More on Indes, Techniques, and How to Train to Not Think

Many have believed that the word Indes has its origin from the Latin word intus [inside], and indicates the inside combat, which arises from the windings and similar work; but you will hear now that this is not true.

I leave the meaning of the word intus to the Latinists, but the word Indes is a good German word, and embodies a serious exhortation to quick judgment, so that one should be constantly swift of mind. For example, if you first strike to the left, and secondly you see at that moment in opening to the right, then thirdly when you rush at the opening you have seen, you must pay that good heed where or when what techniques you may come to you, so that you don’t overcommit to your attack to your opponent’s opening, and receive harm from it. Thus the word Indes admonishes you to have a sharp lookout, which involves seeing and heeding many things at once. Also you learn sufficiently from your opponent’s body language, what kinds of techniques he intends to use, and what they will entail by way of openings, and where they will offer you opportunities. For the while art of combat likes in all these things that the word Indes admonishes you, as Liechtenauer says.

— Meyer 1570

Being heavily influenced by Meyer and the later Italians, my interpretation of indes has it largely divorced from fuhlen.

Indes starts from the very beginning when you chose which opening to attack and then immediately attack. Meyer describes indes as instant decision making. That’s why he defines it as “instantly” rather than at the same time. In Italian terms that would be seeing the tempo and acting upon it.

The opposite of indes is hesitation. It is taking your time to think. It is letting your opponent settle into a guard and then deciding how to lay siege to that guard with the hopes of breaking it.

Yes, indes is essential in fuhlen. More so than anywhere else. But the concept of indes, of seeing the situation and immediately reacting to it, needs to be taught much earlier than that. The first time you offer a drill that leaves the script behind and instead closes with “and then cut the nearest opening” that’s the time to start talking about indes.


For my club that is literally day one. We put a weapon in the hand and tell you to parry the eight basic cuts. No complicated techniques, no carefully scripted drills, just raw instinctual actions tempered with bits of advice as needed. And that goes on for about three to six months until the basic attacks and parries start looking good.

Then we start looking at the historic techniques. We use the techniques to to refine our instincts and correct problems, not to act as a prescribed set of actions we must follow without variance.

We do this because we find that we fence best when relying on our own instincts when making the instant decisions that the moments of indes demand of us. Instincts are fast in a way that thinking through a mental catalog of actions can never be. In short, thinking is slow and slow is dangerous.

But our instincts are not always right. If they were there would be no need for the science of fencing. So each drill needs to work towards incorporating new techniques into our instincts so we can call upon them without conscious thought.

How we go about obtaining this is another question entirely. We know that unscripted drills are a big part of it, and cutting patterns seem to be playing a role as well. But there is more, much more, that needs to be done.

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