Meyer’s Rapier – Annotated Cutting Diagrams

In Meyer’s 1570 text, we find three statues that serve as cutting diagram. The cuts relating to these diagrams can be found in the beginning of chapter 4.


Vertical Cuts

  • The first vertical cut (red) is the Scalp Cut or Brain Blow.
  • The second vertical cut (not shown) is the Squinting Cut. This is performed with the false edge.
  • The last vertical cut (blue) is the Suppressing Cut. This is performed on the lines to either either side. Note that there is more to the Suppressing Cut than just its target. I’ll discuss it more at a later date.

Diagonal Cuts

  • The first diagonal cut (red) is the Neck Cut.
  • The second diagonal cut (blue) is the Belt Cut. Note that this is the natural waist, not the hip where we now wear our belt.
  • The third diagonal cut (orange) is the Thigh Cut, so named because it enters on the lower thigh.

Horizontal Cuts

  • The first horizontal cut (red) is the Shoulder Cut. This is also known as the Defense Cut.
  • The second horizontal cut (blue) is the Hip Cut. It starts on the flank and exits the upper thigh.
  • The third horizontal cut (orange) is the Foot Cut. According to Meyer, “The “foot” refers to the entire lower leg from the knee to the sole of the foot”.
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Meyer’s Sidesword (Rappier) – Index of Plays

I just finished the the index of sidesword plays from Meyer’s 1570 text. of Combat, 1570-Sidesword (Rappier)

Of course the text step is to find (or make) videos of all of the plays. But at least it’s a start. In the mean time, here is a summary of part 2 you may find interesting:

  • Right Ochs 12 Plays (2 in the intro, 10 more under Oberhut)
  • Changing Off 1 Play
  • Gerade Versatzung (Straight Parrying) 24 Plays From, 8 Plays Against
  • Left Underhut (Low Guard) 10 Plays
  • Right Underhut (Low Guard)/Nebenhut (Side Guard) 14 Plays
  • Pflug (Plow) 5 Plays
  • Einlauffen (Running In) 5 Plays
  • Summary 6 Plays
  • Sword and Dagger 17 Plays
  • Sword and Cloak 2 Plays
  • Sword vs. Partisan 5 Plays
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Meyer’s Longsword – His Pedagogy for Tag and Defeating the Opening Zwerch

I am a firm believer in learning how to use a guard as a static posture before learning how to break it. My theory is that you should never linger in a guard if you don’t know how to deal with all of the simple attacks against it.

This is why I was excited to see that first devices Meyer covers in chapter 11 are all parries for Tag. Using just three parries, you are safe from any single cut that may offend you. And if executed correctly, you should steal the vor in the process.

Having thus taught us how to be safely stay in Tag, he then offers us a technique in the fourth device to make us not want to. I am speaking, of course, of the threatened thrust followed by a Zwerch.

But what if I led with a Zwerch?

There are actually several problems with this. First of all, the Zwerch has a shortened range. This means that before you even get close enough to use it, your opponent may drop his point and thrust. (Hey, another use for the fourth Tag device.)

But for the sake of argument, let’s say for whatever reason you are already in range. Since the Zwerch is a rising cut to the left, your opponent will just go back to Tag device 2. So you are giving him exactly what he wants.

How about the Double Zwerch?

The double Zwerch, where you feint to his left and then connect on the right, has a better chance of being successful. But even here, you could be playing right into his hands. From Ringeck, passage 40.

Here note the break against the upper thwart-cut

Item. Note, when you bind him from your right side with an over-cut (or otherwise on his sword), if he then strikes-around with the thwart to the other side, so come forward as well with the thwart-cut under his sword on his neck (as stands pictured hereafter next to this), such that he strikes himself the same with your sword.

MS E.1939.65.341 001r.jpg

This will be much harder for him if you manage to avoid blade contact during the feint, but he has the advantage of controlling the center while you have to go the long way around.

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Meyer’s Take on Breaking vom Tag with the Zwerch

In the Liechtenauer glosses we often see this passage,

The second is the Zwerch [thwart-cut], which breaks the guard vom Tag [from-the-roof].

This is one of the “vier versetzen” or “four displacements”. While the word displacement may mean parry, in this context it means to cause someone to leave their current posture or guard. This is also referred to as “breaking” a guard.

Breaking a guard is important because it is very risky to directly attack someone who is resting in a guard. In theory they know how to counter any basic attack against them, otherwise they wouldn’t be waiting in that posture. (Excluding, of course, someone who is fatigued and is literally resting in order to catch their breath.)

