The Beginner’s Guide to German Longsword, part 4: How to Walk

4. Footwork

Footwork is the base of all good fencing. Practice footwork regularly, preferably every session as part of your warm-up. Practice it when you have 5 minutes alone at your school or job. Do it whenever you can, as this is the first step towards quick, precise strikes. Longsword sources are somewhat scarce on the topic of footwork, so the names of the steps are arbitrary. Everything written below is intended for use with modern footwear.

Some general tips for footwork:

    • Keep your knees and toes facing forward at all times. If they start facing inwards, you will sustain injuries.
    • If you are training barefoot, you should have a slightly different way of stepping than if you train with shoes (stepping with the whole of the foot instead of heel-toes).
    • Rule of thumb: when you attack from the left, step with the left foot. When you attack from the right, step with the right foot.
    • Always step after you have launched your attack, not before.
    • Keep your head from bobbing up and down. Try to keep your head as linear as possible, unless changing levels for a specific purpose.
    • Do not drag your feet. Lift them slightly when moving.
    • When moving laterally, don’t always move to the side where you wish to attack before the attack itself. Moving to the other side will often force your opponent to follow you with their sword, providing a larger opening. For example, if you wish to launch a right Oberhau, don’t move to your right, but to your left before the attack.
    • Favor small steps over large ones in most situations. When having to cover a distance, making several small steps instead of fewer larger ones is faster and gives you more control over your movement.

And some general guides to follow the pictures easier:

    • Black marks the current position of the feet. If only a part of the foot is black (heel or toes), then only that part of the foot is in contact with the ground at that point in the step
    • Grey marks the previous position of the foot
    • The grey dotted line is the center line. This is so you can more easily see off-center movements.
    • The green arrows show the movement of the feet. If the arrow is curved, you rotate the foot to reach approximate position shown
    • All the pictures assume you are using the basic stance with the back foot at about a 90 degree angle. If you use a different stance, most of what is written is still applicable, with the basic position always being the stance you use instead of the basic stance.

4.1. The passing step

So named because one foot passes the other. This is the most basic step, and most like regular walking. When doing this step, imagine that it is the hips that move you, not the legs.

  1. Stand in a good general stance, as discussed in our previous guide.
  2. The variation shown in the image is with a step that goes off line. Step somewhat to the side with your back foot. You should naturally go heel-toes here, so it is not emphasized in the picture. When you do an off-line step, rotate slightly so that you are still facing your opponent. You can also do a linear step, in which case you rotate your foot at the same time that your step is completed.
  3. Put your now-back-foot into your regular stance
    Passing step

4.2. The gathering step

A very important, basic step. It’s performed like this:

  1. Stand in your regular stance
  2. Move your front leg slightly forward, with the heel touching the ground first.
  3. Put the toes of your front foot down
  4. Move your back leg into your regular stance

4.3. The half step

So named because the back foot moves half a step, just behind the front foot. Not very common in longsword, but can be useful in certain situations, such as feints.

  1. Stand in your regular stance
  2. Move your back leg so that it is just behind your front. On the image, the width is kept, but you can put your heels together, provided you end in a good stance once the step is done.
  3. Put your front foot forward, heel first
  4. Put the toes of your front foot down
  5. If you made a large step, put your back foot so that you stand in your basic stance

4.4. The lateral step

Although the passing step can also include a noticeable lateral movement, when wanting to move primarily to the side, this is the way to do it. There is the front-foot lateral step and the back-foot lateral step. We always first move the foot that’s on the side towards which we want to move:

Front foot lateral step:
  1. Stand in your basic guard
  2. Step with your front foot further out to the side
  3. When the step with your front foot is complete, put your back foot so that you are once again in your basic stance
Lateral step – front foot
Back foot lateral step:
  1. Stand in your basic guard
  2. Step with your back foot further out to the side
  3. When the step with your back foot is complete, put your front foot so that you are once again in your basic stance
Lateral step – back foot

4.5. The cross step

The cross step is named so because you cross your center line with the back foot. Remember how I said when moving laterally, you always use the leg that’s on the side where you want to move? Well, I lied. With the cross step, it’s the other leg (but the stuff I said at the lateral step holds for the lateral step!).

  1. Stand in your basic guard
  2. Step with your back foot so that you cross your center line, and turn your hips so that they’re still facing somewhat towards the opponent. This will naturally lift the heel of your other leg.
  3. Step with your back foot so that you stand in your basic position again. Rotate your back foot so that it is in the default position – you can do this either as your front foot finishes the step, or just after. You may also need to move your back foot, in which case, you do it after the front foot has finished the step.
crossing step

4.6. The three-point step

The three-point step isn’t really a step, as its function is to deliver powerful blows on the spot. its function is to unlock your hips so that they can deliver the power you need.

  1. Stand in your basic guard
  2. Staying where you are, rotate your hips to the side of your front foot. Rotate your front foot by 90 degrees. Do the same for the back foot, only lift your heel as well.
thre-point step

If you are wondering where the lunge and springen are – worry not, those will be covered later.

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