This post is part of my continuing efforts to understand the rapier techniques expounded by Joachim Meyer in his Art of Combat (1570). I’ll summarise forty-odd pages of text into one(-ish). It covers his sword alone techniques. I’ll look at sword and dagger another time.
Meyer insists on keeping the right foot forward (for the right-handed swordsman) and the stance is very forward weighted. This makes the front foot a pivot point around which the rear foot moves, generally off-line in the opposition direction to that from which an attack is received.
There are three types of posture. One type has the weapon directly in from of you as a form of barrier. These are the Longpoint/Iron Gate/Plow continuum. Meyer says it’s best to approach the fight in one of this type of guard.
The second type of posture is one of the four hangers — imagine standing in Longpoint and without moving your point off-line lift or drop your hilt into one of the four quarters: upper right, lower right, lower left, upper left. These postures are High Guard For The Thrust, Side Guard, Low Left and Ochs/Steer.
The third type of posture is the two cutting guards: High Guard for the Cut and The Change, a low guard position.
Direct cuts usually target the limbs, especially the hands. “This Hand Cut is one of the chiefest in the rapier” (2.60v). Other cutting techniques usually involve a feint to draw out a response, such as a thrust into Longpoint, followed by withdrawing into an appropriate hanger/guard before cutting around the opponent’s blade. The head is the target of first opportunity. Other target areas are the torso, arms and legs.
Meyer’s thrust is a quick movement straight into Longpoint moving the front foot a little forward. The generally front-weighted stance means that a thrust can only come after another actions which transfers the weight off that foot. Always, always, always turn the long edge of the sword towards the opponent’s weapon when performing a thrust.
There’s two types of defence: a counter-thrust from one of the hangers, or a counter-cut into the opponent’s weapon.
A counter-thrust is always a thrust into Longpoint with the long edge of your blade turned into the incoming attack. In effect, this puts you into a position similar or developing from one of the four hangers. When parrying in this fashion, remember to always keep your point on-line.
A counter-cut is designed to beat down or beat away the opponent’s weapon. Any low attack can be beaten away to the side (think: cutting from one low posture to the other). Any high attack can be beaten down by cutting down a notional vertical line through the opponent’s shoulders.
Winding is nothing more fancy than transitioning from one hanger to another. Meyer speaks of two types of winding. ‘Changing around’ moves the point over your weapon over and around your opponent’s blade – in effect, a change from a lower hanger to an upper hanger. ‘Changing through’ involves feinting with a cut and, as soon as the opponent moves to parry your attack, pulling your weapon back and thrusting.
The vast number of individual techniques are great, says Meyer, if the distance between you and your opponent is such that your are crossing blades at the foible. If you are crossing at the mid-point of the blade or closer to the hilt, doing this stuff is death. In this case, keep your blade in contact with the opponent’s with your long edge turned into this weapon and your point always on-line. Wait for an opportunity to thrust.
(If you’ve read this far, I’ve a post solely on Tactical Advice in Meyer’s Rapier that may interest you.)