From Scholar Victoria
Jump to: navigation, search



On of the five meisterhauw, the zwerch breaks vom tag and counters the zornhauw/oberhauw.

"The Zwerch is on the chief master techniques with the sword; for you shall know, if the Zwerch did not exist in modern combat, then fully half of it would go out the window; particularly when you are under the opponent’s sword, when you can no longer attack with long cuts through the cross."

Thus speaks Meyer on the topic of the Zwerch.

The term zwerch is broadly translated as “thwart”, though modern English speakers might find this confusing. The term doesn’t specifically refer to the verb “to thwart”, as in “I thwarted his evil plans”, but rather has strong relation to the archaic usage of thwart, as in across the line of something - as in “he lay the athwart the opening”. Thus we readily see the implementation of the thwart strike - it is performed “across” the target’s line. It can also be seen to have its roots in the latin word torque - to twist, and the twisting motion is certainly what gives the Zwerchau its distinctive look and feel.

The origins of the Zwerch can be found in the older German zettel, but Meyer provides far more examples of the zwerch in the context of attacks and defences.

The movement itself can be performed in a number of ways - horizontally, rising, or falling, and can be preformed singly or (more often) in sequence. One characteristic of the Zwerch is that it is a relatively short-ranged attack, hence Meyer’s advice on using it when we are under the opponent’s sword (typically in the Brechfenster position).


The Zwrch can be executed as a full cut or as an abbreviated cut, as below.

Full Cut

This is a sweeping version of the cut which comes around in a broad movement.

Generally speaking Meyer categorises this among the "crooked cuts", which is to say cuts which move through a crossed hands position (not to be confused with the canonical "Crooked Cut/Krumphauw").

The zwerch is a strike performed with the hands high ending almost in an ochs position. The easiest way to imagine a zwerch is to stand in ochs rechts (left leg forward), thumb under the blade. Keeping the hands up high and the thumb under bring the sword around overhead in a sweeping movement, stepping forward with the right and ending basically in left ochs.

The "zwerch line" from the text shows a horizontal cutting line; however this need not mean the cut is performed strictly horizontally. The description of the zwerch in the section concerning strike in the 1570 text seems to follow a rising line based on both the text and the attending image. Throughout the remainder of the text the zwerch seems to appear most commonly as a cut along diagonal lines, though often on a shallow angle.


When used to counter a zornhauw the fencer steps in, catching the zornhau on the strong on of the sword near the guard, and simultaneously striking to the opponent’s upper left opening.

Abbreviated Cut

It should be noted that the zwerch need not be carried out with such a broad 'helicopter' movement, and is often more effective as a very tight movement. For example, one can zwerch from a right ochs position to the opponent's upper left opening with a passing step by flicking the tip of the blade around in a tight arc without coming around behind one's head rather than bringing the blade all the way around.


The basic zwerch described moves around in a broad overhead movement, but the zwerch need not go all the way around the head in a looping movement (Rinde). More often we use a tight zwerch motion. For example, from an ochs on the right side the fencer can step to the right and move the blade around in a tight loop through Einhorn and back down to cut a short zwerch to the opponent's left ear.

The zwerch can also be used diagonally instead of horizontally, and flitting over (Verfliegen) to the opposite diagonal opening is a common use for the zwerch.

Meyer also uses the zwerch as one of his generic withdrawing movements through the Stages of the Exchange, providing a threat with a cut, and danger from the point, and protecting against strikes from above.


In which the 'student' demonstrates their knowledge to the 'teacher'.

Application 1: Zwerch Entry

In this application the cut is being used as a Hitter in the Onset. In this case the fencer is acting in the Vor at the beginning of the technique.

Teacher Student
Nebenhut, left leg forward Vom tag, left leg forward, out of distance
Gathering Step forward to creep into distance As soon as they feel the teacher is in distance, Passing Step/False step forward with the right and Zwerch to the side of the head.
Withdraw (Abzug) with a defensive high cut or a guard.

The student should perform this from both sides, and be aware they can passing step out to the teacher's left, or false step through to the teacher's right.

Application 2: Zwerch Versetzen

In this application the cut is being used as a Taker and Hitter simultaneously in the Onset. In this case the fencer is acting in the Nach at the beginning of the technique.

Teacher Student
Zornhut, left leg forward Vom tag, left leg forward
Passing Step with the right leg, Zornhauw to the upper left opening. Passing Step forward and right with the right leg, cut a shallow rising Zwerch, catching blade on strong and striking the left side of the head with the weak, Triangle Step with rear leg to face toward the teacher.
Withdraw (Abzug) with a defensive high cut or a guard.

Application 3 - Zwerch Fehlen (Failing)

In this application the cut is being used as a Provoker followed by a Hitter. In this case the fencer is acting in the Vor.

Notice that this technique starts a step, then aborts it and uses a gathering step to finish the technique. It is only suitable against those who parry with the point offline - if they attempt otherwise the first Zwerch will hit them.

Teacher Student
Vom tag, left leg forward Zornhut or Vom tag, left leg forward
Cut a Zwerch at his upper left opening, perform a Passing Step with the right, but terminate it as your feet pass through the transition point so the feet are close together, right behind left.
Parry the blow aside with a Zornhauw. As soon as you see his hands move to parry, flow off and cut a Zwerch to the upper right opening without making contact with his blade. Complete the step forward and left with the left foot.
Withdraw (Abzug) with a defensive high cut or a guard.

Perform this also from the other side.

Related Applications

The following applications are related to, or derive from, this strike.

Personal tools