If It Was Not Art, The Strong Would Always Win

by V. Moroz

A Study of the Fechtbuch by Hanko, the Priest, Doebringer – 1389 –

What is truly known about the Priest Hanko Doebringer will fit easily into a short paragraph. We know he was a priest because he identifies himself as such. We know he studied the teachings of the German Master Johannes Liechtenauer because he writes about it.

How he came to know Liechtenauers’ teaching or where he was a priest is a mystery, but there can perhaps be some inferences we apply to him. The flavour of his text demonstrates someone who was likely no stranger to battle with the longsword, as there is a hint of excitement in his words. Doebringer’s text on longsword is dated to 1389 which can be seen as either within the estimated lifetime of Liechtenauer, or just past it. We do not know for certain when Liechtenauer was born but it is estimated to be the early or mid 1300’s. Doebringer’s book may have been a memorial text or a way for a disciple to bring light to the Master’s words … inferences I make due to the great respect he shows for Liechtenauer in his text. Perhaps a disciple of the great Master, perhaps taught by one, but closer to him than those who came later. As a priest he may have been a part of a military-monastic order, the type of which was still very popular in the late 1300’s. What is certain, I believe, is that Doebringer is not a part of any school guild that used Liechtenauer’s name to further its’ membership rolls. His distaste for the school-only fighters comes out strongly on more than one occasion, although it never shows arrogance, merely the disdain of the warrior towards the play actor. Giving all deference to the Master, Doebringer takes no credit for anything that is written and allows no credit to those who make new names for Liechtenauer’s basic moves. The point of his book appears to be an explanation to others like himself of the fighting arts of Master Liechtenauer.

We know from Doebringer that Liechtenauer did not create the art he was Master of, but that he traveled abroad and learned from many places the pieces which would later become his art. We are not told where he went or from whom he learned, only that the work is a compilation of various other techniques that were seemingly distilled by Liechtenauer and then taught to his own students. It is no small thing to be able to take the varied teachings of other Masters from other cultures and pick the pepper out of the fly dirt in order to bring forth into the light such a direct, and yet simple, system of fighting. Liechtenauer must have been a truly talented warrior and teacher, the likes of which is rarely seen in any culture in any age.

It is a directness and simplicity that sets Doebringer’s explanation of Liechtenauer’s art apart from many of those who came later (Doebringer states there are 5 main concepts that form the core of the art). In only a few other surviving fight manuals, mostly dated within 70 years of Doebringer’s work, do we find similar direct fighting styles. As Doebringer tells us, the system is so simple that the “Play Masters” [pg 4]despise parts of it and call them weak. I would say that the simplicity is how you distinguish war fighting from school fighting and this is the point at which the two diverge. When you are truly under life-threatening stress you have neither time nor capacity to perform complicated or flowery movements. Everything must be quick, direct and results-orientated as all else will be impossible to complete. I think this point is proven today by the difference between “sport” martial arts and those that remain true to their fighting past. The closer you get to a safe, point scoring system, the farther you stray from effectiveness in battle.

As an example, Doebringer describes the concepts of “before” and “after” to us. Before and after are not times to react to your foe, they are the first two strikes of the fight and he implores us to take them both, forcing our enemy to always be on the defensive. Compare this to Joachim Meyer’s before, during and after … before is the same but during and after have no connection to the teachings as brought to us by Doebringer. The concept of making your foe unable to do other than react to your attacks fell by the wayside for school bouts along with giving him the point, but both are completely valid while fighting in earnest.

