AHA German Longsword Study Guide

book cover
(Available to purchase through the Academy of Historical Arts online store.)

Cite this book as:
Farrell, Keith, and Alex Bourdas. AHA German Longsword Study Guide. Glasgow: Fallen Rook Publishing, August 2013.

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The Academy of Historical Arts is pleased to announce that our first proper publication has become available. We are setting up a new division of our organisation, called Fallen Rook Publishing, to handle the publishing activities that we believe will happen with increasing frequency over the next few years.

This book compiles the research into the subject of the Liechtenauer tradition (and its outliers) from the past three years. It is an excellent study guide for people who have learned the system from their instructors and who would like to put their knowledge into the context of the historical sources. Students with advanced skill sets and assistant instructors will find this book particularly valuable.

Keith Farrell is one of the senior instructors of the Academy of Historical Arts, and teaches regularly at international events.

Alex Bourdas is one of the instructors within the Academy of Historical Arts. His studies focus primarily on the Kunst des Fechtens.

Book Details:
- Authors: Keith Farrell and Alex Bourdas
- Publisher: Fallen Rook Publishing
- Date of Publication: 28th August 2013
- ISBN: 978-0-9926735-0-5
- Binding: Perfect-Bound Paperback
- Pages: 132
- Height: 22.86 cm
- Width: 15.24 cm
- Language: English

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Preparatory Information
2.1 Parts of the Longsword
2.2 Masters within the Liechtenauer Tradition
2.3 Fight-books and Manuscripts
2.4 Essay: Length of the Longsword

Chapter 3: Stance, Footwork, Grip
3.1 Stance: Height, Weight and Body Alignment
- How high or low should one stand while in stance?
- Weighting
- Wage, or Balance/Scale
- Knee Safety
3.2 Footwork
3.3 Gripping the Sword

Chapter 4: Guards
4.1 Core Guards of the Liechtenauer Tradition
- Vom Tag or the Roof Guard
- Ochs / Oberhangen, or the Ox Guard / Over-hanging
- Pflug / Underhangen or the Plough Guard / Under-hanging
- Alber, or the Fool's Guard
- Early Pflug / Alber
4.2 Other Variations on the Core Guards
- Vom Tag
- Zornhut, or the Wrath Guard
- Hangennort, or Hanging Point
- Einhorn, or Unicorn
- Schlussel, or the Key
4.3 Other Non-Core Guards - The Lower Guards
- Reversed Hand Ochs
- Kron, or Crown
- Brechfenster, or Window Breaker

Chapter 5: Strikes
5.1 Concepts for Attacking
- Blossen
- Zum Ochs Schlagen / Zum Pflug Schlagen
- Vorschlag
- Nachschlag
- Überlauffen
5.2 Basic Strikes of the Liechtenauer Tradition
- Oberhaw
- Underhaw
- Mittelhaw
5.3 Common Thrusts with the Sword
- Zorn Ort / Zornhaw Ort
- Thrusts from Absetzen and Ansetzen
- Other Common Thrusts
5.4 Slices with the Sword
- Abschnyden
- Hende Druck
5.5 The "Secret Strikes" of the Liechtenauer Tradition
- Fünff Hewen / Verbognehewen / Meisterhauwen
- Zornhaw
- Zwerhaw
- Schaitelhaw
- Schilhaw
- Krumphaw
5.6 The Wechselhaw
5.7 Binding and Winding with the Longsword
- Binden, or the Bind
- Winden, or the Wind
- Vier Hengen, or the Four Hangings
- Fühlen, or Feeling
- Indes, or "Instantly"
- Acht Winden, or the Eight Windings
- Drei Wunder, or the Three Wounders
- Hart, or Strong
- Weich, or Weak
- Duplieren, or Doubling
- Mutieren, or Mutating
- Zucken, or Tugging
- Durchwechseln, or Changing Through
- Durchlauffen, or Running Through
5.8 One-Handed Attacks
- Das Gayszlen, or The Whip
- One-Handed Thrust
- General Note
5.9 Further Strikes by Other Masters

