Why I hate the Duplieren but it works anyway

Strong way to start a blog post if you ask me. Nevertheless, the Duplieren happens to be a technique in German longsword that is fundamentally at odds with every underlying philosophy of sword fighting I identify with, yet it still works. It even works for me when I don’t realise I’m doing it but how can this be so?

Even before we get into what the Duplieren is, we need to take a more basic look at the principles that underpin it. While the Duplieren is a German technique, I find using both German and Italian concepts helps understand how it works and when to use it. The Italian way of thinking about it is that in the time (tempo) it takes them to do something, there is time for you to do something too. The German way of thinking is that some techniques only work “indes”: i.e. while they’re doing something. Trying to look from both perspectives at once (and going cross-eyed nonetheless) will give you the following: while they’re doing something you can do something too and there are times when for your technique to work it needs to be done in that same time that they’re doing whatever it is they’re doing. Simple, isn’t it?

Not really, but I hope you’re following nonetheless. The Duplieren is a technique you do when your swords are at the bind and your opponent is trying to displace your sword by pushing it off to the side. While they’re generally going to be doing this with the lower half/”strong” of their sword, the key thing is that, for a moment, they’re focussing on stopping you being a threat rather than threatening you themselves. For a moment, they are not a threat to you. This means that while (indes) they’re pushing you aside you have that tempo to act. The Duplieren is one of the options you have at this point. What the Duplieren is, as a technique, is you turning your sword edge effectively 90 degrees so your flat is to their edge and you strike to the other shoulder than the one you were originally aiming at. Let’s look at this with an example: they strike to your left shoulder which you block with a Zornhau to their left shoulder with the blades meeting in the middle. Your point is now set up to stab them but the blades are still touching so they naturally push their sword against yours to move the tip away from them. At this point—while they’re pushing you away—you twist the sword’s edge so it’s no longer edge on edge but edge on flat and you strike down to their right shoulder behind. Because they’re focused on moving your sword off to the side, you’re not getting hit but because you’ve changed the angle of the sword, you can effectively cut along the edge of theirs to hit them. By the time they’ve done their displacement they’ve been hit. That, my friends, is the Duplieren.

Sounds great, I hear you say, what’s the problem with it? My big gripe: it leaves you horribly exposed after you’ve done it. By twisting the sword to cut them, you’re no longer using it to cover your line and protect yourself. The only thing stopping them hitting you is that for a split second they’re doing something else. That’s literally it. And their sword is closer to you than your own. If your attack doesn’t wound or surprise them so much that it stops them in their tracks, they’re so close that they can hit you before you have time to return to a guard. This is why I hate it; you can’t protect yourself if you get it wrong and my entire philosophy is centred around keeping as safe as possible.

If the Duplieren were the only thing you could do at that point then it would perhaps be worth the risk but the problem is there are so many other, safer options you could do instead. This is a time where pulling back your sword to strike on the other side is actually a viable technique (though you otherwise wouldn’t be smart to leave the bind, but more on that another time). This sounds more dangerous but by pulling the sword back and striking around rather than behind their sword, you sword is still between you and their sword, making it harder for them to hit you with a strike of their own. You could also do a Punta Falso in Fiore where at the bind you turn the sword around theirs effectively horizontally, grab the blade with your left hand and stab. This sounds dangerous for many reasons but it has the benefit of still keeping your sword between you and their sword at all times (something by now you can tell I’m a fan of). As far as I see it, there are way safer options out there, so why ever use the Duplieren?

But I have, and it worked and so I end up respecting it nonetheless. I remember a duel I had a few months ago now. My sword was actually longer than my opponent’s weapon and I was trying to manoeuvre past his to stab him from a distance. He got a bind on me and in the instant that he displaced me, I instinctively performed a Duplieren. I didn’t pull it off perfectly—it ended up as a thrust which he ran onto. I was standing there feeling horribly exposed and expecting a follow-up blow from him but he literally stopped in his tracks, winded and completely unable to retaliate. I was unscathed. And so while it still leaves every part of me feeling horribly exposed, I can attest to the fact that, if done correctly, the Duplieren does work.

Will I keep doing it though? Probably. Probably in the same way I did it then. By accident. I still prefer to cover myself with my blade and do other things at the bind which are more forgiving if you make a mistake, but I know the higher risk, higher reward options like the Duplieren have their place, and shouldn’t be ignored either.

(I couldn’t find a photo of the Duplieren so I’m using this badass photo of victory instead [from Wiktenauer])


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