Category: Meyer longsword

Meyer Pilgrimage Part 2 – Basel

Almost exactly a year ago I was lucky enough to be taken on a small journey that has been a long time dream of mine; walking in the footsteps of 16th cent fencing master Joachim Meyer, visiting the city where he spent many years teaching as Fechtmeister; Straßburg. I shared some of the things we believe we know about his life then, in an article entitled ‘Meyer Pilgrimage Part 1 – Straßburg‘. This year I was very happy to be invited to take on leg 2 of that pilgrimage, to visit the city where Joachim Meyer was born; Basel, and...

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The Ringen of Joachim Meyer

This article shall group Joachim Meyer’s Ringen into collections of similar throws. Hopefully this will better aid the modern student in learning Meyer’s Ringen. All of the throws have been rewritten into a modern step-by-step method from Dr. Forgeng’s translation along with some interpretation of my own. In Joachim Meyer’s Ringen section we find an amalgamation of several different techniques. In the Ringen section Meyer gives us seventeen different techniques. These techniques appear to be more of a haphazard collection of throws, holds, and general advice. However, while they are scattered over the various plays, these throws can be...

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A key to Meyer’s mechanics & footwork – part 1

Here is a rough diagram that tries to explain the core mechanics that go through all of Meyers fencing and which are the foundation for the footwork and weapon mechanics, regardless of weapon. These mechanics apply to pretty much all of Meyer’s teachings, with somewhat different emphasis for especially rappier and dagger. They unlock certain things in regards to moving & coordination as well as extension & reach. It also makes it easier to fight multiple opponents as you can change direction easily by just looking in the opposite direction, already prepared in stance. Somewhat unusual to some, this also includes moving the body...

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The Onion – Basics of European Longsword: Part 10

For practitioners of German longsword it is fairly commonly known that with some stances and cuts we should put our thumb against the flat of the blade. For example Meyer tells us “From there deliver a Thwart … so that your thumb always remains below on your shield…“(1). However, looking to the sources, several of them show a lot more complex variation in their gripping of the sword. This we shall now examine a bit closer. Shifting Grips While some masters seemingly do not show any variation in gripping at all, we see more complex gripping starting in the middle of the 1400s,...

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The Onion – Basics of European Longsword: Part 9

This time I will speak rather briefly about stances and the ideas behind them. This does not just apply to the longsword, but is applicable to all weapons. So, without further ado, let’s dig into it. Joachim Meyer describes stances in relation to the first attack in the following words: Now the guards or postures are a graceful but also necessary positioning and comportment of the whole body with the sword, in which the combatant places and positions himself when he is the first to come to his opponent in the place of encounter, as often happens, so that he will not be unexpectedly rushed up...

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Meyer Pilgrimage Part 1 – Straßburg

We all share the same love for our personal and shared discoveries of a forgotten European martial arts tradition and studying it we all learn to know some important and commonly known names like Liechtenauer, Fiore, Ringeck, Talhoffer, Kal, Vadi, Marozzo, Fabris and Silver etc. Most of us study their texts and the numerous anonymous ones somewhat generically but as we continue on or journey many of us also end up choosing to go down a more narrow street, focusing on one master only. As many know, for me, that street is the Joachim Meyer street, and while certainly studying other sources,...

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The Onion – Basics of European Longsword: Part 8

Although not originally planned to be included in this series, I decided to add an article on a topic that deserves special treatment, since to best understand several of the core teachings of this whole article series it is vital to understand this particular topic. That topic is “deception“. Mess with the mind first, then with the body Fighting is like sex1. First you try to seduce and woo your opponent trying to stir emotions and ideas, using any means at your disposal; physical features, moving confidently, display of skills, your voice and your wit. In your exchange you give off an impression of courage &...

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Teaching progressions in Meyer’s longsword 1: the attacking skill tree

Over the last five years, I’ve given several workshops in both South Africa and Europe focused on sequencing the teaching of techniques from Joachim Meyer’s “Gründtliche Beschreibung… der Kunst des Fechtens”[i]. In my view, each section in Meyer’s 1570 text contains two or more of the following elements- a glossary of terms, a training programme (the “Stucke” or “devices”) and an advanced commentary. This progression is best shown in Meyer’s longsword and rapier sections, but the teaching programme is a core element of every section. In the teaching section (“second part”) of each weapon section, Meyer lays out a sequence of drills which I argue escalate in complexity, in which different techniques are introduced to the student in order. This series of articles will explore some of these ideas in more detail, and is written primarily for my own students, but will hopefully be of interest to many other practitioners. This particular article forms the basis for a class I gave at WWOC 2012. The attacking skill tree In a fight, attack and defence are the two sides of the fight. An attack must foil the attempted defence; the defence must foil the attempted attack. Some defensive techniques only work against certain attacks; some attacking stratagems are designed to defeat certain defensive techniques. However, many students have a limited repertoire of attacks, and often fail to sequence them particularly...

