Here are some common terms used in our German Longsword classes. Click on the links for a video demonstration of the techniques.
Longsword Glossary Part I: Some of the basic guards
Keep in mind that guards are not meant to be “held” in a static manner: they are points from which attacks can be delivered, and/or points in space through which a cut is delivered. Also keep in mind that there is not one, true, immutable form of any guard (everything is situationally dependent).
- vom Tag (“from the roof”): Hold the longsword directly above the head, or on either side of the head (in class, I will refer to “over-the-head vom Tag” or “right/left vom Tag”). When on either side of the head, your hands should be about a fist’s distance from your head, and your right thumb should be about the same height as your ear. Also, take care to not cock the sword too far back (1 o’clock position should be sufficient). This is the position from which many of our cuts will be delivered.
- Ochs (“ox”): This is the position you end up in following a Zwerchau (see below) or following an Unterhau (a diagonal rising-cut). Your hands should be high, about face-level; your point facing your opponent’s throat or face. This guard in particular has a wide range of what is considered correct, for example how the edge of your sword is situated, or how close to your head or not your hands are, etc.
- Pflug (“plow”): Hands should be relaxed and held to either side of the body (if your left foot is leading, hands should be on the right side of your body, and vice versa). Your point should be facing your opponent’s throat or face
- Langenort (“longpoint”): Hands should be centered to your body, about one or two fist’s distance from your navel, with your point facing your opponent’s throat or face. Ideally, the sword should be foreshortened, so your opponent cannot see the blade and thus not be able to accurately judge distance. I will typically just refer to this as “longpoint” in class, out of habit.
- Alber (“fool”): Hold langen Ort, but drop your point to the face the floor. Alternately, this is where your sword ends up following a vertical Oberhau. When in Alber, it appears as though your head/upper openings are undefended.
Longsword Glossary Part II: The Five Master-Cuts
For now, we will be focusing on delivering most of these cuts from side-of-the-head vom Tag on the right; keep in mind that there are many variants for most of these cuts.
- Zornhau (“stroke of wrath”): A diagonal Oberhau from right vom Tag. You are attacking your opponent’s head, and should be aiming just to the right of the top of their skull.
- Krumphau (“crooked stroke”): There are several variants of this. For beginners, the definition should be as follows: from right vom Tag, strike across your own body from left to right [while taking a deep oblique step to the right]. Imagine your opponent standing in langen Ort, and you are cutting through both of their forearms. Your hands should be crossed when this cut is completed.
- Zwerchau (“cross-stroke”): This can be performed either from vom Tag or from Ochs. This is the strike that attacks horizontally to your opponent’s temple, or neck. From right vom Tag, the strike will be delivered with the trailing edge of the sword (that is, the back edge) and you will need to rotate the sword in your right hand (use your right thumb as a guide, placing it on the flat of the blade). From left vom Tag, however, you will be cutting with the leading edge and do not need to rotate the sword (your thumb will still end up underneath the sword, on the flat of the blade). Zwerchau from either side ends in Ochs. To cut from Ochs, the sword will be passed over the head (making more or less a 360-degree arch through the air). In any case, be sure to keep your hands pressed out to one side or another, and raised high to be able to defend your own head.
- Schielhau (“shield-stroke”): This cut will follow a similar path as the Zornhau, but will be delivered with the trailing edge of the sword. To do this, from right vom Tag you will push your hands across your own body to the left while rotating slightly with your hands. Hands should be kept relatively high while delivering this strike.
- Scheitelhau (“scalp-stroke”): This cut is often delivered from over-the-head vom Tag. Cut straight down into the top of your opponent’s skull, but keep your hands high (but be sure to avoid hyper-extending your wrists).
Longsword Glossary Part III: Other Terms
- Oberhau: The umbrella term for strikes from above.
- Unterhau: The umbrella term for strikes from below. Unterhau cut with the leading edge will end in a form of Ochs. Remember, when in Ochs you want to threaten your opponent with your point; if you’re cutting into Ochs with an Unterhau you will end your cut a little bit outside of the opponent’s body (i.e. cut through the target, but not so much that your point is facing skyward).