As for Doebringer’s book itself, while it is perhaps the oldest surviving explanation of the German martial-arts tradition spawned by Liechtenauer, it is almost as difficult to follow as the original verse. Not because he is as cryptic, but because of the organization of his work. Often thoughts are introduced on one page and finished a few pages later, giving the impression of unfinished paragraphs. There is also a great deal of repetition in the book, which is good from a teaching perspective as Doebringer works to hammer home the important parts of the Master’s art. There are almost no techniques that follow the model “if this happens, then do that” as the book seeks to pull the sword point to the closest opening using a mere handful of direct principles, challenging the swordsman to use his intuition while fighting and not rely on set pieces. The number of guards he describes is few by comparison to school fight manuals, and his point of mentioning the Master’s disdain for remaining in the guards is telling. This is part of the work’s hidden value in that the many will not understand and will think it too simple to be a true art of war. The few will read and know the gem they hold. Some of the concepts have almost no explanation, which leads me to believe Doebringer had an audience in mind that already knew the basics of the sword, or that his work was unfinished. Perhaps he intended his writing to be a word to the wise and not a primer for the unschooled.

The source material I have used is the 2005 translation of Codex 3227a by David Lindholm and friends. My thanks to Mr. Lindholm for bringing this very important text to light in the English-speaking world, as this work should give the serious swordsman an insight into the art of the German longsword tradition.

For my own part, I have attempted to organize David Lindholm’s translation into an order not found in the original manuscript. That is to say, I wanted to group the concepts together from their separated parts so the thoughts are finished prior to moving on to the next. I have removed the repetition that I mentioned exists, but will finish the interpretation with a final paragraph that reiterates what the repetitive points are. It is my hope that I can do justice to what Mr. Lindholm has translated, and what Doebringer tried to tell us of the Master’s art. Here begins my interpretation of the translation of Doebringer’s 1389 Fechtbuck. Direct quotations from the Lindholm translation are enclosed in quotation marks, my comments are in square brackets. Of necessity, this is a very condensed version.

[Start of Doebringers writing.]

“Young knight learn to love God and honour women that your honour may grow. Practice knightly things and learn arts that will help you and grant you honour in war. Wrestle well, grab the lance, spear, sword and falchion. Do this manly and make it useless in other hands. Strike threefold and hard in there, rush in regardless if you hit or miss, so that in understanding this you will be known as a wise man.” [pg 12]

Here begins the art of Master Liechtenauer’s fencing with the sword. This art was not created by him, it was created hundreds of years ago and is “earnest and righteous” [pg 3]. The Master traveled a great deal through many lands to learn and experience this art, and what he teaches us from what he has learned is very simple and straight-forward. There is no holding back and no restrictions. “It goes from the nearest in search of the closest” [pg 3] as though a thread was tied to the point or edge of your sword and led it to an opening.

Masters of play-fighting will have us believe that they thought up a new fencing skill or they will give a new name to an old technique. They devise wide-reaching fencing maneuvers that have three steps where one would do. Their bad form looks dangerous to the ignorant from whom they gain praise. Their devices belong in the school, not in real fencing. Fighting in earnest is direct and simple in all things.

Nothing on the sword is without its’ use, so use the point, the edges the cross-guard and the pommel in the fight. Hold the sword properly between the cross-guard and the pommel as you will be safer this way and strike harder than if you grip the pommel. With the pommel moving on it’s own you will strike harder and straighter as the sword in not unlike a scale.

Practice is better than talk. The more you train yourself in practice the more you will think about it in earnest. “For practice is better than art, your exercise does well without the art, but the art is not much good without the exercise.” [pg 6. Sound advice right off the bat to the faithful: practice. As the German Fallschirmjaeger said in their creed from WWII: Men act and women chatter…chatter will bring you to the grave.]

This is a general principle on the sword: if you only defend you will have little joy with this art. No one who only defends can do so safely. Therefore, if you frighten easily, do not learn to fence.

Good heart and force makes your enemy weak. Do not willingly give up an advantage and do not be rash in your thinking. Be careful of overconfidence as “he is a brave man who fights his own weaknesses.”[Pg 12] All things have length and measure, therefore do what you wish to do with good understanding of these two things. Whether in training or in battle have a good heart and remember your distances. [The idea of a good heart is akin to the force of your will. Let me boil this down to the idea that attitude is everything and any fighting is to a large part mental. This is done with a good heart.]

