Meyer’s Longsword 2, Chapter 2 – Introducing the Zwerch

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


Chapter 2 – Indes in the Onset

This chapter begins by introducing a new type of cut called the Zwerch or Thwart. The Zwerch will then be used in several exercises that teach the concept of Indes. Feints will also be covered.

Zwerch (Thwart)

The older German masters often had a list of primary or “master strikes”. While this list varied from four to seven specific techniques, with the Zwerch always included among them.

Joachim Meyer

The Zwerch is on the chief master techniques with the sword; for you shall know, if the Zwerch did not exist in modern combat, then fully half of it would go out the window; particularly when you are under the opponent’s sword, when you can no longer attack with long cuts through the cross.

An important feature of the Zwerch is the location of the thumb on the right hand. When performing this technique, the thumb is placed along the flat so that it can support the sword from below.

Joachim Meyer

For the Thwart, conduct yourself thus: in the Onset, position yourself in the Wrath Guard on the right (concerning which see the previous chapter), that is, set your left foot forward, and hold your sword on your right shoulder, as if you intended to deliver a Wrath Cut. If your opponent cuts at you from the Day or High, then cut at the same time as him with the short edge across from below against his cut; hold your quillons up over your head, as a parrying for your head, and at the same time as the cut, step well to his left side. Thus you parry and hit simultaneously, as shown by the two figures on the left in Image H.

As you have done this Thwart on the left, so you shall also do it on the right, except that you shall hit with the long edge against his right.

The quote above mentions Zornhut, the Wrath guard. For now, it is sufficient to think of it as having the blade resting on the shoulder in preparation for the diagonal, descending cut known as a Zornhau (Wrath cut).

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Exercise 1 Grip Change for the Long Zwerch

Start in Tag with the right foot forward. While stepping with the left foot, perform a number 4 cut with the long edge and the hands held high. As you do this, allow the thumb to slip up so that it is pointed along the flat of the blade. This is the “long zwerch”.

In the air or against a pell, perform this several times so that you become comfortable with the grip change. As you do this, make sure the hands remain high or this cut won’t protect you from your opponent’s descending attacks.

Exercise 2 The Short Zwerch

The short Zwerch is used to attack the left side. It is essentially a number 3 cut with the short edge. To perform this cut, keep the right hand stationary. Use the left hand to rotate the sword, with the right thumb acting as the pivot. Step with the right foot as you perform this cut in the air or to your opponent’s left side.

Exercise 3 The Zwerch as a Parry

For this exercise, the agent will start in Tag (Day or High guard) at wide measure with the left foot forward. He will throw a Zornhau (#1 cut) to the patient’s upper-left opening.

The patient will invite this attack by standing in Zornhut (Wrath guard) with the left foot forward and the blade resting at or on the right shoulder.

As soon at the agent begins his attack, the patient will “cut at the same time as him with the short edge across from below against his cut”, or in other words using a Zwerch. While he does this, the patient needs to step well to the opponent’s left side with the right foot.

To avoid being hit in the head, keep the hilt high as you make contact. This will also help protect the hands. You can further protect the hands by sliding then back away from the cross guard by about an inch. You can see this in the close-ups on page 9.

Further Reading

Art of Combat, Book 1, Chapter 5, Some Useful Advice about Parrying.

Exercise 4 The Horizontal and Descending Zwerch

While an ascending Zwerch is common, this is not the only way you can use this technique. Depending on the context, a horizontal or descending diagonal Zwerch may be more appropriate.

For this exercise, a pell with a cross beam is preferable. Aim ascending zwerches to the lower right and left openings, ascending and horizontal zwerches to the to upper left and right openings.

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