Rethinking Meyer

It is often said that Meyer doesn’t use thrusts. The common explanation that I was given before was that Meyer was just teaching sport fencing and his techniques were not applicable outside of the school.

After watching Jean Chandler’s lecture I’ve come to the realization that the common explanation is nonsense. With every citizen required to own and train with real weapons, there isn’t much time left for purely sport weapons. Furthermore, the use of the thrust is incredibly dangerous and only used when you intend to kill your opponent. For fights such as civilian brawls and informal duels the participants would generally use only the flats of their sword. As such he often mentions situations where one can strike with the flat as easily as the edge.

But if that was all there is, then he could also point out opportunities to use the thrust. He certainly doesn’t have moral objections against the thrust, as it is featured in his rapier section. So perhaps we should look at the weapon again.

Meyer’s Greatsword

Assuming the average fencer is 5’ 10”, Alex Bourdas estimates that Meyer’s two-handed sword is 58” long. When compared to the average longsword’s 41 to 47” length, Meyer’s weapon is massive. But if you count it among the Zweihänder, Montante, and Spadone it is merely on the low end of the common range.

A common feature of the greatsword systems is that they emphasize constant motion and downplay the thrust. That isn’t to say the thrust doesn’t exist, but you’ll see far fewer thrusts in Marozzo’s two-handed sword than in his one-handed sword plays. Likewise, Figueyredo’s Montante manual only has a handful of thrusts.

This makes sense given the characteristics of the weapon. Being so long and heavy, they can be difficult to maneuver unless you have some momentum going. Likewise they can be difficult to stop, which is why Meyer and the others use a lot of loops and arcs to chain together a series of cuts.

Next Steps

So far all of this is just conjecture. We’ve only begun our study of Meyer and Marozzo so it may be awhile before we have more to say on the subject.

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6 Responses to Rethinking Meyer

  1. Mike Cartier says:

    Interesting work you guys are doing on Meyer.
    In regards to your “Rethinking Meyer” article where you mention attending my good friend Jeanry Chandler’s presentation and rethinking the use of thrusting.. Yes! it is one of the smal secrets of Meyer :). I have an old article on this myself which you might find of interest although I am sure Jeanry was much more eloquent and convincing in his presentation.

    I would suggest you post some of your work on Meyer elsewhere for others to benefit from, like on our website or on the HROARR website run by Roger Norling (another good friend). i am sure you would find many people who also love Meyer that would appreciate your excellent work on the subject..

    -mike cartier-
    South Florida Study Group
    Meyer Freifechter Guild

    • Grauenwolf says:

      Thank you for the kind words.

      For the most part this blog is meant to be a diary rather than a place for formal writing so it isn’t what I would consider to be polished writing. In fact it is rarely even proof read.

      That said, if you happen to see something that you would like me to turn into a formal essay for republication on your site by all means let me know. I wouldn’t mind putting in the extra work if you felt the post justified it.

  2. Tea Kew says:

    One of the brilliant things about the Montante material is that it’s very clear about the purpose of each rule. They feature many thrusts – and in particular, the more they are intended for single combat, the more the thrust is emphasised. Similarly, in di Grassi we see a single-combat system for the Spadone based nearly exclusively on thrusts, with the explicit comment that against multiple opponents, one should instead make use of cuts.

    So I don’t particularly buy the idea that Meyer isn’t thrusting because he’s using a long heavy weapon. We have surviving feders, so we know how big they actually were – and they aren’t in the same ballpark as the true spadone or montante. And even with those, when it comes to single combat, the advice makes much more use of thrusts.

    Finally, of course, Meyer is fairly clear that his avoidance of the thrust in the longsword is through custom. For him the longsword is primarily a training weapon – it instructs in the fundamentals of the system, and is practiced for sport. He says explicitly that the thrust has passed out of use several times (numerous references are given in Forgeng’s prologue), but does remind people that they can be put in.

    As a practical anecdote, when I’ve been shown devices from later Liechtenauer sources, such as Meyer (although the example which springs to mind is Paurnfeindt), it’s been quite possible to see points where the thrust is available, but the text instead instructs a cut to the head – a fencer would quite reasonably be able to deliver them if they had to use a longsword, but for a fechtschule competition they’re forbidden, so they aren’t written into the devices directly.

    I realise this post is quite old now – I’d be interested in what your current thinking might be.

    • Grauenwolf says:

      Meyer’s longsword has thrusting all over the place. It is true he doesn’t teach the thrust, but his plays offer the chance to thrust if you’re paying attention. It is just a matter of applying what you learn in dussack to the longsword devices you already know.

      • Tea Kew says:

        Okay – so you’ve moved away from the greatsword based idea? Why the change?

        I agree that Meyer’s longsword (from the little bits I’ve seen) has the opportunity for thrusts but doesn’t dictate their use. This fits with the rest of his system that I know.

        (I hope this doesn’t seem like it’s deliberately getting at you. You’ve clearly read Meyer rather more, and I’m interested in what’s caused the change in your thinking and how it’s evolved)

      • Grauenwolf says:

        The premise was that Meyer didn’t thrust because of weapon design, but that turned out to be false.

        If I had to continue I would say Alfarie (sp?) changed my mind a lot too. His greatsword techniques don’t make any sense. I suspect because my Meyer appropriate longsword is still too short/light to justify doing what he says.

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