Men of Iron: Notes

by J. Christoph Amberger

20 Kegan, John. The Face of Battle, London: Penguin, 1978 (London: Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1976); p. 145. [back]

21 du Picq, Ardant. Battle Studies, New York: Macmillan, 1921, based on the French original from 1870. [back]

22 Marshall, S.L.A. Men Against Fire, New York: William Morrow, 1927, as quoted in Keegan; p. 71. [back]

23 Willcock, M.M. The Iliad of Homer, London: Macmillan, 1978; p. xiii. [back]

24 Given my own experiences with sharp edged weapons combat--which are, of course, limited, entirely subjective and not representative--I believe the role of aggression in antagonistic combat scenarios may be negligible, as the dominant element tends to be the instinct of self preservation. [back]

25 It is interesting to note that most first-hand accounts of high-stress antagonistic combat scenarios are very vague about the actual techniques, sequences, and details of the fight. This might indicate that the actual motorics of the fight are steered from a different level of consciousness than during practice bouts. It could also explain why drills for antagonistic combat focus on imprinting short clusters of simplified action that occurs independent of (or at least non--reactive to) the opponent's action. [back]

26 Schiller, Friedrich von. Die Jungfrau von Orleans, Act II: "Und nimmer irrend in der zitternden Hand regiert, Das Schwert sich selbst, als wär es ein lebend'ger Geist." [back]

27 See American Fencing, Boulder, CO: USFA, vol. 42, #4 (April, May, June 1992); p. 19. [back]

28 See American Fencing Boulder, CO: USFA, vol. 43 (July, August, September 1992); p. 6. [back]

29 Martincic, Albert. Kevey und seine Fechtschule, Graz (Austria); Self-published, 1983; p. 19: "Unnatürliche Anspannung und starke Konzentration verursachen leicht eine Verkrampfung der Muskulatur." [back]

30 Martincic; p. 30: "Die Angst macht langsam und erzeugt Defensivität." [back]

31 Nadi's shortcomings of form during the duel have been explained plausibly by some of his students: "Stop-thrusts, according to Maestro Nadi, must be performed going forward, to meet the attacker, thereby gaining time on his attack. To gain time on the attack, it is not sufficient to make the thrust from immobility, by merely extending the arm. If the front foot is not moved then the body must be leaned forward with the thrust.

"It would be a mistake, of course, to execute a retreat simultaneously with the stop-thrust--any advantage gained by the leaning forward of the body would have been lost. With the épée, however, because of the extended target and the vulnerability of being hit even after hitting first, a step back (or a jump back) may be necessary and is made immediately after the stop-thrust, by lifting the rear foot and starting the movement of the rear leg backwards, while leaning the body forward for the thrust.

"I might add that Maestro Nadi advocated following up virtually every épée stroke with an immediate second thrust sometimes referring to such combination as a "double shot". Used in conjunction with stop-thrusts, this second thrust may follow so quickly that the rear foot, raised for a (half) step back, remains airborne (though not motionless) during the process.

"I think it would be fair to say that the picture in Figure 5 was snapped at some point between the start and finish of a stop-thrust movement. Yes, the maestro was caught with his left foot off the ground. But he appears to be in control and not off balance Whether that foot actually completed the first half of a step back, or was subsequently brought forward to a postition close behind the right heel is immaterial" (from a Letter by Alexander Rivera, published in Hammerterz Forum vol. 3, #2 (Fall 1996), p. 19). [back]

32 Nadi; On Fencing, p. 29. [back]

33 ibid. [back]

34 Angelo, Henry. Reminiscences of Henry Angelo, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., 1904; vol. 2; p. 230. [back]

35 de Beaumont, C.L. Fencing: Ancient Art and Modern Sport (London: Nicholas Kaye, 1960) South Brunswick and New York: A.S. Barnes & Co., 1971; p. 108. [back]

36 One pre-war example, the 1938 encounter of Edouard Bourdet and Henri Bernstein, was recorded in Life magazine. Bourdet, sporting an impressive Homburg-style hat, is fly-fishing for an opening with his épée, blade whipping backwards. No wonder he ended up with a scratch on his arm, which led to a photogenous hospital-bed reconciliation... [back]

37 Fuchs (lit.: fox) is the term for a pledge or freshman member of a duelling fraternity who has not yet fought a sharp Mensur. [back]

38 See Wilcox, M."Dueling at a German University," unattributable, post 1882; p. 599 ff., in the author's collection. (Could be identical with "Dueling at Jena University," in The Hawk, Feb. 2, 1892, as listed in Thimm.) This passage is an adaptation from Roux, Friedrich August Wilhelm. Deutsches Paukbuch, Jena: Mauke, 1867; p. 79f--in which Roux, in his characteristic sarcasm, draws a quick vignette of the reality of the Mensur, as opposed to the ideal of technical and mental perfection he and his dynasty of fencing masters attempted to instill in their students. [back]

