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 15th century Zwerchau is carried out in fundamentally the same way as the Zwerch in Meyer's text, using a thumbed position under the blade and attacking in a high position. The Winslow translation gives us:
"spring with your right foot well on your right side against him, and in the spring Wind your sword with the hilt before your head so that your thumb comes under, and strike him with the short edge against his left side to the head."
The hand motion is described as a winding action with the hilt before the head such that the thumb is under the blade, which gives the Zwerchau its distinctiveness. Typically this winding ends in virtually the Ochs position, though there may be some differentiation based on circumstance.
There is no single cutting line given in detail, leaving debate over whether the cut should be diagonally up or down, or simply horizontal. It seems clear from reading the later sections on the Zwerchau to the Pflug or Ochs that both rising and descending versions of the cut are in use, and there is no reason to think that in the appropriate context horizontal cuts are not also used.
Finally we are told there is a distinctive "spring" to the right, suggesting an abrupt and high intensity movement to clear the line.
There are several situations in which we are told to use the Zwerch as our opening technique:
- "he then stands against you and holds his sword high over his head with outstretched arms and threatens to hew in at you from above"
- "or, if he comes before with the hew down from above before you"
- in the failer when you: "hew him with a free Thwart-strike to the left side of his head"
- striking to the plough: "when you are near him, spring well on his left side with your right foot against him, and strike the Thwart with vigor against his left side to the lower opening"
SCENARIO 1 - Breaking Vom-Tag
Application 1: Breaking Vom Tag
This application is used when the opponent lifts up into Vom Tag, or executes a cut from above.
Application 2: Zwerchau Nachschlag
This application is used when the opponent parries your Zwerchau by falling on it with the long edge.
Application 3: A Counter Against the Zwerch
This application is used when the opponent attacks with a Zwerchau Nachschlag against your parry.
Application 4: A Counter to Application 3 with the Schnitt
This application is used when the opponent counters using Application 3.
Application 5: A Counter to the Schnitt with Doubling
This application is used when the opponent counters using Application 4.
Application 6: A Counter to the Doubling
This application is used when the opponent counters using Application 5.
SCENARIO 2 - Hard and Soft Binds
Application 1a: Against a Strong Parry - Cutting Around
This application is used when the opening Zwerchau is parried strongly, you strike the blade away with the guard and cut around to the other side.
Application 1b: Against a Strong Parry - Duplieren
Alternatively, this application is used when the opponent parries your Zwerchau by falling on it with the long edge strongly, you Duplieren behind the blade.
Application 2a: Against a Soft Parry - A Takedown
Alternatively, this application is used when the opponent parries your Zwerchau by falling on it with the long edge but is soft in the bind, you push behind the neck and take-down backward.
Application 2a: Against a Soft Parry - Mutieren
Alternatively, this application is used when the opponent parries your Zwerchau by falling on it with the long edge but is soft in the bind, Mutieren around the blade.
SCENARIO 3 - Striking to the Four Openings
Application 1: To the Plough and Ox
Striking to the plough (lower opening) and ox (upper opening) across diagonally opposed lines.
Application 2: A Counter to the Lower Zwerchau
SCENARIO 4 - The Failer
Application 1: The Failer
SCENARIO 1 - The Inverter
Application 1: The Inverter
In Meyer's text this is written as the Zwerch.