A journey through a technique: the Durchlauffen

Image from the treatise C.93 by Paul Hektor Mair

The “running through” is mentioned already in the pseudo-Hanko Döbringer (on folio 23), and is universally transposed throughout the so-called German martial literature. Durchlauffen, in fact, is a blanket term for a body of techniques, and many instances are characterized by various differing nuances according to the treatise in which they are found.

If we take a look at the Fechtkunst Glossary redacted by Dr. Jeffrey Forgengin 2004, we can pinpoint when this term or one of its iterations are used:

Durchlauffen: Gladiatoria 50v ; Ringeck 30r, 42r ff.; Starhemberg 22r, 32r ff., 37r; Lecküchner (M) 72v ff.; Egenolff 8v, 23r; Mair (V) 12v, 78r, 84r, 86r-v; Meyer 1.54v

In the latin version of Mair: transitio Mair (V) 12v; transcursus Mair (V) 86r-v

This refers to closing with the opponent under his arm, and is used when the opponent’s arm is high. Passing under the attack Ringeck 42r. This may mean the same thing as einlauffen (n.b. the use of both terms in Lecküchner (M) 72v ff.), although several of the Ringeck and Starhemberg instances clearly call for the combatant to close by ducking his head under—i.e. “through”—the opponent’s arm.

Starhemberg 22v and 37r seem to imply that the opponent’s arms need to be high to permit running through; if his arms are low, one should execute arm-grappling [Starhemberg 37r]. Starhemberg 32v equates running through with body-grappling. Egenolff 23r clearly implies going under the opponent’s arm. [?]Cf. durchtreten.

Apparently, and also according to Dr. Forgeng, the term is closely related or identical with Meyer’s durchtretten, 1.59v, 63r; 2.42r;

The authors seem to agree on at least one topic, which is that the technique is to be performed when our adversary is found to be standing with arms raised over the head. This gives us the opportunity to close our measure so much that we can grapple and project him on the ground.

This sparks an opportunity for analysis: what are the key psychophysical proficiencies required to perform the durchlauffen? How can those proficiencies be learned, applied, improved upon?

This is the main objective of this article, to present a fairly complete curriculum for training with an exclusive focus on this single technique, the durchlauffen.

The main goal here is to train a subject in thinking his way through each motor action he wishes to perform, so as to make each motion a psychomotor feat, and not a mere mechanical, mindless repetition of technical gestures. We should always aim to act while thinking: accordingly we will journey from easy to hard, experimenting with the motions while relating to our own body. Then we will widen our experience with the aid of certain training implements and finally we'll evolve the drill in a full-blown coupled exercise with a sparring partner.

These simple considerations, together with a number of evaluations upon the kind of motion and force needed to run through, allow us to pinpoint a series of exercises, which prepare us for the athletic movements that we are striving to learn.

In our video we selected some of these preparatory exercises so as to present a guideline, which is far from all-comprehensive but that we are actually able to tune into a comprehensive set, which in turn is aimed towards “covering all the bases”.

Rope jumping, in any variant, is a stellar warmup exercise, and has the merit of training coordination and works a lot upon our legs’ reactivity.

Strength training
Squats with weights within 70-95% of our limit and using a low number of reps allow us to enhance the explosive strength of our leg muscles and teach us to correctly operate the pelvis and the back so as to preserve its integrity under stress.

The depth jumps are aimed at conditioning the connective tissues which supports the muscular and articular action. The ability to lengthen connective tissue and elastic tissue greatly improve the efficiency of the motion, especially in activities that involve a marked use of stretch-shortening processes, like this present case.

With the help of a flowbag, you can start simulating the motion and therefore train the set of neuromotor skills necessary, keeping a tight focus on footwork and motion transfer from foot to pelvis with the utmost fluidity and efficacy possible.

As a complementary exercise we use a full-size punching bag as a “tilting obstacle”, to train fluidity and positioning so as to unleash our pelvis in an explosive gesture.Following this training we can pick up paired exercises, so as to understand the measure and the relative positioning of our different body parts in relation to another human being.

We structure the drill on a crescendo of complexity, starting from a static position and a voluntary choice of tempo, then progressing on performing it on a trigger gesture from the partner. Finally we take up a weapon simulator adjusting what was lacking or off kilter.

Tactics and strategy
We keep on steadily pacing forwards in our difficulty progression. We can devise the last leg of the “training journey” from a series of possible simulations. Here we will propose this particular variant: an exercise in which both partners try to force the adversary by manipulating him within the bind (no attacks to the openings, just winding and thrusting while keeping oneself protected). The roles are still broken into agent and patient, though.

The patient shall raise his arms either to defend or to get close aggressively. At this point, the agent shall perform the durchlauffen. Since there are a number of durchlauffen variants, we can focus in each one or leave the agent the freedom to choose which option suits him best.

This model can be perfected, and this applies to the performance you see in the video too. Yet we believe that this is an effective path towards unraveling a very interesting technique.


We thank this amazing video of the Slovaks  for giving us the inspiration to go deeper in exploring this technique.

Translation from the original article in Italian by Francesco Lanza.

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