Practice Notes – Breaking Alber with Schlüssel

When you see your opponent in Alber, approach in Ochs or vom Tag. As you reach wide measure, drop into Schlüssel, the Key guard. use this guard to constrain his sword, making the rising cut ineffectual.

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When doing the constraint, range is crucial. If you are too close he can cut your left arm, too far and he can escape into a better guard. The ideal distance should encourage him to try a thrust.

If he does thrust, counter-thrust while stepping wide to the right. Your arms should be well extended to your left and your right foot should not go past your left. This will form the angle needed to protect your hands. Forward movement is not needed, your opponent’s original thrust will close the distance.

As you unwind into the thrust from Schlüssel your sword will rotate at least 180 degrees and may rotate a full 360. Either is ok so long as you end with an edge, short or long, against the enemies sword. If you end with a flat against his sword, he can push through your defense.

The Counter

If you are in Alber, you can counter this by feinting the thrust without stepping. Once the fencer in Schlüssel starts his step he is committed to a thrust that cannot reach. After it falls short, continue your thrust over his sword.

The Counter-Counter

If you suspect the fencer in Alber is only feinting, begin your thrust but do not immediately step. In this fashion you are throwing your own feint. If he then starts to move forward, disengage around his sword, step wide to the left and throw your arms to the right. As before, his step will close the distance allowing you to complete your thrust.


Pay especial attention to how you construct your Schlüssel. Notice how the quillons are behind the arm, not in front of it. If your sword is to far forward your opponent can find and constrain your blade.

Schlüssel hides your true measure, making you look like you are farther away than you really are. Take advantage of this by using it immediately and not hanging around in this guard longer than necessary.

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