Glossary of German terms in Historical Martial Arts.

There are already some glossary of terms in the web and some are quite good. But as every translation is an interpretation or as Dante stated “traduttore traditore” (translator traitor) my translation is flavored with my interpretation of the medieval use of arms. And other translations are flavored by other interpretation. So it seems to me that using other glossaries for the translation would raise the factor of “traditore” in my work. And because of me being a humble amateur in transcribing and translating this would downgrade my work. I composed my own Glossary not as an alternative or for competition but to help you to understand my translations. So you won’t find any word in here that is not needed in my translations.

If you want to have a look at other translations, I got a small list here. If you know yourself one that should be on this list here, just send me a comment and I will add it happily:

As long as I do translations I will probably edit this list of terms. If you do not understand a term in my translations please feel welcome to send me a comment and I will try my best to answer it.

Term Translation Explanation
A  —————–  ———————
Ansetzen bring pressure [on sb] This technique can not accomplished without bringing physically pressure on somebody. The wording “set on” in other translations does not transport this elemental part.
auswendig out-sidewise Special translation to distinguish it from “outside”. Usually this means you come from the outside of the opponent but it could as well and then again mean that you come from your outside.
B  —————–  ———————
Blindhau Blinding Strike
Bogen Fiddlestick The fiddlestick got his name from the position of the sword in relation to the left arm. It resembles the fiddlestick over the violin that is held by the left arm.
C  —————–  ———————
D  —————–  ———————
Duplieren double see Doubled Strike
Duplierter Hau Doubled Strike If you double a strike you do another strike that uses the power of the first one without any backswing. You use the bouncing or the backslash of the contact to produce a fast strike at the opponents face or arm (or any other opening) and cut.
Durchlaufen Running through “Durchlaufen” has the meaning of traversing an opponent. But it is not simple a bypassing. It includes a smoothly evading of the opponents weapon (mostly under it) with merely touching the other’s blade in a securing parry. So it is indeed like a liquid running through.
E  —————–  ———————
Einfachen Versatzung simple displacement see Schlechte Versatzung
Einflechten Braiding-In In Braiding you try to keep the contact to the blade of the opponent while you aim is to block his path to your body and find a path to wound him. Not like the War and the Winding, the Braiding is active.
Einhorn Unicorn A position where the point is very high and the handle is usually over shoulder height.
Einlaufen [jmd] running-in [someone] Getting close enough to start wrestling in a frontal movement.
Einschießen Shooting-In Shooting in is the easiest way to score with a thrust by a direct fast movement in a opening.
Eisenport Iron Gate see Eisene Pforte
Eiserne Pforte Iron Gate A guarding and displacement position with the handle below breast height and the point usually showing upwards.
F  —————–  ———————
Fahre auf rise up Usually this describes a upward movement not only of the weapon but of the whole body.
fall ihm über (etwas) fall (on him) over (something) If you fall on somebody (or parts of his body) than you do it with a small and hard strike and keep the pressure after the contact.
Fehler Miss Missing the blade or the target on purpose with the aim to get a better hit.
G  —————–  ———————
gehe auf (see Fahre auf) Nearly the same as “fahre auf” but there may be a small falling step involved.
Gewappneter Hand armed hand A hand that is armed with a weapon. Usually this describes the grip in the blade by the second hand to support the weapon or to reduce reach. Where the grip is placed depends on the technique.
H  —————–  ———————
Hals neck, throat The manuals do not always differ between the throat and the back of the neck, the translation is getting interpretive here.
Hauen hit, strike A strike is not cut, the stike is a simple movement in a direct line from the start to the target.
Haw, Hau strike see Hauen
hin auswärts outwards A step outside of the line.
hinder sich, zurück backwards, back Literally “behind itself” means a backward movement of the part mentioned.
hinten nach behind towards The leg, that is behind follows the movement of the leading leg to get a good and stabilized stand.
I  —————–  ———————
inwendig in-sidewise Special translation to distinguish it from “outside”. Usually this means you come from the inside of the opponent but it could as well and then again mean that you come from your inside.
J  —————–  ———————
K  —————–  ———————
Knopff pommel The end of the swords handle.
Krieg War In the War you try to get close to the opponent while you stay in contact with his blade. Everytime he tries to push you and your blade away you
Krumphau Crook Strike The Krumphau is placed askew the walking direction, if you walk to the right you strike krump to the left and vice versa.
Kurze Schneide Short Edge see Rücken (Weapon)
