Syllabus vs System : The Legacy of Johannes Liechtenauer || Michael Chidester

Michael Chidester || Wiktenauer || Somerville, MA, USA

Weapons: Lecture

Johannes Liechtenauer, grand master of the oldest known German fencing tradition, recorded his art in a 358-line poem called the Zettel. To unlock the secrets of this poem, we rely on the writings of his students and associates, as well as later masters in his tradition.

This lecture consists of two parts. The first will explore the different types of fencing manuals that have been preserved and what they contribute to our understanding of Liechtenauer’s tradition, and how they can be used together to construct a comprehensive explanation of Liechtenauer’s techniques. Much of the focus will be on sources that have only become available in the past few years and how they have changed or informed our current understanding. The second part will take a step back from the raw instructions in those sources and consider what they tell us about the fencing system itself. It will argue that the Zettel and glosses are not intended to describe a system of fencing in a straightforward or comprehensive fashion, but rather contain a syllabus for teaching that system to students. At the same time, clues in the text can lead us toward and understanding of the shape and nature of the system that underlies that pedagogy and suggest ways in which we can escape the trap of “”fencing according to the lessons””.