Fencer, learn these things and the art will become clear:

  • move with sureness and agility
  • chose a ready weapon
  • before and after strikes
  • weak and strong
  • indes
  • strike, thrust, cut
  • press
  • guards
  • covers
  • feeling
  • withdrawing
  • turning & winding
  • hanging
  • wrestling [One of the few masters to mention wresting from sword fighting.]
  • knowing and daring
  • caution
  • cunning and wisdom
  • reach
  • secrecy
  • reason
  • intuition and readiness
  • practice and a good heart

The whole art of Master Liechtenauer hinges on five things that are the foundation and the cornerstone of his teaching:

  • before (Vorschlag), the first strike
  • after (Nachschlag), the second strike
  • weak, weakness in sword pressure
  • strong, strength in sword pressure
  • indes, in that instant/just as

The four openings: split a man down the middle from forehead to groin, and sideways along the belt. This defines the four openings, two upper, two lower. Always fight to the openings, not to the sword. Break the openings above with Duplier, below with Mutier.

Seek to gain the first strike. Regardless of whether you hit or miss, rush in then follow up with strikes no matter what happens. Constant movement is the key, allow him no attacks, look for the opening, point to the opening, always in motion, never at rest. If the first strike does not work, try the second, then the third and fourth may hit. He who defends is always in greater danger as he must either defend or allow himself to be hit. This is why the Master says; “I say truthfully, no man can defend without danger.”[Pg 46].

Strike direct to the man, not to the sword, to whatever opening is closest and quickest to reach. Do this with speed and one strike so your enemy has no chance to hit you. If possible attack to the upper openings as you have better reach and are therefore safer in your fencing. Go over his hilt quickly and with skill. If the lower openings are the closer ones, attack there instead. Make you attacks from your right-hand side at an angle for all attacks whether fencing or wrestling. This gives better reach and is safer for you than attacks directly from the front as it is harder for him to defend. [Understand the idea of attacking from the right-hand side as attacking from your strong side. This is explicitly stated later on in the book.]

Whenever possible go over the hilt with strikes and thrusts using art and speed. Better reach can be had in going over, rather than under, the hilt. From the sword do good and wide covers.

Strikes: All strikes come from two main strikes, upper and lower from both sides. These are the foundation of the 5 strikes: rage (Zornhau), crooked (krumphau), cross (Zwerchau), squinting (Schielhau) and scalp (Scheitelhau). Always step out well to the sides to strike. Strike, thrust and cut – not at the sword, at the man.

Zornhau. An upper strike from the shoulder. Use a rage strike to counter an Oberhau, then Winden to find an opening. If your Zornhau is countered, look to go over his sword. No strike is as ready as the Zorn.

Krumphau. This is an upper strike made with a step to the side. Shoot the point over the crossguard to the hands. Use the changing through (Durchwechseln) if you can.

Zwerchhau. Can be used either high or low, across both sides using both edges. The Zwerchhau breaks all upper strikes and you can bind well with this strike. Zwerch also to Ochs and Pflug. When you use the Zwerchhau bring the hands up to the level of the face so you are well covered with the cross guard. Use power in this strike then fight as previously instructed.

Schielhau. An upper strike from the right using the back edge of the sword. Schiel breaks strikes and thrusts from Olber, and you can also Schielhau the point to the neck against Pflug. Either way Schiel long enough and do so quickly. Durchwechsel is put to shame with this strike.

Scheitelhau. A danger to the face or chest, this strike is broken with the Kron. Schietelhau must be fast to break Kron. [Schietelhau is not explicitly explained, and neither is the crown guard used to break it.]

Cutting Off (Abschneiden): There are four, two above, two below. This is a cross-wise cut without stepping in to counter attacks from below.

