Kampfringen: Medieval Combat Grappling

by Keith P. Myers version 1/28/2001 Introduction: The following is meant as a way to organize the material and jog one’s memory of what a particular technique consists of. It is not meant to be a detailed description of the techniques nor a replacement for the original source materials. It is a supplement and guide for training only. As such, it is subject to continuing evolution and change. It draws primarily on the 15th century works of Hans Talhoffer and uses the method presented in his writings as the basis or foundation for the rest. Hence the use of the terminology….”kampfringen.” “Ringen” is the German word for wrestling/grappling, but was generally meant to refer to any fighting performed without a weapon. Thus, striking and kicking methods were also included. “Kampf” is the German word for fight/combat. Therefore the term “Kampfringen” can be translated as “combat grappling” to distinguish it from the less deadly sportive forms. The medieval version resembles the more modern-day World War II Combatives approach. Many of the historic “fechtbuchs” or fighting manuals state that grappling is the foundation of all the weapons skills. Battlefield combat usually ended up at close-quarters where grappling skills were imperative, even with the weapon still in hand. Lots of overlap is seen when comparing the grappling methods with close-in fighting with the longsword, and especially when fighting with the dagger. In fact, working through the techniques in my previously written “Dolchfechten Primer: Medieval Use of the Dagger” makes an excellent introduction to the kampfringen methods. Talhoffer’s material is supplemented with input from the grappling sections of the Codex Wallerstein, the Goliath Fechtbuch, and Marozzo’s “Opera Nova.” A Note on the References: The main source for this work is Mark Rector’s translation of Talhoffer’s 1467 text published as “Medieval Combat.” References cited in the form of “P190” refer to plates from this work. The other Talhoffer source is his text of 1459 as made available on-line by the Royal Library Denmark. References cited in the form of “49R” or “51V” refer to this source (R for “recto” and V for “verso”, or the front and back of the original page). The other major source is the Codex Wallerstein/Vom Bauman’s Fechtbuch written in the late 1300’s/early 1400’s. References in the form of “CW39L” or “CW39R” refer to this source (L and R for the left and right sides of the plate). Two other sources offered some minor supplementation. First is the Goliath Fechtbuch of the early 1500’s. It has lavish illustrations, but of the 130 plates devoted to grappling, only ¼ of them are illustrated. The rest is text. This will undoubtedly become a major source for medieval grappling once it is translated from the Old German. References in the form of “G231” refer to this source. And finally, Achille Marrozo’s work of 1536 as translated and interpreted by Pete Kautz in his book “Mani Contra il Coltillo: Hands Against the Knife”, though not a German work, is used as well. References in the form of “M15” refer to this source. Including all of the reference notations for each technique may seem a bit tedious, but it is meant to show how prevalent these techniques were across several different sources. This really was not just Talhoffer’s own style, but a common fighting method of the era. The references will also allow you to check the different sources in the event that something is not clear. These sources are all available on-line at the AEMMA webpage by going to: http://www.aemma.org/onlineResources/library_H.htm I can be reached for questions or comment at: myers4321@aol.com

Part One: Fundamental Techniques I. Ready Positions: Few of these are actually shown. Either they are considered to be so basic that they are just implied and not discussed, or they are not well defined and it is just left up to the individual to arrive at something with which he is comfortable. Talhoffer does show an unarmed defensive position in P77 in which he says “this is an advantageous stance for a disarmed man.” It seems to be a variation of the longsword stance and shows an individual standing with feet almost twice shoulder width, one leg advanced, knees slightly bent, and hands held forward at waist level. The Goliath Fechtbuch seems to actually cover ready positions in G228 and G251 and shows an individual standing with feet only about 6 inches apart, knees bent in a “squat” position, and hands held close in and at waist level as if palming a ball. II. The Clinch/Tie-Up Positions: 1. Double Arm: (P190, P204, 49R, G232, G257) This is the basic starting position for a friendly grapple or training session, and can set-up many of the techniques that will be described in upcoming sections. You have grabbed both of the opponent’s upper arms from the inside and he has grabbed both of yours from the outside or vice versa. Alternatively you could each grab one on the inside and one on the outside. From here you would each try to off-balance the other by pushing and pulling back and forth or using a foot sweep to gain advantage. You can also transition to any of the other tie-up positions that will be described and use them in the same way. This forms the core of a good training drill by using this back and forth play to set up any of the throws, takedowns, armlocks, etc. that will be described. Your partner can provide just enough resistance to keep you honest while you are learning to apply the techniques. Since he doesn’t know exactly when you are going to apply the move, he is less likely to just “play along.” As you both get better you can also add the counter moves. From the back & forth grapple for balance and position your partner launches a technique at an opportune time to which you respond with the counter. As you let the exchange go and become more and more open, you enter into free-sparring. 