you can be ready for and work from. The point of the sword can also be used to probe your opponent's guard, testing for reactions to measure skill, and opening your opponent's guard. It is considered unstable (instabile) and therefore transitional.
  • Posta di Falcone - This is a high center guard, likened to Liechtenauer's Vom Tag over the head position. Like all center guards, it works well with either foot forward. The sword is pulled up over the head with the blade at about a 45 degree angle. The pummel should be just above eye level. Elbows out to facilitate vision. Although Fiore dei Liberi did not include this position in his treatise, it is Italian and deserves to be here to complete his work.
  • Porta di Ferro or Tutta Porta di Ferro - one of the main guards of this style. Left foot forward, the sword is held down and to the right, true edge facing the opponent. This stable stance is valuable because of the potential energy generated from the hips and arms for quick strikes, low, medium and high. It can be pulled back into Code Lunga for even more power. A quick step and body turn can produce a left-sided Bicornio, ready to thrust. It does not offer the blade for the opponent to control and is easily transitioned into other guards. A step forward or back with a twist of the hips results in Denti di Chinghale.
  • Porta di Ferro Mezzana - A low, center guard, similar to the German Alber. While this position leaves the upper body open, the sword is ready for quick responses. Like all center guards, it can be held with left of right foot forward.
  • Posta di Finestra (Window Position); also known as Posta di Vera Finestra (True Window Position); Porta Reale di Vera Finstra (True Royal Position); Posta di Vera Finestra Mancina (True Left Hand Window Position) - A high, hanging guard that can be used from either right or left back stance. It is transitional, or unstable, and can be used defensively or to deliver a high thrust. The sword is held horizontally with the middle just above the eye-line. While it is similar to the German Ochs, it differs in that it is not held in a more forward position, which limits it use.
  • Posta di Frontale or Posta di Corona - A center position where the sword is held high with the cross-guard just below eye-level, ready to spring upward to catch an incoming downward strike on the blade, sliding down to the cross-guard. Once the opponent's sword is collected, it can be dragged down to the side, expended, or otherwise redirected to make an opening for a strike or thrust. While the blade is initially held perfectly straight, the hilt (not the point) is brought a little to the side while collecting the opponent's sword, turning the cross guard to catch the downward blade. Can also be used to bind and bridge the gap for grappling.

Pommel - the weighted butt of the sword next to your lower hand while holding it. It provides a convenient grabbing point and helps to balance the weight of the sword.

Pull the Hilt - normally when you strike with a medieval sword, it is either a thrust or a hit. By pulling the hilt toward you while hitting, you add a slicing motion to the blade. You can also do this by pushing the hilt forward instead.

Pulsavita - a fighting position that is fully powered. Includes the Poste di Donna variations and Tutta Porta di Ferro.

Punta, Punte (plural) - thrust with the point of the sword.

Punto Lunga - a deep lunge. The lunge is performed by stepping usually with the forward leg, rather than a pass, pushing forward with the rear. It can also be done with a pass.

Prelhau / Prelhawc - Plunge Strike.

Quillons (pronounced either kwill-ons or kee-yawn) - cross guard of the hilt.

Rebattemento - striking your opponent's sword offline with your own. The strike is called a beat.

Rebatter / Rebatir - to displace an opposing strike.

Ricossa - that section of the blade closest to the cross-guard where the thumb an be placed on the flat for added support. It is usually thicker than the rest of the blade, and flat.

Reposta - recoiling from an attack to a position of readiness.

Rota - a combination in which the false edge of the sword is raised to deflect the opponent's sword, and then lowered as a strike.

Roverso - strikes made from left to right.

Sotano, Sotani (pl) - Ascending strikes. In German, Unterhau.

Schranckhut - Blockade Guard. A very deceptive, seemingly awkward position, difficult to describe. The thumb grip is essential to making it work. To practitioners who are familiar with this stance, some of its deceptive qualities are lost. Start with left foot forward. Using the thumb grip, swing the sword down and to the right, until the tip is touching the ground, true edge to the right. The right hand and forearm are quite twisted, and located on the handle underneath the left, which rests on top. It appears that you are resting your sword, which serves as a blockade to the lower right side of the body. There does not appear to be any wind-up energy, but the twisting of the hand and forearm can instantly provide a quick whipping action up and to the left, like a windshield wiper. This can parry an incoming strike or, with a forward sidestep, attack the opponent's hand or head. A left handed version is possible, right foot forward and the blockade resting down on the left, false edge to the left. Generally, this is not as powerful or quick as the right side version.

Sloping Parry - a hanging guard, true edge up, point aiming down, which parries a downward strike. This can start as a Window position (Posta di Finestra) which seems to offer a block to in incoming fendente (oberhau). As the opponent's blade strikes it, instead of offering resistance, your blade slopes down, guiding your opponent's sword away from its intended target.

Stechen - stabbing thrust.

Three Woundings - Die Drei Wunder. According to Liechtenauer this includes the thrust, strike and cut.

Traverse / Traverse Step - an angled backstep, either left or right, that takes you away from your opponent's line of attack.

Unterhau - an upward strike. Preferably, it should end in a hanger position to protect your line of engagement.

Unterstich - a thrust executed from the Pflug position, left or right.

Tornare - a passing step backwards. A return step.

Traverse - side-stepping, usually back or forward to place one in a safer position that allows for parrying and a counter attack. It can also initiate an attack, such as side-stepping to the forward right to remove yourself from your opponent's line of attack to initiate your own.

Versetzen - German for parry. Parare in Italian. To displace an opposing strike.

Volta - turn.

  • A Tutta Volta is a complete turn in which you face in the opposite direction.
  • Mezza Volta is a half turn, which occurs when you step with a pass and your hips are now in an opposite position. If you start with the left foot forward and step with your right, the left hip forward changes so that the right is now ahead. This is a major change of power source, since the position of the hip determines one's power.
  • Volta Stabile turns the hips without changing the positions of the feet. A second type of Volta Stabile pivots the feet alone, so that the heels are now facing your opponent in what amounts to be a back stance.

Vor - literally "before," defining an offensive action that takes control of the fight before the opponent does. The opposite is "nach," meaning "after," a defensive response to the opponent's action.

Vom Tag - From the Roof. Two fighting positions of the Liechtenauer style. The first, Vom Tag over the shoulder is a comfortable position that holds the sword next to the rib cage on the right side, with the blade resting on the right shoulder. A left Vom Tag on the left shoulder is useful for special angles of attack and defense, but not as strong or versatile. The second position is Vom Tag over the head. The arms are lifted over the head, elbows apart to facilitate vision, pommel just above the upper sightline. The sword can be held vertically or at a 45 degree angle back. This allows for reaction speed and helps tolerate the sword's weight, which is a factor in prolonged battle.

Waster - A wooden sword used for practice.

Wechsel - Guard of the Changer. A low guard which might be considered the reverse of Tutta Porte di Ferro, with right foot forward and sword angled low and to the left. It is the ending point of a Zornhau.

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