From the strikes come the four displacements, two per side, one upper and one lower, from which all strikes and guards are broken. No matter how you set aside any strike or thrust, from high or low, it can be called a displacement. Turning aside strikes and thrusts with the forward edge is also displacing. From the displacements you move easily into the Hengens. If you displace an opponents’ sword then step into him so he cannot move back from you. Use Winden and keep the point to his chest so it cannot be ignored. If you are displaced then quickly leave his sword and strike at him, no matter how he does this displacement. A good swordsman will also learn to get at his opponent’s sword. [As in stripping it away from him.]

Motion: Remember this word motion. Motion is the heart and head of fencing so do not be slow when he begins to fence with you. Constant motion is required throughout the entire fight as he who is still is dead. Constant blows, always in motion, never at rest. Quickly do the beginning, the middle and the end without letting the enemy hinder you with strikes. This comes from gaining the first strike and the second strike so he will never be able to make a strike against you. He who understands this and who strikes first can beat a master if he is brave. Close without hesitation or fear and strike to the openings.

Be confident in your steps while fencing and move forwards and backwards as fitting. Be certain of your distance [certainty of distance is a recurring theme in fighting manuals] and don’t step too wide. Two shorter steps are often better than one longer one. When you are ready to close with your opponent, then go with speed and sureness to win the first strike. Do with your entire body what you want to do in fencing and do not allow your opponent to make any attacks. Start with a set-piece in mind before you engage him, and follow through on it whether you hit or miss. Whether in play or in battle hide your intentions so he cannot counter them.

Turning aside (Abwenden): Turn aside with the strong of the sword, not the weak. All strikes and thrusts can be turned aside with the forward edge. From Abwenden comes Winden easily.

Running over (Oberlaufen): When someone seeks a lower opening run over his attack, which can be done from either side. Do not forget the use of the edges.

Running through (Durchlaufen): You can let the pommel hang and grapple if you like. If someone grabs your pommel then thrust and turn the pommel. [Like a Winden after the thrust to break their grip.]

Withdrawing (Zucken): Step into a bind, then withdraw – use windings. Withdraw your sword to consider its’ next path, but do not move away from the sword without reason.

Fuhlen: If the other defends against the Vorschlag and turns it away or leads with the sword then remain on the sword and feel if your opponent is working hard or soft, weak or strong. If you notice he works the sword hard and strong and intends to push your sword away, then be weak. Yield and give way, then quickly leave his sword and go at his closest opening in the simplest and shortest way. The harder he pushes, the wider and more open he will become. If he is soft and weak on the sword, then be hard in return and let your point go straight to the openings in the shortest way as if pulled there by a string. Weak against strong, strong against weak. For in strong against strong, the stronger always wins. Therefore learn fuhlen in swordplay and indes is a sharp word. This is why the Master’s swordsmanship is a true art: the weak wins more easily than the strong by using his strength against him.

Talking window (Sprechfenster): Master Liechtenauer describes this as when you remain on the other’s sword from a bind and “listen” to what he intends to do. [Using Fuhlen and Indes.]

Guards: The four guards are Ochs, Pflug, Alber and Vom Tag. Do not remain in the guards long, keep moving in swordplay. Master Liechtenauer does not hold the guards in high esteem, he wants you to gain the first strike instead. All guards and positions are broken with the strikes.

Ochs: the upper Hengen from the shoulder.

Alber: hold the point in front of you aimed at the ground or to the side. After a displacement it is called Schrankhut or gate.

Pflug: this is the lower Hengen.

[In the original translation Alber and Pflug were explained contrary to every other Liechtenauer-based fight book of the time. I have changed this to be in line with accepted understanding of the guards. I did not change the translation, I have only put Pflug where Alber was and visa-versa.]

Vom Tag: This is also the long point done with outstretched arms. It can also be called the Hengen above the head. [It seems to be Langort when in front of the body.]

