The German Language of Fighting

When one thinks of swordsmanship, one typically thinks of the Japanese warrior, welding a katana, or perhaps a Celtic warrior swinging a broadsword. And empty-hand fighting is attributed to the British boxers or the French wrestlers. But in the Middle Ages, Germany surpassed itself as the European epicenter of knowledge in the martial arts. More than any other nation, Germanic martial artists wrote prodigiously on the subject of fighting arts, producing fencing manuals and other seminal texts that defined the German style of Defence. As Europe slowly emerged from the dark, oppressive cocoon of the Medieval period, a renewed interest in science and reason sparked a revival, be it a very small one initially, in learning.

This metamorphosis would eventually lead to the first codified fighting system in Europe. Although Germany military would remain in disorder until the mid-1700s and the rule of Frederick the Great, the German Masters of Defence cultivated a system of learning, and of language, that all Europeans could celebrate as the new scholarship of fighting.

In ancient times, Germanic tribes passed down fighting styles by having their most experienced warrior teach the youth. Tribal communities lived in sects and the familial aspect of that culture made learning martial arts a social function, learned within the confines of the group. Training was based on the tribe’s young men, and sometimes women, learning under the tutelage of the best warrior. Martial arts were taught in-person, and there are no written accounts as to how that training progressed, although there is some documentation as to the efficacy of Germanic warfare from the ancient Romans.

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