There are many guard positions within the German tradition of longsword, although sometimes the terms used to refer to positions are not always accurate, or the positions themselves are not always held accurately.
Some of the positions that are sometimes held problematically are the Pflug or plough, Lang Ort or long point, and the Sprechfenster or speaking window. These are all guards that are held with the point directed at the body, and usually with the hilt lower than the point of the sword. Many fighters today in sparring will use a hybrid of a true Pflug and a true Lang Ort: they’ll have the right leg forward, and the sword held in front of them, on their left side. This position often resembles the kendo position chudan-no-kamae. It is often used in a manner very similarly to chudan-no-kamae, as well, generally being used to set up quick snap cuts to the hands, and this type of attack is usually done by keeping the right leg forward and not using passing footwork. This is a perfectly practical way to fence with a sword, and many fighters have made effective use of this position. However it doesn’t match how we are told to use guards in the Liechtenauer tradition.
Image of Kendo c.1920. The fencer on the right is in chudan-no-kamae. Image taken from Wikipedia.
With thanks to Robert Marks from Darksword Armory for his help with editing this article.
The business of translation is difficult at the best of times, and often under-appreciated. A translation is just one way of expressing an original text. If you are lucky enough to study a source that has been translated several times, then it is useful to compare each of the translations (even if you suspect some might be old and out-of-date) – this can only strengthen your understanding of your subject matter.
For this article, examples will be drawn from the longsword treatises in the Codex MS 3227a, also known as the “Codex Döbringer.” These treatises offer several interesting examples for comparative purposes due to the number of translations that have been released over the years.
As I have recently ordered a pair of both the SPES and Absolute Force (or AF for short) HEMA trousers (or pants as they’re known in America), I thought it might be worth doing a comparative review. The trousers share a lot of similar features: both of them are high-waisted, three quarter length trousers designed for HEMA, and both feature foam inserts to provide greater protection, making these trousers very comparable, although there are differences between the two.
Absolute Force HEMA pants
SPES historical fencing pants
When HEMA practitioners discuss protective gear, and for which kind of activity it is most suitable, the phrase often appears that a piece of gear is “suitable for steel” or “good for synthetics but not for steel”. However, I believe this is the wrong way to look at the use of historical fencing swords and the protective equipment that must be worn, as it forces a certain dichotomy that ignores the most important aspect of risk when fencing: intensity.