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on March 3, 2003
I've read with interest the reviews posted here, and the many kind comments about my work that have appeared online at SwordForum, NetSword, and elsewhere. While I never overtly set out to produce a 'how-to' guide to Sigmund Ringeck's work, I am gratified that a great number of my readers have found the book to be of utility to them in their swordsmanship studies.
I do feel that I need to correct some misconceptions that may be created via the review by the 'Reader from Japan'. First, this book was in no way 'rushed to press'. Rather, my work here represents three years of intense study of this manuscript and the related material surrounding it (Martin Wierschin's transcription and comments, Hans-Peter Hils treatment of the Liechtenauer tradition). All of the interpretations depicted were evolved through practice with an enthusiastic core of students.
I am keenly aware of the existence of other illustrated works within the Liechtenauer tradition. Had the reviewer actually carefully read my work, he'd have noted several referenced to Hans Talhoffer's several surviving works (and please do purchase Mark Rector's excellent book "Medieval Combat", which treats one of Master Talhoffer's works). The reviewer is further in error about the corroborative nature of the illustrated manuscripts that he cites: while Talhoffer is within the Liechtenauer framework, he rarely shows techniques directly connected with Liechtenauer's verse; Codex Wallerstein is of a similar nature.
It's quite clear that the reviewer in question was much more keen to launch an attack than to cite errors of fact: his or her reference to some 'clique' trying to present me as an authority makes that clear. I'm not sure who the reviewer represents, or what the source of their ill will is, but for the record, of the reviewers posting here, the only one of any significant acquaintance is my friend and colleague Stephen Hand. I know Mr. McIlmoyle only through one meeting, while the others are strangers to me. Further, it's clear that the reviewer is unfamiliar with any of the major discussion fora related to Western Martial Arts - if he were, he'd be ashamed to accuse me of being unwilling to admit mistakes now that I'm a published author.
The accusation that I have in "many, many sections" willfully reversed the translation of the manuscript to fit my own conceptions of how the techniques should work is a very heavy one indeed, as it implies nefarious conduct on my part. Let me take a moment to address the reader's critique of my analysis of the techniques shown in on page 160, wherein he maintains that I simply ignore the words of Ringeck's treatise.
The reader begins by saying this technique involves "chopping down" on your opponent. He's off to a bad start here in trying to understand this action, as the technique begins with a rising cut from below originating from the guard called Nebenhut, where the sword is trailing beside one's left side. The reader then goes on to misread what Ringeck means when he refers to the sword's position in regard to one's left shoulder: he clearly says the point should be directed "to the rear of your left side". This ties in with remaining in the same relative position with one's hands, and thereby with your hilt. The 'snapping' action over the sword, called Schnappen in German (which also appears, perhaps more clearly on pages 87-88), is an action that frees one from a strong bind: by driving the pommel forward, your blade comes parallel to your opponent's and thereby 'snaps out' and over the bind. Now, I should note that picture 20.11 could have been presented better; my hands do withdraw too far back as the bind is released - in actuality all of this action happens with the hilt in very tight (such are the occassional failings of still photos showing complex physical actions). Lastly, and most puzzlingly, the reader believes that I ignore Ringeck's advice to strike the follow-on blow with the short, or false, edge of the sword. I most certainly *am* striking with the short edge in picture 20.12, which is quite obvious when the position of my right hand is examined: my knuckles are facing upward and my wrist is straight, neither of which would be possible if I were erroneously striking with the long, or true, edge of the sword.
In closing, I'd like to say that indeed there is always room for improvement in our understanding of these late Medieval fighting traditions. I, and the rest of the Western Martial Arts community, are still on a very steep learning curve. As I point out in the book's introduction, no one should fall too much in love with their current understanding, as it will continue to evolve with the passage of the years, and as more material is unearthed, translated, practiced. To the truly humble practitioner, whether he be author or reader, this is not a burden but rather a joy: there's still so much to learn!
Thanks again to the many wonderful readers who've bought this book. Your response has exceeded my expectations and made this endeavor (and its forthcoming successors) more than worth the effort!
