Johann Liechtenauer – 1389
Let’s first look at soft and hard. Our master has chosen a slight variation on The Strong and The Weak, and has opted for “soft” and “hard.” This really is very telling. The Strong, and The Weak, albeit places, are also ways of doing things. You hold your sword more softly or harder, in various moments. But now let’s back up. We cut more softly or harder. We thrust more softly or harder. We even, can it be?, we even guard more softly or harder? That’s a bit more difficult to picture, isn’t it? We’ll come back to that.
In this system, there are many patterns of 3 of this, 4 of that, 5 of the most important things (do you remember the five Master Strikes?). As you dig in, what you discover is that there is analysis everywhere. We’ll explore another threesome soon, of which we have two parts right now. The two terms “cuts” and “thrusts” are usually combined with the third type of attacking action, “slices.” I’m not sure why our master didn’t use them here, but it makes me sit up and notice. I believe he must have wanted to make a point. So, that says to me that he really wants us to understand that guards can be engaged more softly or harder. And that really is interesting.
Not even having defined guards, or listed out which ones we’ll be learning yet, I have to let it go for the moment. But, when we work on guards more, we’ll remember to explore the question of soft and hard.
Clearly though, it is easy to picture a cut that is struck soft, or hard. It is easy to picture a soft thrust or a hard one. Don’t always assume hard. Soft is very good too!