The German masters divided combat into two broad categories for their teachings: harnischfechten, or “armored fighting”, and blossfechten, or (literally translated) “naked fighting”.
Obviously, we’re not going to be fighting in our birthday suits, and neither did our forefathers. But, “naked” is a good term to describe the vulnerability one might feel in just your street clothes when facing an opponent armed with edged weapons.
It is no wonder that people wore armor when faced with such threats! However, armor is expensive, difficult to acquire, and few can jump right into fighting in armor, if at all. Given that much of armored fighting techniques are largely based around unarmored fighting techniques, and the time and expense needed to acquire a proper armor is significant, it makes sense to start students off learning unarmored fighting techniques. And there is certainly a lot to learn!
Unarmored fighting would include any martial art where you are not wearing armor. Thus, unarmored fighting includes longsword fighting, but we also study ringen-an unarmed art involving wrestling, dolfechten or dagger fighting, messer (a short, cutlass-like sword favored by German commoners), as well as sword and buckler.
There are four levels to our program: Novice, Apprentice, Journeyman and Master.
The Novice and Apprentice levels are geared towards learning the majority of unarmored fighting techniques. After you start your Apprentice level, you will start learning and sparring with daggers and messers to learn things like range and tempo. Dolfechten (dagger fighting) can be simulated fairly safely with only a fencing mask and gloves. Ringen techniques often come into play during dolfechten, so mats or soft ground are also needed if any throws are to be performed.
Messerfechten will allow you to fight with plastic sparring simulators. While they are safer than steel trainers, at this point, it is a good idea to start wearing thicker protective clothing, as well as a gauntlet, gorget and mask. By the end of your Apprentice training, you will be ready to fight with steel longswords, and have acquired your own sparring gear.
On the Journeyman level, not only will you be sparring with longswords, daggers, ringen and messers, you will also be learning and fighting with sword and buckler. Furthermore, you will be working on acquiring your own authentic suit of armor for use in the Masters program, as well as learning armored fighting”, techniques.
During the Masters program, you will be focusing on armored fighting”, , teaching , tactics and research. There’s a lot to learn! But the program is designed so that many people can attend classes, and jump in and out of the program as time allows.