If we accept the theory that someone is waiting in Tag (or vom Tag if you prefer) because they believe they are safe from simple attacks, it stands to reason that one cannot simple step into range and hit them with a Zwerch. If it were that simple, no one would ever rest in Tag.

Meyer’s Opening: Threaten a Thrust

In his fourth device for Tag, Meyer tells us that our opponent has chosen to linger in Tag. Being in Tag ourselves, we are to first turn our point towards the enemy with crossed wrists. In such a manner we threaten him with a thrust.

This should be done at such a range that, if your opponent ignores the threat, you can complete the thrust with a step. Depending on the measure you may use either an advancing step or a passing step. Either way, if your opponent waits until you start the thrust to respond chances are you’ll hit in a way that leaves you safely behind your blade.

But lets assume he reacts as soon as he see the point near his face…

Against the Beat, Zwerch

If the opponent acknowledges the threat, he’ll have to do something about it. The most likely response is to bat away the sword to your left, his right. Allow this to happen, as it will just give power to your Zwerch.

I suppose he could try to beat your sword to your right, but with crossed arms it is like to barely move the blade and leave open the option to thrust.

Against the Cut, Zwerch

Instead of attacking the sword, your opponent may try to step offline while cutting at your head. If you sense that he is going to do this, start the Zwerch as soon as he begins to move so that you can parry the cut and strike him at the same time.

Social Context

Social rules in Germany included a prohibition against thrusting at other Germans. Likewise, fencing in a tournament or school setting may prohibit the thrust for safety reasons.

In this situations, the threat of a thrust will still usually have the desired effect. Some will be stunned momentarily by its presence, others will seek to bat it away. It takes a lot of nerve to see the point just before the face and consciously ignore it as a false threat. (Especially if you consider that your opponent may be ignorant of the social rules or simply sloppy and dangerous.)

Fencing Masks

Many of us have long complained that fencing masks dull the senses and dampen the flinch reflex. And while I still maintain that is true, it is more of a problem for cuts that thrusts. Because the point is coming straight at the opponent, he can see it the entire time and there is only a minor difference between using this technique with and without masks. Mostly this means you have to be somewhat closer to instill fear.

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L’Ange Rapier – Chapter 8 Parry and Riposte with High Secunda

A common trait of a bad fencer, especially in the SCA where cuts aren’t allowed, is the high parry. This is where one drives both swords up high such that short of breaking measure there is no viable recourse other than unseemly grappling.

Or so I thought. L’Ange has corrected that misconception by teaching a thrust from Secunda that begins with just such a high parry. Well not exactly, because the “bad” parry has you drive the guards up really high. For L’Ange’s version, you don’t need to go quite so high because you are instructed to bend the knee and duck the head.


As soon as the attack misses and your opponent begins to recover, drop the point and thrust as per illustration 10.


In practice we find that we are more likely to aim the the belly with a downwards sloping thrust, but the theory is still the same: learn to thrust in Prima and High Secunda and you’ll have a significant advantage over the common fencer.


This wraps up chapter 8. Consistently L’Ange has been showing us parries that I’ve found to be far easier to achieve than the single-time counter thrust, at the expense of requiring a separate action for the riposte.

An interesting experiment would be to see how long one could use just the parries. Imagine you are playing the town guard trying to subdue the drunk son of an important official.

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L’Ange Rapier – Chapter 8 Parry and Riposte in Secunda

The setup for the next exercise has both fencers in Secunda. As your opponent thrusts, you’ll trace a counter-clockwise circle with your point such that you push his blade to your outside with the true edge.


From here you may be inclined to simply raise your point and thrust. And that can work if the opponent is slow, but if he is quick he may try to parry you in the same manner that you parried him.

So instead you are instructed to “riposte him in Quarta above over his arm”. Given the acompanying illustration, I interpret this to mean that you trace a clockwise circle with your tip, thrusting once you reach Quarta on the inside.


Now your opponent needs to push your blade to the right past the entire breadth of his body. And this must be done with the weaker false edge.

Note: L’Ange warns us to use the off-hand to parry any counter-thrust at this time. However, this is not shown in the illustration.

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L’Ange Rapier – Chapter 8 Parry and Riposte in Tertia, Part 3

The third variant for the parry of Tertia is a bit unclear. As best as I can tell, you parry just like we did in part 1. But instead of riposting over the arm in Tertia, you riposte under the arm in Quarta.

If I’m correct, then he is referring to illustration 53, which was described in chapter 7.


While this illustration isn’t explicitly referenced in this chapter, he again warns that the off-hand is needed to prevent a counter-attack.

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