I was lucky enough to get a late ticket to WMAW 2017 and spent an amazing few days in Racine, Wisconsin, learning from HEMA practitioners from all over the world.
On the last day of the event, I asked eight experienced longsword fencers to explain how they perform a parry by thrust, or absetzen.
This is the fifth in a series of blog posts in which I’ll attempt to find underlying principles to be drawn from varying interpretations of this technique.
See the previous posts in this series:
Ted, James, and Robert: A Very Meyer Absetzen
In this three-in-one episode, Ted Elsner (Lead Instructor at Sacramento Freifechter), James Reilly (Lead Instructor at WHFA: Kenosha-Racine), and Robert Rutherfoord of Chicago Swordplay Guild demonstrate another interpretation of Absetzen.
Stab the monkey on their shoulder
Ted emphasizes the need to aim the point slightly over the opponent’s shoulder for the counterthrust, rather than aiming at their face.
“If I aim straight at his face, as he impacts the blade as he’s moving forward, he’s going to set me off to the side and I’m going to miss… Instead as James comes in, I’m going to thrust at the monkey on his right shoulder.”
The opponent’s blow may helpfully direct your point into their own face; if not, you still gain control over their sword through mechanical advantage.
Three footwork options
Ted outlines three possibilities for footwork, from safer to more daring. More conservative options break the absetzen down into a multiple-tempo technique, more like a parry-riposte. The riskiest option carries the highest payoff (and looks the coolest). All three options use the same overbind mechanics.
Long edge is engaged the whole time
Ted keeps his long edge on the opponent’s blade throughout the technique: “One thing that Meyer is explicit about is the way that you achieve the bind, which is with the long edge.”
James agrees: “When he winds the short edge over, he’s giving me his whole flat to just suppress, and I don’t have to do any work for that… his body isn’t structurally sound.”
Extended arms help to close the line
In the previous episodes, our instructors emphasized the importance of keeping a sound structure to make sure the Absetzen can stand up to a heavy blow. Robert shows us how extended arms also divert the opponent’s point.
“The more I extend my arms, the more I keep his point away from me,” Robert says.
“You can see how far off the line, just by extending his arms and straightening them, [James’ point] has diverted,” adds Ted. “It’s geometry.”