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Analysis: Vollstandiges Ringbuch (Passchen's Ringbuch)

The Ringbuch written by Johannes Georg Passchen (or Passcha) has been a source of interest to recreative martial artists since scans first appeared on the HACA unarmed combat page in early 1999. Unlike many of the earlier period manuals, Passchen's book seems to be devoted specifically to civilian self-defense. As such, it includes a wide variety of unarmed combat techniques which are, if not unique, then at least very unusual from a European source. The Ringbuch is divided into three sections. The first deals with breaking free of holds applied to the defender's arms and upper chest, as well as advice on what do do if someone threatens to throw a jug at you. The second includes defenses against grips to the flank and throat as well as parries against punching attacks, and closes with four notably effective close-combat "finishers". The third section is something of a grab-bag, including unarmed defense against a weapon, kicks, various striking techniques and a selection of specific throws and counter-throws. There are fifty-four specific techniques illustrated in the Ringbuch. Passchen frequently appends the notes "so also with the other hand", "the same inwards", etc. after his technical descriptions, apparently trusting his readers to understand and be able to apply this advice in practice. These (unillustrated) appendices and variations more than double the total number of techniques described. Thanks to the efforts and generosity of Eli Steenput in translating the original and making it available.. My own comments are in italics.

Vollstandiges Ringbuch by Johannes Georg Passchen (1659)

To the gentle reader
Wrestling ['Ringen'] is a useful exercitium, and well-known history shows that it was practiced by our forefathers not only for fun, but also in earnest, because it not only improves the condition of the whole body, but so also a weaker person can, by knowledge of this science, and fully trained therein, defend himself against a stronger one, and resist him. As high as it was esteemed by our forefathers, so little is it known in our time, and these days everyone relies on their size and strength, yet they feel in danger when confronted by a smaller man trained in wrestling. These circumstances have prompted me to bring some things to light in this print and coppers. Do not hesitate, lovers of wrestling, to willingly accept this little work by me, which I place in God's care.

"The Strong, the Half-strong, and the Weak" Passchen's Ringbuch (Wrestling Book) begins with the human figure diagram illustrated below. Understanding this diagram is fundamental to reconstructing his system. "First it is necessary to know, that the human arm can be divided in three parts, the Strong, the Half-Strong, and the Weak, as shown on figure 1. The head has two parts, the Strong and the Weak. On top of the head (A) is the Weak, and below (B) the Strong. The body and feet have three parts, the Strong, Half-Strong and Weak, marked C, D and E in figure 1. When you try to break free from a hold, you must usually apply the Half-Strong of your arm to the Weak of your Adversarii." My interpretation of the above is that the arm and body "parts" actually refer to the section of the limb or torso between each marked point. "Strength" appears to be defined as the ability of each body part to apply or resist pressure in a grappling situation. In terms of mechanical strength, both muscular and with regards to leverage, the torso and pelvis are the strongest sections, and the limbs and extremities are progressively weaker.Thus: - "Strong" from the shoulder to the elbow - "Half-strong" from the elbow to the wrist - "Weak" from the wrist to the fingertips

The top of the head (A) is mechanically weaker than the neck and jaw areas (B) in terms of resisting force, such as would be applied in hair-grabs and head-control pressure techniques.

"Strong" from the upper chest (C) to the pelvis (D)

- "Half-strong" from the pelvis (D) to the knees (E) - "Weak" from the knees (E) downwards

Passchen's hold-breaking system is based upon applying the strong or half-strong to the weak. In practice, this usually means applying a full-body rotation to either side, with the force of the rotation concentrated at the defender's shoulder>elbow against the attacker's elbow>wrist. Inwendig and Auswendig Steenput translates these as "inward" and "outward" respectively, and notes that the terminology does not seem to be consistent. Inwendig techniques generally happen between either the defender's or the attacker's arms, whereas auswendig techniques happen either outside the arms or, in some cases, "from the center outwards". This is further complicated by the fact that a release technique which begins "inwards", with an action moving towards the defender's centerline, will typically end "outwards", as the defender's shoulder>elbow wraps over the attacker's elbow/wrist and presses them away. In modern wrestling terms, it may be appropriate to read inwendig as "underhooking" and auswendig as "overhooking". This aspect of Passchen's system is still under analysis.