2. Shoulder-Waist: (P191, 52R) You both are bent over, each grabbing with one hand to the partner’s shoulder from either the inside or outside and the other grabbing the partner’s waistband or belt from either the inside or outside. Generally, either both of your grabs will be from the inside while his are outside or vice versa. 3. Double-Waist: (P195, 50R) You both are bent over, each reaching around the waist of the partner to grab one of your hands/wrists with the other behind his back. One arm will go over and the other under his arms and vice versa. 4. Single-Arm: (P196, 57R) This one is more of a transitional position and less of a primary tie-up. You are grabbing his forearm near the elbow from the inside while he does the same from the outside or vice versa. Your Lft to his Rt or vice versa. 5. Neck-Arm: (Implied/suggested by P219) This one is seen often in modern wrestling but only implied in Talhoffer’s manual. You both are bent over, each grabbing/hooking the partner around the back of the neck with one hand and behind the upper arm with the other.

II. Basic Holds, Joint-Locks, and Chokes 1. Over-The-Shoulder Armbar #1: (P182, CW39, CW60R, G322, M12, M20) You can tell by the number of references that this was a very common technique. Grab his extended Rt forearm with both your hands at the same time, pivot to your Rt (clock-wise) 180 degrees to place his extended Rt elbow across your Lft shoulder. Lift up with your legs as you pull down with your arms to hyperextend his elbow. It is commonly shown as a defense against a straight thrust with the dagger. 2. Over-The-Shoulder Armbar #2: (P193, 55R) In this variation, do a smaller pivot to your left or counter-clock-wise as you step with your Rt leg between his legs and duck under his extended Rt arm. Hyperextend his arm across your left shoulder and back of the neck. On both of these OTS armbars be sure and keep his elbow pointed to the ground and his hand palm up. 3. Over-The-Shoulder Armbar: The Wrong Way (CW40L) This is similar to #1, but rather than pivoting to your Rt to lay his Rt arm across your Lft shoulder, you have pivoted to the Lft and layed his Rt arm across your Rt shoulder. This leaves you in a position vulnerable to a counter, which we will see in a following section. Should you find yourself pivoting in the “wrong” direction, simply step forward, duck under, and do OTS Armbar #2. We’ll assume the fechtbuch illustrates this in order to show how easily is it countered. 4. Front Choke: (P197, 56V) You are facing the opponent, he is bent forward, and you have one arm wrapped around his neck placing his throat in the crook of your elbow. Grab your wrist with your other hand and pull to tighten the choke. Shown as a defense against a “pass through” or attempted waist grab & throw. 5. Side Choke: (P198, G241) This one is similar to the front choke, except that you and the opponent are facing in the same direction rather than towards each other. He is bent over at your side and you have wrapped one arm around his neck. The choke can stand alone, or become a throw when combined with the leg hook as described in the next section. 6. Rear Choke: (suggested by P213) You are behind the opponent and are both facing in the same direction. Wrap one arm around his neck as before to catch his throat in the crook of your elbow, grab your wrist with the other hand, pull him off-balance backwards as you tighten the choke. Implied by P213 which actually shows wrapping the arm around the neck from behind as part of a throw rather than as a choke. 7. Arm Drag: (P212, P213, CW33R, CW46L) Used as a transition move to set-up the opponent for any number of techniques. Grab him by the wrist with one hand and the upper arm with the other. Pull or push to unbalance him and gain the advantage for applying your follow-up technique. The grab to his upper arm can be from the inside, the outside, from above, or from underneath. 8. Neck Drag: (P205, 58V, CW70L) This is another way to set-up the opponent for a follow-up. You are facing the opponent. Grab behind his neck with both hands and clasp your fingers. Pull him forward and down and keep him off-balance by pushing, pulling, stepping etc. You must keep his head below the level of your own. 9. Double Downward Grab: (P181, 63R) Used to defend against a straight thrust to the abdomen whether with a weapon or a punch. Hike your body back and grab downward onto his wrist/forearm with both hands. Can easily transition into an OTS Armbar. 10. Downward Bent Armbar #1: (P206, P179, 62R, CW68L) Grab his Rt wrist with your Rt hand; pull and twist to roll his arm over; pivot to your Rt as you press against the back of his elbow with your left hand. Becomes a throw if you step in front of his Rt leg with your left as you pivot and lever him across your leg onto the ground.