L  —————–  ———————
Lange Schneide Long Edge see Schneide
Langes Messer see Messer (not translated) A name of a kind of weapon.
Langort Long Point The long point is not an exact position but the longest reach that a fencer has where he is still safe (protected by his sword or by distance). This position is traversed in every strike.
lauf [jmd] ein run [somebody] in see Einlaufen
M  —————–  ———————
Messer not translated A weapon that is edged from point to crossbar on one side (long edge) and edged on the backside to the first third of the blade in maximum (short edge). It has a crossbar, a very long handle with a hooked pommel, and features a protection for the back of the hand that is called a nail and in fact was a nail in the cheaper versions.
Mittelhau strike from he middle The Mittelhau is usually a strike that is done from one side starting below the headline. In some cases it describes a sidewise position of the weapon.
N  —————–  ———————
Nachreisen Thereafter Riding Following the strike of the opponent in it’s shadow.
Notstand emergency stand A unexpected situation where the opponent plays four aces.
O  —————–  ———————
Oberhau strike from above The strike uses a fast downward movement and usually starts above shoulder height.
Ort point The point is not only the pointed foremost part of the weapon, there is a point at the other end of the weapon too if it is a staff weapon.
Orthau Point Strike This is an other wording of the Zornhau-Ort.
P  —————–  ———————
Parieren parry Parrying something meanst to stop it from continuing, to block it. This is what is called the “einfache Versatzung” or “schlechte Versatzung”.
Plinthau see Blindhau – explanation missing –
Popgen Fiddlestick see Bogen
Q  —————–  ———————
Quer Cross see Zwerch
R  —————–  ———————
Reiß Ort Tearing Point Tearing is not connected with the Point usually but as the meaning is unclear, the translation is still feasible
Reiß Ort Riding Point Riding Point could be the simple extracting of the arms in which you can Durchwechsel, Einschießen etc. You can provoke or feint with the Point riding from one opening to the other.
Rücken (Weapon) back, short edge This is the short edge (see Messer or Schneide for more information)
S  —————–  ———————
Scheitelhau Crest Strike
Parting Strike
This is a Oberhau where the handle is lifted high in the air and the arms reach long for the top of the head. The meaning of the term changed in time, getting more dedicated to the parting of the hair than to the angle of the sword and arms.
Scheitler Crest Strike
Parting Strike
see Scheitelhau
Schielhau Sqint Strike
Slant Strike
A strong Oberhau where the weapon is turned in the edge axis very fast at or just shortly before contact.
There is a different meaning of that strike in the manuscripts.
Schildhau Shield Strike Also this is probably the Schielhau with a small change in the name I translated it with the protective Shield.
Schillerhau Shoulder Strike Often translated as a Scheitelhau, but this is wrong. Both strikes are found separately in the MI29. “Schiller” is found in local dialects for Schulter. So this Strikes aims for the shoulder and not for the parting. In the context of Martin Sibers fencing, this is a form of Duplieren.
Schilthau Shield Strike see Schildhau
schlagen, mit strike with Striking in the same direction following the strike of the opponent and displacing it that way.
Schlechten Versatzung simple displacement The simple displacement is not bad, it is a parry a full block. In most of the cases this is an something like a mixture between the Prime and Quint in modern fencing terms or the “umbrella block” or “roof block” in FMA.
Schneide edge This is the long edge of the weapon. The terms “long” and “short” edge results from the Knife, where only a short part of the backside was sharpened.
Schnellen spring There is no perfect translation for this old verb. It is a bit like striking in a fast flashing movement.
Schneller Spring Strike Like a any strip of metal the sword reacts like a spring if in a pressure the blade flips from the opponent’s blade and springs forward to the target.
Schnitt cut The cuts are delivered out of a binding and are part of the so called Wounder.
Schrank Ort Barrier Point The Barrier Point is usually a result from a Zwerch Hau (Cross Strike) to the left side of the opponent. It ends in crossed arms that are very stable against pressure from above or the side.
Schwäche feeble / weak The front part of the weapon, which is by the lever rule easily displaced if not accelated by a strike.
Schwech feeble / weak see Schwäche
Spitze point No explanation needed.
Stärke strong The part of the weapon transporting the force of pressure near a hand holding and stabilizing it.
stehe mit dem Fuß vor stand with foot forward This describes not a situation where you wait of your opponent to walk to you and you stand in a guarding position, but it describes a situation where you are in and came to by actions of your own (preferred) or actions of your opponent.
stehe still stand still This does not mean that you do not move, it means that you do not jump or do big steps. The intention of this expression is, that you do not attack and do not try to evase anything. You hold your stand.
Sterk strong see Stärke
Streitaxt Poleaxe A staff weapon with at least one iron point and two applications on the top for cutting, hammering, or stabbing in a right angle from the staff.
Sturzhau Overthrow Strike The strike is a strong Oberhau where the point is thrown heavily down and the handle is raised, usually the weapon is turned in that movement, so that the other edge hits.
T  —————–  ———————
Tag roof The 1:1 translation on “Tag” would be “day”. In this word is the meaning of the old time calculation included. “Day” was “High noon”. But as the same position is called in several treatises as “dach” “roof” I generally used “roof” as the translation. In fencing there is no difference between “roof” and “day”. It is a position where the point of the swords traverses an upright position.
Treffen hits (contacts) They are used in the plural form. A contact is made with the own weapon to any part or weapon of the opponent.
Treffer hit (special Hitting Strike) See Treffen for the common meaning of Treffer. The special meaning is found in some treatises. It is translated as “Hitting Strike”. But the strike is nothing special at all. It just means that you strike to the openings above and below. If you do it often and fast enough, with a lot of variations you will hit.
U  —————–  ———————
Überlaufen running over (pass over) Running Over is based on the principle that the blade lying over the other has the longer reach because it has the smaller angle to the horizontal longest range.
Überschießen Shooting-Over This implies that if you are able to create an engagement of the blades where your blade lies over his (in the strong of his blade), always try to shoot the point at his face.
Unterhau strike from below The strike uses a fast upward movement and usually starts below shoulder height.
V  —————–  ———————
verkehr reverse / turn see Verkehrter Hand. If this is in relation to a weapon it means to turn the weapon 180° from the current position by turning your arm and wrist.
Verkehrter Hand reversed hand In most of the cases this means a hand where the palm looks upwards. But literally this is just a turning of the hand at the wrist.
Versatzung displacement Displacing something means to get the thing away from the place it wants to be, to bring it in an other direction or consume the energy of the motion.
W  —————–  ———————
Wechsel, Wexel changeover The changeover is not a position or a guard, it is the moment where you turn your wrist and change from an inside hand position (thumb up) to an outside hand position (thumb down). This is needed to use the long edge in a combination of strikes from below and above.
Wechselhau Changing Strike There are two meanings of this expression: 1st the combination of strikes from above and below with changing of the hand position (see Wechsel) and 2nd the same combination but without turning the hand so that the edge changes from short to long edge that is directed against the opponent. Both meanings are valid for interpretations.
Wecker Waking Strike A very strong Oberhau that is designed for defense. The name was probably derived from the fact that this strike hits the other weapon very loud.
Winden Winding In Winden the point and handle does a circular movement around the opponent’s blade with the contact point as the center of rotation. In combination with a forward movement of the body this changes into a spiral.
Wunder Wounder Cut, Stab, Strike are the three ways to wound someone.
X  —————–  ———————
Y  —————–  ———————
Ysenport Iron Gate see Eisene Pforte
Z  —————–  ———————
Zedel Markverses Verses to remember, to mark.
Zorn Ort Wrath Point The Zorn Ort is the short term for Zorhnau Ort, a combination of strike and thrust that is produced from the right shoulder.
Zornhau Wrath Strike The Wrath Strike is a powerful strike that is done without any displacement or thought on protectim yourself.
Zucken [with]drawing, twitch (shrug)
This is a small movement of the weapon without any given direction in the aim to disengage a binding (withdrawing), or to provoke a reaction like a parry (short striking or stabbing movement as a threat). The translation of “Zucken” to “twitching”, “withdrawing”, “redrawing”, or “jerk” is not exactly matching. It is a small backward or forward movement with the blade. There is no perfect translation to that word. On one hand it means “withdrawing” the blade a bit, on the other hand it means to threaten with the weapon. 
Zwerch cross This means from one side to the other more horizontal than vertical. In later mathematical or drawing manuals this was a horizontal line.
Zwerchhau Cross Strike see Zwerch.

11 thoughts on “Glossary of German terms in Historical Martial Arts.

  1. Hi Hans,

    Can you clarify “change from an inside hand position to an outside hand position”. I don’t quite grasp it.

    Thumbs up for all the great articles


    1. Howdy Krist, the palm is the “eye” of the hand. In the direction the palm looks defines the position of the turned wrist. If you are a right-hander you have an inside position if the palm looks to your left side, or the outside position if the palm looks to your right. This is partly congruent to the terms of inside and outside used in modern fencing.

      Thanks for your kind words and best wishes,

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