Meyer's Rapier

Open to public view.

Meyer's Rapier

Postby TheDude » 10 Feb 2008 13:26

Hi all. I'm looking for any information or articles anybody has written, translations or thoughts on the rapier system of Meyer. I have only just started looking at this so it is very new to me. My first impression is that it seems to be very similar to Meyer's longsword but with a singlehanded. lighter cut and thrust weapon. Might be off though as I've only just started reading on it.

Any links, comments, pointers or suggestions would be appreciated. Does anybody study Meyer's rapier btw?
User avatar
Posts: 961
Joined: 28 Sep 2006 15:09

Postby Fab » 10 Feb 2008 14:50

Stefan Dieke ran a workshop about Meyer's rapier in Dijon back in 2002...

Must have the handouts somewhere (if any). It's been a long time though, and things may have evolved (and/or I may ahve lost them).

I also have a full vid (with crapy, crappy sound) of his workshop if you'd like, on a CD. I'll try to make a copy of it and bring it to Vienna, if I can get my hands on it that is.
User avatar
Field Marshal
Posts: 7915
Joined: 14 Mar 2006 14:54
Location: Under the Hat of Awesomeness.

Postby Alex H. » 01 Mar 2008 04:57

Myself and about three other have been working on it for 2 years or so. Stefan Dieke is the man to see on this topic however. You're pretty well spot on in your initial thoughts. I started Meyer thinking it was just Germanised Bolognese but I've now swung full circle. To my mind it has far more in common with the Liechtenauer tradition than Bolognese. To paraphrase Stefan Meyer's rapier is his longsword in one hand and Meyer's staff is his rapier in two hands.

I've got some notes, but they're aimed at a comparison of Meyer and Fabris for a workshop I did a while ago. Generally I just teach straight out of Meyer. You're probably better off reading through the longsword and then dussack sections until you know them well and then teaching out of Meyer. I'll cut and paste some of the stuff that isn't so blindingly obvious here.


One does not lie in the ward, it is instead a term of reference, a place of momentary stillness before movement commences once more. It is a reference point and little more.

"And you shall well note here (as I have said previously) that the postures must be understood not merely as a position in which to wait for the opponent's fighting, but much more as a beginning or end of the cuts and parrying.” p137 2.18v.

Meyer writes of the postures in longsword;

“Now as regards the postures, I would not have you remain long in any of them, since they are not invented or devised for this purpose,” and p91 1.46r

“See that you are first upon the field, before your opponent adopts a posture, lay on against him.” p91 1.46r

“then you shall be so persistent against him with cuts and steps that he can have neither time nor space to choose a posture or device, and you shall thus rush upon him with sudden steps before he realizes it.” p91 1.46r

“yet you learn from these verses that it is always better not to entirely settle into a posture” p91 1.46r

And from Dussack;
“And firstly, I do not want you to wait in the postures for the opponent’s attack, but as soon as you can rush upon and reach him, you shall lay on against him with your devices according to your opportunity, and fully execute them;” p122 2.1r.

“Fourthly, ... you shall know that you should not lie still in any posture, but always change off from one posture into another, and this not only to deceive him, but also to make him confused, so that he cannot know what sort of device will be carried out against him... concerning this, see the treatise on the rapier concerning the use of the guards.”p122 2.1r.

And from Staff;

“...since with these long weapons, as with previous weapons, you always come in the course of combat from one posture into another, and you must not then spend a lot of time in them reflecting on what to do, but push onward with the next techniques that arise.” p253 3.22r

An earlier master wrote;

“Wer do leit, der ist tot
Wer sich rueret, der lebt noch”

Who there lies, he is dead,
Who rouses himself, he lives still.

So why bother learning them? Firstly, from our perspective they are the key to Meyer’s movement and body mechanics. In his own words, “Secondly, they are also useful for this, that you may organize all your devices in orderly fashion by the postures... Thirdly, you shall learn to recognize your opponent’s combat from his postures.” p122 2.1r.

Straight Parrying.

Gerade Versatzung, the Straight Parrying, is held somewhere between Pflug and Longpoint. The hand appears to be in a quarte like position in the rapier material and certainly is so in the Dussack. The Dussack section reads;

“In this parrying position yourself thus: stand with your right foot forward and hold your dussack in front of you with your arm extended, so that your long edge stands toward the opponent and the tip of your weapon is forward as shown by the large figure on the right in the adjoining image. I consider this posture the best of all, because you can wait for your opposition in this position more safely than in any other.”

Elsewhere it is described as;

“It is therefore to be noted that there are two chief types of parrying, namely one from above and one from below. From the first, which comes from the High Cut, the posture arises named the Slice or Straight Parrying.” p135 2.16r

Throughout the text Meyer frequently advises the fencer to hold his long edge toward the opponent, so that is how we will hold Straight parrying.

Provoking Taking and Hitting.

ReisBe, nehme, treffe. Meyer lists many more devices, but also informs us of how to make our own. In the summary of his rapier material Meyer writes;

“Lastly, you shall always keep the three cuts diligently in mind, so that you provoke with the one; take or parry with the second; and hit with the third.”

This material comes primarily from the dussack section so it ignores thrusts although the devices in the rapier section indicate that thrusts certainly can be used for provoking and hitting.

