The Art of Ringen: Martial Art of Medieval Germany

by Bill Grandy

A few weeks before we decided to make this site, some of us at VAF released a training video showcasing the unarmed German art known as Ringen. Ringen literally means “wrestling” in German, though historical Ringen is not exactly the same as it’s modern counterpart. This was an art developed both for armored and unarmored combat, and it’s techniques transition directly to combat with weapons. While there are a number of kicks, strikes and pressure points utilized in Ringen, at it’s core it is a grappling art with a focus on joint locks and throws. As is the case with many martial arts, Ringen was practiced as a sport in addition to the combative techniques designed to injure the opponent. The sportive side allowed practitioners to safely free wrestle at high levels of intensity, but disallowed arm bars, knee stomps, and essentially anything that would ruin your training partner for life. It may be noted that the sportive aspect of Ringen bears a marked resemblance to the modern sport of Judo (after all, there are only so many different ways to throw a person).

This video happens to be focused on our free wrestling, and therefore does not showcase the more destructive techniques that are in the system. Nevertheless, it should give a taste of the training that is involved to become a good Ringen practitioner. If you don’t already practice Ringen, we hope it inspires you to start, and if you do, we hope it inspires you to delve deeper!

Expect to see a whole lot more from us on this subject, as it is a major passion of ours. For more information, please see this article written in 2012  by Tim Hall, David Rowe and myself regarding techniques from the 16th century “Ringmeister” known as Fabian von Auerswald:


About the author: Bill Grandy is the Director of Historical Swordsmanship at the Virginia Academy of Fencing, where he has taught professionally since 2001. His HEMA studies began in 1998 (back before anyone called it “HEMA”), though he practiced modern sport fencing since the late 1980’s, and spent most of the 1990’s practicing Aikido before eventually giving up both when he found his true passion with the historical western fighting styles. His specialties are the German Liechtenauer tradition of swordsmanship as well as the Renaissance Italian rapier, though he tries to find time to work with numerous other weapon arts whenever he can. Bill has travelled extensively to study both period fencing treatises as well as antique arms and armor, and he is also invited regularly to teach at major HEMA events.

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