This is my current translation of the longsword section of the Kölner Fechtbuch, working from Dieter Bachmann’s transcription. My goal here has been to offer a translation that reads easily in English. The original text is quite awkward in places, and so I have been quite liberal in smoothing out the rough patches. This does mean that the translation is strongly infused with what I think the text was trying to say, but that is the only way to render the instructions in a fluent, non-awkward fashion.
The Kölner Fechtbuch is an interesting little source: anonymous, dated by the Historiches Archiv in Köln to “c.1500s” (although I would personally suggested that a dating of 1510s-1540s might be more accurate), and seemingly quite outwith the Liechtenauer tradition of fencing. The shelf number is MS Best.7020 (W*)150, it is also known as Fechtregeln (“Fencing Rules”), and it was presumed lost in the collapse of the city archives in 2009, but it was recovered very quickly and in good condition. (source)
I have chosen to leave technical terms untranslated, to avoid imposing any unwanted interpretation or baggage on the terms. However, I realise that some people do prefer to see everything translated, including technical terms, so I have offered suggestions in the footnotes for the technical terms that are non-standard or used in a non-standard way.
Please note that this translation is released under copyright, and that while I am more than happy for people to use it for their own training and study, you must contact me to request permission to use it in any publication or for any commercial use.
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[2r] Here begins the text and Zedell of the long sword.
First, make a good position and stretch your arms freely, so that whatever you then do in the fight, you will be appropriately armed.
Dy vier hewe
Item: learn the four cuts like this:
The right Oberhaw is done from the right shoulder with the long edge, and it is done best by setting the left foot forward first. Similarly, the left Oberhaw is done best by setting the right foot forward first and cutting with the long edge plunging through the opponent’s head.
Item: cut around again, through his head into the Schilt, and around again, through his head into the Stortz. Lay the sword down your back and let it sink to your right side, turn the pommel towards your opponent, with your point behind you, and thus you come into the right Mittelhaw. Cut around the head into the left Mittelhaw, and again around the head into the right Wechsel with the long edge down and the short edge [2v] up, and around the head into the left Wechsel.
These are the four cuts that everyone must learn first in order to fence properly.
How one should cut
Item: here follows the text and gloss about how one should cut.
Item: one should cut according to this figure, with all cuts through the face done with outstretched arms, and make a good structure in all things so that they do not fail.
Der zedell[3r] Item: here follows the Zedell of the long sword:
Whatever you want to do with strength,
Fight with the whole body.
Both from below and from above,
Doing these two things with strength I will praise.
Note: if you frighten easily,
No fencing can you learn.
Anyone who wants to fence should have the heart of a lion, should see as sharply as a falcon, and should be as nimble as a bird.
Item: learn the four openings with the sword like this: the two upper openings at the head, and the two lower openings to both sides under the arms.
Item: learn the four Leger like this: place the sword at your right shoulder and set your body in balance with good structure.
The left upper position is similar but with the right foot forward.
The right lower position is as follows: stand with your left foot forward, and set your sword with the hilt [3v] by the right leg and with the point towards your opponent’s face.
Similarly, in the left lower position, turn the point of the sword towards your opponent’s face.
Dy vier an bynde
Item: learn the four Anbinden on the sword like this: bind-on with the short edge to the left upper opening. Step forward and bind-on with the long edge to the right upper opening. Step forward and strike in toward the left lower opening with the short edge, and step forward and strike in toward the right lower opening with the flat.
Item: a piece called the Flogel. Bind on from above with the short edge and strike in to the right lower opening with the long edge, and then immediately with the short edge to the upper opening and cut through from your opponent into the lower left position.
Item: a piece called the Verzocking. Make as if [4r] you would bind-on from the right and then bind-on from the left; or make as if you would bind-on from the left and then bind-on from the right; and then cut strongly with the long edge from your opponent into the lower left position so that you do not remain at risk.
Der durch weschell
Item: a piece called the Durchwechsel. Free yourself from both sides, so that you may work against your opponent effectively, and cut freely with steps from one opening to another so that you move with joy.
Dy yser porte
Item: a piece called the Yser Porte. Set yourself in the lower left position, let your point sink to the ground and cut with the Flogel, and strike from the right side forward into the Schilt, and from the left side again into the Stortz, so that you come from the Yser Porte into the Gassenhaw.