Chapter 6: Ranges and Timing
6.1 Ranges of the Fight; or Onset, War and Withdrawal
- An Old Interpretation of Stages
- Definition of Krieg
- Definition of Zufechten
- Abzug, or Withdrawal
6.2 Timings of the Fight; or Before, After and Instantly
- Vor
- Nach
- Nachreissen
- Indes
6.3 Essay: Distance and Range in Practice

Chapter 7: Principles of Attacking

Chapter 8: Solo Drills and Exercises
8.1 The Flourish of the Hs.3227a
8.2 Meyer's "Four Openings" Drill
8.3 Other Solo Training Methods
8.4 Paired Drills and Exercises

Appendix A: Liechtenauer's Zettel
Appendix B: Suggested Reading List
Appendix C: Glossary of German Terms

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Review - 3rd March 2016

Jacopo Penso left a review of the book on Amazon.com:

Great book! A very precise and helpful introduction to the complex world of the historical european martial tradition. This text is not very long, but will provide all the essential elements for understanding the very basics of the German Longsword. What moved me to give five star is the richness of quotations and precise references inside the book, the clear explanation of the concepts, without too personal interpretation of the authors. I sincerely suggest it.

Review - 3rd December 2015

Rebecca left a review of the book on Goodreads:

Please keep in mind that I'm still a relative HEMA-newbie, so take my review for what that's worth... It's an adequate synthesis of the most important concepts of the Liechtenauerian tradition, but some of it seems a bit dated (this is how crazy fast things are moving in the HEMA world, as this was published just two years ago). I thought the section discussing zufechten and the essay on distance and range, and principles of attacking were interesting, but if one undertakes to read this, it should be read *along* with the primary source material, and not solely instead of it.

Review - 18th August 2015

"M13" left a review of the book on Amazon.co.uk:

When I first started reading this book I was fairly new to HEMA, and the German Longsword tradition, and in the early days it was very helpful just to get to grips with the terminology (not knowing my abzug from my alber etc). As time went on I began to apreciate it for improving the techniques I was learning but more so the context of when and where those techniques would be used. As time has progressed further I have found benefits from the the book on yet another level due to the outstandingly professional biblography. While this might sound a little odd (anyone who has tried navigating obscure manuscripts and highly variable internet sources will understand), this alows the reader to follow up on a wealth of knowledge without, what would otherwise be, a huge effort. I think it probably says a lot about the book, and the authors, that I'm still going back to refer to sections after almost 2 years!

Review - 11th August 2015

The instructors at the Medieval Combat Group in Belfast have written a brief review of the book on Facebook:

For anyone that's been asking questions about the background to the longsword material we teach, and the terminology etc. and wants a good reference, the German Longsword Study Guide by the AHA is an excellent resource to get started with. It's not a step by step 'This is how to fight with the longsword', but it is an excellent companion book to make reference to alongside the class content.

Review - 5th August 2015

B. Doeksen left a review of the book on Amazon.co.uk:

This study guide is great for beginners and advanced longsword fencers alike. Beginners will find a very clear explanation of the guards, cuts and elements of techniques of medieval fencing. Experienced fighters will take this book to look up where and how certain techniques were described in the sources. I love the footnotes and reference section!

Review - 3rd August 2015

Wilson left a review of the book on Amazon.co.uk:

The quintessential companion to every longsword practitioner/student, this book isn't "a dummies guide" but a useful tool for longsword fencers at all levels. It is not only a great reference manual but a extremely helpful guide to bring your longsword to the next level!

Review - 2nd August 2015

B. Grief left a review of the book on Amazon.co.uk:

I won this book in a tournament. Had I not have won it I would have bought it anyway. It is an excellent book. Well written and researched and a mine of information. Anyone wishing to understand German longsword would do well to add this to their collection.

Review - 2nd August 2015

"The_last_alive" left a review of the book on Amazon.co.uk:

I don't do German longsword, but this book gave me a brilliant overview of the way the system works, and what's involved. Being a Fioreist a couple of bits gave me pause for thought as well. If you're interested in the use of the Longsword at all, I highly recommend this book.

Review - 31st July 2015

Keith Cotter-Reilly has written a brief review of the book on Facebook:

AHA German Longsword Study Book by Keith Farrell et co., was a book I picked up for a light bit of holiday reading. One of my group had bought the book when it first came out and liked it, so I decided to give it a read.

The book is well laid out, and thought through. The authors obviously put a lot of time into how they wanted to present the material. I found that the book flowed easily from topic to topic, and built upon itself as your progressed. The various breakdowns of the book tend to fall in line with the typical way that people are presented the material in a class. Moving from the sword, through how to stand, to the guards, and so how. For me this can help reinforce the lessons learnt in class.

Overall the definitions of the guards, and cuts seem to fall inline with the majority opinion right now. I personally could see no major issues in any of these sections. The sections dealing with measure, and timing etc. were carefully dealt with and give a good overview on the German way of thinking on these fencing issues. Some of the material I was already familiar with from reading the Encased in Steel blog. However, for a new fencer all of this text will be insightful.

Even for a Meyer-ite like me, I can find a lot to help my newer students improve in this book. It is a good basic overview of the tradition. The nuances that arrive depending on your club's source material is something that can be addressed in class. As a quick and easy guide to the general way of doing things I cannot more highly recommend this book.

Great work ye at the AHA!!

Review - 1st May 2015

Alja Komerlj left a review of the book on Amazon.com:

This book contains a distilled overview of the German longsword across several sources and masters. It is not a detailed "how to" manual and does not aim to be. Instead, it is a well referenced study guide listing different principles of the art, from guards and strikes to concepts like the 'vor' and 'nach', comparing their descriptions between sources and offering insight into their development over time. Both authors know the subject matter well and the text is clear as well as descriptive. As a long-time practitioner of historical european martial arts I use the book as a reference when I need a high level picture of a subject I am studying or teaching, or as a guide when I want to research a specific topic by following the gathered links. A lovely and handy book.

Review - 1st May 2015

Horváth András Csaba left a review of the book on Amazon.com:

I purchased the book after practicing longsword, mostly early Lichtenauer stuff (MS3227a, Danzig, Ringeck) for 4-5 years. I found the book to be really helpful and easy to read and understand. It talks about early L. stuff in a very well organized way, it's a good book to recommend for beginners to get an organized overlook of these sources, but also great for advenced students to sort out all that information. I appreciated the part with the drills , but found it a bit short :) good stuff, but I would like more :)

I would recommend this book for beginners and advanced practitioners too. Also the customer service (by Keith) is great!

Review - 19th February 2015

Shawn G Fackler left a review of the book on Amazon.com:

Keith Farrell and Alex Bourdas provide an exceptional and comprehensive study guide for Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) enthusiasts studying longsword in the German tradition of Kunst des Fechtens (Art of Fighting), stemming from the teachings of Johannes Liechtenauer. The book covers longsword principles in distinct detail, incorporates relevant translated material from various sources to compliment the text, and includes useful solo drills and exercises. Unfortunately, the authors only provided a very limited number of hand-drawn illustrations that just depict snap shots of various positions, not sequences of entire plays, and all are missing captions (key terms in German and English would have been ideal).

I gave the rating of four stars because the print quality of the book could be a little better given the price and for the lack of figures and captions. This book is a study guide and probably suited better for those already slightly familiar with German longsword basics; however, comprehensive and compact, this study guide is an invaluable reference for any Kunst des Fechtens enthusiast and one that should be proudly carried with your HEMA gear!

Lastly, although Amazon.com does not carry this title, it is available through Purpleheart Armoury and I highly recommend buying from them.

