The Honour Taker

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Honour Taker

 Previously I posted an article by Stewart MacPhee, writing as Dr. Johann Portsmouth Adler, about the Prussian forms of Parasol Duelling.

Here is another excellent post.

Well done Sir!

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

Ed: It is my pleasure to post another wonderful article from the good Doctor Adler.

This one discusses the history and forms of the infamous Ehre Nehmer move and how it was used in other Parasol Duelling styles. As an eyewitness and formal Doctor (umpire) at many Parasol Duelling competitions he was well placed to observe and study these moves. 

A valuable addition to the increasing amount of information being compiled on this intriguing sport. 

Abflug mit gnade
(Departing with grace)
By: Dr. Johann Portsmouth Adler

    Many of my colleagues as of late have been asking me many questions regarding the elegant form of parasol dueling known as the Prussian style that is widely practiced in the Germanic territories.  One topic in particular is the dreaded move known as the Ehre Nehmer or Honour Taker.  While talking about this with my fellows there arose a bit of controversy over just what form the move in question takes when practiced.  While some will state that it appears to be a twirl but instead of facing the opponent the duelist instead turns their back, appearing like a “reverse twirl”, others still state that the move in question takes the form of a snub, where the duelist keeps the parasol facing their opponent, but then turns on their heel and walks away appearing like a kind of “reverse snub”.

    While I initially found this quite strange as the move that I had grown up hearing about, and had witnessed on more than one occasion, had always taken the form of the aforementioned “reverse snub”. Imagine my surprise, after exchanging letters on the subject with learned minds on the continent and my own investigations, when I found not one or two, but three variations of this move!  While they may all be called “Honour Takers”, in their own way they are each a separate move as practiced by those of different schools or styles of the sport. 
    So with that in mind, I have decided to sit down and write this missive on what had originally started as a Germanic move but has since seen its way from the vaunted drill academies of Berlin to the elegant runway plots of the Seine and, if rumours are to be believed, to the very shadow of Buckingham Palace itself.

    The first of these moves that I will talk about will be the one that I am the most familiar with, the dreaded Ehre Nehmer (Honour Taker in English) of the Prussian style.

    While most authorities are not sure exactly where or when this move was first developed, it has been in use among the practitioners of the Prussian style for quite some time and, while not formally taught or recognized at the academies of the land, it is a move known by most if not all that partake in the sport.

    The move itself is a rather simple and direct gesture, where the duelist extends their parasol out into the snub position but after doing this they then proceed to turn on their heel so that while the parasol is still held open and pointed at their opponent, they themselves are facing in the opposite direction. This is used primarily as a way of winning a pyrrhic victory, as under the formal rules using this move will forfeit the match, but they leave the stage with the knowledge that they have denied their fellow duelist any honour in their win. 

    Many are the stories of great Prussian duelists using this move to teach those who would be vainglorious, and indeed brag of their win records, a lesson in humility. For to the opinion of most a win obtained under an Ehre Nehmer is not seen as a true win.  While their win record may be intact it will be forever tainted.  It has also been noted to be used in matches where two bitter rivals come face to face, but this is seen as a rarity as most would prefer to defeat a rival in direct competition in front of their peers instead of resorting to underhanded moves.

    The next movement, also known as an “Honour Taker”, is actually recorded in the lexicon of moves under its original name Départ Élégant (Elegant Departure in English) and is used by those mistresses of the flirtation trials, the practitioners of the Parisian style.

    While the origins of the Ehre Nehmer may be disputed, the origins of the Départ Élégant are much more easily discovered, and indeed while the move itself may not be known to most the event that saw its creation is widely known as a very controversial event in modern duelling history, the “Offenburg duel”.

    According to common knowledge and press clippings from the time. The time leading up to the infamous duel was one of intense national pride for the nations of Germany and France. In a widely advertised event, the premier duelling teams from both countries were to meet in Offenburg for an international invitational match.  The French delegation, having finished the summer touring season, had just come from a defeat at the hands of the German delegation at the recent Paris finals, and some say, they were looking for revenge. 

    The Offenburg invitational had gone on without incident, with the German delegation in the lead, until the two team captains took the stage to face each other.  According to the press in attendance “All the eyes of Europe looked upon this duel”.  Indeed, in the audience were representatives from many of the European powers and from even further abroad if the stories are to be believed.

    Both captains had faced each other many times before. After many a duel they were considered to be each other’s equal, having studied each other and their respective styles extensively.  The first round went to France with an elegant plant to foil the German's snub.  Second round went to Germany with a twirl to beat the French attempt at a second plant. As a hush fell over the crowd the two faced each other for a final round, the German opened up with a defiant snub, the French countered with another elegant plant then switched to a forceful snub. As the German went to counter, in a grand gesture worthy of a flirtation trial, the French captain, keeping her parasol open, swung it down, as if going for a snub, and continued the swing turning to face away from her opponent and landed the still open parasol in a perfect twirl while starting to walk away.  The German doctor overseeing the match, not sure what to do, called the match in the favour of the German captain declaring her the winner through use of an Ehre Nehmer.

