Sigmund Ringeck

Sigmund Ringeck, also known as Sigmund Schining ein Ringeck, and possibly Sigmund Amring or Sigmund Einring, was fechtmeister to Albrecht, Count Palatine of the Rhine and Duke of Bavaria, and it is his work that we interpret and teach.  We do not know which of the Duke Albrechts he served, but he must have lived in the 14th or 15th centuries to have served one of them and been a member of the Liechtenauer tradition.  His title fechtmeister may indicate that he was a teacher of martial arts, or fighting arts, for Duke Albrecht.  His last name, Ringeck, may indicate that he, or his family, was from the Rhineland.

Our work draws on several extant versions of Sigmund Ringeck’s treatise. The principal version we work from is the MS Dresden C487 manuscript, which contains several other works and is held by the Sächsische Landesbibliothek.  Other copies of Ringeck’s text exist in holdings in Glasgow Scotland, Rostock Germany, and Augsburg Germany, all of which have some differences from the Dresden version.  In it Ringeck provides insightful explanations of the merkverse of Johannes Liechtenauer, the 14th c. fightmaster who, according to Dobringer, after traveling extensively to learn the fighting techniques of many masters created his own cohesive martial art and composed poetic verses to provide structure teaching.  Liechtenauer’s longsword art became deeply connected with other fighting arts, and is commonly only one among several manuscripts on fighting in a given source.

Paulus Kal listed Ringeck as one of the deceased members of the Society of Liechtenauer in his fightbook from 1470.  Many of Ringeck’s contemporaries produced similar works that also explain the teachings of Johannes Liechtenauer.  These have been found all over Europe, and constitute the single most documented tradition of historical European longsword arts.  Ringeck’s manual offers one of the most complete commentaries on Liechtenauer’s writings and includes some of his own material at the end.  Other fight masters used and referenced his manual long after him.  Joachim Meyer copied Ringeck’s teachings in 1570 for his final manuscript, and Hans Medel von Salzburg created a new version of it, adding his own Teachings and illustrations.

We see quite a bit of evidence from the Dresden, Glasgow, and Rostock manuscripts for example that many other skills were understood, taught, and practiced in conjunction with the art of fighting with the longsword in Liechtenauer’s style, including armored fighting with the longsword and spear, sword and buckler, grappling, fighting from horseback, and with daggers and messers.  Compendiums including Liechtenauer’s longsword art often included Jud Lew’s wrestling, the armored combat techniques of Liechtenauer, Huntfeltz’s wrestling and swordsmanship, Liegniczer’s sword and buckler, and other arts.  If we take the simultaneous occurrence of these sources in a given book then we can, and I argue, should, understand Liechtenauer’s longsword art as only one among many arts that were taught by masters of this tradition.

There have been two prominent translations and interpretations of Sigmund Ringeck’s fightbook published already, Christian Henry Tobler’s and David Lindholm’s.  Both of these provide valuable information and insight into Ringeck’s work and fighting techniques.  We have been working on a new interpretation offering thorough justification for each particular mode of practice and variation on the interpretations of techniques, and laying out the sourcing of many insights into Ringeck’s style of swordsmanship from extensive research into Ringeck’s contemporaries and other fighting systems which can illuminate his sometimes opaque teachings.

As the Dresden version of Ringeck’s fightbook has no illustrations, and those of the Glasgow version are sparse and occasionally cryptic, and because some of the material requires additional explanation beyond what Ringeck gives, especially in terms of teaching pedagogy and methodology.

Ringeck’s manual gives us one of the most complete and well documented versions of Liechtenauer’s teachings.  His fighting style emphasizes direct strategy, controlling the opponent, fighting securely, and emphasizes techniques for feeling the opponent’s position and actions that make one’s response time much faster than when one relies on their eyes alone.  It provided one of the soundest and most popular Renaissance systems for learning how to fight with a longsword.  We enjoy practicing it very much.