Review - 30th October 2014

Craig wrote a review of the book on the HEMA Alliance forum:

Place me in the camp that thinks this book is well worth getting. Well written, based upon logical and practical analysis of the original texts tempered with experience. Overall I have found it an excellent reference for someone who is relatively new to German longsword.

Review - 19th October 2014

John Clark sent us a review of the book through email:

I am not far into the book so far but just to let you know I am very pleased with its content, an immeasurable help to me and congratulations on creating such a work! Well done! I look forward to the DVD/Book companion or other products relating to this work.

Review - 2nd October 2014

Martin Page wrote a review of the book on Black Gate:

This short handbook covers what we moderns know about German Longsword - the best documented of European Medieval Martial Arts - and how we know it, with descriptions of the various techniques that might be eye-opening if you think Medieval fighting was all about grunting and shoving.

Being a study guide, it's not fully illustrated; it assumes you've already started looking at the medieval fencing manuals now readily available online. It's also not a "teach yourself book", though there are useful and informed discussions of issues like stance and how to attack.

Despite his terrifying relative youth, Keith Farrell is a well-traveled professional historical fencing master, and one of the founders of the massive Glasgow-based Academy of Historical Arts, where Alex Bourdas is an experienced instructor.

Read this book for a glimpse into a well-documented Late Medieval martial art, and for a sense of what the HEMA movement is up to. (If you're already a practitioner, this will enable you to open your mouth in pub discussions without sounding ignorant.)

Review - 18th September 2014

Martin Page left a review of the book on Amazon.co.uk:

This is pretty much a guide for the perplexed.

The thing about German Longsword is that though most of us do it because we like fighting with swords, it is underpinned by a few decades of scholarship meaning that one can end up feeling a bit behind when it comes to thinking and talking about it.

This book by one of the Art's foremost teachers, scholars and practitioners, pretty gives you the "in a nutshell" of what we know, where it came from, and what the most plausible reconstructions of specific techniques might be.

Think of it as a short Lonely Planet or Rough Guide introducing you to the essentials of a different world.

Review - 20th June 2014

Dierk Hagedorn has written a brief review of the book on Facebook:

I have to confess that at first I was a bit reluctant to order *yet another* instructional book about the German Longword. I own at least a dozen and I could not imagine that such a slim volume of roughly 130 pages could add anything valuable to that array which hasn't been put to paper before. But some of my students insisted that I have a look. And so I did. Which I didn’t regret.

What I particularly like about the volume is that it does not attempt to present a multitude of techniques but it rather concentrates on some general ideas, always with reference to the sources. In my opinion, it is a real asset to refer to many sources and not a single one. Thus the enthusiastic reader gets a glimpse at the variety of possible interpretations and the complexity of the reconstruction of the Historical European Martial Arts. Some insightful essays about so important overall issues such as "Distance and Range" or "Principles of Attacking" complete the picture.

Thank you, Keith Farrell and Alex Bourdas for this little gem.

Review - 5th June 2014

Marco Viviani sent us a review of the book through private message:

I'm finding the "German longsword study guide" a remarkable resource! I keep it reading the morning after the trainings - it helps me in re-studying what I learned the last evening and fixing, correcting and adding bits and pieces to the lesson, which I missed or didn't catch well.

Review - 31st March 2014

Jake Norwood has written a review of the book on the xKDF website:

Review - 2nd March 2014

Luca Valsecchi has written a review of the book on his blog:

