Meyer’s Rapier: In the Onset

Meyer's Rapier: Iron Gate PostureWhat advice does Joachim Meyer give about how to come on guard and start laying into the other guy? More technically, how should one approach the Onset?

While he doesn’t clearly spell this out for rapier, the sheer weight of text suggests Iron Gate or Straight Parrying. This idea is backed up in the section on the Dusack, to which he continually refers the reader of the rapier section. In the rapier section he explain the entire fight from Straight Parrying before going on to outline specific techniques from the other guards.

“I consider this posture [Straight Parrying] the best of all because you can wait for your opponent more safely than in any other.” (2.32v.1)

The Straight Parrying and Iron Gate can largely be considered the same stance where one is held a little more forward and the other his held more towards the vertical. The difference between the two and the difference between that of the rapier posture and the dusack stance is functionally negligible.

So, you and your opponent come on guard (or en garde for purists) and, unless some very specific circumstances apply which I’ll not cover here, you stand in Iron Gate or Straight Parrying. What next?

You need to provoke your opponent out of his guard position. We all know how dangerous it can be to make an attack against someone standing in a solid guard posture. Meyer call this technique Abwechseln or “changing off” (2.73v.2) and it aims to either provoke your opponent to move out of guard (and so out of safety) and give you something to work with. Changing Off is done like this:

  1. Change your stance from Iron Gate/Straight Parrying into Right Ox as if you intend to thrust.
  2. If your opponent does not respond, slice down into Low Left guard.
  3. Continue into Left Ox if he or she responds with nothing.
  4. Then move into Side Guard (low right).

In all of this, ensure that you keep your point on-line. If he does move to parry your moves or to attack, parry his blade and lay on. Meyer says that “you can step around and change off from one posture to another, presenting opening before him, until you see your opportunity” (2.73v.2).

At the end of the description of Abwechseln, just to make plain the link between the rapier and the dusack, Meyer says “And you have heard in the section on the dusack whatever else is necessary to know” (2.73v.2).

If in the onset your opponent aggressively attacks, remain in Straight Parrying. Turn aside the cuts and thrusts keeping always your point on-line. The trick here is to wait for an opportunity in which your opponent either over-commits or is “lying spent,” as George Silver like to say, and make your own attack (2.75v.1).

Meyer then spends several pages outlining the various techniques that can be used from this initial start before moving on to describing how to fence from the different guard positions.

The key is that Iron Gate/Straight Parrying is a secure opening position from which to engage. It provides a secure defense against an aggressive opponent and a solid platform from which to launch attacks. Meyer considers it the default stance, as it were.

Next time, I’ll look at what to do if your opponent if the one standing in Iron Gate or Straight Parrying and is looking to use these techniques on you.