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Division of Man.

Targets and Goals

The German tradition divides the body into four main targets: upper left, upper right, lower left, and lower right. The left-right division is down the middle of the body, and generally refers to the proper left and right of the target, rather than as seen by the attacker. The high-low division is less clear. The medieval texts generally claim that the division is at the belt [Döbringer 25r; Ringeck 23r; Starhemberg 15v], but even taking into account the high waistline of medieval clothing, this seems rather high. There is little mention of attacks to the hips or legs, and Talhoffer 1467 shows attacks to the lower opening that appear to target the chest or abdomen [14]. From a practical point of view, a division at the arms might make more sense, since that is the starting point from which the cut is delivered. In Meyer, the dividing line is shown at about armpit level [Image A].

“The two lower targets” in Talhoffer 1467 [#14]; the divisions of the head and body in Meyer [Image A]

Meyer further subdivides the head into four, down the middle and across just below the eyes, to make an upper left and upper right, generally called the scalp, and lower left and lower right, also called the left and right ear [3v ff.]. He implies that this secondary division was a relatively modern phenomenon.


The early texts generally focus on the head or body as the target of the attack and throughout the tradition there is frequent emphasis on protecting the head which would seem to be the single most important target. Meyer explicitly says that the head is the most common target [3v]. Other targets he mentions include the face [54v, 61v], temple [33r], chin [41r], neck [26v, 33r], fingers [39v, 42v], and arms [27v, 35r, 36v, 40r, 42v, 54v, 57r; radius (inner forearm bone): 53v, 60v.1 Earlier texts make much less mention of peripheral targets, but in some places Ringeck does specify the breast [33r], face [33r, 36r], shoulder [31v], hands [32v], and arms [50r]; the Starhemberg Commentaries mention the arms [11r] and neck [14r]. The Crooked Cut often targets the hands in the early sources [Döbringer 25v; Ringeck 24v-25r].See Wallerstein 11r; Mair (Vienna) 48r for a thrust to the groin.

In addition to landing hits on the opponent, some techniques were designed to throw [Ringeck 28r, 30r, 36v; Egenolph 12r; Mair (Vienna) 51v ff., 65v ff.; Meyer 43r, 62v ff.] or disarm [Ringeck 44r-v; Starhemberg 34r; Wallerstein 11v ff.; Egenolph 12r, 12v; Mair (Vienna) 8v, 9r-v, 16v, 28r, 46r; Meyer 41r.4, 62r.2, 62v.1]. There are also examples of techniques designed to break the opponent’s arm [Wallerstein 8v, 9r; Mair 47r, 53r ff.].


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