Meyer’s Longsword 2, Chapter 2 (cont.) – Indes in the Onset

After the detour to introduce the Zwerch, chapter 2 continues with a focus on indes and the example device.

This post continues the rough draft of our second German longsword workbook. As always, suggestions are welcome.

Indes – Instantly

In earlier German traditions, we usually see the term indes strongly correlated with the word Fühlen meaning feeling. Specifically, feeling the pressure the opponent exerts through the sword during a bind to determine what he is going to do next.

Meyer’s definition of Indes is broader.

Joachim Meyer

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.

Exercise 5 Establishing Measure and Presenting a Threat

For the purpose of this exercise, the agent should start one step outside measure with the right foot forward. He will be passing forward with the left foot while raising the sword into Tag. This should bring him into striking distance with a Zornhauw accompanied by a passing step with the right foot.

The patient fencer will being in right Wechsel. As the agent steps into measure, the patient slashes upwards with the short edge into Langort (Longpoint). The patient isn’t performing a true cut, so he doesn’t move his feet. And this he is not moving his feet, he should complete the slash at the same time the agent reaches the height of his Tag.

This is what the English fencing master George Silver refers to as the “time of the hand and foot” vs “the time of the hand”.

When performing this exercise, it is important to note the difference between presenting a threat and presenting a danger. If the patient fencer only raises the point to the belly or chest, he is clearly putting the agent into a dangerous position. The agent, if he notices the point, will have to deal with it in some fashion. But with a low point, he may not see it. This ignorance of danger usually leads to both fencers being injured.

If instead the patient fencer raises his point so that it is aimed at the face, he is presenting a threat. Most fencers in the agent’s position are going to hesitate at the sight of this threat, giving the patient an opportunity to make his own attack. Or if the agent doesn’t hesitate, at least he is more likely to perform a predictable action to alleviate the theat.

Practice this exercise with a partner until you can reliably slash at the same time the agent steps into measure. Try to also elicit a flinch response from the agent.

Exercise 6 The First Indes in the Example Device

This exercise is a continuation of the previous one. After the slash, there are two possible reactions for the agent: hesitate or step offline with a Zornhauw.

  • · If the agent hesitates, the patient should step forward with a thrust.
  • · If the agent throws a cut, the patient should step to the agent’s left with a zwerch. Ideally this will parry the blow and strike the opponent at the same time.

When you first attempt this exercise, have the patient to request either reaction form the agent. As he becomes more confident, he should allow the agent to select which reaction to use. The patient, using the concept of Indes or instant decision-making, needs to respond accordingly.

Example Device Revisited

To make plays and devices easier to follow, we’ll be color-coding important features. Guards are in blue, footwork is in orange, and actions with the sword in red. Furthermore, the device will be broken into numbered steps. Here is the example device again, using the new format:

1: In the Onset come into the right Change; take heed as soon as he pulls up his sword for a stroke, and quickly slash through upward before him,

2: and cut in with a Thwart from your right at the same time as him; in the cut, step well to his left side. If he sends his cut straight to your head, then you will hit him with the Thwart on his left ear.

Notice how the device doesn’t cover all possible outcomes, but rather omit obvious outcomes such as thrusting after threatening the face. This is common teaching style across most manuals.

Kniecheihauw – Wrist Cut

In a historic school-fencing scenario, you don’t want to thrust your training partner in the face. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. In lieu of the thrust, you can use something known as the Kniecheihauw or Wrist Cut.

Joachim Meyer

This is so called from the body part to which it is directed. Do it thus: After the initial Onset, when you have come under your opponent’s sword with your hands up above your head, and he holds his head thus between his arms, then cut with Thwart Cuts under his pommel up toward his wrist-bones or wrist-joints. If he holds his hands too high, then cut with these Thwart Cuts up from below toward the knob of his elbows; thus it is done.

Exercise 7 A Kniecheihauw in the Example Device

Perform the example device drill as per exercise 6. But instead of a thrust to the face, step well to the left or right while throwing a Zwerch to the wrist.


Be careful when performing this drill. Gloves, even reinforced ones, often have little or no protection for the wrist. And a hard blow to the wrist joint can cause serious and lasting injury that may not be immediately noticeable.

Fehien – Failing or Feinting

The first attack rarely lands so it is important to have a backup plan. A common backup plan in Meyer’s system is the feint or Fehien. Here we see it described by Meyer.

Joachim Meyer

Anyone can well deliver a failing attack, but only a well-trained combatant knows how to execute it suitably at the proper time. Therefore if you wish to deliver a failing stroke advantageously such that you can gather another from it, then take care when you cut at an opening and your opponent seeks to parry you that you do not let the cut connect, but run off and cut at another opening.

Exercise 8 A Basic Feint

Meyer gives us this example of a feint to practice with. So we’ll use this opportunity to learn how to break down a technique.

Joachim Meyer

In the Onset, come into right Zornhut (Wrath), and as soon as you can reach him, then step and cut at his left ear as far as his sword, but before the cut connects, lift the pommel and let the blade run off by his left side without hitting and pull it around your head; then cut at his other side outside over his right arm at his head.

To perform this drill, start one step out of measure with the right foot forward. As you pass forward with the right foot, slash up so that your sword is either high, as in Tag, or resting on the right shoulder, as in Zornhut. The patient should start in right Ochs or Pflug.

Pass diagonally right while cutting to the upper left opening using a Zornhauw.

As your partner starts to parry, abort the attack by pushing the pommel up so that the point of the sword falls to your right side.

Immediately pass to the opponent’s right side with your left foot. As you do this, throw a Zornhauw (#2 cut) to the right side of this head. If done correctly, he will not have time to parry this second blow.

This exercise should be performed both against a pell and with a partner.

Exercise 9 How Feints Affect Parries

Going back to the previous exercise, attempt the pair of cuts as before except you allow the first Zornhauw to land before throwing the second. Note how the contact makes it easier for the opponent to parry the second blow.

Exercise 10 The Zwerch as a Feint

Continuing our example device, we add a feint.

1: In the Onset come into the right Change; take heed as soon as he pulls up his sword for a stroke, and quickly slash through upward before him,

2: and cut in with a Thwart from your right at the same time as him; in the cut, step well to his left side. If he sends his cut straight to your head, then you will hit him with the Thwart on his left ear.

3: But if you see that he does not cut straight to your head, but turns his Cut with the long edge against your Thwart to parry, then before it touches, cut quickly with a long Thwart at his right ear; step at the same time with your left foot well around to his right. Now you have laid on with two Thwart Cuts to both sides, opposite each other; this you take from the first section of this treatise.

This gives us an important rule about feints. A feint should be thrown as a real attack that, in a moment of Indes, you decide to abort in lieu of a more promising opening.

We practice this rule by giving the agent in the example device a second decision point. The agent may now choose to parry the first Zwerch. If he does so, the patient should abort that attack before the blades make contact and attack with a second Zwerch to the other side.


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