Bringing a 500 year old wrestling system back to life


A few weeks ago I was in Eugene, Oregon teaching a seminar at the Northwest Fencing Academy. The day after the seminar I got together with school director Sean Hayes and his senior student Mark Kruger to work with them a bit on an historical intepretation project of a 1537 wrestling manual written by a German named Fabian von Auerswald.

Mark and Sean were working through various wrestling plays from this historic manual, piecing together a system of sport wrestling nearly 500 years old. This project was quite neat for a few reasons 1. The manual of Von Aueswald is one of the earliest wrestling-only manuals written in Europe, 2. The project of interpreting and putting the techniques into modern usage was a collaboration between several schools, all members of the Chivalric Fighting Arts Association (an organization of which Academie Duello and Northwest Academy are both founding members).

Working with Sean and Mark for one day was exciting, the material in the Von Auerswald manual is quite extensive and I enjoyed the strategic and direct nature of the play. It was also cool to be a small part of a project where instructors of several schools were sharing their annotated copies of the manual, creating and sharing videos with one another, and helping push and challenge our understanding of this text over a vast distance.

The culmination of much of this work has been pulled together into an article on the CFAA blog by project leads David Rowe and Bill Grandy of the Virginia Academy of Fencing. It’s a great article with a ton of video content detailing many of the core plays in the system. It’s definitely worth a solid study. You can read the article here.

Be sure to make it to the end “fighting in the hole” is definitely a highlight!


devonboorman Devon Boorman is the Co-Founder and Director of Academie Duello Centre for Swordplay, which has been active in Vancouver, Canada since 2004. Devon’s expertise centres on the Italian swordplay tradition including the arts of the Renaissance Italian rapier, sidesword, and longsword, as well as knife and unarmed techniques.
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