    As they both left the stage to the whispered voices of the audience, the German captain confronted her French counterpart and a shouting match quickly ensued between them.  When they were separated the German captain threw her parasol at the French captain and demanded that someone fetch pistols so they may have another duel only this time to the death.  After this outburst both parties were sent to opposite sides of the venue. After a brief discussion amongst the judges in attendance, it was decided that both parties would be removed from the event and sent home for fear of an actual duel breaking out between them.

    When questioned on this later the French captain stated that she had studied the Prussian style extensively throughout her career and had decided that, even though the German team may win the event that they would have no honour from it, and had therefore decided to take their dreaded honour taker and turn it into, in her own words; “an elegant departure from the field”.

    The move, as it has evolved now, is indeed an elegant affair with the duelist starting with a snub, much like its German counterpart, only instead of then turning, the duelist swings the parasol down and up again in a grand arc, the momentum of swinging the fully open parasol helping to turn them to face away from their opponent. Letting the parasol finish its arc by landing it gently in a twirl and then proceeding to take a step away from the opponent, completes the movement, thus taking any honour their opponent may have gained in a flourish of French defiance.

    While it is a rare and highly controversial move due to its origin, for practitioners of the Parisian style the Départ Élégant as it is now known, has become a powerful move and perfect French answer for the dread Ehre Nehmer of the Germans.

    The third movement that has also been called an "Honour Taker" is by far the most secretive and clouded in mystery.  This is a move that, if the rumours are true, is only known to a handful of the most veteran practitioners of the sport.  Under the Brandenburg variations it is known as “The Refusal”.

    As most, if not all, practitioners and followers of this fine sport know, under the Brandenburg Variations there are a core set of three movements; The Twirl, the Snub, and the Plant.  Three simple yet elegant moves, no more, no less, that are practiced widely across the British Empire and beyond.  Now imagine one’s surprise to learn that there may yet indeed be a “secret” fourth movement!

    To most Brandenburg duelists, the three movements are all that are known, however, after many hours of research and several rounds of letter exchanges, I believe I may have found that elusive fourth movement and the story from where it originates.

    According to what I have learnt, the movement that is mentioned in whispers at high level events is indeed known simply as “The Refusal” and the movement itself takes a very simple and straightforward approach.  The duelist in question when doing this movement, after taking the turn past the initial two paces, simply holds their parasol in front of them in a diagonal line.  One hand on the parasols shaft, the other holding the area near the top of the parasol.  The duelist that does this movement is showing utter disregard for their opponent, refusing to even open their parasol and engage them in honourable duelling.

    From what I have been told, the story behind this move's creation, if it is to be believed, is one of utter defiance.  The story goes that a young noblewoman, while in training under a particularly harsh foreign mistress in the finer arts of the duel, having suffered greatly under her tutelage, had decided that she had had enough of this and in an exhibition match with other youths deployed this move when facing off against her first opponent.  When asked by her distraught parents after the match why she had done this it is said that her simple answer was; “I refuse to engage in a sport that spawns such monsters as the one you have seen fit to employ as my instructor”.

    After hearing this the parents, wanting to stop the spread of any rumours from this event and the stain it may have had on the family’s honour in the future, quietly dismissed the instructor and sent the young girl to an academy of the Brandenburg style in rural England.  The story goes on to say that the young girl, now free of her tyrannical mistress, fell in love with the sport there and grew to become one of the great duelists of her time.  She remained however a very strong willed person and if she ever had a match against a person, that in her opinion was not worthy of the grand sport she had come to love, would deploy her aptly named move “The Refusal”.

    Now if this tale is truth or fantasy made up by those in the parlour to frighten young duelists I cannot say.  As far as I have found there are elements of the story that support both sides of thinking on this and indeed, in going through descriptions of previous matches from years past, there have been “incidents” of a duelist refusing to face an opponent, but sadly no descriptions of the movements that they used to signal this refusal.

    The three of these movements, from the straightforward nature of the German “Ehre Nehmer”, to the grand flourish of the French “Départ Élégant”, and the simple British gesture of the “The Refusal”, are considered quite unladylike in some circles. However, they all can be considered to serve a similar purpose in the grand sport that is parasol duelling. To take the honour of an opponent’s win.

    Now that being said, there are yet more variations of the grand sport, from the rough and ready street duelling of the Americas to the mysterious “Meji style” of the Orient, and many others that are still being brought to light.  Sadly, research into these styles and what other movements they may hold is still underway and not yet complete enough to write upon at this time.


Johaan Portsmouth Adler says:
at: June 27, 2016 at 10:25 PM said...

Thank you for the kind words, as my research continues I will make sure to keep you appraised.

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