Item: a piece called the Pluck. Learn it [4v] like this: turn from the right position into the left, and from the left again into the right. Thus, you see what your opponent wants to do against you, and you can break their thrusts.
Item: a piece called the Schilder. Learn it like this: squint left and strike right, and squint right and strike left. Thus, you confuse your opponent with your face, so that they will have no joy.
Item: a piece called the Scheller. Learn it like this: ring once, twice, three times against your opponent’s blade so that you find their openings.
Item: a piece called the Verkerer. [5r] Learn it like this: set your sword in front of your head, let the point sink down behind, and turn it to the right side and to the left so that you fly from one side to the other and he cannot guard against you. Thus, you may find his opening quickly, and the Verkerer is a good choice.
Item: a piece called the Ocks. Learn the Ocksen like this: set the pommel at your chest with the point towards your opponent’s face and thrust strongly. And cut into the Flogel, and fly from the right side into the Schilt. And strike from the Schilt toward the left upper opening, and swing to the right, so that he must obstruct or else be hit hard.
Der sprech vinster
Item: a piece called the Sprechfester. Learn it like this: turn your sword in front of your head so that your arms are crossed, so that you can look from between them to see what your opponent will do. And then make large strikes thereafter, [5v] and from the Sprechfenster you may strike to both sides, left or right.
Item: a break comes from the Sprechfenster. When your opponent strikes with strength at your head, fall with the short edge upon their blade, push their sword away, and thus you open up their head.
Der gulden hewe
Item: a piece called the Guldenhewe. Make as if you would bind-on right and then bind-on left, and strike in with two or three blows one after another to the right upper opening. Thus, the Guldenhewe is a good choice.
Item: a break against the Guldenhewe. When you see that your opponent wants to break your action with the Guldenhewe, strike with the short edge to their left upper opening so that you can obstruct whatever they then strike. Then step back and strike the Guldenhewe [6r] into the Stortz, and set yourself into the left lower position so that you are ready again.
Item: a piece called the Dryangel. Learn it like this: set yourself in the right Wechsel and step with your right foot to your opponent’s right side and push their sword away with the short edge, and spring in with your left foot behind them so that you find their head exposed.
Item: a break against the Dryangel. When you see that your opponent wants to break your action with the Dryangel, set yourself into the Schilt and step back and obstruct with the Gulden Versetzen, striking in to the nearest upper opening.
Das krom anbyndung
Item: the Krom Anbinden. Learn it [6v] like this: make as if you would bind-on right but bind-on left with the long edge, and pull away as if you would bind-on right but remain on the same side. Strike in to the right upper opening with the short edge, then swing to the left opening and cut out with the Guldenhewe, so that your opponent has no joy.
Item: whoever looks for the other’s strikes
May not rejoice in their art.
Strike above as you will
So that no Wechsler comes within your shield.
To the head and to the body
Do not omit the Zuck.
I say to you truthfully
No one is without danger.
If you frighten easily
No fencing can you learn.
There is no better Versetzen
Than what one does by striking.
Item: a sword-taking. Learn it like this: bind-on to your opponent above and seize with the left hand [7r] from the outside, with the inverted hand on their hilt, and pull away toward yourself so that you take the sword.
Ringen am schwert
Item: another sword-taking. Learn it like this: make as if you would bind-on strongly, and fall in with your hilt in front of your opponent’s blade, and, with the left hand on their hilt, pull back toward yourself strongly so that you take the sword and stay in the fight.
Item: a free piece in which one may throw the opponent when the swords are crossed. Learn it like this: bind-on strongly above, and seize with your left hand upon their right elbow. Push strongly out toward their face, and so you may throw them on their back.
Item: when you want to strike your opponent upon the head, make as if you would bind-on strongly and then seize with your left hand between their hands on their hilt and pull [7v] back toward yourself strongly, so that you expose their head.
Item: an Uberlauffen at the sword, how you should throw your opponent. Learn it like this: make as if you would bind-on right, and then do the Krom Anbinden, and turn with the short edge on their blade. Seize your own blade with your left hand, place your sword at their neck, and step with your left food behind their left, and pull back toward yourself strongly so that they must fall.
