Fistfighting posture by Gerhard Vieth, 1795

The 2nd half of the 18th century saw the first systematical attempts of research and description of physical education in Germany, which later led to the designation of the term “Turnen” by Friedrich Ludwig Jahn.

In 1795, public teacher Gerhard Vieth published his “Attempt of an Encyclopedia of Physical Exercises” in which he included the “Faustkampf” or fistfight. Note that this research was decidedly meant for physical education. Its objective was very similar to that of Karate in Okinawa about 110 years later.

Let’s look at some of the technical descriptions.

“One either strikes with one hand and uses the other hand for the defense, or one strikes with both hands. Both of the previous are either done by making use of the clenched fist or of the open hand.”

Is it really that easy to put it in writing? Awesome!

“Fistfighting may be practiced as it is, i.e. without the opponents seizing one another, or in connection with grappling, which was the Pankration of the ancients.”


Heed his advice on protective means:

“To protect yourself against the opponent’s blows there are three means, namely intercepting (absorbing), the dodging and making defenseless.

(1) Intercepting (parrying) is done by holding forward one arm, particularly the elbow, so that the opponent’s strikes hit here, and not into the face.

(2) The dodging is done by a quick bend down or a skillful twist or turn, so that the opponent‘s strike doesn’t hit, or at least does not hit in the moment of its greatest power.

(3) “Making defenseless” is done by taking possession the opponent’s arms, so that he cannot strike anymore.”

Finally, the following figure shows the posture and appropriate scale length in a free fistfight, when the opponents don’t seize each other. The fighters cover face and throat by the bent left arm held forward, and the right hand is used to strike.

They even wear hats 😀

Vieth: Gerhard Ulrich Anton: Versuch einer Encyclopädie der Leibesübungen. Berlin, 1795.

Vieth: Gerhard Ulrich Anton: Versuch einer Encyclopädie der Leibesübungen. Berlin, 1795.

© 2015, Andreas Quast. All rights reserved.

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