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.