photo: Lending shield

This is the first part of our training programme dedicated to beginners. All newcomers to our training start with this. So for now it is aimed at inexperienced beginners, but experience has shown that teaching the basics also enables experienced ones to improve their fighting and gain a broader understanding of it. The training programme does not claim to be complete, nor does it represent an obligatory canon of teaching for us. We have consciously chosen to give space to different styles. Nevertheless, we see basic movements and patterns that we advise beginners to master and with this programme we create the basis of a common communication about fencing. It goes without saying that this is not the last word and that we are open to criticism and suggestions.

The following is intended to set out our beginner training curriculum and highlight the demands this places on beginners.

These requirements are encountered by beginners at four different levels of varying scope.
On the most basic level, fundamental physical demands are found, which are also found in martial arts. Building on this, the skills necessary for the safe and precise handling of the weapon become apparent. In the subsequent duel section, the focus is on personal fencing skills in individual combat situations. Finally, there is a level that trains a super-personal view and thus prepares for playing in group situations.

The list can be understood as a recommendation for chronological treatment; however, it should be pointed out that the respective points can and should also be understood as conditionally independent modules and thus be taught depending on the situation.

The complete programme in a PDF in colour (De) and in black and white. (De)

Schematic diagram: Basic stance without weapons

This lesson is designed to introduce beginners to the physical demands of the sport so that the focus is on correct posture. Above all, the attainment of a comprehensive body awareness is important.

1. Stance

A correct and therefore stable stance is the essential basis for effective fencing, therefore this content is taught first. Here you will find a extensive description of the basics.

By the end of this unit, beginners should.

  • have a feeling for a safe stance.
  • be able to name the central aspects of the basic stance and be able to assume and hold this stance.

The knowledge of forward movement possibilities and its application form another basis for our fencing sport. Thus, in this section, the different steps are discussed and dealt with in depth.

In order to have a comprehensive understanding of this part, beginners should.

  • be able to point out the differences between the most important types of step (change and half step).
  • Be able to name the advantages and disadvantages of the step types in relation to the situation.
  • Be able to move appropriately to the requirement or situation and thereby implement the steps cleanly.
  • Being able to keep the shoulders as constantly forward as possible.

Rule: „Put the foot first in the direction you want to go!“

This game serves as an opportunity to practise and control steps in situations that are elementary for fencing. Two variations can be played:

  • "Dueling Mirror": This way of playing prepares for duel situations.
  • "Line mirror": This variation serves as preparation for requirements in the line.

The mirror game also provides a first opportunity for the beginners to practise communication with each other and responsiveness despite the physical demands and the concentration involved. At this point, explicit reference should again be made to the feedback culture that replaces the referee in this sport.

The learning requirements for the beginners are as follows:

  • Correct setting of steps takes place.
  • The basic posture is maintained during steps.
  • Vertical body movement is avoided through a low stance with springy knees.
  • A sense of sense is established so that it can be maintained at all times.
  • Constant responsiveness and friendly correction of the other person.

If too many cross steps are taken, it makes sense to have the exercise done on toes, as this makes false steps much more difficult - especially on soft ground.

In order to allow references from the still relatively abstract level of this game to more concrete situations in fencing, an introduction of the mensur terms seems to make sense here.

Schematic representation: the pushing game

The push game can be used as a way of checking for a correct stance under load and also allows an assessment of physical fitness.
There are several possible variations for this game.

First of all, there are requirements on a general level:

  • Maintaining the basic posture even when force and pressure are applied to the body.
  • The alignment of the body along the pressure lines when force is applied.
  • The importance of force from the hip/whole body.
  • The ability to communicate by criticising the partner's posture.
  • The recognition of the physical dimension of the sport, which goes hand in hand with the reduction of „gender anxiety“ (unnecessary worry/ consideration for the opposite sex) and the development of a feeling for the body.

Playing with yielding requires additional:

  • consideration and fairness.
  • Taking responsibility for the opponent/partner.