11. Downward Bent Armbar #2: (P172, 63V) Grab his Rt wrist with your Lft hand; push down and forward as you pass your Rt arm through the crook of his elbow; lift and pull towards you with your Rt while pressing down and out with your Lft to apply leverage across his elbow. Becomes a throw by stepping in front of his Rt leg with your Lft and levering him across your leg just as above. 12. Upward Bent Armbar #1: The Wrap (P178, 61V, M5) Grab his Rt wrist from below with your Lft hand as you step forward with either foot and begin to force his arm backwards; reach around from the outside of his arm with your Rt to grab his forearm near your Lft hand; continue your forward momentum to carry him backwards onto his back. Marozzo shows stepping with your Rt leg behind the attacker’s Rt leg in order to combine the technique with a rear-leg takedown. 13. Upward Bent Armbar #2: The Elbow Cup (CW67R, M22) Same as before, but rather than reaching all the way around and grabbing his forearm with your Rt hand, catch his elbow in the palm of your Rt hand and lift to apply leverage and force him over backwards. 14. Upward Bent Armbar #3: The Key-Lock (CW68R) This is the one you see in lots of modern-day martial arts, but here it is in the Codex Wallerstein from 500 years back. Grab his Rt wrist from below with your Rt hand as you step forward and begin to force his arm backwards; reach around behind his forearm with your left arm and grab your own Rt forearm to form what is often called the “key-lock” in modern systems; continue your forward momentum to carry him backwards onto his back, or step behind his leg to combine the technique with a rear leg takedown. 15. Upward Bent Armbar #4: From Behind (CW71L, G231) Grab his Lft forearm from below with your Lft hand; pivot to your Lft so that you end up facing the same direction as the opponent; bring your Rt palm against his Lft upper arm from the outside; pull back with your Lft as you press with your Rt to lever his forearm back. 16. Straight Armbar #1: The Come-Along (P208, 139R, CW41L) Grab his Rt wrist with your Rt hand and pivot to your Rt to extend his arm across your chest; pass your Lft arm upward from below his arm to grab his forearm with your Lft hand; pull with your Rt as you push out to apply leverage against his arm with your Lft upper arm to direct him where you want him to go. (139R) Becomes a throw by shifting your Lft hand up to grab around his upper arm/shoulder; stepping in front of his Rt leg with your Lft; and levering him forward across your leg. (P208) 17. Straight Armbar #2: The Chest Press (P175, 62V, CW18R) Grab his Rt wrist with your Rt hand and pivot to your Rt to extend his arm across your lower rib cage; pass your Lft arm over his arm from above as you twist his arm with your Rt to force him into a forward bending position; pull with your Rt as you press into his arm with your chest to apply leverage. At this point one can throw both legs out in front so that you drop to the ground in a sitting position to break the attackers elbow. If this one does not come off as planned and the opponent manages to bend his arm, simply flow into an upward bent armbar, downward bent armbar, or rear leg takedown. The same is true of the variation above. 18. Straight Armbar #3: The Shoulder Lock (P203, P209, CW44L, CW49R) This one is applied as a counter move to any technique attempted by the opponent that requires him to put his arm across your shoulder….such as setting up for a thigh lever takedown. You could also apply it from a tie-up position by first popping his arm up onto your shoulder. Regardless, you are facing the opponent and his Rt forearm is across the top of your Lft shoulder; bring your Lft arm up from the outside and throw it across is Rt arm just above his elbow as you pivot to your Rt so that you are both facing the same direction; grab your Lft wrist with your Rt hand and pull downward to bend him forward and hyperextend his elbow and/or lock his shoulder. Easily becomes a throw by levering him across your Lft leg.

