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The first thing, Master Lecküchner recommends in both his treatises is to open Schrödinger’s Box and release the cat. In Dr. Schrödinger’s thought experiment an atom is probably decaying in a radioactive source thus killing a cat, using a special device. Because nobody knows when and where an atom is decaying in radioactive substance during a given time (e.g. 1 hour), nobody knows if the cat dies during that time frame. While we can calculate mathematically that the cat has to be dead, it may still be alive and purring. We only will know if we wait till the time has passed and open the box. This is indeed not very satisfying.

An opponent in a fight is much alike a closed box. A fighter does not know, when his opponent will act or if he acts at all. Fighting tactics is not like chess or any other game based on rounds. It is much simpler because there is just one rule: if any fighter thinks, that he may have a chance to launch a successful attack, he starts the game – he is in the “Vor” from his point of view.

“Vor” and “Nach” are two of the Liechtenauer five words. The words are composed of two opposite pairs “Vor, Nach” (before, after), and “Starck, Schwach” (strong, weak), and the word “Indes” (inbetween). Using opposites is based on the Aristotle’s system, which was very common for the educated. Opposites are unable to exist at the same time for the same object. Thus they reduce the decision tree very effectively.

Mit deme worte Vor / meynt her das eyn itzlicher guter fechter / sal alle mal den vorslag haben vnd gewinnen

The aim of the “Vor” is to win the „Vorschlag“, the preliminary strike. That does not mean that a fighter has to be the first who acts. But it defines that he has to be the first who has the option to wound the opponent effectively. Because nothing else matters (if you keep “Irschrikstu gerne / keyn fechten nymmer lerne” in mind).

This all seems very simple: “be the first who attacks and you will win the “Vorschlag”. But this simplicity gives a false interpretation of that term.

The (false) simplicity of the “Vor”

wenn her czu / eyme gehet ader lewft / als balde als her nur siet / das her in mit eynem schrete / ader mit eynem sprunge dirreichen mag / wo her denn indert in blos siet / do sal her hin varn / mit frewden /

Vnd dy selbe kunst ist ernst gancz vnd rechtvertik / Vnd get of das aller neheste vnd körtzste / slecht vnd gerade czu

In a simple interpretation that means: The fighter does a straight one-step-attack and no further preparation. He just approaches and tries to hit with the first strike to an opening he thinks he can reach. This simple thought which is to find in the very beginning of the GMN 3227a is based on the fact that the first fighter who strikes in a proper distance (in reach) will score (but it is not that simple as you may know if you already read the The definition of “One step away”).

Exercise: the simplicity of the “Vor”

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

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. Takes an opening of the opponent’s guard as an aim to attack.
Attacks according to his plan  (no change based on reaction to the doing of 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!

The simplicity of the “Vor” results in a huge amount of double hits.

To overcome the problems of double hits, the so called Meisterhäue (master-strikes) came into the game, they promised to displace the opponents attack while scoring at the same time with the own embedded attack. But even this kind of strikes only changes the statistical significance of the double hits, but they do not solve the problem. They added complexity to the simplicity of the “Vor” thus making it difficult again. There is another aspect of the “Vor” which is modernly included in the action you find listed under the “preparation” fencing term: the “Passive Vor”.



Continued in the next article “Active or Passive, and Double “Vor”


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.