[Note: The 'Reader from Japan' originally posted under a different identity and afterwards modified his review without noting that he had done so, thereby making my own original rebuttal look rather senseless. I've edited my own comments here to address his revised comments. - CHT 10/26/2003]
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on February 24, 2003
This book could have been a lot better had the author done a bit more research and training before rushing it to print. As it is, it seems that the purpose of the book is to set the author up as a "published authority" with other members of his clique giving their vocal support of his work.
A bit of explination seems to be needed. The Ancient sword master Liechtenauer wrote some cryptic verses to help his students remember their lessons. Later, one of his students by the name of Ringeck wrote more detailed explinations of the verses. In neither case were there any illustrations to go with the text. A few years ago, this text of Ringeck was translated and posted on the internet. The author of this book went further than the internet translation and added sections on fighting from a horse and the like. He also added pictures of what he thought the techniques would look like.
The problem is that he does not seem to know much about the subject matter. I understand that he was merely trying his best to figure out the movements, but he should have done a lot more experimentation and research before commiting things to print. In a lot of cases, I looked at the sequences he has through the experience of sword and unarmed fighting I have had in the orient and found that his interpetations seem to be less effective than ones I can see in the descriptions. In many cases, he reverses some aspect of the verse to fit his view of what a technique should look like. Instead of the right hand going in as the verse says, the pictures clearly show the left trying to do the move. There are many, many sections where this happens. Too many to list them all. They occur in all the sections.
One example will have to suffice to show how the Author makes a bad choice and then ignores any evidence to the contrary rather than admit imperfection. On page 159 there is a technique for when you chop down at the opponent and he intercepts your sword so that now the right side of your sword and his are touching. Ringeck writes, "move your pommel over his sword" by which Tobler takes to mean going under the other person sword and ending up on the left side of the opponents sword.(picture 20:10) He ends up at the end of the technique with his right foot forward. Ringeck states, "remains thereupon with your hands" and instead Tobler moves the hands quite a bit- leaving himself wide open to an attack in picture 20-11.Tobler also ignores Ringeck's instructions to snap the sword back at the left shoulder and cut with the short ("back") edge. The picture is quite clear that Tobler is using the long ("front") edge after pulling it back with his hands and losing contact with the other sword.
If Tobler had stayed on the original side of the sword with his left leg forward, then everything would make sense. The sword pushes across the body, the hands stay where they are, control the other's blade and act as a pivot as the back part of the blade snaps back towards your own left shoulder to hit the opponent in the face. And it does not leave you open to a counter strike or otherwise break with the doctrine of Liechtenauer.
And the author seems to have missed that later masters in the tradition started by Liechtenauer did indeed provide illustrated versions of the techniques. The techniques by the writer of the Codex Wallerstein, the sword master Hans Talhoffer and the illustrator Albrect Durer all left historical texts that show illustrations that match the descritions by Ringeck. And those examples differ greatly from Christian Tobler's pictures in this book.
This book should have been a internet web site that had an invitation for input and suggestions for improvement. As things stand, the chances of a published author admiting his mistakes are fairly slim. Christian Tobler can now point to the fact that he is a published author in his aurguments, but this book should have been delayed until he knew a lot more than he seems to know.
Also, for the begginer to Western Martial Arts, there is little that they can use from the descritions themselves. There is precious little background on the realities or enviroment of the art. It is a little like trying to learn how to fly a plane from a book when you have never actually seen an airplane and know nothing of the science of how things fly.
My best advice would be that if you have this book, to read the text only and ignore the pictures. Ringeck was a genius, but the pictures seem almost a parady of what he was trying to get across.
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on April 26, 2002
A few years ago when I Co-Founded The Academy Of European Medieval Martial Arts With David Cvet, we looked High and Low for good sources from which to study. Finding Few We resolved to collect all of the material we could find onto our website for anyone to use so that new practitioners would at least have a place to start. Christian Tobler in bringing Ringeck's work to the community in English has in the Publishing of "Secrets Of German Medieval Swordsmanship" opened entirely new doors in the study of Medieval Western Martial arts.
Now anyone can have complete access to this key work and with study and practice gain true skill in Medieval German Swordsmanship.
This book is very well designed and laid out, the translation is clear and concise, and Tobler's Interpritations of the techniques are well researched and executed. The Photos used to augment and enhance the text are clear and instructive.