19. Between-The-Legs Armtrap: (P212, 138R) From an Arm Drag turn the opponent so that he is facing away from you; pass his arm down; reach from behind with your other hand and grab his arm from between his legs; quickly reach up and grab him behind the neck with your other hand; direct him where you want him to go! You could now ram his head into a wall if you wanted to. 138R shows this trap applied to two opponents at the same time. I’ll let you figure out how to get there! 20. Double Shoulder Hold/Full Nelson: (60R) Guess what! Charles Nelson didn’t invent this! This is another technique common in modern-day selfdefense courses that dates back to Talhoffer circa 1459. It is the classic hold we all learned as kids horsing around with our buddies or siblings. Pass both your arms beneath each of the opponent’s arms from below and behind; clasp your hands across the back of his neck; press with your hands to lever his head down as you pull back with your shoulders to tighten the hold. 21. Single Shoulder Hold/Half Nelson: (P200) Same as above but applied to only one of his arms. This one requires bending him forward more to maintain control. 22. Behind-The-Back Double Armtrap: (P214) Similar to the Double Shoulder Hold, but the opponent’s arms are down rather than up. From behind hook your arms through both of his; pull your arms together and draw him backwards to off-balance him. 23. The Leg Hook: (P216, P198, CW47R, CW48R) This is a part of many techniques that can be used to turn them into a throw. It can also be used to limit the opponent’s movement during a tie-up situation. Usually used when you and the opponent are both facing the same direction with you in front. Hook your Rt leg around his Lft from in front at the knee and hook your foot around his ankle to lock it in. 24. The Pass Thru: (part of many techniques) This is not a technique in its own right, but rather a component movement of many of the throws and takedowns that will be subsequently described. But it deserves defining to avoid confusion. You are facing the opponent, or are in one of the tie-up positions; duck under his raised and extended arm with your head as you move in to set up the technique. 25. The Throat Hold: (CW57L) This technique is mentioned in several places in Talhoffer, but never actually shown. However, it is illustrated in the Codex Wallerstein. Simply grip the opponent by the throat from in front with one hand. If your grip strength is good, this turns into a choke.

III. Basic Throws & Takedowns The terms “throw” and “takedown” are often used interchangeably. I prefer to make a distinction between them. For our purposes, a “throw” will refer to any technique which requires taking some of the opponent’s body weight onto yourself and actually lifting one or both of his feet off the ground. A “takedown” will refer to any technique in which you lever the opponent across your body to “trip” him to the ground rather than lifting him up. 1. Thigh Lever Takedown: (P194, 54V, P181, CW36R, G234, G236) From the grapple you have managed to throw your Lft arm across his shoulders and behind his neck as you pivot to the Rt 180 degrees and grab his Lft upper arm with your Rt hand; you should have your Lft leg in front of and across his Lft leg so that you can continue your pivot to the Rt and lever him to the ground face forward across your thigh. P181 also shows this applied with the opponent facing towards you and with your Lft leg behind his Lft leg so that he is thrown onto his back. Alternatively, you could grab your own Lft wrist with your Rt hand as in G236. It could also be applied from an Arm Drag as in CW36R.

2.

