A Fechtschule in 16th-century Germany: Excerpt from The Secret History of the Sword


It is evident from old fencing manuscripts that a precise distinction was made in those days between the exercise of arms on the fencing floor and the contests which were held publicly, the so-called Fechtschulen.

Fencers from the era of guilds did not like to be observed during training, and did not appear in public until they had attained full mastery.

We could adduce many further proofs that public competitive fencing bouts were called “Fechtschulen” and that this is not a case of misunderstanding by us as inheritors of the tradition, but we will content ourselves with an additional passage from Rösener in which fencing students are taught among other things to behave modestly on the “teaching ground,” not to “recklessly” destroy “any weapon,”

And should not mock anyone else at all,

In exercise, it is forbidden.

And you should not beat anyone bloody

who is just beginning to fence.

From this it can be seen that fencers were to show restraint in the training school and use their weapons with caution, so that serious wounds would not occur. In the Fechtschulen, however, such wounds were often required to obtain a prize. (more…)