Evolution of the Blade


Growing up as an American kid with German ancestry, I have always had a fascination with the country. Countless times I have looked at pictures or videos of Germany with a longing in my heart to actually visit these places of my forefathers. Knowing this, you can imagine the great excitement I felt when members of the Historiche Kampfkunst (Historical Fencing) group Ochs contacted me about doing a seminar in Munich.
The seminar was the popular “ Evolution of the Blade ” theme that traces Western knife and dagger work from the Medieval to the Classical to the Modern over the course of three days. This was the first three-day seminar that most of the Ochs members had been to, and for many was their first serious introduction to the world of the knife as well. Luckily they were one of the sharpest groups I have had the privilege of ever working with and they were more than up to the task!
Hosting the event were Hans Heim and Claus Drexler, two of the founders of Ochs. These guys are both super skilled on the floor and have done a magnificent job in training their Ochen. As I always say, “ Good students are a testament to good teachers ”. Closely assisting them were Ochs Barbara Kappelmayr who made sure I was always where I should be and the very sweet Alexandra Heim who had to put up with a house full of us “ knife nuts ” talking shop all weekend!
Also joining us was Collin Richards, which was great. He is a complete nut and I like him a lot. They tell me that my name (Kautz) means a “ crazy owl ” in Germany, so it was only appropriate that a crazy bloke like Collin would be there too. His stories of reenactment combat were great and sprinkled with all kinds of tactics and tricks that have worked for them repeatedly in the field.

Before the seminar we had a day to go up to Hans ’ hometown of Landshut, which was the old capital of Bavaria. The castle there, Trausnitz whose name roughly translates as “ don ’ t even try ” , is where Paulus Kal was the fencing master for a great many years. Quite an impressive place and piece of history! The chapel there is dedicated to St. George, so as a warrior it is very impressive as well to think of who has been there before you.
There is a huge festival in the city every 4 years celebrating a 15th c. wedding between the son of the Bavarian Duke and a Polish Princess in which they hold medieval processions, entertainment, tournaments, and feasts in the style of the original and it looks like quite a magnificent spectacle from the photos! Check out some more Trausnitz info here with pictures: http://www.schloesser.bayern.de/englisch/schloss/objekte/la_traus.htm

For the first day of the seminar was a special one for me. Here I was in Germany, teaching about the old German combat. Also, it was the first time outside my school that I had taught the new Level 1 Unarmed & Dagger Progressions. We spent the morning working through the unarmed material and working into defending against the quick-draw knife attack. After lunch we dived into back-and-forth-scenarios based on the work of Master Andre Lignitzer where both people had knives.

The Bowie Knife was the main topic for Saturday, though we also drifted into some of the related training drills for the Spanish Navaja as well (with thanks and credit given to the source, Mr. James Loriega). Both knives were popular for fighting and dueling in the 18th-19th c., and we cleared up a lot of myths that have come up around both knives over the years. In the morning we drilled the use of illusion, the thrust, the attack and defense sets, backcuts with the clip point, evasions, and a whole lot more. After lunch we got into more work to develop the timing and skill needed to actually fight against another person armed with a big knife, and then put those drills into application in the one-on-one fights. As a special incentive to hit without being hit in return, we played a number of rounds with lit incense sticks, attempting to give a clean burn on the forearm or hand of our opponent. Everyone really did this well and the spirit of the group throughout the hours of full speed training and sparring was excellent!

Modern Day defensive knife work was the theme of day three. We started with drawing and counter-drawing tactics, incorporating the material from day one. From here, we went into the basics of Drawpoint knifecraft. Starting from realistic scenarios the students rehearsed the kinds of situations that call for the use of edged weapons in legal personal defense today. Grappling and close engagements with the knife were stressed, since the previous day had taught them how to fight at range. We also did a short block on a few of my favorite “ unlikely ” improvised weapons. Again, everyone did great and kept on track all day.
Sadly, it was too soon Monday morning and I was headed back home again. As I settled into my seat on the plane for the long flight home, I had so many happy memories in my mind of beer gardens, barbeque and boole, great places, great folks and great training!
Many thanks go out again to all of Ochs for making this event such a great success. I look forward to seeing my new brother bock Hans again at the WMAW (as well as getting to meet Joreg finally!) and taking his class on the messer. Everything Hans showed me all weekend with the messer confirmed my suspicions of its deep connection to the Bowie knife, and its simply awesome use as a weapon. His DVDs look very nice as well, and I can ’ t wait for the English language edition to come out!

Autor: Pete Kautz, 06/2005



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