In short this book is everything that anyone interested in the art could wish for.
Anyone embarking on the path to knowledge and Martial Skill in German Medieval Swordsmanship needs to buy this book.
This is not the kind of book that you read once and put on the shelf, this is a book that gets read, and re-read and accompanies you to the practice hall. In fact I suggest you buy 2 copies as one is sure to be soiled with sweat rust and blood. ( Mostly sweat )
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on April 25, 2002
One of the questions I see constantly from European swordsmanship enthusiasts is "what should I read to help me learn medieval swordsmanship". The answer is usually, look at this manuscript or that, this general text or that. There was no satisfactory answer until now. Christian Tobler's Secrets of German Medieval Swordsmanship is the first book to describe the fighting system of a single master, Sigmund Ringeck in a way that is comprehensible to the beginner and still enormously useful to the veteran swordsman.
The Liechtenauer tradition was the most significant style of swordsmanship in the middle ages, lasting for at least 200 years. Sigmund Ringeck was one of the first masters to comment on the verse of Master Johannes Liechtenauer, the father of German swordsmanship. Secrets lays out the verse, Ringeck's commentary and Christian's commentary on Ringeck in amazingly clear plates, leaving no-one in any doubt which idea comes from which author. Each plate contains clear photographs of Christian and his willing victim Ben demonstrating the technique that Liechtenauer and Ringeck have described in words. While no interpretation can ever hope to be 100% accurate, this one looks pretty close.
Anyone interested in medieval swordsmanship, whether they be historical fencers, re-enactors or stage combatants MUST buy a copy of this book. It will save you years of struggling through obscure manuscripts. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!
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on April 16, 2002
Secrets of German Medieval Swordsmanship (SGMS) not only opens up one of the most influential medieval german fencing schools it also is a wonderful guide to any practioner of western Martial Arts. Anybody interested in swordsmanship will find a complete system which is proven in countless encounters during centuries and wich still is transparent and easy to grasp. Christian Tobler did an outstanding work in making accessible the works of Liechtenauer and Ringeck. Not only are the verses translated so that the meanings become clear, the added and very detailed photographs of every technique and every step adds to the overall accessability of this book. SGMS will be a standard work for future enthusiasts, reenactors and serious swordfighters. Nobody who picks up a medieval sword should miss this book. One can learn more in a month with SGMS than in three years without. It is also a perfect place to start for those who don't have access to a fighting school or any organisation dedicated to swordfighting. Hopefully this work will bring more education into our world. To put it in one sentence: A must have and must read which deserves its place next to Oakeshott on the bookshelve.
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on November 15, 2002
Germany produced dozens of manuals on martial arts in the 1400's. Most of them stemmed from the work of one man, Johannes Lichtenauer. He is the root and baseline for much of German combat. If you understand him, you have a much better chance of understanding anyone from the Medieval German tradition. Understand the German tradition, and you can start understanding the general Medieval tradition. Understand goes on. Basically, this is a great resource for anyone who wants to start using a sword or spear or even start wrestling. Ringeck presents a sophisticated system of combat, the equal of anything else in the world. Get it, no matter what kind of martial arts you dig. It will be worth it.
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on March 25, 2004
Ever dreamt of being that Knight breaking lance and thrashing sword upon enemy? Your dream can easily come true! This book, Secrets of German Medieval Swordsmanship is by far one of the best books I have whitnesed. The book shows people combat techniques for a wide diversity of styles. It shows armed combat, sword fighting, unarmed combat and much more that deals with the sword and even a section on fighting on a horse. Even after training with the sword, this book will expand one's knowledge of swordsmanship. The book is worth every penny of the price. It also serves as a great reference book if one is to fight at a show. This is a book that you definently want to pick up!
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on June 21, 2004
This book is very clear, well written, and wonderfully photographed.
It provides an excellent view of 15th century european martial arts as being every bit as advanced as those of the orient.
The instructions are clear, and the methods practical.
If you fence, practice kendo, or any other sword art, and are interested in learning how fights were really fought (as opposed to how Hollywood wants us to think they were) I fully recommend this book.
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