2. Fighting with the Messer [Plate 224, page 113v]

On my next plate, Talhoffer started something fancy: das Übergreifen, gripping over. Which is connected to the fidelbogen (fiddlestick) of the sword and buckler play.

There are a lot of followers of the art who think, this plate is directly linked to the plate before. And yes, there is a link, but not in a direct way. Let me show you why in the next pictures.

If you just look to the left guy, lets call him Ludwig, everything seems fine. It seems like he just finished his hew, stopped by displacement (Versatzung) and freezed in motion. but take a closer look at the positions of his feet and try to imagine his spine to get a notion of his intention and watch his right shoulder – is it down or up. I will explain that hints in some pictures later. let me just show you the evolution of the right guy first.

There is the right guy, lets call him Richard. He has a left and a right leg like everybody else. And without jumping and twisting in the air he has to leave one leg on the earth to move the other forward or backward. In this picture Talhoffer let him move one leg and the other one is on the floor. Can you see how far his movement would taken him forward or backwards, either too close or really far away. There is no way a simple step linked to the strike could have positioned him like it is depicted in the following plate.
To think, that the second messer plate is directly linked to the first one, ist wrong.

Ludwig, the left, has the following text: “Der hat sin how volbracht” – “this one has his hew accomplished”. Ah, this is hidden speech. Not like Liechtenauers Verses, but you must read every word carefully to get the meanings. And always bear in mind that this book was not created for an ordinary man. It was made for Eberhard I, next Duke of Württemberg, a man well educated in the martial arts. These line of text is indicating that Ludwig has finished one part of his move and started his next action right now in this picture.

Richard, the right guy, got the lines “Der hatt den schlag versetzt vnd wyl In übergryffen.” “this one had displaced the blow and means to grip over him (the sword arm)”. This is funny. Why did the lines use the word “blow” “schlag” instead of “hew” “hau”? Now there is a good reason for that. A hew like the Zornhau or Schielhau is a combination of several movements into one hew. But Richard did not displace a complex movement, he just displaced a simple blow. And his action in this picture, his intention to grip over the sword arm of his opponent is a reaction to the doings of his opponent after the displacement of the blow.

Look at Ludwig, he is eager to win the fight. His right foot is directed to his enemy and his left foot is angled in 90° to support a great force forward. he just have to bend his right knee to lunge. but there seems to be a problem. there is something which must pressed or pushed away. Do you see Ludwigs shoulder up and his upper part leaning forward. A shoulder should not be lifted in a Oberhau because it would take the power away. But what does Ludwig push here and why does he push?

Let us remember how the encounter in the plate before has ended. Richard, the right guy, redrawed his right leg and finished a mighty blow from below.this may end in the hanging guard but the Unterhau might even be so strong that he will be the one above with the point upwards. But let us assume that Richard ( turquoise) is in the hanging guard, it makes no great difference for the play, but I have this drawing here, so lets use it.

Richard (turquoise) now in the hanging guard is able to stop any further body movement of Ludwig (red). So this is not, what Ludwig wants to happen.

So red Ludwig has to change his plan and here is, what he wishes to do. He longs to uses his ability to reach farther out in the langort and thrust into the opponents face. But as long as he is bound in the strong or the middle of the Richards (turquoise) messer this is not going to happen.

So red Ludwig is pushing for the feeble of turquoise Richards messer, and if he will succeed, this is what is going to happen next: by pushing the feeble to his right side and downwards, Ludwig is opening the window for his thrust and lunge. Take a good look at Richards messer how it is bend already in the final position. This is necessary because Richard must give Ludwig the feeling, that Ludwigs plan will work. But Richard has his right leg drawn backward already to prepare his final move.

Richard has no fear of red Ludwigs potential thrust. On the contrary he welcomes it as the signal for the save gripping of red Ludwigs sword and arm.

So this is how turquoise Richard moved his legs. During the mighty Unterhau he redraws his right leg (red line) and he does this even more if red Ludwigs pushes and follows him (like he is told in the manuals: pursue those who flee). In the very moment Ludwig decides to push further and harder or is ready for the thrust, thinking Richard is fleeing, Richard steps forward again but with his left leg (blue line) pressing into Ludwig.

And here we are finally at the moment Ludwig (left) is ready to thrust, feeling that he has Richard (right) pushed far enough. Even if he can see, that Richard is moving not according to his plan he can’t do anything about it. His actions and reactions are linked to his feeeling, and this feeling is telling him that Richard is weak and now is the time to thrust.

Remember feeling is always faster and more reliable than any visual perception. if a reaction is trained over and over again like thrusting on the feeble, this will happen in reaction to a preattentive perception. If you feel something (what you have already expected to feel) and see something different you always trust your feeling first. If you are really fast there will be a short stop in confusion and you will rethink before you can react properly. But thinking will cost you time, and this is what Richard needs to accomplish such a complicated thing like Übergreifen.
So what this plate is telling you: you can betray feeling! And Talhoffer knows how to do it.

>> Continue with the next plate.


Note: The speculative interpretation here was created to inspire an open minded martial artist to have a second and deeper look on the plates of that manual. The author of this article has the opinion that during the creation of the book the illustrator and the author had some misunderstanding. It seems that some of the illustrations had been created and afterwards commented for whatever reasons with a different matching story than the original planned one.


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