15thC German Messer

messer

Brief Summary

Messer is a German word which simply means "knife". The messer was much larger than any modern knife, being sized comparably to many swords of the period. Many manuscripts only dealt with the messer in a limited capacity, and some of these manuscripts treated them as being interchangeable with a more stereotypical arming sword, although Johannes Lecküchner produced an extensive treatise, the Kunst des Messerfechtens, or the Art of Fighting with the Messer, which focused exclusively on this weapon.

Messer techniques shown in treatises such as those by Hans Talhoffer or Paulus Kal are generally simple, and may represent a simple self-defence system against common attacks. Lecküchner's treatise however represent a much more developed and complex system of fencing with the messer.

While the messer did not receive as much attention in written treatises of the time as the longsword, and the messer also generally receives less attention than longsword within the modern HEMA movement, it is still an important part of 15th century German fighting traditions.

Defining characteristics of a messer included a nagel, or nail, a bar which projected out at 90 degrees from the cross-guard, and which provided extra protection to the hand, and could be used to parry incoming strikes. The front edge was sharp, although the back edge was only sharp for a small portion of the blade near the tip.


Main Sources

- Talhoffer, Hans. MS Thott.290.2º, 1459.
- Talhoffer, Hans. Codex icon.394a, 1467.
- Anonymous. Codex I.6.4º.2, c.1470. (aka Codex Wallerstein)
- Kal, Paulus. Codex Germ.1507, c.1470.
- Lecküchner, Johannes. Cgm 582, 1482. (aka Kunst des Messerfechtens, or The Art of Fighting with the Messer)
- Anonymous. MS E.1939.65.341, 1508. (aka Glasgow Fechtbuch)


Equipment

To begin practicing this discipline in the Academy of Historical Arts, you will need the following items:

- synthetic messer
- fencing mask
- padded gloves

The links will take you to the appropriate pages on the Corsair's Wares website, where you may purchase the necessary equipment. Buying through Corsair's Wares puts money back into the Academy of Historical Arts so that we can further our educational activities.


Protective Gear Minimum Requirements

According to the AHA Health and Safety Policy, these are the current minimum requirements to engage in activities safely for this discipline. Items marked with an asterisk (*) are mandatory, items marked in italics are recommended. Most of these items are available through Corsair's Wares; buying through Corsair's Wares puts money back into the Academy of Historical Arts so that we can further our educational activities.

- drilling with wooden/synthetic swords
* Head: CEN level 1 mask
Head: CEN level 2 mask (recommended)
Head: padded mask overlay (recommended)
Head: back of head protection (recommended)
Neck: rigid throat protector (recommended)
Torso: rigid chest protector (recommended)
Torso: padded jacket or gambeson (recommended)
Torso: groin guard (recommended)
Arms: forearm & elbow protection (recommended)
Hands: well padded gloves (recommended)
Legs: knee & shin guards (recommended)

- sparring with wooden/synthetic swords
* Head: CEN level 1 mask
* Hands: well padded gloves
Head: CEN level 2 mask (recommended)
Head: padded mask overlay (recommended)
Head: back of head protection (recommended)
Neck: rigid throat protector (recommended)
Torso: rigid chest protector (recommended)
Torso: padded jacket or gambeson (recommended)
Torso: groin guard (recommended)
Arms: forearm & elbow protection (recommended)
Legs: knee & shin guards (recommended)

- drilling with steel swords
* Head: CEN level 1 mask
Head: CEN level 2 mask (recommended)
Head: padded mask overlay (recommended)
Head: back of head protection (recommended)
Neck: rigid throat protector (recommended)
Torso: rigid chest protector (recommended)
Torso: padded jacket or gambeson (recommended)
Torso: 350N or preferably 800N rated underplastron (recommended)
Torso: groin guard (recommended)
Arms: forearm & elbow protection (recommended)
Hands: well padded gloves (recommended)
Legs: knee & shin guards (recommended)

- sparring with steel swords
* Head: CEN level 1 mask
* Head: back of head protection
* Torso: padded jacket or gambeson
* Hands: well padded gloves
* Legs: knee & shin guards
Head: CEN level 2 mask (recommended)
Head: padded mask overlay (recommended)
Neck: rigid throat protector (recommended)
Torso: rigid chest protector (recommended)
Torso: 350N or preferably 800N rated underplastron (recommended)
Torso: groin guard (recommended)
Arms: forearm & elbow protection (recommended)


We have gone to great lengths to ensure that we do not mandate and price people out of the activity. It should always be possible to participate in training, even if only to a lesser degree of intensity. Obviously the more intense and less safe the activity becomes, the more protective gear is necessary to mitigate the risk of harm. You are always welcome to wear more protective gear than the minimum requirements, we will never tell you to remove protective gear (unless it poses a risk to yourself or other participants, for whatever reason).


Useful Resources

book cover
(More information about this book and where you can purchase it.)
Farrell, Keith (ed.). Encased in Steel Anthology I. Glasgow: Fallen Rook Publishing, March 2015. ISBN 978-0-9926735-6-7.

For a comprehensive list of treatises, transcriptions and translations, there is no better resource than the Wiktenauer: http://www.wiktenauer.com/