Category Archives: Duel

The German Connection II: “Balefuls of doubloons” and the Sienese Germanica 

This is a sidelight on the Natio Germanica in Siena, before and around the time Capo Ferro was active as a fencing master at the local university. Other than a brief scene provided in Esch, this article is mostly background as to the presence and influence of German students. Unlike Fabri and the Germanica in Padua, we have not been able to locate specific vectors who may have continued or expanded Capo Ferro’s method abroad.

by J. Christoph Amberger

In Capo Ferro’s Siena, the members of the Natio Germanica were known colloquially as forestieri—meaning “strangers” or “foreigners”—and consisted of High and Low Germans, Scandinavians, Bohemians, Poles, Carinthians, Styrians, and Lombards from every corner and recess of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. They occupied the Casa della Sapienza, a former paupers’ hospital that had been converted into a dormitory for foreign students in 1415. The Casa also had living space, lecture and disputation rooms for 30 Sapieanzani who stayedfor a term of up to seven years. 

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Saved by the Bell: How Richard Wagner contracted six duels and ended up not fighting a single one!

—by J. Christoph Amberger

In 1831, Richard Wagner enrolled at the Universität Leipzig. He had been acquainted with German student fraternities since the political unrest following the July Revolution of 1830 and managed to get accepted as a Fuchs (pledge) at the Corps Saxonia—just eight days before the Easter vacation began and academic life ground to a hold. 

A duel with bell-guard Schlägers at Leipzig in 1811—21 years before the events in this article, but you see how someone could end up with a debilitating Armfuchser!
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Trick Shot: A two-handed thrust backwards into the thigh from the 1630’s

e0e7bd1d854ce2cae68512538c72febfSome modern martialists spend so much time arguing what the martially-minded duelist of yesteryear would have never done, it would seem that European Martial Arts, especially of the 17th and 18th centuries, was something for ultra-cautious, risk-adverse middle-aged veterans wearing leather soles on a freshly waxed floor while carrying a stack of Wedgwood china. And yet, period literature yields interesting indications that things were not what they seem…

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The unfair advantage: The subtle differences in 19th century French dueling épées

aa3Reduced weight.

Upside-down mounted blades.

A sneakily set handle.

Early attempts in gaining an unfair advantage with épées de combat.

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Last Blood: The grave of the last German student killed in a thrust duel


The last German student to die as a result of a duel using thrusting swords—not unlike the French épée de combat—was the young jurist Adolph Erdmannsdörffer.

Buried in the village cemetery at Wöllnitz, now integrated into the Thuringia town of Jena, his grave marker recalls him as “das letzte Opfer der Stoßmensur” (the last victim of the thrust Mensur).

The worst part: It was his own fault.

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FencingClassics to release “missing link” late 17th-ct. German fencing manuscript!


This recently re-discovered transcript by an anonymous German noble could fill an important gap in the documentation of German fencing approaches between Paschen and Schmidt.

Under the sponsorship of the new Administration, we’re preparing a limited release of the manuscript.

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See You at the 2015 American Smallsword Symposium in Timonium, Md.

SmallswordGranted, it’s been a while since I’ve made it to a Historical Sword-Fighting event…

This time around, I have no excuse not to go: Victor Markland has organized what is shaping up to be a great event right down the road from my club… Continue reading

Big Bang Theory, 1566: The Nerd with the Golden Nose

tycho braheMaybe Cousin Manderup was “in his spot”. Maybe it was Fermat’s Next-to-Last Theorem proving that 2 + 2 = 5 ? Fact is that a squabble among freshman nerds at the theology professor’s house ended in an ugly injury that made one of the geeks almost as famous for his rhinoplasty as for his scientific discoveries… Continue reading

Legends of the Sword: Satan fights a Mensur

The German novelist and poet Wilhelm Hauff (1802—1827) is more famous for his fairy tales than for his novels. Unreasonably so, because his Memoiren des Satan alone are better written and more enjoyable than all the semi-competent writage they throw at German literature students in college these days.

Hauff studied philosophy and theology at Tübingen. In 1826, he wrote Mitteilungen aus den Memoiren des Satan (Memoirs of Beelzebub), in which he works in some of the fencing activities of his brother, a member of the Tübinger Burschenschaft.

For the connoisseur of Gedecktes Hiebfechten, this is a rare monument of armament and strategy of the early Mensur… Continue reading

Secret History of the Sword: Dead Poets Society—Rencontre in Hog Lane, 1589

Despite their distinct dislike for things Catholic and South European, Elizabethans were suckers for Italian fencing techniques and concepts of honor and dueling.

Some of the most prominent figures of the cultural elite of the period engaged in Italian-style swordplay. Among them was the poet Christopher Marlowe, whom we’re catching on an Indian summer afternoon on the outskirts of London, sword in hand, and ready to engage in moderate mayhem… Continue reading