I had the pleasure of buying the book "German Longsword Study Guide" written by Keith Farrell and Alex Bourdas and published by Fallen Rook Publishing, on the occasion of the "Secondo Allenamento con gli Appesi" in Asola, during which I was able to attend Keith's interesting lesson about the flourish from the Codex Dobringer and the Codex Best 7020. The book, which collects the research of the two authors on the tradition of Leichtenauer's longsword, is really well written. The topics are treated in a systematic way and the authors do not give anything for granted. Starts with the basic topics, such as the parts that make up the long sword and its associated lengths, up to those of the utmost importance, such as the principles of attacking, the distance and the timing or the definition of Zufechten and Krieg. The exposure is proper and smooth, never boring or dull, and is written in clear and effective English. The use of sources and direct quotes from the treatises confer value to the previous explanations. In conclusion, it's really an excellent study guide and I recommend it for new practitioners, or also advanced students and instructors; personally I liked the fact that the book gives a comprehensive perspective on the entire (or almost) Art of the German longsword tradition.

Review - 26th February 2014

John Farthing has written a review of the book on the ARMA website:

Review - 13th February 2014

Magnus Hagelberg has written a brief review of the book on the Schola Gladiatoria forum:

Verdict: if you do German longsword - you should buy it. If you do longsword at all, you should buy it. If nothing else than to get a great guide for reference.

First impression: The layout is professional and reminds me of text books from the university. The book is well thought through and there seems to be no unessesary flesh-out material.

On the good side : There are numerous uses for this material. It is an introduction guide to longsword, but it also caters to those more advanced in the arts who appreciate alternative veiwpoints on same/similar teachings. Besides letting you have a quick sheet for the markwerse and poppular interpretations in a handy format. The way it is written makes me believe it could have useful life for longer than the interpretations within it.

On the bad side: not much to say here. I would perhaps have wanted ranges and timing (chapter six) to be moved forward so that it is before the guards (chapter four). But the material is all there. Also, since I'm brought up on metric, it disrupts my flow when inches are used instead of centimeters

So a great thanks to Keith Farrell and Alex Bourdas for an excellent product.

Review - 29th January 2014

Roman Vučajnk has written a brief review of the book on Facebook:

Keith Farrell is a skilled martial artist and an experienced instructor with an excellent feedback from his students. I admire his systematic way of teaching presenting HEMA to modern audience everywhere. I highly recommend his book!

Review - 29th January 2014

Francesco Lanza has written a brief review of the book on Facebook:

I have this book, and it is indeed a pretty awesome, a great work and a source of inspiration and food for thought. Study hard and train hard!

Review - 2nd January 2014

Mark Preston left a review of the book on Amazon.co.uk:

This is an excellent book, makes clear sense of a complex subject. Sent very quickly and carefully packed. Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in swordsmanship. Thanks Keith and look forward to future releases.

Review - 15th December 2013

M. Jolliff left a review of the book on Amazon.co.uk:

This is a truly excellent book and should be on the shelves of all who wish to engage in the serious practice of HEMA swordplay.

While it is not a how-to manual for learning the actual techniques (as the authors freely admit and that was not their purpose) it is a very well written, engaging and inspiring guide in how to get the most from the treatises and manuals that are out there. Indeed, it has already led me to re-examine my own practice and motivation, and has upped my enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge.

It is a map that will help all find their way around the vast, confusing and much argued over, territory that Historical European Martial Arts now covers.

The authors give very good guidance on the basics, explain terms well and make you aware of the principles one should keep in mind when researching, or practising the art.

It is worth owning for the bibliography alone which is not just confined to the (often hard to get hold of) books and treatises but also contains most (if not all) web addresses for pretty much everything that is worth reading or viewing that was available at the time of publishing.

If you only buy two books about the art, this MUST be one of them.

Review - 20th November 2013

Jake Norwood wrote this short review on the HEMA Alliance forum:

Just as a mini-review (I plan on writing a longer one later), I'm very fond of this book. I got one from Keith at Swordfish, and I already plan on making it something that's required for our beginner's courses. I may even buy a few cases and just work the price into course registration.

I'm very happy with it.


Review - 4th November 2013

Michael Smallridge has written a review of the book on his blog:

Review - 6th October 2013

Alen Lovric has filmed a video review for his "HEMA Reviews"
YouTube channel:

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