An extension with dodging offers the opportunity to learn or apply:

  • Lateral movements from pressure situations.
  • evasion instead of stronger counter-holding and thus a different feeling of pressure.
  • Deception and trickery to regain the upper hand.

The Triangle game is the simplest group combat situation, the depth of which has already been explaint elsewhere.
Initially, however, the game is played without weapons, so that hits are set by ticking. Initially, there is to be no defence against the „attacks“ so that the focus can be on running per se and the running patterns.

The most important aspects to learn are:

  • Fast running backwards in the right direction.
  • The need to act as a team (fight and run).
  • That triangular situations consist of two active parties (hunter and wolf), each wanting to make prey.

In order to avoid ambition and to shift the focus from winning to a correct implementation of the triangle, but also to make it easier to cope with cognitive demands, the exercise should be played at a (significantly) reduced speed in the beginning. This would also be a measure to prevent jumping to reduce the distance of the beginners.

Schematic diagram: Basic stance with weapons

After the beginners have acquired enough body control, this lesson focuses on the correct handling of weapons. Fundamental to this is that the necessary strength should always be drawn from the whole body so that constant control over the weapons can be ensured.

Safety and success in the use of weapons require a high degree of control, which begins with the right posture of the weapon in the hand. By varying the grips, different techniques or manoeuvres become possible.

Beginners are therefore required to:

  • align the weapon grip roughly along the longitudinal lines in the hand.
  • Keep a constant angle between arm and weapon of around 120° so that the wrist does not bend.
  • Draw the elbow in towards the body so that the weapon is approximately perpendicular to the ground.
  • to also position the weapon hand behind the shield in the basic stance.

In the course of the beginner's programme, the framework should initially be given as far as possible only for learning the line fighting stance of the shield.
More in-depth advanced courses can focus on buckler handling (shield as hand protection) or active shield use for HEMA or duel situations.

A very good handling of the shield is given if the beginners:

  • maintain a firm wrist during movements.
  • keep the angle between tang and arm relatively constant in the range of about 120°.
  • by economy of movement only perform minimal shield movements guided close to the body.
  • stabilise the shield (by resting the shield on the shoulder, knee and elbow).
  • preserve the line of sight by guiding it around the head.

To get a better feel for the shield and its cover, it is a good idea to play variant 1 of the sensorgame.

After this exercise, beginners should:

  • have developed a feeling for the shield size (by touching knee and chin).
  • use the shield surface as a sensor.
  • think and wield the shield edge also as a weapon (this does not apply to the hump!).

As soon as beginners can give an accurate picture in the basic stance, it is already possible to introduce them to line situations and let them participate in them.

However, as long as no safe hits can be set, a ban on attacking applies. This means that the newcomers initially only passively participate in combat.

It is recommended that they position themselves as centrally as possible. Furthermore, an experienced fighter is assigned to them as an immediate contact person who, as a buddy, is responsible for teaching them how to deal with the new requirements, preferably already during the match. This means that the buddy gives tips, directs to a suitable position, explains tasks and tries to give an overview. However, it is especially important that the beginner receives a good measure of praise and that successes are recognised accordingly, so that the impression is not created that the beginner is not up to the challenges that fall upon him.

Possible tasks are:

  • To survive as long as possible or not to die.
  • to maintain the alignment of the line, i.e. to keep the distance and height to the competitors
  • to react to shifts and compensate for gaps
  • withstand pressure
  • to communicate during the fight.

Schematic diagram: basicpunches

Basic strikes for initial dry practice are the fives. These should be thought of as cuts rather than blows.

To learn is:

  • * A firm wrist
  • The blow is controlled at all times and does not fall into the wrist.
  • The blade is always aligned in the direction of the blow or is always in the plane of the blow.
  • The body is a brake on the reach: the strike is ended by the forearm on the belly at the latest.

When executing the strike, it is also important to ensure that the strikes are directed into the right strike zone areas, so that valid strikes would be made directly. It is best to offer oneself as a dummy to make it easier for the beginners to assess the opponent's body.

When the basic strokes are safely set, the thrust to the stomach is added, here it must be ensured that it is executed gently and is yielded over several joints so that it cannot be arrested.

