Meyer: Rethinking Footwork

In longsword chapter 10, there’s an exercise informally known as Meyer’s Cross. (Or “Meyer’s Square” for those people who don’t know what a square looks like.)

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The default footwork for this is alternating passing steps to the left and right. Taking the first (red) or second (blue) pattern, it would look something like this:

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Notice the line down the center. This is the danger zone, the place where the opponent can most easily attack. And every step keeps you on that line. For a drill that just teaches you to perform combination attacks, that ok. But in a real match that’s the last place you want to be.

So taking the advice of Colin Richards, I’ve rewritten the footwork for the drill. First, the passage that forms a cornerstone of this theory.

Also know that one should move to his right side with his
attacks instead of moving directly in from the front, because
when one knows of this method, and practices and succeeds in
doing this in all fencing or wrestling, he certainly is not a bad
fencer.

–Ms. 3227a, Translated by Thomas Stoeppler

Mr. Richards calls this “working the right”. With it in mind, this is our new way of doing the drill. (This is a rough sketch, the actual foot placement doesn’t look exactly like this.)

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The first two steps are the same, but on the 3rd cut you take a cross-step to the left. This brings you completely clear of the original line and puts the opponent in the position of having to try to reestablish his orientation. But as he turns, the fourth cut bring you even further to his right. In such manner you may find yourself beside or even behind your opponent.

For the patterns that start with a cut from the left, you’ll end up performing two cross steps. Otherwise it works the same way, always moving to the opponent’s right.

The specific cuts used are going to be a little different. Because the off-line steps change your blade relationships, you gain the ability to perform some actions that would have been too dangerous otherwise.

For example, consider the sequence that begins with a rising cut form the left. After binding with a descending cut from the right (2nd cut in the pattern), you can quickly turn a rising cut from the right to the left arm. Your right-hand doesn’t move in this action, it is driven purely by the left. Besides allowing a bonus hit, this chambers the sword for the descending cut from the left (3rd cut in the pattern).

If you were to try this with the normal footwork, you would get hit as soon as you left the bind. But because you are so far off the line by this point, the opponent doesn’t have a direct attack.

Further research is needed to see how we can apply this concept to other drills from Meyer.

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