[While Doebringer gives us the standard 4 Liectenauer guards, he mentions but does not explain only 4 secondary guards: Kron, Langort, Schrankhut and Eisenport. Compare this to the vast number of secondary guards given by Joachin Meyer in his fight manual from 1570. Meyer’s book is exactly what Doebringer is talking about when he speaks of the school masters making up new names for guards.]

Hanging & Winding: There are 4 hangings (Hengen), two per side, one up, one down. Hanging and winding are closely related.

Winding or turning in (Winden): This is the art and foundation of sword fencing. From the windings come all other fencing and techniques, meaning, from a winding so much is possible as all strikes and thrusts are ruined by winding. Many masters of play do not like winding due to its’ simplicity and the lack of strength needed to perform it. There are 24 total windings, six to each opening. Put another way, each opening has six ways to be hit from winding. If you lose the first strike then be quick and precise in the Winden and move your point to his chest. Do not over-fence, Winden from the bind will find him for certain.

Understand that the point of the sword is the center and the core of the weapon. So the Hengens and the Windens are the goings-around and the hanging-ins of the center. From these good fencing will be done. Always turn the point to the openings. With these techniques the other will be hit: striking, thrusting, cutting, stepping in, out, around or a leap.

Pressing the hands (Hende Drucken): turning the edge so you can press the flat with the hand. Use this with turning, winding and hanging.

“No matter how you fence always aim the point at the opponent’s face or breast, then he will always have to worry that you will be faster since you will have a shorter way to go in to him than he has to you.” [pg 24]

The Constant Repetition: Always seek to gain the first strike and then move without stopping to the second strike. Should these not work, move to a third and fourth strike as though your opponent was not there or did not have a sword. Seek to begin your fencing with a few moves in mind, then swiftly execute them by striking, slicing and thrusting to the man, not to the sword. Always remain in motion, never at rest. Look to feel his intent when in contact with his sword, and then Indes, move to the closest opening with the point as quickly as possible. When listening on his sword be weak in the face of his strength, and strong against his weakness. In all your fencing, remember your measure and length, and move to your strong side when you attack. Fight according to the five teachings and do not let him have time to strike at you.

Master Techniques:

  1. Eisenport guard. Use this to deflect strikes from below.
  2. Running away. There is no disgrace to run from 4 or 6. Run as fast as you can until one catches up with you and then stop quickly and attack him while he is still moving too fast to control himself.
  3. Serpent’s tongue. Stand with point forward and thrust in and out to confuse the opponent. Watch for the openings and take them with force.
  4. Weed-hoe. Start in the irongate, step forward and thrust up into the Langort. Step and thrust, step and thrust.
  5. Peacock’s tail. Make a fan-like movement side to side with the point towards the opponent’s eyes, like a circle or wheel, until an opening comes up.
  6. Three strikes. Make three strikes, two to displace, one that is to strike the opponent.
  7. Schrankhut. Start in this guard, or the iron gate, and displace his attack – like the peacock – then strike to the shortest opening high or low.

Three Pieces of Advice from Hanko the Priest Doebringer:

  1. Fight with ease and without anger according to these teachings.
  2. Do not fence in a way that will bring you to injury – do not fence beyond your ability with more men than you can handle just to look good. This is not courage but stupidity.
  3. Do not learn to fence if you wish to subjugate your fellow man. Fight with no pious man unless necessary and fight no man in vain.


“Thus you may learn with work and defend artfully. If you frighten easily do not learn how to fence.”

“He who is still is dead, he who moves will live.”

“If it was not art then the strong would always win.”

“For practice is better than art, your exercise does well without the art, but the art is not much good without the exercise.”

[End of Doebringer’s writing.]

Doebringer’s work is profound in its simplicity and speaks volumes in its’ conciseness. No flashy Hollywood techniques, no wide-reaching play moves. He’s all about ending the battle quickly in as few moves as possible using strike/cut/thrust, all the while taking the fight to the man, not to the sword. Simple enough to learn, simple enough to perform under stress with complete focus on the final violent outcome. Clearly not a book to be used as a longsword primer, Doebringer’s work will take the Initiate to the next level of understanding, but his descriptions are not always thorough enough for the unschooled. He assumes you know where the business end of the weapon is and works to fill in the blanks of technique. This is most apparent with his missing descriptions of the four secondary guards.