Hip Throw: (CW20L, CW93R, G238, G258) Grab his Rt forearm with your Lft hand as you wrap your Rt arm around the opponent’s torso below his arm; pivot to your Lft 180 degrees and thrust your buttock against his hip; hoist him up onto your hip and throw him to the ground in front of you. More of a “lift and throw” than a leverage takedown as seen above. Can also be performed with the opponent facing towards you so that he is thrown onto his back. 3. Side Choke Takedown: (P198) This is simply the Side Choke accompanied by a Leg Hook that allows you to lever the opponent to the ground in front of you. 4. Back Lever Takedown #1: (CW33L, CW65L, M4, M7) Grab his Rt wrist with your Rt hand as you step in from the outside to place your Lft leg behind his Rt leg; extend your Lft arm across his neck/upper chest; force him backwards across your Lft leg with your Lft arm to throw him onto his back. The press with the Lft arm can be preceded by a solid elbow strike to the throat or upper chest for good effect. You can also actually kick/lift up with your Lft leg to sweep his Rt leg out from under him to make it more of a throw than a takedown. 5. Back Lever Takedown #2: (P194, CW45R, M18) From a Neck-Arm tie-up position; step behind his Rt leg with your Lft; throw your Lft arm over his Rt arm and around his waist; grip at his Lft hip with your Lft hand and hug him to you to trap his Rt arm between your bodies; grab him by the throat with your Rt hand; pull with the Lft and push with the Rt to lever him backwards to the ground across your thigh. Alternatively, you can grip his chin with your Lft hand to lever him back as in CW45R and M18. 6. Back Lever Takedown #3: Kneeling (CW98R) From a position facing the opponent step to the outside and behind him with your Rt leg; pivot around so that you are facing the same direction as you drop to your Lft knee; reach down and grab his Lft ankle with your Lft hand and lift as you sweep your Rt arm backwards at his waist level to lever him across your bent Rt leg and onto the ground on his back. Rather than being a primary move, this is one that circumstances put you into. 7. Rear Leg Takedown: (P204, CW21L) This is similar to the Thigh Lever Takedown with the opponent facing towards you as mentioned above. Grab the opponent’s Rt wrist/forearm with your Lft hand as you step in with your Rt leg behind his Rt leg; press against his Rt shoulder with your Rt hand as you pull with your Lft to lever him backwards across your Rt thigh or lower leg. 8. Foot Sweep: (P204, P211) From the basic Double-Arm tie-up position; as you are pushing/pulling to gain advantage, suddenly kick out with your Rt foot against his Rt lower leg just above the ankle to unbalance him and gain the upper hand. If done properly, this can destroy his base enough to allow you to pivot to your Rt and twist him to the ground. P211 shows grabbing the opponent with both hands at the lapels/shirt; stepping behind his Lft leg with your Rt; kicking/lifting inward with your Rt leg to lift his leg off the ground as you twist him to the Rt with your arms to send him to the ground. Alternatively, you could step to the inside of his leg; kick/lift outward with your leg to lift his off the ground and twist him forward to send him to the ground. 9. Fireman’s Carry Throw: (P196, 51R, CW51L, CW98R) From the Single-Arm tie-up or a simple grab to the opponent’s Lft upper arm with your Rt hand; do a “pass thru”….duck down and go under his extended arm that you have hold of; pull him off-balance and across your back with your Rt as you reach down with your Lft and grab him around the Lft thigh from the outside; hoist him up onto your back by lifting with your Lft and pulling with your Rt; toss him onto the ground to your Rt side. 10. Rear Hoist Throw: (implied in P199, P200, P214, 60V, CW60L) All the illustrations are actually of defenses against this throw, rather than explanations of the throw itself. Grab the opponent around the waist from behind with both arms (rear bear hug); lean back and lift him into the air; lean your body to the side and dump him onto his neck and one shoulder; or fall onto your own back to drive his head into the ground behind you.