Meyer distinguishes cuts into three uses. Provoking, Taking and Hitting. These are the three elements of the Longsword Mastercuts. Each of the Zwerch, Krump, Schiel and Scheitel has the ability to perform all three actions simultaneously. For example the Zwerch provokes the opponent to an action to defend himself, it takes any attack he makes from vom Tag, and if done well, hits him at the same time.

Without the ability to reliably achieve these aims in one stroke Meyer has simply separated the three roles into three separate strokes. The Provoker is what Meyer uses to “goad and provoke the opponent to go out of his advantage and to cut. The Taker is what I call the cut with which I cut away and take out the cuts to which I have stirred and goaded him. The Hitter is what I call the cut when, after I have first goaded him to strike, and secondly taken out the stroke to which I provoked him, then thirdly I cut quickly to the next opening before he recovers from his parried stroke.”

The cuts do not always have to arrive in the order of Provoker, Taker and Hitter nor does a device consist of simply 3 attacks. Several of Meyer’s devices contain 6 initiations. However you should always follow a hitting stroke with a parry.

This of course raises the issue of what to do if you can’t throw a provoker for fear of attacking a ward of invitation. Meyer’s advice in this situation is to “then see that you cut through at once with a stroke to or against his weapon, the nearer his hand the better, with one or two strokes opposite one another according to opportunity.” p136 2.18.

Meyer’s final piece of advice is that “if you want to fight soundly with one-handed weapons, then you shall accustom yourself always to send three cuts quickly one after another; nor should it be just a single kind of cut, but always vary and change between the High, Middle, and Low, in such a manner that always one of the three hits, either the first, the second or the third.” P137 2.18r.

Alex H.
Posts: 103
Joined: 12 Aug 2006 03:05

Postby Alex H. » 02 Mar 2008 05:54

Just another thought, Meyer's rapier footwork is entirely right foot forward but I find a deep passing step in the Zufechten to work well, then work your way round the opponent using the footwork scheme in "F" before the Abzug. Note, this is not cannonical Meyer. It also gives you the time to convert your first cut or thrust which I've found a lunge does not always afford. Especially Meyer's lunge which is essentially only a foot or two long.

There is a similar sort of movement in the staff. From the near guard if you pass forward you can easily assume either High, Rudder or any of the Low Guards. But the staff footwork scheme in "B" doesn't illustrate this either. It does however follow on naturally from similar passing steps in longsword and dussack in which we see both right and left foot forward.

Longsword doesn't have anything like a footwork scheme and the discussion of the footwork could be clearer however dussack "K" may be a footwork diagram.

Just an observation you may wish to play around with.

Another one is grip. I don't see a clear indication anywhere of Meyer slipping his finger over the quillion. There are some pictures where he may have his thumb on the flat of the blade, in others he quite clearly has a fist grip like the illustration of iron-gate in "C" and there is also the figure illustrating low left who has his thumb over the quillion but not on the blade. The description of plow does however include the very clear description;

"...such that in holding the weapon your thumb extends over the quillions onto the flat of the blade..." 2.54v/177.

The devices executed from Plow (IMO) need the thumb on the flat to properly control the blade yet the very first winds up into Ochs. So are you supposed to have the thumb on the back of the blade most of the time or not? I find it very convenient for left ochs, snapping, schielhau (cf longsword plate G) and find that when I take low left it naturally moves to a position not too dissimilar from that illustrated. It does raise the question of snapping edge alignment. When you take out with the short edge and swing around to left ochs do you strike with the short edge or long? I find short easier, which looks a lot like a Zwerchau, which Meyer doesn' t specifically mention in the rapier section, although he does make use of Zwerch's cousin, the Schiel.

There's some thoughts for you anyway.

Alex H.
Posts: 103
Joined: 12 Aug 2006 03:05

Postby Runolfr » 26 Mar 2008 19:07

Is there a good translation of Meyer into English available on the internet somewhere?
"A good guard and distance are the main and principal points of all."
-- Joseph Swetnam, The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence
Posts: 12
Joined: 26 Mar 2008 14:19
Location: Nashville, TN, USA

Postby M.Hampel » 26 Mar 2008 22:46

Stefan held a workshop this year at Dreynschlag. Some pictures can be found here.

I don't think I have seen any good translation, but as far as I know Stefan holds his workshop on Rappier every year at least once at ISMAC. Maybe someone of the ISMAC participants can help you, seems they are pretty interested.

Or maybe you better get in direct contact with him.
User avatar
Posts: 27
Joined: 25 Mar 2008 22:04
Location: Hamburg, Germany

Postby Kim Young » 27 Mar 2008 00:11

Stefan did a Meyer rapier class at this year's SWASH, too. I think some of the Roma guys were there.

"sofft and ffayre ynogh!"
User avatar
Kim Young
Posts: 1772
Joined: 15 Mar 2006 09:15
Location: Aberdeen, Scotland

Postby Nikos » 27 Mar 2008 01:06

M.Hampel wrote:Stefan held a workshop this year at Dreynschlag. Some pictures .

Yeh we know, me and the dude where in it :)
Nick Thomas - Instructor
Academy of Historical Fencing

"When a man is challenged to the field, he is to answer by weapons and not words" Saviolo, 1595.
User avatar
Posts: 3166
Joined: 28 Sep 2006 12:10
Location: South Wales, UK

Return to Johannes Liechtenauer Lineage

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests