Introduction

Johannes Liechtenauer:

"Young knight, learn to love God and to respect women, so shall your honour grow. Cultivate knighthood and study art, which will bring you renown, and conduct yourself honourably in war. .... Rely upon this truth: all arts have a length and a measure."

The School of Medieval European Fencing (SMEF) practises the art of swordsmanship as taught by the great C14th German fencing master Johannes Liechtenauer. No specific text has yet been directly attributed to Liechtenauer, other than through those manuscripts written by Liechtenauer's followers. These include Nürnberger Handschrift (a.k.a. Dobringer) (GNM 3227a); Sigmund Schining ain Ringeck (MS Dresden C487); Psudo Peter von Danzig (MS 1449); Martin Syber (MS.M.I.29, MS.E.1939.65.341); Paulus Kal (MS 1825, Cgm 1507); Johannes Lecküchner (Cod.Pal.germ.430, Cgm 582) and Joachim Meyer (MS.A.4º.2, MS.Var.82), to name but a few.

We at the SMEF endeavour to approach Medieval German Longsword from the philosophical viewpoint of Liechtenauer's original teachings. All the subsequent manuscripts derived from the Liechtenauer tradition have been influenced by the authors and the rhyming couplets that instigate each author's 'Gloss' form the only reliable reference we have to his true intentions. Primarily we use the MS Dresden C487 'Ringeck' manuscript as a reference point, as it is one of the few manuscripts containing a comprehensive and complete (as far as can be known) recital of the Liechtenauer couplets. This, cross-referenced with other manuscripts, and combined with the dedication to continually reassess our interpretation against situations of realistic intent, has allowed the SMEF to derive an interpretation of Medieval German longsword that not only follows the Liechtenauer teachings as we believe them to be but also to rediscover a martial system, the principles from which form the basis for the proper application of all other disciplines of the Art.

It is interesting that subsequent Masters, including Meyer, who is often considered to be the last bastion of the original Liechtenauer tradition (and due to the period of his teachings is generally thought of as a rapierist), use Liechtenauer's longsword primarily as a means of teaching martial principles whence their other disciplines start. That said, Meyer does use the feder of that period as a replacement to the longsword (the word 'feder' quite literally meaning 'feather', being a lightweight and stylised longsword simulator, interestingly as much like a rapier as a longsword. The feder of this period is not as flexible as its modern counterpart).