Topic: Fencing

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Dueling Scar


Dueling scars (German: Schmisse) have been seen as a "badge of honour" since as early as 1825. Known variously as "Mensur scars", "the bragging scar", "smite", "Schmitte" or "Renommierschmiss", dueling scars were popular amongst upper-class Austrians and Germans involved in academic fencing at the start of the 20th century. Being a practice amongst university students, it was seen as a mark of their class and honour, due to the status of dueling societies at German and Austrian universities at the time, and is an early example of scarification in European society. The practice of dueling and the associated scars was also present to some extent in the German military.

Foreign tourists visiting Germany in the late 19th century were shocked to see the students, generally with their Studentcorps, at major German universities such as Heidelberg, Bonn, or Jena with facial scars – some older, some more recent, and some still wrapped in bandages.

The sport of academic fencing at the time was very different from modern fencing using specially developed swords. The so-called Mensurschläger (or simply Schläger, "hitter") existed in two versions. The most common weapon is the Korbschläger with a basket-type guard. In some universities in the eastern part of Germany, the so-called Glockenschläger is in use which is equipped with a bell-shaped guard. The individual duels between students, known as Mensuren, were somewhat ritualised. In some cases, protective clothing was worn, including padding on the arm and an eye guard.

The culture of dueling scars was mainly common to Germany and Austria, to a lesser extent some central European countries and briefly at places such as Oxford and some other elite universities. German military laws permitted men to wage duels of honor until World War I. During the Third Reich the Mensur was prohibited at all Universities following the partyline.

Within the duel, it was seen as ideal and a way of showing courage to be able to stand and take the blow, as opposed to inflicting the wound. It was important to show one's dueling prowess, but also that one was capable of taking the wound that was inflicted.

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