16th Century German Sport Fencing

I starting reading Forgeng’s translation of Meyer when I noticed something I though you might find interesting. The most of the book appears to be essentially a manual on the 16th century version of sport fencing.

Consider what is shown in this plate:

Bated Longswords

Things to note on these are the rounded tips and visible edgeless forte.

According to Forgeng, two examples of these training weapons can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Each weighs 2 lb 14 oz and is about 1″ wide. The edge starts with a thickness of 1/8 of an inch and thins to 1/32 at the tip, making them “unexpectedly light and flexible”.

Though the tips are rounded and, as Meyer repeated states, thrusting is no longer permitted among the Germans. In one passage he writes, “For since thrusting with the sword is abolished among us Germans, this guard [Irongate] has also entirely fallen into disuse and been lost.”

Düsack

The düsack is the training equivalent of the Messer or Falchion. According to Forgeng, contemporary sources indicated these were made from leather or occasionally wood. Forgeng suspects they were hardened by boiling.

There are no surviving düsacks made of wood or leather, and iron ones are exceedingly rare.

Roundel

Though no surviving examples of these exist, they look remarkably like modern wood roundels.

Notice the dark marks on the pommel and tip. These were most likely made on a lathe, a technology known at the time. While this is purely speculation, the marks on either end could very well be made by the lathe’s centers. While it isn’t hard to remove those marks, the disposable nature of wood training weapons make that step optional.

Halberds

Like the roundels, the halberds used by Meyer have rounded tips.

The material the ax-heads are made of isn’t clear to me, but I could see them being made from leather or wood just the same as the düsacks.

Rapier

I have not included a rapier here because I couldn’t find a plate that shows it clearly as training weapon. Unlike the other weapons, in which the vast majority are clearly bated, the rapiers look sharp.

Does this mean that Meyer believed that rapiers, unlike longswords, would be used primary in earnest combat rather than for sport? This is my hunch, but I cannot say with any ghost of certainty until I have thoroughly read those chapters.

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