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wenne mit dem worte vor als e gesprochen ist / meynt her das eyner mit eyme guten vorslage ader mit dem ersten slage / sal eyner kunlich an alle vorchte dar hurten und rawschen / keyn den bloessen czu koppe ader czu leibe / her treffe ader vele / das her ienen czu haut als betewbet / mache und in irschrecke das her nicht weis was her keyn desem solle weder tuen

There are two kinds of “Vor” with which you can win the preliminary strike: the “Vorschlag”.

  1. The “Active Vor”
    It is the simple one: you attack.
  2. The “Passive “Vor”
    This may be called as the “implicit Vor” or “hidden Vor” too. You set up a trap, an invitation. You are ready to boost on a trigger.

The “Active Vor” is about winning the initiative and set the opponent under pressure of constant attacks. It follows the principle: keep it simple and it has the statistics on his side (if you strike to the head first there is always a higher chance that you hit your opponent first than if you start later than him). Thus it is favored by most of the old masters (like in the 3227a at 21r cited above). If a “preparation” is added to the “Active Vor” it is based on continuous keeping the pressure on the opponent by further attacking or simulating an attack (e.g. “Fehler”, “Zucken”).

The “Passive Vor” is the “lurking” and “luring” or in modern fencing terms the “invitation”. Users of the “passive Vor” often compare fencing with tactic games like chess. For a preparation of the own attack the fencer is for instance presenting an opening for the opponent only some steps away from the fighting distance. He hopes that the opponent will attack that opening and has the best practice in mind to answer that. The “Passive Vor” is based on the knowledge of guards and their oppositions.  Because guards and oppositions depend on the behavior of the opponent, the fighter in the “Passive Vor” must always be ready to redraw to a safe distance or switch to the “Active Vor”. If he changes his guard or opposition while he is still in the “Passive Vor” he is in danger of receiving a direct hit. Because distance is the key to fighting, every time both fighters are in a safe distance, the “game” starts anew. The opponent will try to force a change of guard during the fighter’s “Passive Vor” while the one in the “Passive Vor” tries to lurk and lure. This makes it tactically very complicated but there are masters like Joachim Meyer who use this systematically.

Both the active and the passive “Vor” must result in an effective strike (or thrust) to the opponent, so he had to displace it or will be wounded: the “Vorschlag”. If there is no endangering of the opponent, the “Vor” may be lost.

Exercises: Who is the winner? Active or passive “Vor”

Done in Relaxed Motion Speed. Starting distance is one-two steps away.

Exercise 1

Fencer A Fencer B
Stands in any high guard (standing high) Stands in any low guard (standing low)
Takes an opening of the opponent’s guard as an aim to attack. Analyzes the opponent’s guard and tries to figure out, what would be the best answer. On this analysis he makes a plan.
Attacks according to his plan (no change based on reaction to the doing of the opponent). According to the plan (no change based on reaction to the doing of the opponent) he tries to step out of the strike or into the strike to block.
Freezes. Attacks according to his plan (no change based on reaction to the doing of the opponent).

Exercise 2

Fencer A Fencer B
Stands in any high guard (standing high) Stands in any low guard (standing low)
Takes an opening of the opponent’s guard as an aim to attack and another for a second attack. Analyzes the opponent’s guard and tries to figure out, what would be the best answer. On this analysis he makes a plan.
Attacks according to his plan (no change based on reaction to the doing of the opponent). According to the plan (no change based on reaction to the doing of the opponent) he tries to step out of the strike or into the strike to block.
Attacks according to his plan(no change based on reaction to the doing of the opponent, ignoring the opponent). Attacks according to his plan (no change based on reaction to the doing of the opponent).

Exercise 3

Fencer A Fencer B
Stands in any high guard (standing high) Stands in any low guard (standing low)
Takes an opening of the opponent’s guard as an aim to attack and another for a second attack. Analyzes the opponent’s guard and tries to figure out, what would be the best answer. On this analysis he makes a plan.
Attacks according to his plan (no change based on reaction to the doing of the opponent). According to the plan (no change based on reaction to the doing of the opponent) he tries to step out of the strike or into the strike to block.
Brings weapon in front and steps as an reaction of the movement of the opponent following this rules:

  1. Having a binding (both blades are in touch), so step into the direction of the strike or into the opponent.
  2. Having no blade contact, step away from the opponent.
Attacks according to his plan (no change based on reaction to the doing of the opponent).

Count the double hits in that exercise. See who is the winner in those plays. Do those exercises again with the attacker (high guard) using planned tricks like feints or attacks that do not “belong” to the used guard as his first attack.

