This is an excerpt from our new study guide, Meyer’s German Longsword 2. Due to the limitations of WordPress, this omits the “fill in the blank” sections that the real workbook will contain.
In Meyer’s system of fencing a fight consists of three phases.
I call the start Zufechten (Onset), where one standing against another and he standing against you, have begun to fence. The Mittel (Middle) is the work or handwork, when one of the participants shall endure longer in the handwork than his opponent fencer, and displace in all withdrawals. The Ende is the resolution, where one fencer shall withdraw without damage from his opponent and strike away if desired.
Meyer teaches the phases of a fight using what he calls a “Stüke” or device.
A device includes instructions on how to begin an engagement with guards and opening strikes, the handwork that occurs in the middle, and the safe withdrawal at the end. Meyer primarily intends you to use the devices in fights, but many of them are also appropriate for use as a solo exercise to build strength and muscle memory.
You shouldn’t view each device as an atomic structure that must be performed completely from start to finish. To avoid becoming predictable, the skillful fencer will mix elements from difference devices as needed.
The word stücke could also be translated as play, parts, or elements. But unlike the plays in other manuals, the devices in Meyer’s text are generally told from single fencer’s perspective. This means information on how to counter a specific device is rarely explained by him.
Art of Combat, Book 1, Chapter 9.
An Example Device
The next passage shows Meyer’s example of a device with its three parts. The lessons that follow teach the elements that are needed in order to execute the full device.
In the Onset come into the right Change; take heed as soon as he pulls up his sword for a stroke, and quickly slash through upward before him, and cut in with a Thwart from your right at the same time as him; in the cut, step well to his left side. If he sends his cut straight to your head, then you will hit him with the Thwart on his left ear.
But if you see that he does not cut straight to your head, but turns his Cut with the long edge against your Thwart to parry, then before it touches, cut quickly with a long Thwart at his right ear; step at the same time with your left foot well around to his right. Now you have laid on with two Thwart Cuts to both sides, opposite each other; this you take from the first section of this treatise.
After this Onset, if you wish to proceed further to the Middle-work, then the second section helps you thus: if he strikes around from your sword to the other side, then chase him with the slice on his arm. Push him from you with the forte of your blade or with your shield with a jerk; while he is still faltering from the push and has not yet recovered, then go rapidly up with crossed arms and strike with the short edge over his right arm at his head, and this (as I have said) before he recovers from the push.
Now if he should recover and slip upward to parry, then let your sword fly back away and deliver a Thwart to his left ear with a back-step on your left foot.
There is a lot of new material here, far too much to fully appreciate individually while still learning the device itself. So rather than trying to cover everything all at one, we’ll use the devices as a framing story. Over the next few chapters we are going to introduce new concepts and techniques, study each in isolation, then apply the concept to the example device.