Item: an Underlauffen at the sword. Learn it like this: make as if you would bind-on high, and push your opponent’s hilt upward with your cross, and so you may seize them there or wherever you may take hold.
Swech vnd sterck
Item B: weak and strong. Learn it like this: above by the point is the weak, and the middle part of the blade is the strong, with which you work keenly with the short edge.
[8r] Item A: weak and strong, short and long,
Are the beginnings of all art.
By this you may understand
All art has length and extent.
Item: a piece called the Lewe. Learn it like this: set yourself in a balanced position with your head not too high, and cut from the points with strength, so that you have the lion’s courage and may bite another two opponents with your good strides forward.
 Zedell could perhaps be translated as schedule, in the sense of a legal schedule that sets out all the necessary information about a project or piece of work to done.
 Wapent, perhaps armed or armoured or covered or prepared.
 I am adding headings into my translation that are not present in the original, to make it easier to find sections while scanning through the document, and to try to allow for easier understanding of the structure of the treatise. The name of each heading is taken from the technique described next.
 The original text talks about the “V. hewe”, where V could be the Roman numeral for 5 or it could be the short way of writing Vier. I think it means four cuts instead of five, because the text goes on to describe the Oberhaw, something potentially like a Zwerhaw, the Mittelhaw, and the Wechselhaw; four cuts in total, performed on both sides.
 Where I think a word is being used as a technical term, such as Stortz referring to a guard position, I will leave the term untranslated and will capitalise it. Where I think an example of the same word is being used just as a general description of what is happening, rather than as a technical term, I will translate it and render it as part of the prose rather than trying to consider every instance of the word as a technical term. This is the case here where stortz seems to be describing the plunging motion that the cut makes towards the ground as it goes through the head, rather than suggesting that the Oberhaw is performed such that it ends up in the Stortz position.
 I think the Schilt is a position that might be broadly similar to the left (wrist uncrossed) Ochs position, perhaps a little more like an Einhorn, perhaps even more point up so that it could be like a high Pflug or a Kron, depending on how you consider these positions. It would be roughly in the place where the sword and buckler would be held when performing the Schutzen in MS I.33 or the Zwayen Schilten in Lignitzer.
 I think the Stortz is a position that might be broadly similar to the right (crossed wrist) Ochs position, perhaps a little more like an Einhorn, perhaps even more point up so that it could be like a high Pflug or a Kron, depending on how you consider these positions. It would be roughly somewhere on the path along which the sword would have to pass in order to perform a Sturtzhaw or a crossed-wrist Zwerhaw.
 Leger can mean positions, or postures, or lyings or lairs, or possibly even guards, but with a sense of being temporary.
 Anbinden is probably best expressed as binding-on, in terms of applying your sword to your opponent’s sword. In this translation, I translate the instruction of binding-on where it is being used as a general instruction, but I leave the term untranslated where it is being used as a technical term or as the name for a concept.
 The Flogel could be translated as the wing or the flying.
 The Verzocking could be translated as the pulling or the twitching.
 The more literal translation is “so that you are not open/exposed to vinden”. Vinden could be either winden or finden, where winden could be the technical term that is familiar from Liechtenauer, or where finden could be something to do with the opponent being able to find you or find your openings. Either translation could be quite applicable and, at the end of the day, would mean more or less the same thing, and so I have opted to use a different phrase in my translation that tries to convey this sense without adding complexity. It is worth noting that throughout the rest of this treatise, finden is a more common word than winden.
 Durchwechsel could be translated as changing-through, or going from one side to the other, although this explanation is a little different from the motion that is often suggested by Liechtenauer glosses.
 Doing things with joy, or rejoicing or not, is a phrase that appears a few times in this treatise. Broadly, it seems to mean having joy because you were successful, or your opponent not having joy because they failed and you were successful.
 Yser Porte is easily translated as iron gate, which is more normally seen in longsword sources as the name of a guard or leger, but is quite clearly used here as the name of a technique or sequence.
 The Gassenhaw is not described at all in the longsword section of this particular book, but it is found in the messer section.
 The Pluck is most likely a regional spelling of Pflug, and therefore would be translated adequately as the plough.
