Schlaeger Fechten (Re-post)

Schlaeger Fechten (Re-post)

Post by <glas.. » Wed, 29 Jun 1994 20:27:28

Here follows a re-post of Uwe Kallmeyer's interesting post on Mensur
Newsgroups: rec.martial-arts

Subject: German University Dueling - an overview
Organization: ZEUS Gesellschaft fuer Integration und Kommunikation GmbH
Date: Wed, 02 Mar 1994 12:02:04 GMT

Lines: 242

Sorry for the delay. It took me nearly three days to write this
summary, but now it seems to be nearly complete.



* History & background

First of all this kind of university fencing has nearly nothing
in common with the fencing you all know as a sport. It is correct
that it's roots come from the 19th century when noblemen (and
students as well) had to protect their life and honor with the
blade from time to time.

In those days it became fashionable to have visible scars in
the face. Students were proud of them because they would be
recognized as members of an academic community only by sight.

Today it is more or less uncommon for most german students to
carry a sabre for self defense. So the meaning (and style) of
fencing changed a lot since then. The main reason for fencing
today is some kind of initiation rite (sp?). Since the membership
in a fraternity lasts a lifetime, young members of a fraternity
have to proof, that they are serious about their membership.

There is no way to make any "points" and there is no winner in
a "Mensur". The only goal is to keep on fencing until the end.
Usually a mensur lasts 40 sets by 5 hits each (no matter if you
miss). These numbers may vary according to local traditions.

Scars are today more or less a sign that reads "I'm a bad
fencer!" and doctors try to sew stitches that are nearly
invisible (there ARE exceptions). I once heard a story about a
fraternity in Mannheim. They had a japanese member. Since (as
I have heard) scars in the face are regarded as a sign of a
very low social status in japan, the fraternity hired a doctor
specialized in cosmetical surgery for this member's "Mensur".

The actual "Mensur" only takes place a few times in one's
lifetime. Most fraternities demand their members to take part in
three of these events. Some do more (I have met guys with up to
15 "Mensuren") but many students stop after having done their
duty of 3.

A "Mensur" is not a duell. It is not up to the member to
decide, who will be his partner for the "Mensur". Instead
the vice-presidents of the fraternities (usually experienced
fencers) agree on certain pairs, trying to match fencers with
equal experience, height and strength. There is NEVER a "Mensur"
between two members of the same fraternity.

* Setting up for the "fight"

Both partners stand opposite each other in a parallel fixed
stance, feet shoulder wide apart, with about one length of a
blade between them. Both wear a kind of armor which protects
the whole body from the legs up to the mouth. This armor was
traditionally made of black leather (looks really frightening :-)
but during the last years a combination of a chain mail and a
kevlar shirt became very popular. Your shoulder joints are much
more flexible with these. In addition to this body armor one
wears a long, padded leather glove, eye protection and leather
pads to protect the ears. Depending on local habits there might
also be a leather pad to protect the cheek.

Fencing styles differ between the universities. Most of them
allow only the head above the eyebrows as the target area for
hits. At some universities the left cheek belongs to the target
area as well (see below for "Quart" and "Zieher").

If stance and distance are correct, both take their initial
posture. The left arm ist hidden behind one's back (I used to
grab my belt) to keep it from interfering with the blade. The
right arm is put above one's head as if you would want to touch
your left ear. In your right hand you hold a weapon, called
"Schlaeger" (i.e. bat, club) which is actually a sabre with a
straight blade. The "Schlaeger" is only a cutting/slicing weapon.
There is no stapping in the "Mensur". The top third of the blade
is extremely sharp. This has the advantage that, if you are hit,
it is a nice clean cut which will heal in short time and leave no
scars. In the starting posture, the "Schlaeger" is held in a 45
deg. angle to the ground with the blade pointing about to your
partner's left (from your point of view) shoulder. This way the
blade protects the left side of your head. The starting posture
is designed to be perfectly safe. So if your posture is perfect
you will not get hit.

Both partners are looked after by a second. His job is to protect
his protege from "illegal" hits. He also pays attention, that
everything happens in an orderly manner and according to the
rules. Both seconds stand between the two fencers in a very low,
very wide stance, torso bent down to avoid being hit by the
blades. When both fencers have done their 5 hits in a set, both
seconds rise to protect their protege from further hits.

As mentioned above a "Mensur" is not a duell. (Actually sometimes
it is, but these are rare occasions - duells are forbidden in
germany). This is why the first set of a "Mensur" is called the
"Ehrengang" i.e. "set of honor". Both partner just cross their
blades with a high "Quart" (see below) without really hitting
anything. This way they accept each other as honorable. In the
rare cases where a "Mensur" is a duell or a repetition of a
former, not satisfactory "Mensur" (see below for details), the
"Ehrengang" is left out and both start immediately with the sharp

The sharp sets consist of both partners hitting 5 times. It
depends on local habits if both hit after each other (e.g. here
in Brunswick) or at the same time (e.g. Wuerzburg) or if the
moment to hit is left to the fencer.