39 Colton, Walter. Remarks on Deulling, New York: Jonathan Leavitt and Boston: Crocker & Brewster, 1828; p. 26. [back]

40 deCamp, Sprague et al.. Dark Valley Destiny: The Life of Robert E. Howard, The Creator of Conan, New York: Bluejay Books, (1961) 1983; p. 305. [back]

41 Patton, Major George S., Jr."The Cavalryman", 1921 (Copyright 1996-97, The Patton Society). [back]

42 "Im Duell, wo der entblösste Oberkörper plötzlich der Bedrohung durch die gegnerische scharfgeschliffene Waffe ausgesetzt ist, tritt die Natur, die [wilde Fechter oder Raufer] verleugnen wollen, wieder in ihre Rechte, so dass die meisten, statt mitzuhauen, zur instinktiven Parade verleitet werden." See Bartunek; p. 33. [back]

43 Swetnam, Joseph. The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence, London: Nicholas Okes, 1617; p. 5. [back]

44 Angelo, Henry. Reminiscences, p. 231. [back]

45 Otto Julius Bierbaum (1865-1910) was a popular writer specializing in student life. In 1887, he was accepted into the Corps Thuringia at Leipzig, and thus was experienced in the use of the bell- guard Schläger. This story takes place in Jena, Germany, thus also involving bell-guard Schlägers rather than the basket-hilt variety--even though the mention of a sling points at the basket. [back]

46 Bierbaum, Otto Julius.--"Gamasche, der Pommernfuchs," in Conrad, Heinrich (ed.) Das Duellbuch, Munchen: Georg Müller, 1918; p. 330f. [back]

47 In pre-WWII practice, the positions of the Mensur participants were staked out by chalk marks on the floor. Stepping back over the mark (as in a retreat) meant disgraceful termination of the bout. [back]

48 To avoid tiring of the right arm--weighed down by a massive cuff and steel-reinforced gloves--and to control the descending arm with the sharp blade after each round, an Assisting Pledge (Schleppfuchs) or close friend of the fighter supports the sword arm before and between rounds. From my own experience, I believe that a well-trained fencer does not require assistance to get his arm up... but I would have to admit that one and a half foot of honed edge always can do with an additional safety catch. [back]

49 The Ehrengang, or round of honor, marks the opening or close of a Mensur, depending on local rules. It consists of a test run, with the seconds going through their phrases. The fighters either remain motionless in the Steile Auslage, or briefly clash the blades together. [back]

50 During the bout, the seconds not only act as enforcers of the rules and protectors of their fighter, they frequently engage in verbal needling of the opposing party in the fashion of trial lawyers. [back]

51 This may seem like deliberate cruelty, and without a doubt is interpreted as such by Henry, but the flat hits not only are indicative of Henry's faulty cover, but also of his opponent's lack of experience and skill. [back]

52 Most German Comments today stipulate that the tip of the blade has to be constantly in motion after Go! Remaining passively in cover (called lauern--to lurk, to prey) would mean immediate exclusion from the bout. [back]

53 Leaning forward while standing on the fixed, short distance of the Mensur means reducing the distance between fighters. Thus, the chances of a sharp hit are somewhat reduced. Or so you think... [back]

54 Termination of the Mensur as the result of an "incapacitating" wound. [back]

55 I.e., the chalk cross on the floor that marked the position. [back]

56 A Pro Patria Suite pitches all or a pre-determined number of fighters from one Corps against an equal number of fighters from the other Corps in a series of bouts fought under rules providing for more cuts per round, more rounds per bout, and less restrictions on target area. [back]

57 "Fun's over." [back]

58 See Textor, Horst-Ulrich."Die Bergakademie Freiberg und das Brauchtum ihrer Studenten (1765-1845)", in Einst und Jetzt, vol. 41, München: Verein für corpsstudentische Geschichtssforschung, 1996; p. 234f. [back]

59 Swetnam; p. 37. [back]

60 Hergsell. Duell-Codex; p. 83. [back]

61 Wallechinsky, David. The Complete Book of the Olympics, New York: Penguin, 1984; p. 247. Wallechinsky portrays Contronei as the captain of the Italian. foil team. Given Contronei's age and the fact that his name does not appear in the team line-up, this must be an error. [back]

62 Nadi. On Fencing, p. 24. [back]

63 Grassi, Giacomo di. His True Arte of Defence (London, 1594) in Jackson; Three Elizabethan Fencing Manuals; p. 4. [back]

64 Hope; "Epistle to the Reader." [back]

65 Bartunek; p. 146. [back]

Copyright ©1998 J. Christoph Amberger. All rights reserved.


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