Many questions are running through my mind, posed both by myself and others.
- Why does the parting shot seem so dangerous against the suicidal fencer?
- Why throw a Zwerch against high vom Tag when a simple Zornhut is so much faster and poses less risks to the hands?
- Why is Zwerch so easy to parry form the low vom Tags?
- Why is the squinting strike so hard to use successfully unless you treat it as a dui-tempi action?
- How can you use the crooked strike reliably against Ochs when a difficult tip cut is needed to ensure that both hands are stopped?
- Why is a crooked strike from the left against Ochs done without crossed wrists?
- Why does Meyer use the master cuts but seem to ignore the Vier Versetzen?
- Why to the master cuts of the Vier Versetzen seem to be more effective when someone is entering a guard when their supposed purpose is to displace someone out of one?
The answer to these and many others seems to be simply this:
The Vier Versetzen are Counter-Guards, not Attacks.
The basis for this idea comes in part form MS I.33, which features several displacements. Each displacement (literally siege) is a counter posture that threatens the opponent with both a thrust and a cut while protecting its user against the most likely lines of attack.
So the purpose of the master cuts in the Vier Versetzen isn’t to describe an attack, but rather to describe how to get into the correct position for an attack. (Though if you are really, really awesome you can do both the setup and the attack so fluidly they seem to be of one tempo.)
Alber and other Low Guards
Sigmund Schining ein Ringeck writes,
The parter is dangerous for the face and the breast. When he stands against you in the fool’s guard [Alber], cut with the long edge from the “long parting” from above and down; and keep the arms high in the cut, and hang with the point in against the face.
When you cut from above with the Scheitelhau and hang your point in his face, if he defends himself against your point by pushing it up and away with the hilt, then turn your sword with the hilt high in front of your head and stab him downwards into the chest.
Ringeck isn’t describing a magical single-time attack. He is telling you to threaten the face by putting the point right in front of it. Even a reckless or suicidal fencer is going to react to that in some way that you can safely counter.
But if you play the speed game, and try to land the parting shot in one tempo, the reckless fencer will panic parry into your hands or worse, ignore you entirely and thrust to the face. So this is very much a psychological game to get the other fencer to do what you want.
Pfluge and Long Point
Some people teach this as a dui tempi action consisting of a sweep followed by a cut. I thought this was crazy, but now I see its pretty darn close. It shouldn’t be a sweeping action, that gives away your intend too much, but it should have the same effect. Again Ringeck,
Mark well; to strike the Schielhau breaks the long point; and then do this: when he stands against you and holds the point with outstretched arms towards the face or chest, so stand with the left foot forward and search with the gaze against the point, and pretend as if you want to strike against the point; and strike powerfully with the short edge above his sword, and thrust with the point along with the blade against the neck with a step towards him with the right foot.
Note the key phrase “above his sword”. This is going to look just like a constraint done with the Italian rapier.
The Zwerch puts you in a position that looks like Ochs or Speaking Window that protects you from high attacks. Make sure your blade isn’t flat or your hands will be at risk!
Against high vom Tag you can snipe at the hands, thrust to the face or wrist. Against the low vom Tag your completely shut out the opponent’s sword while still having a clear line to the face.
Ochs (and probably Zornhut)
Step away from his point with a compass step while putting your point just under his wrist. Your sword will angle upwards as if it were in Iron Gate or an Italian Third. Your hands will be crossed if you stepped left and uncrossed if you stepped right. (If you left left but used crossed wrists then you don’t have Iron Door to protect your from counter-attacks.)
- Why does the parting shot seem so dangerous against the suicidal fencer? – It should be a threat, not an attack, so that he knows the danger he is in and doesn’t attack recklessly.
- Why throw a Zwerch against high vom Tag when a simple Zornhut is so much faster and poses less risks to the hands? – This is done slightly out of range so you have plenty of time. Also, don’t cut flat.
- Why is Zwerch so easy to parry form the low vom Tags? – If you use it as a thrust to the face it will be very hard to parry.
- Why is the squinting strike so hard to use successfully unless you treat it as a dui-tempi action? – Because that is how it is supposed to work.
- How can you use the crooked strike reliably against Ochs when a difficult tip cut is needed to ensure that both hands are stopped? – If you place the point instead of directly cutting the hand, you can correct your aim when you actually thrust or cut.
- Why is a crooked strike from the left against Ochs done without crossed wrists? – To ensure you have a solid defense.
- Why does Meyer use the master cuts but seem to ignore or downplay the Vier Versetzen? – Meyer is teaching a system of longsword that doesn’t rely on thrusts because they aren’t allowed in many social situations.
- Why to the master cuts of the Vier Versetzen seem to be more effective when someone is entering a guard when their supposed purpose is to displace someone out of one? – Because we are confusing attacks with displacements.
Experimentation is needed, but if this is correct I think it will radically change how I approach fencing.
Sigmund Schining ein Ringeck
MS Dresden C 487, circa 1504-1519, translated by Keith Farrell.