* Techniques available

The "Terz". This is the simplest technique available. From the
starting posture you wind up by turning the wrist clockwise,
lowering the elbow only a few centimeters and moving the blade on
a vertical circle beside your left side. The target area is the
upper left part of your partner's head (from your point of view).
After the blade has hit (usually on the partner's glove, rarely
on his head) the elbow is flung back to its original position and
the wrist ist turned counterclockwise. Thus the circle of the
blade is completed and it swings back to the starting posture
while providing immediate safety.

The "Quart". The first move is just like for a "Terz". The target
area is the right upper part of the partner's head (from your
point of view). Since you cannot reach this point with your elbow
above your head (try it :-), you will lower your elbow to your
mouth and place your right hand even higher than before. Now the
right forearm protects the left side of your head while the blade
itself protects top and right part of your head. Again the blade
moves on a circle. This time the circle's plane is at about 45

While the "Terz" is a real trivial move and not very effective,
the "Quart" is already quite sophisticated and easy to be
modified to e.g. the "Hochquart". This variant tries to hit the
back of the partners head by moving the right hand even higher,
thus (which is a serious drawback) creating an openness on one's
own left side. The "Quart" is also much more difficult to hit
because of the very long distance between the two endpoints of
your elbow's movement. So you have to move your elbow really fast
to be safe most of the time.

The "Zieher". This is a *** one. The "Zieher" is winded up just
like a "Quart", but instead of following the 45 deg. circle you
lead the blade (which is still vertical) around your back to your
right side and cut vertically upwards by only turning your wrist.
The target area is a little place right above the partner's right
eyebrow (from your point of view). The "Zieher" is *** because
you are only safe against it if your starting posture is perfect
(esp. the angle of the blade). I used to love this one :-)

* When it is over ...

During the whole "Mensur" at least two doctors must be present.
We usually have one vet and two dentists. The dentists make nice
little stitches which leave no scars while the vet is one of the
nicest and funniest guys I ever met.

As mentioned above, a "Mensur" lasts 40 sets by 5 hits each. It
may end earlier if either someone is hit and a doctor recommends
to stop the "Mensur" or if one of the fencers breaks a rule

Every "Mensur" ends with an "Ehrengang" (see above). This is only
left out if the "Mensur" was stopped because one of the fencers
broke a rule drastically. Even real duels end with this "set of
honor", since the honor of both opponents is intact again by this

There is no winner in a "Mensur". Nevertheless your "Mensur"
will afterwards be rated by members of your fraternity regarding
technique and "Moral". While in the "Mensur" it is against the
rules to draw back your head, parry or block a hit or even step
back. This is regarded kindof cowardish and so a lack of "Moral"
in this context means that your "Mensur" was not up to the

It is often said that you must not react to anything in the
"Mensur" at all. This is not true. You may (if you can) react in
an offensively manner, e.g. detect an openness in the partner's
posture and modify an already wound up hit accordingly to get

If it is decided, that your "Mensur" was not satisfactory, you
are to repeat it as soon as possible. Meanwhile you suffer a
partial loss of honor. You would e.g. have to give up the job of
the president of the fraternity.

* Training and m.a. value

When I joined the "Corps Frisia" in october '83 I started
training immediately. We had classes monday till friday from 6:30
to 7:30 AM! (with a marvelous breakfast afterwards :-). My first
"Mensur" was in june '84, the second in march '85 and the 3rd
and last in novbember '85. I hated (and hate) to get up early
and fencing a "Mensur" is an exciting, but not very pleasant
experience. So I quit fencing after having done my duty.

I was never hit and do not have any scars (at least not from any
"Mensur"). Of course, I am still member of the "Corps Frisia".
Since I have left the university (and get money for the work I
do), I now belong to the "Alte Herren" (i.e. fellows, supporting
members) of my fraternity.

In march '85 I took up kendo, hoping that both arts might benefit
from each other. It was then that I realized that the m.a.-value
of university fencing is at least questionable. You learn to pay
attention to a good posture and you learn to realize (and use) an
openness of your partner's posture. On the other hand, evading
moves, blocks and parying a hit are forbidden and this is too far
from real life. So university fencing may be a martial art, but
it should never be confused with e.g. kendo or normal fencing. It
should be looked at with german traditions and the traditions of
german fraternities in mind.

I gave up kendo after three years. Now I am into Taijiquan, yang
style since '91 and I am really happy with it.

        have fun
        comments and discussions are welcome


P.S.: I apologize for my english (if I have to). Apart
      from english being not my native language some problems in
      understanding the above text may arise from the fact that I
      tried the translation of terms unknown in not german-speaking

  Uwe Kallmeyer - ZEUS Gesellschaft fuer Integration und Kommunikation GmbH

David Glasser  
fencing master %DFB:BLZ/LLZ Bonn  NFF:BSI/BF/NSS Bergen

Department of Kinesiology, University of Wisconsin -- Madison