While Doebringer gives us over 20 concepts to think about, he states clearly there are 5 master strikes, 8 worthy guards (but don’t remain in them for long), 5 main principles (before, after, weak,strong, indes) and, windings and hangings … do them while in motion.

To this day it is an axiom of military thinking that one should gain and hold the initiative and Doebringer emphasizes this point in the Master’s teaching repeatedly. After reading Doebringer’s text it should be clear to everyone that the longsword fight taught by Liecthenauer favoured attack over defense, and action over reaction. Let’s look at these few points again in some detail to understand how they inter-relate to the art of longsword fighting.

Always in motion: Doebringer is unique among most of the authors available to us in that he is constantly telling us to keep moving and don’t stand still. I think we can link the concepts of movement and first strike in the same way we can link standing still with being defensive. The first is about aggressively taking the fight to the enemy, the second is about waiting to see what your enemy will do and then reacting to it. “He who is still is dead, he who moves will live” Doebringer tells us. Move your feet with sureness and agility, moving out of the path of your enemys’ blade and into a position to immediately begin attacking. If you’ve missed the first strike, then move to take the second strike and have your defense be a mere lead to your offense. Always in motion, never allowing your opponent time to rest and strategize against you, or, to steal the initiative away from you.

The few guards: Over and over Doebringer tells us not to remain in the guards but to strike/cut/thrust instead … as he calls them “the three wonders”. The standard 4 guards of Ochs, Pflug, Vom Tag and Olber, plus the 4 secondary mentioned guards of Kron, Langort, Schrankhut and Eisenport. What is interesting is how few choices Doebringer gives us and how this differs from school fighting where every conceivable position that you end up in is a named guard. Most of the guards are point-forward guards, the others for strikes or displacements. Point-forward is the hallmark of the fighting-in-earnest style as it constantly threatens with quick, lethal attacks that cannot be ignored – hence putting your opponent always on the defensive. The 3 displacement guards are meant to push your opponent’s point away from you if he gets the Vorschlag, and with the aid of Winden you pull your point back onto target afterwards. We are warned not to remain in the guards as they are all defeated by the master strikes.

The Master strikes: Besides being efficient ways to direct devastating cuts to the man, the 5 master strikes break the guards. Doebringer does give some direction as to what guard is broken with what cut, but it is less specific than what we find in both Ringeck and Talhoffer. In the later master’s manuals we are told Zwerch breaks Vom Tag, Krump breaks Ochs, Schiel breaks Pflug and Scheitel breaks Olber. Doebringer tells us that no strike is as ready as Zorn and that it not only breaks upper strikes, but also binds well. Another point Doebringer clearly makes is about the versatility of the Zwerchhau. Not only can you strike high or low with either edge, but you can attack upper guards and strikes with it, and, it binds well. As much of the Liechtenauer art moves from the bind to other attacks, it is well for us to remember the Zwerch.

The 5 foundational principles: Getting the “before” (the first strike) is an important feature in Doebringer’ explanation of the Master’s principles. This indicates taking the initiative and not allowing the enemy any option but to defend or die. Right after this is the “after” (the second strike) whereby we either follow up on our first strike or we steal the initiative from the enemy and put them back on the defensive. Weak and strong refer to the indication of intent from your opponent by the amount of pressure on their sword during the bind. Binding, a moment of sword contact where neither party has the advantage, is common and how you move from that bind is critical. Doebringer tells us to react to strength with weakness and to weakness with strength – hence why it is art and not brute strength that wins the battle. If your opponent is weak on the bind it allows you to use strength against them, if they are strong, then you give way. Doebringer does not tell us what techniques to meet hard and soft with, he just tells us to feel their intent and move to other techniques to counter through winding. All along he tells us to seek the nearest opening, upper or lower (but preferably upper as they are closer). How we do this will depend on what is available as an opening. Indes is the time-space in which you are to react to what you read from the bind … instantly! One should not hold the bind for any length of time as it is transitional, a speaking window for us, not a technique.

