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Poor Ludwig is going to lose his hand in this play. But how did this happen to him? The obvious interpretation of this plate is demonstrated in this picture. Ludwig runs toward Richard in fierce anger and wants to place a devastating Oberhau from his right shoulder to his enemy. But clever Richard knows the saying “„Erschrickst du gern, kein Fechten lern” and stays calm. In the perfect moment he steps in a Nachreisen to his left out of the line of the hew and cuts heavily upwards.
Nachreisen is a wonderfull way to solve the puzzle of this plate. It is a perfect working principle of swordmanship and it works well in sparring. But there are several hints in this plate, that the obvious is not shown here. The simple and easy solution has some serious flaws. Let me show them to you in the next picture.

Let us look at the errors in the Nachreisen interpretation of this plate.

  1. The hand and the messer is not only dropped strait to the ground, it is behind the position of the truncated arm. If Ludwig had been doing a fierce Oberhau the momentum of the suddenly released acceleration force should have carried the messer far behind Richard (or into Richard, if Ludwig is lucky).
  2. Ludwigs ellbow and arm is turned outward, this is not correspondent to an Oberhau from above directed to somebody standing left two him where he is moving or even in the front. If this is an hew from above to the left, the ellbow should be inside. If this is a blow at all, it is directed to the right side.
  3. Richards arm and Messer is angled from his right to his left. the point directed to Ludwigs throat. The bottom of the pommel is not seen (but the inside) and you see the top of the cross and nail. if this had been a mighty blow from left below upwards to the right as a answer to a right Oberhau, the angle shoud better be exactly the other way.
  4. The “und” in the text usually tells us, that there are at least two actions following each other. One of the action is “versetzen” the other is “abgehauen”. The “abgehauen” (the cut) happens during a “aufziehen”. If the “aufziehen” is not the movement used to do the “versetzen” there have to be two steps not only one. “aufziehen” is usually applied to a movement which redraws a weapon for the next blow or cut. So it is not very likely that Richards uses a “aufziehen” to displace the hew.
  5. If Ludwig did only one step to Richard. this one had to be placed a little bit to Ludwigs right in the direction to the position where Richard had been before the blow started. like you see in the first plate of the messer section. You can draw a straight line from his feet to determine this position. Richard must have hopped very fast with both feet from his old position to the new one. During the blow which will attest him nearly supernatural power or a very funny but effective hopping style.

Sure, that all can be faults of the illustrator who made some mistakes in the drawing of that piece. But if there exists a feasible solution where text and drawing matches, we shall consider, that the obvious is not the only solution.

WARNING – this gets highly speculative – no need to add comments to that fact. To understand the following, you have to be firm in the first four Messer pieces of Master Lecküchner. Without this knowledge, you won’t understand.

24 years earlier Talhoffer wrote a book for hisself (Ms. Chart. A558 Gotha). He was young and Liechtenauers Verses were really impressive „Wer dir oben hawt/czorn haw ort Im drvet/Wirt er eß gewar/ nym oben ab anefar“ is one verse nobody would forget if memorized once. In 1467 more and more people know the art of Liechtenauer. His customers, especially the duke, wanted to have some answers to the tricks and secrets in the Liechtenauer fencing for their judicial duels. He told them that there are no such tricks, that it is just the appliance of principles. But the duke is the boss and so Talhoffer created some plates where Liechtenauers Messer is beaten. And he had to hide the meaning of that plates under a layer of obvious basic fencing. Like Talhoffer wrote in 1459 “und och soll der Kempfer und der Maister sich hüten dass sie niemand zu sehen taussend und insunder die gwer, damit sy arbaiten und sich baid hüten vor vil geselschafft und von dem rechten wenig sagen dass kain abmercken davon kom.“ (free translation: and a fighter and the maister should take care that nobody should see them train and in particular not the wepons the work with. And they should avoid drinking in public and should not talk of the true art so that nobody should learn of it).
And so Talhoffer did it:

“Der hatt den angeloffen In Zorn vnd hatt In wollen howen durch den kopff.“
„this one had run up in anger and had wanted to cut him through the head”

This line is great. The first thing you learn in Messer is Zornhau Ort and Oben Abnehmen in one constant movement, take a look at the works of Meister Lecküchner 3v) . The play started with the Zornhau and ends with the Oben Abnehmen in the cut through the head (“vnd haw Im zu der anderen seytten zu dem kopff”). So what Talhoffer had hidden in this line is the execution of “Zornhau-Ort” and “Oben Abnehmen”. Ludwig has come up (angeloffen) with the Zornhau-Ort (im Zorn) and (next action) wants to end the thing in Oben Abnehmen and cut Ludwig through the head with a left blow (linker Oberhau) as it is common. You can end the Oben Abnehmen with a right Oberhau as well (Lecküchner recommends it) it is more difficult but it is the safer option.

“So hatt der versetzt unden uff mit macht und In sinem uffzichen hat er Im sin hand abgehowen.“
„So this one had displaced from below up with might and in his updrawing he had cut his hand off“.

Here we got the “versetzen” as the answer to the Zornhau-Ort. And the usual reaction to the displacement of Zornhau-Ort is the Oben Abnehmen. And for the Oben Abnehmen you need to leave the bind and redraw the messer upwards far enough to switch to the other side for the next blow. The leaving and redrawing upwards is called “aufziehen” (uffzichen) . And in Ludwigs uffzichen Richard is cutting the hand off by a fast Unterhau with the exended arm. So it is not Richard doing a “aufziehen” it is Ludwig. Take a look at the word “sin” (sein, his) it always belongs to Ludwig in that lines (sinem uffzichen – sin hand).

Let us see in the following picture, if this matches the plate or not. Before we get to the big picture of plate 228 we should bring the evidence to the jury.
There is one undeniable evidence that Ludwig is still moving his arm upwards after he has lost his hand. He is not doing that in pain (you do not lift your arm in pain to the sky. you will retract it to the body). You see the arm without the hand moving upward and the cutting instrument below.
This won’t be the case if Ludwig is on a downward blow. So it is Ludwig who does the “uffziechen” (aufziehen).

  1. The hand and the messer is not only dropped strait to the ground, it is behind the position of the truncated arm. This is what will happen if it is lost in redrawing for a left Oberhau (look where the hand is, it is slightly on the left side).
  2. Ludwigs ellbow and arm is turned outward, like it would be if you redraw it upwards for a left Oberhau.
  3. Richards arm and Messer is angled from his right to his left. Like it would be if you do a Underhau with extended arms to cut someone who redraws from your inside bind to a left Oberhau.
  4. The “und” in the text usually tells us, that there are at least two actions following each other. And there are two actions: a zornhau(ort)/versetzen and a redrawing (uffzichen)/cutting (abhowen).
  5. If Ludwig did only one step to Richard. this one had to be placed a little bit to Ludwigs right in the direction to the position where Richard had been before the blow started. but Ludwig did two steps. the one to the right and one falling step inside to the left as it is common for oben abnehmen and for the ort in Zornhau/ort.

So Ludwig ist doing Zornhau with or without the Ort, Richard displaces the Zornhau (and the Ort) probably with a Unterhau from his right (because Talhoffer did not love to bring the same thing twice in one book). There will be a bind from the inside. from this bind Ludwigs flees in redrawing on the attempt of an Oben Abnehmen or just a Oberhau from the left and he is cut in that redrawing by a Unterhau from Richard who stepped with his right leg.

This story covers everything the plate may tell us. If the ort is part of this play is not of a big relvance. It ist supposed to be if you follow the art of Liechtenauer.

>> Continue with the last plate

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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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