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Paulus Kal

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Paulus Kal
Born ca.1420s
Dingolfing, Germany
Died after 1485
  • Ludwig IV "the Gentle"
  • Ludwig IX "the Rich"
  • Sigismund of Austria
Movement Fellowship of Liechtenauer
Influenced Peter Falkner (?)
Language Early New High German
First printed
english edition
Tobler, 2006
Concordance by Michael Chidester
Paulus Kal's heraldry

Paulus Kal was a 15th century German fencing master. He wrote that he studied martial arts under Hans Stettner von Mörnsheim, and was an initiate of the tradition of Johannes Liechtenauer. He was also attached as Schirrmeister to three different courts in his career, serving in various military capacities including commanding men in at least three campaigns.[1] Perhaps his most significant legacy is an honor role of masters which he styled the Fellowship of Liechtenauer (Geselschaft Liechtenauers). While many of these masters remain unknown, the several wrote treatises of their own and Kal's list stands as an independent confirmation of their connection to the grand master. Kal's treatise is also of interest in that it represents the oldest attempt to illustrate portions of Liechtenauer's Recital (Zettel).

Little is known of Kal's early life, but from 1440 to ca. 1449 he served Ludwig IV "the Gentle" of Wittelsbach, Count Palatine of the Rhine. In 1448, while in the Elector's service he participated in the defense Nuremberg, commanding a unit of wheel cannons below the gates.[2] The Nuremberg Council notes from 17 March 1449 mention that he had broken the peace of the city at that time by drawing his weapons.[2]

Kal entered the service of Ludwig IX "the Rich" of Wittelsbach, Duke of Bavaria-Landshut, on 29 September 1450.[1] In 1461, he is mentioned commanding a unit of 12 marksmen.[2] From 1465 to 1475, he seems to have also maintained a secondary occupation as a toll collector in Dingolfing.[2] In November 1468, he participated in military actions on the castle Saldenburg, which was successfully taken on 4 December.[2] Kal is listed as a guest at the wedding of Ludwig's son Georg,[2] and continued in the duke's service until his death on 18 January 1479. Paulus Kal created two manuscripts of his treatise while in the service of Ludwig IX, an uncaptioned version as well as a more elaborate presentation copy including brief explanations in German for most devices (including fragments of Liechtenauer's Recital).

On 12 February 1480, Paulus Kal entered the service of Sigismund of the House of Hapsburg, Archduke of Austria and Tyrol.[1] Kal acted as one of the archduke's witnesses at a number of interrogations held on 17 October 1485 in Innsbruck, related to the witch trials being conducted by Heinrich Kramer at that time.[2] This is the final time that Kal's name has been located in historical records. Several copies of Kal's treatise were created during the 1480s and 90s, but the only one which shows any probability of Kal's personal involvement is the extensive MS KK5126.


In total, Paulus Kal's teachings are preserved in at least seven manuscripts written between 1460 and 1514. Aside from the three already mentioned, two other extensive, text-less copies also exist (the Gotha version, copied from the Bologna, and the Solothurn version, copied from an unknown source). A sixth version was sold at auction in Italy during the 20th century as individual leaves; this copy contains unintelligible single-word captions[3] and was likely based on either the Bologna or Vienna; another single leaf, roughly coeval with Solothurn, appeared at a rare book dealer in 2019, but the whereabouts of the rest of the manuscript are unknown. The five substantial versions are listed in the concordance below, though only the Munich accompanies its illustrations with text. This concordance also includes the separate, unillustrated poleaxe and longshield advice from the Vienna version, which largely matched the illustrations (though it's unknown whether it was intended for that purpose).

Paulus Hector Mair included content based on Kal's work in several sections of the Munich and Vienna versions of his Opus Amplissimum de Arte Athletica. Rather than using Kal's descriptions (if the copy he used had them), Mair wrote his own extensive commentary on the illustrations. The precise set of illustrations Mair drew upon do not appear in any of the extant manuscripts, which may signify that he used yet another copy of Kal's work which has since been lost. Because Mair's version represents substantial original work, it is listed on his page rather than being incorporated into the concordance here.

Additional Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Rainer Welle. "…und wisse das alle höbischeit kompt von deme ringen. Der Ringkampf als adelige Kunst im 15. Und 16. Jahrhundert. Eine sozialhistorische und bewegungsbiographische Interpretation aufgrund der handschriften und gedruckten Ringlehren des Spätmittelalters." Forum für Sozialgeschichte 4. Pfaffenweiler, 1993. pp 243-253.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Jens P. Kleinau. Paulus Kal, a Schirrmeister. Hans Talhoffer ~ A Historical Martial Arts blog by Jens P. Kleinau, 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  3. Possibly abbreviated phrases from Latin or Italian.
  4. It is unclear whether Paulus Kal left behind any staff treatises, but this indicates a clear connection between staff and pollaxe fighting.
  5. This looks something like the reissen in Messer.
  6. Hang likely means to push the shaft through with your rear hand, suspending the head of the axe in front of you.
  7. Ansetzen.
  8. Original appears to be nonsensical. With some consultation this is about as clear a translation I came across.
  9. “suech den vnttern rist”
  10. Presumably since you are only acting as though you will parry, you are voiding, which could expose the armpit etc.
  11. Impalement is implied, probably with the queue.
  12. The point standing upwards happens to be the queue in this play, but likely does not matter.
  13. Hildebrand’s Cut is described by Paurenfeyndt as a parry which allows the opponent’s attack to slide downward off the weapon and to the side.
  14. “Indes” - most likely not in the fencing sense but used as it commonly is.