 The Olber is most likely a regional spelling of Alber, and therefore would be translated adequately as the fool.
 The original phrase is “van dach”, which is very similar to Liechtenauer’s technical term of Vom Tag.
 The Schilder could be translated as the “one that shields”, or it could be a regional spelling of Schiller, a technical term from Liechtenauer, that could be translated as “squinter”. The latter is probably more likely, since Liechtenauer’s Schiller involves squinting with your face and/or body language to confuse your opponent, and that seems to be what is suggested here.
 Gesicht can be sight, or glance, or face, or look, or appearance. Or, abstracted slightly, but perhaps more usefully for fencing, it could be your body language in general that tells the lie.
 The Scheller could be translated as the ringer (such as the ringer of a bell) or as ringing (such as a ringing bell).
 The Verkerer could be translated as the turner. Interestingly, although the technique described is somewhat different from Liechtenauer’s Verkerer, it (probably) does have the same action of turning the thumb underneath, and Liechtenauer’s Verkerer is found in his section about the Zwerhaw, and it is the sequence of breaking the opening with the Zwerhaw that is most similar to what is described here.
 The Ocks could be translated as the ox, and is very similar name to the guard of the Ochs from Liechtenauer.
 The word is plural in the original. It could well be that each Ocks is one possible technique with the point forward and hands higher, and so this passage is teaching the various techniques of the Ocksen.
 The original word here is “schyll” instead of “schylt”, but the following instruction is to cut from the “schylt”, so I think it is reasonable to assume that the word “schylt” was intended.
 The Sprechfenster could be translated as speaking window, but seems to be a somewhat different concept that the Sprechfenster according to Liechtenauer.
 The Guldenhewe could be translated as the golden strike.
 This sentence could mean that all the strikes are to go to the same opening, one after another. Alternatively, there could be a comma implied, so that you should make several strikes, working your way towards the left upper opening with the final strike.
 This doesn’t quite make sense, so I have tried to offer an improvement. It could be that you are doing the Guldenhewe and your opponent wants to break it, and so this technique is the break against the break; that would seem to be literally what is implied by this phrase, yet the opposite of what is implied by the introduction to the item. Alternatively, it could be that the opponent is trying to break your art with the Guldehewe, and so this item is the break or defence against that attempt; this would match the implication of the introduction to this item, but would be the opposite of what seems to be implied by this particular phrase. I don’t think there is a perfect way to reconcile this, and you will simply need to pick one or other assumption and run with it. I prefer the idea that your opponent is trying to use the Guldenhewe to break your action, and therefore this item is the break against the opponent’s Guldenhewe.
 The Dryangel could be translate as the triangle.
 This is the same linguistic problem as with the break against the Guldenhewe above, so I have preferred the same assumption in my translation.
 The Gulden Versetzen could be translated as the “golden obstruction / defence / parrying”. The more interesting question is what meaning is intended to be added by the word golden? Should we understand this as something similar to Meyer’s Gerade Versatzung, or should it be seen as a defensive action that has the same inherent qualities as the aforementioned Guldenhewe?
 The Krom Anbinden could be translated as the “crooked binding-on”.
 The Zuck could be the pull, but it could also be a shortened form of Zuckruhr or Zecker, as per the Liechtenauer verse. Either way, this does line up with the instructions in the Verzocking earlier in the treatise.
 It looks like this item may have been supposed to follow the next two couplets of Zedell, but was written first by mistake. The “a” and “b” in the original could have been the scribe’s attempt to correct the order.
 Maß can mean mass, measure, amount, degree, dimension, or extent. In this translation, “extent” allows for a near-rhyme with “understand”, while also offering the idea of boundaries for everything in the art. Lenge can also mean length, height, or size, but also possibly duration or extent. The phrase “lenge und maß”, I believe, suggests a variety of possibly measurements but with boundaries.
 Lew could be translated as lion.
 Possibly the various openings, or the leger that threaten those openings. Liechtenauer uses the phrase vier enden (four ends) in his verses, to mean the four openings, so the phrase vier orten could conceivably be used here in a similar fashion.
This is currently version 1 of the work, translated into English in 2022 and released on this website in 2022.