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The Onion – Basics of European Longsword: Part 7

This week we will be taking advantage of one of the greatest benefits from reading somewhat later masters, like Joachim Meyer and George Silver, by looking closer at a subject that most early treatises speak little of; tactics. We will here only focus on the former master though, and take a look at what tactical advice he gives on combat. However, before we actually do that, we should perhaps look at the definition of that very word; tactics, as it is often confused with strategy. Here is one definition of the two: Tactics are the actual means used to gain an objective, while strategy is the overall campaign plan. So, strategy is the long-term plan that uses different shorter-term tactics to achieve the objective. In combat the objective is commonly to hit the opponent, although it can also be to dominate the opponent or just flee unscathed. To do this, different strategies are used, like e.g. confusing and overwhelming the opponent, which can be done using different tactics, like moving constantly, taking the initiative first, provoking, fenting etc. Looking to the strategies Meyer is close to the earlier masters, but tactically he expands on the older art by also using for the time modern concepts from many sources, not least the Bolognese tradition. Holistic reading and general or particular advice? To understand Meyer’s Art of combat one needs to consider his...

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The Onion – Basics of European Longsword: Part 6

Throughout history going all the way back from at least medieval times up until modern military bayonet training a diagram typically depicting four crossing lines with seven or eight directions of cutting or striking have been used. The fact that it has changed little is of course not very surprising as it is tied to human physiology, both that of our opponent and in how we are capable of using our weapons in striking. This week we will look briefly at this and how we can categorize the various types of cuts and reflect a bit on their forms...

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The Onion – Basics of European Longsword: Part 5

This week’s article will be talking about the topic of various ways of counterstriking against an attack. Different masters and traditions handle this differently, depending on their core tactics and views on what distances and timing to use as the basis for the general fighting. Some even mix different solutions in varying proportions, combining different and sometimes disparate styles into their own personal style, with Joachim Meyer being a prime example of this. Kinetic energy, opposing strikes, leverage, Versetzen and distance Basically there are three different methods (1) for handling the opponent’s strikes with a counterstrike: 1. Opposing kinetic...

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The Onion – Basics of European Longsword: Part 4

This time we will start moving into somewhat more unexplored and unmapped territory, working with various clues gathered from different places, to help us guide the way through the (wide) distance. The working theory is that there is a certain distance that many of us need to learn to fight at and utilize more intently and not just pass through or end up in – a distance that is little discussed in the “German” treatises, as it just didn’t need as much explaining for our predecessors since it was common practice to utilize it and thus the authors chose to focus on the...

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The Onion – Basics of European Longsword: Part 3

Time for part 3 in the Onion Article Series, this time taking a closer look at the parts of the weapon and how it relates to handling of distance and tactics. Simply put there are two ways of approaching the issue of controlling the opponent; either physically or mentally. But more on that later. 3. The Schweche, the Mittel and the Stercke Physically controlling your opponent and his/her weapon can be done either with your body, or with your weapon and its features. To better understand this we need to look at how a regular longsword is divided into...

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The Onion – Basics of European Longsword: Part 2

Continuing with part 2 in the Onion series of articles we will now focus on the topic of controlling the fight, or lack thereof and regaining it. In German terms these concepts are called Vor, Nach and Nachreissen. These concepts are hugely important, but at the same time very hard for a beginner to sense and utilise, but they can be trained with the right set of exercises, while they build the correct mentality for both parties. So, what do these concepts really mean? 2. Vor, Nach, Gleich & Nachreissen explained Before we begin, I would like to remind you...

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The Onion: Basics of European Longsword: Part 1

For the last year or so I have been working on a group of primarily longsword exercises based on studying fechtmeister Joachim Meyer‘s holistic system for training and fighting, focusing on the dussack, longsword and staff in combination with some additional mostly untutored practice of Portuguese Jogo do Pau. Some of the core questions have revolved around how to become more dynamic in fencing while also learning to fence in a more safe way that leads to fewer double kills. A good friend recently compared this group of exercises to an onion that has many, many layers of sublime understandings that you...