The one with the simple attack is statistically the winner because he can always bring himself into a safe position after the attack again (fencing like a catapult or spring). He can easily react. His advantage of using a simple arm movement gives him the chance to do any footwork he likes. If he follows the advice to watch his steps he enables himself to do as many attack as he likes so it does not really matter if he scores with the first one (her treffe ader vele). The one in the “Passive Vor” is in need of a plan to react fast enough. He may train hard to learn as many plans as possible and thus will be capable of executing them very fast (trained reflexes), but he has to adjust them loosing time doing so. Decision making is a slow process compared to the simple strike from above. Because it needs information that can only be processed with the speed of the human system. Even with the simplified decision making system of Liechtenauer’s five words it is still more complicated as any straight attack.

Auch wisse wen eyner mit eyme ficht / zo sol her syner / schrete wol war nemen / und sicher in den seyn / wen her recht zam of eyner wogen stehen sol / hindersich / ader vorsich zu treten / noch deme als sichs gepuert / gefuege und gerinklich / risch und snelle

The subjective aspect of the “Vor”

“zvnder her sal tuen / zam iener keyn swert habe / aber zam hers nicht sehe”

Before the blades have contact there is no “Starck” or “Schwach” and no “Indes”. These three words depend on the ability to feel the opponent. So there is only “Vor” and “Nach”. At this moment we have to consider that there is no reference to the opponent or his weapon. It seems that the reference system to determine the “Vor” and “Nach” is the fighter himself.

And we must know that there is no objectivity in the fighter’s subjective point of view. He is opening Schrödinger’s box without knowing if the cat is dead or not. In the fighter’s opinion to be in the “Vor” it is only necessary to be the first who acts in a way that he can wound his opponent. Because every fighter starts in his own reference system, he is in the “Vor” by definition. Thus the start up position is: both fighters are in the “Vor” until one of them is in the “Nach” by reacting.

Item der erst haw ist der wecker / Der pricht dy hut auß dem Stiren
Der ander ist der entrußthaw / der pricht dy hut vom luginslandt
Item der dritt heysset der zwinger / der pricht dy hut auß dem eber
Item der vierd ist der geferhaw / der pricht dy hut dy da heyst dy pastey

If there is no double hit, there is a Meisterhau or any other likewise strike that tries to break a guard, displaces a possible attack (at least closes the line) and scores in the same movement. This is already reducing the double hits. But the opponent does not exists as an own being. The opponent is only a subject, a variable with some variations in the plan based on their own respective reference system. So the opponent only exists as a part of the fighter’s self. Thus if the opponent acts like expected everything works smooth. But as the opponent has his own system of decisions that may not match it is a game of calculated risks but no art. As long as they use their point of view as their own reference system and do not adjust themselves to their opponent, there is only a double “Vor” and no real art.

The Double “Vor”

In his opinion the fighter is in the „Vor” if he thinks that he can launch a successful attack. For this he has to think that two preconditions are met to a level, that he estimates a success:

1.         The proper distance to the opponent’s body
Active “Vor”: the fighter closes the distance
Passive “Vor”: the fighter waits for the opponent to step forward

2.         An opening in the defense of the opponent
Active “Vor”: the fighter attacks a part that he thinks is not well defended
Passive “Vor”: the fighter forces the opponent to move what will present an opening

As we can easily see that by the moment the opponent’s body is in reach, there is the great possibility that this situation suits well for the opponent too.  And if we consider that both start in their own subjective “Vor” we deduce: the race for the perfect timing has begun. Not art but “being faster” will now decide who is in the “Vor” or the “Nach”. Sheer speed, optimized movement is required. As the line is the shortest distance to the opponent, it offers the fastest way. So there will be a clash of frontal movement. The result of the Double “Vor” in sparring in most cases is wrestling distance in a protective stance, a double kill, a blade contact by coincidence of the crossing lines, or one of the fencers is getting afraid and is adjusting his aim for the opponents weapon trying to fish for it with his weapon as a rod.

To avoid the Double “Vor” we must open Schroedinger’s Box and release the cat. And this must be done without making a plan or a complicated decision. It is only done by understanding and accepting the “Nach”. Thus a “Vor” and a “Nach” come to existence by choice. And with an understanding of the “Vor” and “Nach” a fencer will be enabled to choose “Vor”, “Nach” and “Indes” to his favor.

 

FURTHER READINGS:

The first article of this series is The simplicity of the “Vor”.
This series is to be continued in the next article “Accepting the Nach”

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Note: The terms “Vor” and “Nach” have several meanings in the manuscripts. It is surely more to it than a physical state of time and place. As the mindset of the fencer  and the Aristotle comprehensive system is part of Liechtenauer’s teaching the terms extend their physical meaning.
To illustrate the complete meaning I stressed and specialized the terms. There is no Active, Passive, or Double “Vor” in the manuals named. Those terms are my inventions to illustrate the meaning.

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