Drill Bits: Vor and Nach (Longsword)

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.

Part 1: The pattern

This drill requires two people to memorize a set pattern. This is easiest with cuts, but more experienced students can work in thrusts as well. The pattern ideally should be an even number of attacks, preferably a set of four for simplicity, but you can modify this to your needs. If you have newer students, it may be easier to simply use two strikes: A right oberhau followed a left oberhau. For demonstration purposes we will use the first four cuts from Joachim Meyer’s cutting chart as seen in his 16th century fencing treatise:

A cutting chart from Joachim Meyer's 1570 treatise. The pertinent numbers have been bolded.
A cutting chart from Joachim Meyer’s 1570 treatise. The pertinent numbers have been bolded.

Strike 1: Right to left oberhau
Strike 2: Left to right unterhau
Strike 3: Right to left unterhau
Strike 4: Left to right oberhau

Once the pattern has been memorized by both fencers, the two will each take on a separate roll. Fencer A will be in the vor, while fencer B will be in the nach. Fencer A begins by using the pattern with passing steps forward, always aiming for Fencer B. Fencer B responds by making the exact same strikes, but as purely defensive parries, passing backwards. After strike 4, the roles swap, and Fencer B seizes the vor and passes forward while Fencer A is in the nach and passes backward. Every time the pattern is completed, the roles should switch seamlessly. Note that if either fencer ends up way too close or way too far, the drill should be stopped and reset.


Read all post here : Drill Bits: Vor and Nach (Longsword)


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