Here begins our interpretations for Meyer’s chapter 11, Fighting form the Postures.
What is Tag (or vom Tag is you prefer)?
Before we begin with the device itself, let us talk about what means to be in Tag. Meyer says that you have entered the high guard, which we translate as “day” or “roof”, when you’ve pulled the sword up as high as you intend to in preparation for a high strike.
This is important distinction. The devices that follow are not meant to be used solely when both fencers are in a ‘proper’ center vom Tag. If the situation leads your opponent to only pull up his sword half-way before cutting back down, then that half-way point was his Tag.
Crucial for understanding any device is the context in which it should be used. For Meyer’s first device, the context is this:
and have come before your opponent, and have come up with your sword by slashing up or else by drawing up for a high cut, and he cuts in the mean time against your left at your head
Basically what Meyer is saying is that you both are in Tag and your opponent has the vor or initiative.
Note that this is not an invitation. Meyer isn’t telling you to linger in this guard waiting for him to attack, but rather that you happen to have gotten caught and this is how you deal with it.
Countering the High Cut and Regaining the Vor
From vom Tag it is possible to use both rising and descending cuts, but for today’s purpose we are assuming the opponent choose a descending cut with the long edge.
The counter consists of a wide step to the right accompanied with a parry using the outside flat. The outside flat is on the right when you have the long edge down so you are going to end up in an ochs-like position.
Flat parries have an interesting effect on the opponent’s sword. While their purpose is a deflection, they tend to stop the blade without imparting energy to it. This is what gives you the ability to make the next attack, in effect regaining the vor.
Meyer notes that if you swing it hard enough it will also whip around his blade, striking your opponent in the ear with the tip. This might not sound like much, but anyone who has had their ear boxed can testify how painful and disorientating that can be.
To the Other Side
As soon as the blades clash, you need to step well to the other side. Make sure your whole body moves at once, don’t just move your foot and then allow the body to follow. The movement of the foot alone gains you neither time nor safety.
In the same tempo as you make this step, pull back your sword and “cut diagonally opposite to it, from below at his right arm”. Make sure you lean your body well to the left so that you are behind your blade. Otherwise you may be trading an arm cut for a broken head.
Nipping the Ear
Meyer says that the next step is to nipping the left ear with the short edge. I’ve found that a downward cut with uncrossed arms is quite effective as this.
If the opponent slips his sword, that is to say repositions it for a parry, then Meyer tells us to let the blow run off without connecting. Cross the arms in the air so that you nip the right ear with the short-edge.
As we saw in chapter ten, Meyer likes breaking measure with a Zwerch. (To “break measure” is a modern term, derived from Italian sources, that means to move back or sideways far enough that your opponent cannot hit you even with a step.)
Leaving the Script
If your opponent doesn’t allow you to follow the script, say by going into Tag for a cut before you are ready, you need to be prepared to slice the arms.
Slicing the arms seems to be a crucial problem solver in Meyer’s system. It is used as both a way to break someone’s device and as a way to recover when someone has broken one’s own device.
(to be added in later)