Before beginners practise hitting each other, they should first at inanimate targets. However, relatively small objects should be chosen as targets so that direct aiming accuracy is required. A stick, a glove or a rope can be used for this purpose. To increase the level of challenge, the target object can be moved.

At the end of this exercise the beginners should:

  • hit small areas accurately.
  • have hit accuracy even with moving targets.
  • be able to consciously vary the force of the blow.

At this point at the latest, reference should be made to the training options for home.

All parries are presented for the Fives, including those that may become superfluous when using shields. The parries should first be practised with the trainer, but can soon be practised very well with other beginners.

The requirement is,

  • that the parry movements must always be led away from the body.
  • analogous to strikes, to gain the power for the parry from the arm and shoulder and not from the wrist.
  • to rotate the weapon around its centre of gravity by bringing the elbow close to the body in order to change the delivery.

Rule: „Windshield Wiper Motion“

For success in duels but also in line situations, attacks that are a combination of several single strikes are fundamental.
Here the coaches can present tips and tricks as well as the basic techniques so that attack sequences can be thought up inductively through slow trial and error, taking into account the dynamics of the moving weapon.
Playing with the weapon should lead to familiarity with aspects such as (mass) inertia and one's own biomechanics, so that a feeling for the weapon develops.

Beginners should thereby:

  • develop a feeling for the dynamics of the weapon and body in combination.
  • expand their attacking repertoire.

At this point, playing is also recommended as homework, as these shadow or air strikes can also be practised easily without supervision. It should be noted that movements that feel strange or fall into the joint are considered mistakes. Previously presented content still retains its significance. (That movements feel strange can only be a hint to people who have at least a rudiment of body awareness).

Schematic representation: axe chess

The content and exercises in this section are intended to prepare for dueling situations. These can be encountered by beginners in the line in circulation and flanking actions, in the chaos phase or later in tournaments or in sparring in general.

The basic idea here is also to first improve the cover, because if you don't get a hit, you are not out. Then, however, the beginners should also develop an adequate repertoire of techniques and combos with which they can safely enter duel situations and possibly defeat the opponent quickly.

This is where the more experienced are particularly in demand. They can present their tricks and techniques to others and let the beginners practise them in training duels.

However, the beginners should also gain awareness of the psychological component of fighting. Many fights can already be decided by confidence and radiating certainty of victory.

This module provides space to practice movement patterns. The Fives and associated parries should be combined with steps and practised alternately with a partner.
It is important to make sure that the blows are executed relatively slowly so that no carelessness becomes ingrained.It is advisable to have this exercise performed on a line, which facilitates the (self-)control of steps and stance.
In addition, the beginners are encouraged to give feedback to each other, e.g. whether a valid hit has been placed in the right place and not hit with the shaft.

The beginners are required to,

  • to learn stopping.
  • to achieve hit precision through cleanly guided movements.
  • Communicate with the other person and build a feedback culture.
  • to maintain the sense.

Rule: „Hitch the axe, let it go!“

This game represents a preliminary exercise to Axe Chess, whereby the overriding goal here is also to combine attacks and move from parries into attacks.
However, the focus here is also on the gaps in cover that occur when attacking.

The beginners should learn here:

  • to maintain coverage when attacking.
  • to be able to counterattack quickly.

At the latest here, the terms for the moment of time - before, with, after - should also be explained.

In Axe Chess, fighting and attack situations are decelerated and differentiated into individual movement sequences, so that the fighters have enough time to think calmly about their actions and possible consequences.

Through this exercise the beginners should:

  • gain awareness of individual stages of action.
  • make particularly nice hits in calm situations
  • to think about their defence when attacking.
  • not to counterattack on impulse

With this exercise attacks are trained that are executed from running fast. These attacks are difficult to control in terms of precision and especially their hardness.
The concentration should also be directed to the fast running as such, that there is no jumping or hopping.

The following requirements are to be mastered by the beginners:

  • To hit the target accurately and with appropriate hardness.
  • To not undercut one's own range during a drive-by.
  • To disengage quickly from a defeated opponent.

This exercise, the parade game, can be understood as a preliminary exercise to the triangle with weapons, but by neglecting positioning in space and tactics here, it has been assigned to the area of dueling.

With this game the beginners should learn:

  • to remain calm in an outnumbered/stressful situation.
  • to build up a strong defence
  • to make shield management as efficient and economical as possible.

Again, it is recommended that attackers attack at a slow speed at first so as not to overwhelm the defender immediately.

Schematic representation: group combat

This lesson focuses on the individual in interaction with partner and opponent, so that an introduction to line or group combat situations and their associated requirements can take place.

Fighting in larger formations requires simplified and stringent communication, which is made possible by canonical commands. In addition, certain basic structures are required in encounters with groups, without which successful tactics are not possible. In order to create a basic concept in line or group situations, exercises on movement in the unit take place, which should not get out of hand into large-scale drill, but rather make use of a basic selection of aspects from thecomprehensive command repertoire.

To demonstrate the beginner should, at the end of this unit:

  • Implement the Basic Commands.
  • Rudiments of a basic understanding of a line (equal width, depth).

Rule: „Remember the pause posture!“

In line-ticking, line situations are re-enacted without weapons in order to focus the exercise on spatial orientation in a line. The aim is to familiarise the beginners with very basic requirements such as keeping the same height and width.

The requirements for the beginners are:

  • to form a closed line (to the front as well as on the flanks)
  • to maintain an even consistency.
  • to create pressure.
  • strategies for dealing with run-arounds.

Schematic diagram: one-hand spear

As a follow-up to the Basic commands Exercise , it is a good idea to introduce other weapons, especially long weapons, in line situations. The beginners lined up in the line are each attacked by one type of long weapon. However, they do not attack themselves but remain defensive so that parries or similar can be given full attention. This can be additionally supported by slowing down the attacker.

Required of beginners here is:

  • perform safe parries.
  • to protect the neighbour.
  • Maintain the position in the line and its consistency.
  • manage fearful situations if necessary and withstand pressure from the front.
  • to handle axe hooks safely.

Variation: without shields

Rule: „Always parry downwards!“

Following the long weapon presentation, time can be taken to practise or present techniques for passing long weapons in duel situations.
Such situations arise often and then not infrequently become a key to victory for one side. Therefore, it is important not to be intimidated by the threat potential of a long weapon.

The requirements to be mastered by beginners are:

  • To create, win, hold and release the long gun at the right moment.
  • To lead the running path past the opponent.
  • Not to lose the initiative in the event of losing the connection.
  • To make a safe and appropriate hit.

This game can be well combined with the introduction of the other weapon types, e.g. if only a few beginners are present. In principle, it can be played with or without weapons. It serves to prepare for the requirements of dynamic positioning within the formation during combat.

After this exercise the beginners should:

  • have an enhanced awareness in the direction of the flanks.
  • maintain consistency of the line even in the face of casualties.
  • communicate with neighbours when necessary and take micro-command.

This game is a simple way to train perception on the one hand and to bring articulation and hand coordination together on the other hand.
Regarding the perception aspect, the theoretical background can be found here.

Through this exercise, beginners should learn:

  • register actions outside the focus' of perception.
  • to process information from peripheral perception.
  • not to be disturbed by communication in coordination.

Exercise on talking during combat offers a space to train the most important component for well-functioning group combat. Despite the concentration on the opponents, at least a minimum of exchange should be able to take place in order to train the overview, but also to enable teamwork.\ However, the listening side is by no means passive, here the processing of these additional stimuli is required.

The aim of the exercise is for the beginners to

  • find language for their own actions
  • detach their focus from the opponent's weapons (hands)
  • be able to listen and build up a memory for action

Schematic representation: command game

The commandgame represents an exercise to be trained with basics for command situations. However, the aim is not necessarily to train commanders, but rather to prepare for situations in which commanding group sections becomes necessary as self-defence.

Beginners should learn here,

  • To use a common language for communication
  • gain overview in group situations.
  • to coordinate their comrades-in-arms efficiently.
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