HEMA Book Review: Fighting with the German Longsword by Christian Tobler

christian henry tobler german longsword hema book 1

This is a review for the HEMA book Fighting with the German Longsword, Revised and Expanded Edition by Christian Henry Tobler and published in 2015 by Freelance Academy Press. This book focuses on the Lichtenauer tradition of medieval German longsword fighting, also known as Kunst des Fechtens, a particular area of focus and expertise of Tobler. It is 315 pages.

Fighting with the German Longsword is a Historical European martial arts companion book that applies much of Tobler’s research and theories about his reconstruction of Kunst des Fechtens into a format that is easy to read and understand for the modern student. Tobler includes references to much of the scholarship he has developed to cement his philosophies but its primary focus is on showing illustrations of plays from the Lichtenauer tradition fechtbücher (German: “fight books”) martial art training manuals. In particular the works attributed to 15th and 16th century German swordmasters Sigmund Ringeck, Peter von Danvig, Paulus Kal, Hans Tolhoffer and Peter Falkner are focused on, with commentary provided by Tobler to make their instructions accessible to a beginning swordsman. This is very useful as the original source manuals from these authors are written in the form of semi-cryptic poems, which require deciphering in order to construct a martial art from them. Tobler’s book serves as a sort of decryption code for these poems.

Christian Henry Tobler Fighting with the German Long Sword HEMA Book Review
An example of the decision trees Tobler has included to assist beginners with learning the plays and making choices during sword fighting free play

One of the strengths of Fighting with the German Longsword are the many photographs Tobler has provided that show his interpretation of the plays, with steps often missing (or in some cases, non-existent) from the original source material included in his instruction.

Christian Henry Tobler Fighting with the German Long Sword HEMA Book Review
An example of the photographs that demonstrate the steps to perform a play

A significant chunk of Fighting with the German Longsword pages are also devoted to explaining the historical context and some background biographical information about the Lichtenauer tradition masters, along with some research Tobler has done from other sources and even examination / experimentation with arms and armour of the period. The book also begins with a discussion on footwork, an important aspect of fencing that requires more explanation than the original sources provided but that Tobler has elaborated on for several pages. This is very useful for the novice student of historical medieval swordsmanship.

As with many Historical European Martial Arts companion books, Tobler provides detailed coverage of the guards (sword stances) used in his style, along with instructions on how best to perform strikes and musings on key details such as distance and timing. He also provides several drills of his own construction useful for teaching the basics of swordsmanship to novices. While this book is primarily focused on the long sword passages of the Lichtenauer tradition, Tobler also provides some information at the end of the book that also covers ringen (wrestling) and the usage of a spear.

If you are interested in benefiting from Tobler’s decades of experience reconstructing German medieval swordsmanship and wish to learn how to fight with a sword, then we recommend that you purchase his book, Fighting with the German Longsword. It is a worthwhile addition to your HEMA library.


If you’d like to learn more information about historical fencing practices please check out our Learn HEMA page for a guide to learning about the historical weapon that interests you. You can also find more guides we’ve written about other topics at our Helpful Guides page.

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