german sword

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Here’s some photos of one of my newer swords, an 1871 Saxony Court sword. I apologise for the bad camera quality but photographing polished steel in a college apartment isn’t ideal.

It has a ~31 inch blade with faint etchings. The blade has a single fuller on each side, the floral etchings extending about halfway. The Maker’s Mark, not pictured, is from renowned German bladesmiths Weyersburg, Kirchbaum, & Co based out of Solingen (No surprises there) and still operates today. The grip is brass with a hollow pommel and 2 mother of pearl pieces for the grip. The crest of the Kingdom of Saxony is featured prominently on the guard.

For a (what I assume) ceremonial/dress sword, this handles so beautifully. Lightweight, but with just enough steel to still be functional, this represents the pinnacle of smallsword design (mostly because they were slowly phased out of popularity due to changing times and tastes as the modern era loomed) and is expertly made. Many have commented that modern swords simply aren’t made the way they used to be, if this is true, then consider this sword an example of how they should be made. I exaggerate only slightly when I say this blade could pierce a car door, though it is so solid in the hand it may well do so. Only myself being left handed prevents me from trying this out very much as the guard is ever so slightly uncomfortable when gripped in the left hand and I don’t really feel like starting right hand sword training

I have seen one example of this sword online in a stock photo and know nothing else. With the abundance of smallswords it is near impossible to find any pertinent information. WKC, the makers, have referred me to the Deutsches Klingenmuseum though it has been some months since I contacted them. My only guess due to the date and decently fancy status of the blade is that it was possibly made for a junior member of the Royal Court of Saxony following the creation of the German Empire, Saxony being arguably the most powerful kingdom after Prussia. If anyone has any information regarding this, please let me know. Thank you for reading!

As A Woman, Watching ‘Wonder Woman’ Served As A Beautiful Reminder That I Could Probably Kill Someone With A Sword

In the days since I saw Wonder Woman, I’ve had a lot to reflect on. The movie not only smashed box office earning records and featured a female director, but it also showed a powerful representation of a strong, confident female superhero kicking ass on-screen. As a woman, watching Wonder Woman was a transformative experience that I’ll never forget, because it served as a powerful reminder that I could probably kill someone with a sword.

As I left the theater, my eyes were opened to a totally new possibility: I could maybe someday stab and kill a person with a sword if I ever wanted to, and the fact that I was a woman wasn’t going to stop me.

When I saw Wonder Woman in full armor emerging from the trenches on a battlefield and killing Germans with her sword, I knew this movie would be different than any other movie I had seen before. As a woman, seeing a powerful feminine figure command the screen and shove her weapon deep within another human made me think about how swords actually don’t look that hard to use, and I could probably stab or slice someone to death, no problem. With the help of a fully fleshed-out, inspiring female character, I learned something very transformative about myself and my ability to harness the power of the blade that I, somewhere in my life living as a woman, had sadly forgotten. “I could… probably do some damage with a sword?” I thought to myself upon leaving the theater. “I could at least at least hack someone up pretty bad, if not outright kill them. Yeah?”

Yeah!

While Wonder Woman fought and stabbed her way through battle after battle, my eyes filled with tears. It finally hit me: I, a female, could buy a sword and kill someone with it, and that was a choice I could make. If I picked a random person on the street and just sort of swung that thing around, just like the totally kickass Wonder Woman showed me, I could probably hurt them pretty bad, if not murder them outright. These are thoughts I never had while watching a film in recent memory, and a thought that I hope empowers women everywhere.

Yes, I’ve seen men kill with swords in movies all the time, but when I looked in the mirror, I never saw Superman or Batman staring back. Now when I look in the mirror, I see myself, a proud woman holding a samurai sword looking kind of confused about how to hold it but also pretty sure she could figure it out if the urge to kill ever hit her hard enough. I wish I had this movie when I was a kid. If I had known at 10 that I could probably kill someone with a sword, where would I be today? I probably would not have killed anyone, for what it’s worth, but to know I could? That would have been priceless.

For me personally, Wonder Woman was a powerful reminder that I could stab someone with a sword. I spent my entire life not even thinking that this was a possibility, but now, thanks to this movie, I’ll never stop thinking about it. So, as a woman, I encourage every woman to see it and know that you could also probably kill with a sword. All you have to do is believe.

Portrait of a group of Prussian soldiers said to be taken in Southern Jutland during the Second Schleswig War, 1864.

Source: Royal Library, Denmark.

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An Ingleri Viking Sword

Date: c. 1000 CE
Images: Taken by myself
Location: Lent to the Art Institute of Chicago (There on there date: August 10th, 2015 - not a permanent piece in the collection)
Origin: Scandinavia or Francia
Creator: Ingelri

Perhaps the most significant symbol of authority in the Viking Age was the sword. Sung about in the great legends, these swords carried with them a great deal of prestige and identity. The warrior elite would claim their power in their skills in combat but also in the origins of their equipment. Magical swords reveal themselves in many sagas, such as Sigurd’s with Gram and also the saga of Hrolf Kraki with Skofnung. These swords would remain with their owners even in the journey to the afterlife, serving as a unique symbol for each ruling elite warrior. 

The significance of these swords being buried with their champions is told in Hrolf Kraki’s saga, “A burial mound was built for King Hrolf, and the sword Skofnung was laid beside him. A mound was made for each of the champions, and each had his weapon beside him.” It is this same pattern seen before, where the warrior elite rise in the name of these legends, living them out and creating new ones for themselves to credit their authority. 

This sword has a latin inscription imbedded into the blade, Inglerii me fecit, which translates to “Ingleri made me”. It was likely made and imported from the Frankish Empire, symbolizing a control over trade networks as well as the capability of acquiring such a good.

Sources:

Somerville and McDonald, The Viking Age: A Reader (Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures: XIV, 2010), 172

Hrólfs saga kraka, in Fornaldarsögur Norðurlanda, ed. Guðni Jónsson, 4 vols. (Reykjavík, 1959), vol. 1, pp. 98-105

Hand and a Half Sword dated about 1510 from Germany on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London

Combat was deemed an essential part of a nobleman’s education. A 15th century fencing master insisted knights should ‘skillfully wield spear, sword and dagger in a manly way’ Though it is unlikely all knights were trained to the same level.

The Hand and a Half sword (or Bastard Sword as it is often called), when gripped with both hands, was a potent weapon against armour. Though the finely chiselled pommel hints to the more decorative hilts produced later that century.

Zedel Breakdown - Absetzen

The Zedel is the original rhyme and, so far as we know, the only material attributed to Johannes Liechtenauer himself. The purpose of the verses, in my opinion, are to easilly remember the defining features of each of the elements JL distilled fencing into.

I try to use the verses as they were originally intended. I recall them as rhymes in my head because it’s easy, and they are short and to-the-point. The rest of the details you can unpack from the original verse. When you approach the writing in this way, it’s just as important to look at what is missing as it is to look at what is given. I’m going to give an example of that here with Absetzen, since I saw some deep discussions about that technique today.

|Lere absetzen
|haw stich kunstlich letzen
|wer au°ff dich sticht
|Dein ort trifft |vnd seinen pricht
|Von paiden seitten
|Triff alle mal wiltu schreiten

That’s it. That’s the whole thing. It’s all you get, or maybe, all you need, to remember Absetzen. So let’s unpack it.

Start by remembering that rhyming lines belong together:

|Lere absetzen
|haw stich kunstlich letzen 

Learn setting-aside (absetzen), Skilfully ruin cuts and thrusts.

This is pretty simple, telling us the Absetzen works against cuts and thrusts. Here are some deductions we can make from this.

  • It’s called absetzen. Meaning to put something aside. There’s a kind of passive tone to the name, implying it’s not a violent parry or anything like that.
  • It’s for use against cuts and thrusts, (it may not be appropriate against a slice or grapple, etc!)
  • From this we can assume it’s a technique to be used at distance.
  • We are countering cuts and thrusts, not guards/leger. It’s a counterattack.

|wer au°ff dich sticht
|Dein ort trifft |vnd seinen pricht

Whosoever thrusts at you, your point meets and breaks (counters) theirs.

A little more detail on the mechanics in an exemplary form. Someone thrusts, you counter-thrust. This word “triff” is important to the mechanic. It describes a meeting or contact of the blades. Again it’s a rather non-violent word.

  • Your point meets theirs. It’s a thrust against a thrust, with a meeting of the swords to divert their thrust.
  • The “treffen” word shows up anywhere the swords are making contact in a sort-of non violent way. You aren’t attacking the opponent’s sword, but you are “meeting” it with your thrust.
  • The language correlates with some mounted fencing with the lance. To “break” the point of the opponent doesn’t really mean to physically break it but to ruin the attack.
  • It’s not going to work without the “treffen.” It’s a thrust with blade contact, not a void or anything like that.
  • Absetzen against thrust gets a full description while against cut does not. Against the thrust may have been considered the exemplary absetzen, and might be considered higher priority in teaching. Perhaps because the skill is transferable to spear and lance.

|Von paiden seitten
|Triff alle mal wiltu schreiten

From both sides, always meet if you intend to step.

  • The technique is symmetrical
  • The side (presumably of the sword) should be something we are conscious of when doing this technique. We are primarily offsetting the attack in the left-right axis more-so than the up-down.
  • The “treffen” appears again. We must always do it if we are making an advance with the absetzen. Because without blade contact we can’t ensure a displacement of the opponent’s point, and can easilly double-kill.
  • A schreiten is a passing step. The implication is the absetzen can be done with an advance towards the enemy, which is generally going to impale them in one motion (true still for the technique on horseback, where forward motion is less optional)
  • Note here stepping is considered something you may or may not want to do. The absetzen can be used as a counterattack or just a defense, or perhaps a set-up for something else.
  • This might also be an example of a multi-purpose technique. Several occasions in the tradition we are given an abort option for techniques involving impalement. The reason is probably that impalement was considered an intentionally lethal attack. Usually cut or slice alternatives are given, either for safer leisure-fencing, or to avoid becoming a murderer. Watch carefully for this kind of thing as you’re reading, it’s all over the place.

So, this is kind of fun. I’ll do another soon. The Zedel was good in its time for remembering the really important parts of any technique, and it still is today. At the very least, my bullshit interpretation of it seems to be working. Enjoy!

youtube

Juicy goodness! This German martial arts based longsword-fight is excellent viewing!

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Uniform of the Uhlan Regiment Graf Haeseler Nr. 11 of the German Empire dated 1915 on display at the Musée de l'Armée in Paris

In most armies on the Western Front, cavalry regiments were sent to fight in the trenches as infantry with their horses kept behind the lines. In the German army many cavalry regiments were sent to the Eastern Front where their mobility was still useful.

When I was in elementary school, there was an elderly teacher’s aide who was very strict but that I liked a lot because she talked to me about books.

When we were in third grade, and reading a book that touched on the Holocaust (I think it was Number the Stars), our teacher asked her to come and speak with us.

She came in, this strict but kind old woman, and she told us about being a little girl in Nazi Germany being raised by a single father, a professional bookbinder. She and her father, they sheltered Jews on their way out of the country. She told us about watching her father get beaten in front of her, and still the Nazis couldn’t find the Jews in their house. She told us this, and she cried. She told us she didn’t know if any of those people made it all the way out alive. Before the end of the war, her father was dead. And she was very proud of him.

I went home that day and told my parents about it. My dad told me about my grandfather, and his time in WWII. He was hard of hearing, bordering on deaf in later years, which made it very hard to get into the military, let alone advance. But he ended up an expert surveyor, planning out strikes with math because they didn’t have computers yet. He was often in an enemy zone before everyone else.

So my dad went into the closet and pulled out a sword. A German ceremonial sword. The advance squad had run into a town and my grandpa led the fight that ended in their surrender, taking advantage of the element of surprise. And that was the sword they surrendered to him. He, a man who could barely hear them, heard the Nazi surrender.

And as a kid, I held the sword and it was very heavy. These days, it still is. My brother calls me and tells me he has registered on an underground network as a safe house, for muslims, for gay kids. He asks me for resources.

I have seen a lot of posts lately about the bomb threats against temples and the desecration of Jewish buildings. And I want all my Jewish followers to know that if they want to know if the non-Jews in here would hide them, I am one. I’m not Jewish but standing against nazis is in my blood. It should be in everyone’s.

Please know that you are not alone. These neo-nazis have so many targets based on race, nationality, sexuality. But I won’t forget that their anti-semitism is at the root of so much.