Between the 1940’s and the early 1960’s the Diplom Fechtmeister (licensed fencing master) Karl Lochner discovered a short German text on “fencing in earnest”.
Dating from around the late 1600’s to early 1700’s, the “Alchemia Dimicandi” of a minor German nobleman cuts through the traditional Lektion-Contra-lektion patterns of contemporary fencing pedagogy—and provides a unique glimpse at actual, hands-on dueling practice with the transition rapier or small sword…
—by J. Christoph Amberger
Many years ago, as I was just starting to compile my collection of fencing texts, art, and weapons, I purchased a copy of Die Entwicklung der europäischen Trutzwaffen mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Sportwaffen by Karl E. Lochner, self-published by his widow Anna Lochner in Vienna in 1968. This private publication encompasses most of Lochner’s research into the literature, weapons, and practices of German and European fencing. In itself, it is a rare find, as only a handful of copies were printed up by his widow.
Inside the pages of this book were a number of handwritten notes, executed in the quintessentially German handwriting of the early 20th century. Upon closer inspection, this turned out to be a transcription of an up-to-now unpublished German fencing text. It is update, but internal references place it within the 30-year-period between 1680 and 1710—an especially interesting period in the German fencing tradition, because of the literary “gap” of fencing-specific printed publications lasting from the last books of Paschen to the first editions of Schmidt.
I spent the past year translating the text and placing it into its proper context.
Apart from placing the duel or rencontre (regulated or unregulated combat) with the Degen in its social and—most importantly!—legal context, the system that emerges ins comparatively simple and straight forward. It deviates from the traditions of Kreussler and Paschen from the very positioning:
“He combines insights derived from experience, weighing and comparing other approaches taught by the fencing masters at court. The core principle of von A.’s approach is the positioning: The recommended guard is formed by extending the weapon hand further than in the classical (French) tierce or outside guard. The point is slightly tilted at the opponent’s wrist, aiming right behind his hilt: Should the opponent advance or extend without paying attention to this position, he would impale his hand, wrist or arm on the point. The recommended setting of the blade within the hilt supplements this. This slightly diagonal position of the fencer’s blade in relation to the opponent’s presumably straight blade position also allows for rapid lifts or taking of the opponent’s blade, either in tierce or in seconde/octave.”
In fact, the author turns out to be a vocal critic, not just of the courtly fencing masters of the day, but of the Kreusslers—and even of the Liechtenauer traditions that at the time of his writing were ascribed to the “Klopf-fechter”.
The author’s reflections on the usefulness of the Degen (smallsword or transition rapier) indicate that he had a sound understanding of the various scenarios in which violence could occur—and what kind of weapon was the most useful for each.
I have shared the results of my research with friends and colleagues in the HEMA research field over the past month, who have provided valuable input from different perspectives: Matt Galas, Scott Brown, and Jan Schäfer from an overall survey of German fencing traditions, and my local smallsword expert Victor Markland. I thank them for their valued insights and assistance.
A Note on the Publication of the Alchemia:
It’s been with some reluctance that I am making my research available:
I’ve noticed with consternation, and not a little revulsion, the decline of the HEMA community into gaggles of politically correct factions attempting to outdo each other in political sanctimoniousness and left-wing faddery. Quite honestly, I’m getting sick of it. This is neither the background of European historical martial arts, nor is it in keeping with the mindset of the old masters—who themselves were, at their core, elitists who restricted the availability of their knowledge to those they deemed worthy (or those who could pay). As a result, I’ve already canceled my participation in various HEMA events scheduled for this year.
Thankfully, the new U.S. Administration’s recent executive actions have removed some of the collectivist compulsions affecting publishing, enabling a more targeted release of this new material. Applying innovative “vetting” screens and algorithms, the publication of the Alchemia Dimicandi marks the beginning of the era of “limited distribution” based on reader parameters. Of course, like most on the FencingClassics site, it remains free.
To download a .pdf of the booklet, please click RIGHT HERE.