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Meyer freeflow exercises

To begin with, just for clarification, this is not a typical article per se, but rather a text sorted under the Meyer Research Project, thus a more reasoning and speculative piece of text, posted for the sake of discussion and sharing of ideas concerning Meyer’s teachings. I am developing a series of exercises derived both from Meyer’s well-known Kreutz diagram as shown above, and from things I think are similar in other historical fencing traditions like various forms of Bolognese, sabre and Jogo do Pau. The reason for choosing these three are that I think they in some aspects...

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Meyer’s masters

On this day, 443 years ago, Fechtmeister Joachim Meyer published his magnificent fencing treatise ‘Gründliche Beschreibung der Freyen Ritterlichen und Adeligen Kunst des Fechtens’. Exactly one year later, on February 24th 1571, he died from sudden illness, while travelling to take up his position as Fechtmeister at the court of the Duke of Mecklenburg in Schwerin. Currently, I am writing on a couple of books about the Polearms of Joachim Meyer, and to commemorate both Meyer’s legacy and his far too early death, I am here sharing a rough draft for one of the chapters, as a small ‘teaser’. Please...

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Doing what we are told or what we are taught?

Here’s an old but still always relevant question for us HEMA practitioners to ask ourselves: When we read the old fencing treatises, should we only practice what we are told to do in the treatises or should we try to continue with the next step of playing with it and even do things that we are not explicitly shown or suggested to do in the various stücke? To be able to explore this question; here’s a specific topic that constantly keeps returning in various debates: Meyer is said to not be teaching thrusting with the longsword. Yet, we know for...

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The history of Joachim Meyer’s fencing treatise to Otto von Solms.

The Joachim Meyer fechtbuch named MS A.4°.2, a beautiful hand-written and watercolour-illustrated fencing treatise dedicated to Herrn Otto von Solms-Sonnewalde is currently held at the University Library of Lund, but how did it end up there after having been given to the young Count Otto von Solms some time in the 1560s? As it was a personal gift to Otto von Solms we can fairly safely assume that he was given the book sometime during either his studies or his early travels. As it happens, Otto traveled to Strassburg both in 1560 and in 1568, two years before Joachim Meyer’s death, where...

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The tools for the job

To understand the body mechanics involved in a technique we not only have to train our bodies so we are strong and agile enough, we also need to use tools that work together with our bodies in the appropriate manner. This may seem obvious but is really not and it can become quite apparent when interpreting the sources with tools that have very different characteristics. One such example is how you can train Joachim Meyer’s Halben Stangen Techniques with a regular staff and build your understanding solely on that. However, since Meyer is actually preparing us for the use of the Halberd, we really need to have that in mind and even practice the body mechanics that are required for a considerably more “forward-heavy” weapon, like a proper halberd. Then, it becomes apparent how you need to move to be able to do the Kreutzhauw, where you cross-cut without crossing your arms, like with the Montante. Another such example that I am currently very curious about, as I am exploring the body mechanics of Meyer’s longsword, is what the characteristics really are for his longsword? We know that they were quite long, at least in his treatise of 1570, reaching well into the armpit and with a hilt the length of your forearm. Judging from the pommel size and tapering of the blades shown in the illustrations they do not seem to be...

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Strengthening exercises

Here are some very crude video clips we shot today of the strengthening exercises we have begun working with in the Meÿer Halben Stangen class at Gothenburg Historical Fencing School. Since they are relevant to longsword practice, the article is cross-post into both the Halben Stangen and the Longsword project. As you can see we are still not performing some of them properly as we are still building enough strength and balance to be able to do that. But, it will give you some ideas on what you can do. Our focus is currently on building leg strength and balance, combined with the body mechanics and footwork of Meÿer. We will record these again and replace these raw clips as we get better. Oh, and sorry for the heavy breathing! Wish I could mute all clips, but YT does not allow that. Pole Yoga Make sure your feet, hips and shoulders extend and twist properly. This is basically done to stretch your joints and muscles, but also to train your balance and get you used to the body mechanics of Meyer’s Halben Stangen techniques. Skipping rope or the “Tom Cruise” (not shown.) To get some cardio and to strengthen your calves. Kreutzhauw with weighted staff The staff has 4kg of weight attached at the end. Make sure to extend properly by passing through the stances Left Oberhut (Tag) – Gerader...

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