Winding & handing: The windings and the hangings are called by Doebringer the art and the foundation of longsword fighting – and with good reason. They change the direction of your sword (not the point, just the cross) and push your opponent’s point away from you. Doebringer reminds us that the point of the sword is its’ center and that the windings and the hangings move around the center, not the other way around. They are simple movements to accomplish but their effects are complex. This is one skill that is hard to duplicate with padded swords as steel-on-steel moves a certain way that foam never will. I highly recommend practice with winding & hanging always be done only with steel, and that steel-sword sparring become a part of your training and practice routine.

The mental aspects: While this does not show up as one of Doebringers’ foundational principles, I’m adding it here at the end as he talks about it enough and I believe the mental part of the fight is one of the most important, it’s just not about sword skill. And if you think about what Indes implies, as well as what Doebringer himself tells us, the mental aspects of the fight are always at the fore-front. Just a quick look at the more than 20 points Doebringer says a swordsman should remember gives several items that are not physical: knowing and daring, caution, cunning and wisdom, secrecy, reason, a good heart, and, intuition and readiness. This implies you’ve approached the impending battle with a level head, a quick plan prior to attacking and that your reactions are based on what Fuehlen tells you of your enemy’s intent. You won’t get lost in the dynamic movement of the fight as you are approaching it with dynamic thinking, and not “if-he-does-this-I’ll-do-that”. In an instant (Indes) you have read this intent through sword pressure (the speaking window) and then moving to steal the initiative with an attack of your own. This also implies that you are mentally ready to take the fight to the man and bring violence to him, along with the sights, sounds, and smells that accompany this violence. Doebringer tells us to fight as though our adversary was unarmed, which is to say with confidence and without fear.

Practice: Again not in the short list from Doebringer, but worth the mention as he makes a very pointed remark about how the art is not much good without practice, but the practice is still useful even if you don’t have a complete grip of the art. It also shows up in his 20+ points. One cannot over-value the good things that come out of practice, working your way up from the static guards to the guard-breaking strikes, to the slow speed sparring and then the faster sparring with steel. Truly with the practice comes an understanding of how the pieces of the art fit together and how they flow through proper movement between the guards to the cuts, from binding through feeling weak or strong, to winding or hanging from here into one of the three wonders. Practice joins the puzzle pieces into a coherent picture and should be a daily activity, even if it is only for a short time of shadow boxing.

There is a deceptively small amount of techniques presented by Doebringer, but they are sufficient in the hands of one who understands how they fit together, and one who moves with intent. It truly is an exceptional art based on striking first, or, displacement meant as a prelude to attack. Defense is woven into the attack and is contemplated as a transition to attack, not a separate movement completed before attacking.

One final word on practice of the principles found in Doebringer’s book. They were meant to kill, not to play, and there is plenty of thrusting to the face, neck and chest with the sword point. Practice of these techniques is best done with rebated steel, which while dull is still not 100% safe especially when striking. Your practice should therefore be conducted under the control and supervision of a qualified Western Martial Arts instructor and should not be conducted at full speed or force. Wearing of full armour plate, or other suitable protective equipment, is strongly recommended during sparring, remembering always to cover the eyes, face and throat against the inevitable thrusting to these areas. Use these principles at your own risk. They are dynamic, not static, and meant to flow with the changing fortunes of the battle and individual thinking. Never look at fighting in earnest as a 1-2-3 step action like school fighting, it will never be so. Always fight to the openings.


Codex 3227a, Hanko Doebringer, 1389, (translated 2005 by David Lindholm and friends)