11. Front Hoist Throw: (implied in P197, P201, P205, CW42L, CW43R) As above, the illustrations are of counters to the throw rather than explanations of the throw itself. Grab the opponent around the waist from in front with both arms (front bear hug); lean back and lift him into the air; lean your body to the side and dump him or fall onto your own back to drive his head into the ground. P205 shows what to do if the opponent manages to foil your attempt to throw him: reach down with one arm and grab him around the thigh from the outside to pull his leg up off the ground and off-balance him; maintain your other arm wrapped around his waist; spin him around to disorient him and thwart his resistance; dump him to the ground to the side of his lifted leg. Talhoffer calls this one “Schwindelringen” or “dizzy-wrestling.” 12. Front Hoist Throw: Over the Shoulder (CW93R) Grab the opponent’s Lft wrist with your Rt hand and do a pass thru; surge forward and wrap your Lft arm around his waist with your Lft shoulder in his gut; stand upright to lift him into the air and dump him over your shoulder onto the ground behind you. 13. Rolling Throw: (P207, 57V, M19) From the basic Double-Arm tie-up position; the opponent has managed to off-balance you so that you have fallen onto your back with him coming down on top of you; quickly stop him by catching him with one or both of your feet in the bend of his hip; continue the backward momentum that put you down and throw him over your head to land behind you. If you are in a “friendly” exchange you will pull down on his arms as he goes over so that he lands on his back. If you are in a combative exchange you will give him more slack and guide him forward so that he lands on his head. Some have interpreted the plate from Marozzo’s work to imply that you could also pull the opponent forward into what is now called the “guard” position. I’m not so sure that was what was originally intended. 14. Single-Leg Throw: (P209, G245, CW37L) From a tie-up position; “pass thru” and dive forward to grab around one of his thighs with both arms; lift up and force him backwards onto his back. Alternatively, pass thru and grab his Rt elbow with your Lft hand to secure his arm and do the throw with your Rt arm only. 15. Single-Leg Throw with Armtrap: (P192, 53R) From a tie-up position; grip his Rt elbow/forearm/sleeve with you Lft hand to secure his arm; throw your Rt arm around his Rt upper arm from above and then pass it under his Rt thigh from the inside to hook his leg; lift his leg off the ground and pull it inward to throw him onto his Rt side. 16. Double-Leg Throw: (CW21R, CW42R, CW100L) Not seen in Talhoffer’s text, but prominently featured in the Codex Wallerstein. This one is certainly implied as a variation of the Single-Leg Throw. Grab around each of his thighs just above the knees; surge forward to ram the top of your head into his abdomen as you lift his legs to throw him onto his back. 17. Cradle Throw: (P201) This is actually shown as a counter to the Side Choke. Pass one arm behind and across the opponent’s shoulders; reach behind both of his knees at the same time with your other arm; lift him off the ground so that he is momentarily held in your arms as if you were “cradling” a child; dump him onto his head. It could also be a followup to a failed attempt at a front hoist that evolves into “dizzy wrestling” as shown in P205. From that position simply catch his second leg along with the first and lift him up into a “cradle.” 18. Crotch Throw #1: (P191) From a tie-up position; pass thru and under one of his arms as you press his upper arm to his body to trap it on the other side; reach down and grab behind his nearest thigh to his crotch; lift with both arms to pick him up off the ground; dump him onto his head. 19. Crotch Throw #2: (P210) From a tie-up position; pass thru and under one of his arms as you throw your arm across his shoulder and behind his head on the same side; pass your other arm between his legs from the front; lift him off the ground and dump him onto his head behind you.

20. Scooping Throw #1: The Wrap (P188, P203, CW50R) Shown as a defense against a downward stab in P188, and as a counter to a shoulder lock in P203. Step to the outside with your Lft leg as you wrap his Rt upper arm with your Lft arm from the inside; reach down with your Rt arm and scoop behind his Rt leg from the outside; lift up with your Rt and pull back with your Lft to throw him backwards. 21. Scooping Throw #2: The Pick-Up (P173, 66R, CW67L, M3) You are facing the opponent. Block a Rt overhead strike with your Lft forearm and grab his arm; step in with your Lft leg as you reach down with your Rt arm and grab his lead leg just above the knee; continue your forward momentum as your stand upright and pick up his leg to force him over onto his back. Alternatively, rather than grabbing his arm shove against his chest with your Lft as you pick up his leg with your Rt as in CW67L. 22. Rear Choke Takedown: (P213) From an Arm Drag yank the opponent around to face away from you and catch him across the throat with your forearm as he turns; pivot and catch his throat in the crook of your elbow as you lever him to the ground onto his back. 23. Armbar Takedowns: As noted in the previous section, any one of the various armbars and locks can be converted into takedowns by strategically placing your feet so that you can lever the opponent across your leg.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful