Joachim Meyer does not devote much space at all to companion weapons in his Art of Combat (1570) but what he does say in among the clearest instruction he gives in the use of the rapier. He also touches on the use of a cloak as an off-hand tool but only to state that it’s basically a dagger you can’t injure with. Let’s start with his own summary of the techniques and tease it apart. I’ve underlined the important portions of the quote. These are the sections to concentrate on.
“As regards the dagger in conjunction with the rapier, I advise the German that he accustom himself to parry with both weapons together, and meanwhile take heed whether he can harm his opponent with the weapon or the dagger, yet such that he does not bring his weapons too far from one another, to make sure he can always come to help the one with the other” (2.105v1)
To start at the beginning, the preferred stance is Side Guard with the companion weapon held well forward in the other hand (?ref?). That is, right foot forward and your rapier held in the lower outside quadrant with the point directed at your opponent’s face. The dagger is held in the lower inside quadrant.
There are three general approaches to using off-hand weapons although Meyer only recommends the last (2.101v). Meyer does not name it as such but in the world of the Australian College of Arms it’s known as the Cross Parry.
- You can parry all attacks with the dagger and respond with the rapier.
- You can parry with either the sword or the dagger, depending on which the attack is made, and respond with the opposite weapon.
- You can parry with both weapons at once.
Meyer suggests a number of techniques which may be useful depending on the circumstances. If your opponent thrusts at your left (from his or her right) side, parry with the dagger and counter-thrust either under or over the attack (2.101v1-2). This is best performed as a single-time action. Alternatively, you may respond by cutting at your opponent’s legs (2.102v1-2) or, my personal favourite, cutting left-to-right (roverso) at your opponent’s extended sword arm (2.103v3).
If your opponent cuts or thrusts at your right (from his or her left) side, block the strike with your rapier and pass forward with your left foot to attack your opponent with your dagger, otherwise known as the Adam Maneuver (2.102v4).
Against any attack, Meyer recommends using the Cross Parry. That is, you catch your opponent’s attack between your crossed dagger and sword (make sure the dagger is in front of your rapier). Then you can control his or her blade to keep it out of your way as you counter-attack with your sword (2.103r).
As for general tactical advice, Meyer has the following to say:
- Keep your dagger well in front of your face for protection (2.103v1). This is your last line of defence. Make sure it’s available.
- When responding, aim for the opposite quarter to that which your opponent attacked. That is, if he or she thrusts to your lower left, respond by cutting to his or her upper left (2.104r2).
- Remember the three types of strike: provoker, take, hitter. For example, make a cut through his or her right side in order to provoke a response. However, don’t let it connect but draw back into Right Ox for a high thrust (2.104r1 – 2.104v1)
- In all circumstances, the basic rule is parry, control, respond (2.104v2 – v3)
In regard to using a sword and cloak, while the cloak may be used to envelope the opponent’s weapon (2.106v1) but is better used like a dagger above. Meyer advises you to wrap a cloak around your hand and forearm. You can block any attack with your sword, then control it with your cloth-wrapped hand/arm as you respond and counter-attack (2.105v2).