Attack, Attack, Attack? Understanding “Vor” & “Nach”

by Bill Grandy

meyerVor and Nach. These two terms are constantly referred to in the various Liechtenauer teachings. On the surface the definition seems simple: The person who has seized the Vor (the “Before Timing”) is usually described as the fighter who has made an attack, whereas the person in the Nach (the “After Timing”) is the person who is forced to defend. Time and time again the treatises tell us to seize the Vor, and to not be the person who stays in the Nach. By this logic, it would seem safe to assume that to win, one should attack first and keep attacking at all costs, right? Continue reading

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Drill Bits: Simple Parry-Ripostes, Part 1 (Longsword focused)

by Bill Grandy

Drill Bits” is a regular series of articles on drills for various HEMA styles. These drills can be worked into existing lesson plans and most can be easily modified for multiple weapon styles.

Weapon style: Longsword or similar style cutting weapon
Difficulty: Beginning to Intermediate (Fencers should already know basic footwork and simple attacks)

A two-time parry-riposte using the Krumphau from Hans Talhoffer. (Codex Icononografico 394a, 11v)
A two-time parry-riposte using the Krumphau from Hans Talhoffer. (Codex Icononografico 394a, folio 11v)

It is commonly said in the Historical martial arts community that medieval and Renaissance fencing consisted purely of single time counterattacks when defending. In other words, the saying goes that every time you attempt to parry it should always be simultaneously done with an attack and never as a simple parry first followed by a riposte as a secondary action. Time and again the treatises contradict this belief. Even worse, never practicing a two-time defense and counter will only hinder your ability to perfect the single time counter attacks. Continue reading

Drill Bits: Vor and Nach (Longsword focused)

by Bill Grandy

Drill Bits” is a regular series of articles on drills for various HEMA styles. These drills can be worked into existing lesson plans and most can be easily modified for multiple weapon styles.

Weapon style: Longsword or similar style cutting weapon
Skill level: Intermediate (Students should already understand basic footwork and cutting)

The idea of vor, or the “Before Timing”, and nach, or the “After Timing”, is a fundamental concept of the Liechtenauer tradition. In short, the person in the vor is the person who seizes the initiative, and the person in the Nach is the person who is forced to respond to the opponent. For example, if Fencer B waits for an attack, and Fencer A strikes, then Fencer A is in the vor while Fencer B is in the nach. If Fencer B makes a purely defensive action, he remains in the nach. However, if Fencer B defends successfully and counters, he is seizing the vor away from Fencer A. Ideally, a fencer should attempt to remain in the vor when possible, and if forced into the nach, that fencer needs to regain the vor.

The problem arises when people become so focused on a very narrow understanding of the vor, believing they are supposed to be attacking at all costs. This leads many to forget their own defense, causing double hits on both sides. A fencer in the Liechtenauer tradition needs to understand that the position of vor and nach will naturally flow back and forth between the two combatants, and students need to develop a sense of who is in control of the initiative at any given moment. Merely being the first to attack is not good enough; a fencer must feel when the opponent attempts to regain control and therefore respond to it.

Continue reading