Meyer’s Longsword – Device 4, Breaking Tag

Nearly everyone who has picked up a longsword has heard about the neigh mythical vier versetzen and how a Zwerch can easily break vom Tag. The problem is, there is nothing in the Liechtenauer tradition that tell us how to actually do that. The Liechtenauer manuals assume that you already know the initial steps for breaking vom Tag and instead focus on what happens next.

Fortunately Meyer does offer us an elegant way of dealing with someone who is lingering in Tag. The opening for this device can easily lead into the plays we see in Ringeck, etc.

Context

In the first three devices, we saw ways to counter someone who is trying to break you out of Tag. This play starts the same, except you have the initiative and the opponent is waiting for you to strike.

This makes sense, because after three devices the student of Meyer should have a firm understanding of how difficult it is to safely attack someone who is waiting for you.

Opening Threat and Indes

With both of you in Tag, wind your point to the face as if you wished to thrust with crossed arms. From your opponent’s perspective this may look like a Zwerch to his right, but it isn’t really a cut.

Marozzo calls this Guardia di Croce or the Cross Guard.

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In Mair we have Versazung or the Parry Position

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If your opponent hesitates, step and thrust. A threat is meaningless if you are not prepared to follow through with it. If instead you opponent appears as those he wants to beat your sword away, proceed to the next step.

This is what Meyer calls Indes, the moment when you need to make an instant decision. Your options are wind and thrust or wind and Zwerch. Staying in this position with the threat of the point is not an option, it isn’t safe to give your opponent time to think.

Zwerch to the Left Ear

As soon as you perceive movement, the guard is broken. You now have to take advantage of it. Given the arms are crossed and you are weak in the direction you wound from, your opponent is probably going to beat your sword down and to your left.

This is good because you can either run from the beat or take its energy to power your Zwerch. Either way, this is done with a step with your right foot.

Note: The text is unclear if the step should overlap the wind to thrust or not start until the cut starts. Currently my club is leaning towards starting the step as soon as the wind ends.

This is one of the few times Meyer specifically calls for a powerful stroke. And with good reason, this cut is your protection and you need to be sure to beat away any oberhau that may be coming in as a response to your attack.

Claiming and Redefining the Centerline

This device illustrates the concept of claiming and redefining the centerline. At the start of the play, neither fencer has the advantage. Moving just the point , not even really the hilt, you establish control of the centerline. At this point you have an overwhelming advantage and the opponent must do something immediately or they will literally eat a point.

The second component is the step to the right which moves or redefines the centerline. By moving the centerline at the first hint that you are about to lose it, you maintain control of the fight. Which of course plays back into the concept of the vor.

Feint a Long Zwerch then Short the Left Ear

The second attack is a feint to the lower-right opening with a Zwerch. Being a feint, you pull back before the blades make contact. This puts the opponent one tempo behind you, as he is still trying to parry the Zwerch when you begin the next attack.

As in the first three devices, the touchstone is a short-edged cut to the left ear. He doesn’t say, but given this follows a long Zwerch you probably don’t want to cross the arms for this one. Instead end in left Ochs.

Short to the Right Ear

As soon as you complete the cut to the left ear, repeat it with a short edge cut to the right ear. This one is explicitly with crossed arms, supporting the theory that the one before it used uncrossed arms.

A New Withdrawal

Until now our only withdrawal has been a Zwerch or three. With this device we get a new withdrawal to add to our toolkit.

As soon as the blow to the right ear lands, throw the left foot back and follow with a rising long-edge cut to the left arm.

And for the first time in this series, we have an illustration that is specifically mentioned by the author.

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