Summary of Meyer’s Rapier System

I’ve finally come to the end of my explorations of the rapier chapter of Joachim Meyer’s Art of Combat (1570). I’m presenting here my notes on Meyer’s rapier system (PDF) for public appraisal. Maybe I’ve learned something new about his rapier technique. Maybe I’m on the wrong track entirely. Thoughts, comments and criticism is, as always, greatly appreciated.

Meyer’s text on the rapier is difficult to understand for two reasons:

  • he never clearly explains the tactical underpinnings of this teachings, and
  • despite initial appearances to the contrary, the text is not laid out in a logical manner nor does it highlight the important over the incidental.

My process was to go through the text and make notes of each example technique presented. These were then collated in order to bring together similar techniques that differ only in nuance. The aim of this process is to determine which are the core techniques, because they occur more frequently than others, and which represent no more than variations on the theme.

I’ve found that Meyer’s rapier system cannot be so easily summarized into a list of techniques. It cannot be divorced from his fight philosophy which permeates the text and, of course, follows closely in the German tradition. Key to the system is the scheme of characterizing actions are provokers, takers and hitters. All actions are presented as taker – hitter combinations and assume that you are fighting in the nach. To fight in the vor, you cut or thrust to provoke your opponent into an action against which you can apply a taker – hitter combo.

Irrespective of the number of postures and their variations presented in the text, Meyer states quite explicitly that you should always approach the fight in a guard position somewhere along the Straight Parrying – Iron Gate continuum. The same observation applies to offensive and defensives actions. From the bewildering number of actions describes, most can be accepted as variants of a core action applied in differing tactical circumstances.

As for the PDF of my summary of Meyer’s rapier, read it and work through it. All I ask is that you tell me whether I’ve got it wrong or whether what I’ve said is useful.