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Meyer's Rapier - Book 1, Chapter 8

Submitted by Katherina Weyssin on September 22, 2010 - 12:12pm
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Matt teaching (Katherine's notes)
Meyer's Rapier - Book 1, Chapter 8
[2.70v-2.72.v; pp192-3 of Forgeng's translation]

Changing (Wechseln, Durchwechseln), Chasing (Nachreisen), Remaining (Bleiben), Feeling (Fuhlen), Pulling (Zucken), and Winding (Winden).
Changing (Wechseln or Durchwechseln)

Changing = avoiding your opponent's blade and attacking on the other side
Changing through = cutting under
Changing around = cutting over

Meyer describes two types of changing through: when you attack, and you use it to avoid your opponent's parry; and when your opponent attacks, as an alternative to parrying.

(Note that for Meyer "parrying" can mean the act of catching your opponent's blade, preventing his attack; OR standing in a defensive posture, that closes the line (or so says Forgeng). Thus "straight parrying" is a position - it seems to me very like eisenport (but perhaps covers a range of postures).)
First example/first drill - Changing applied by an attacker
- "you" attack; the "opponent" stands in a defensive guard, e.g eisenport

1. Attack with a cut
2. Your opponent will try to parry
3. Just before the blades connect, drop your point, then raise it quickly on the other side
4. Come up on the other side of their blade and thrust

We tried this on both sides, with the opponent trying to defend themselves in Eisenport or Ochs, according to the height of the initial attack. It was pretty effective, especially when the defense was high.

Notes: We were completing the drill with a thrust; Meyer says you can go on to use thrusting, cutting, suppressing or slicing off.

Second example / second drill - Changing applied by a defender
- the "opponent" attacks; "you" stand in a defensive posture, e.g. eisenport

1. The opponent attacks [slightly out of range - see note below]
2. Rock back, drawing the front foot back as neccessary, so the attack misses
3. As you rock back, cut under (or over) his weapon
4. Come up and thrust on the other side as the opponent completes the missed cut

Note: Meyer says this is suitable "if he sends his cut too high, or against your blade, or else not enough toward your body". We took this to mean he was a little out of range, or not really attacking in earnest, or attacking the sword not the body. It worked pretty well against a high cut aimed at the head: duck under with a limbo-lunge (which will naturally have more range).

We also tried these with "changing around" (cutting over, instead of under). It worked, but all of us prefer cutting under. Rocking back is absolutely essential, to give yourself enough time.

Chasing (Nachreisen)

The basic principle appears to be that you should attack wherever your opponent's blade has just been (i.e. where it is moving away from). Meyer's first example: "If your opponent holds his weapon down to his right, then wait for him to go away from there, and when he send his weapon away, thrust quickly in at the same place."

So, when your opponent changes position, attack the area he has just left (as he's committed, at least for a moment, to movement in the opposite direction).

Further notes:
- Meyer says it also applies to cutting (cf. Silver)
- when you thrust, always turn your long edge back against the incoming weapon (so that when your opponent realises what you're doing and reverses direction you are ready to defend yourself)

Feeling (Fühlen)

When you are in the bind, feeling for the moment when your opponent starts withdrawing and making your attack then.

Not really necessary if you are in a very dominant position - you can just attack away. Necessary when you find yourself with swords crossed somewhat equally (e.g. when you have parried a low cut with "barring" - cutting downwards with point low and hilt high).

Drill:
Take turns at attacking, crossing swords, one loosens off a little, the other immediately attacks.

Remaining and Pulling

All Meyer says in the rapier section is that they've already been covered in the longsword section. Grr! See v1.17v and 1.19.r (p62 and 64 of Forgeng's translation).

Winding

This is the part that gave us most trouble (perhaps we were tired). Meyer starts by saying that he's discussed it previously, so perhaps we should refer to the longsword section (1.19v, p 65).

Meyer's text (Forgeng's translation):

"Whenever you bind your opponent in the middle of his blade, then you shall not go out from there without particular opportunity, since he might rush upon it you with chasing as I have taught before; but remain hard on his blade with the bind, and turn the short edge or the point in at his body, and plant your weapon on him. If he parries that and pushes your blade out to the side, then quickly pull through beneath, and thrust on the other side with a back-step. However, if you see that he does not send it out to the side, but as soon as he perceives your winding in, crowds straight before him with a thrust in at your body, then keep your point at his body, and turn your hilt and long edge down against his blade; thus turn out his point, and crowd further on him with a thrust, palm away from him, meanwhile stepping out."

From this we constructed several sequences / drills.

First exchange: (first sentence, above)
"Whenever you bind your opponent in the middle of his blade, then you shall not go out from there without particular opportunity, since he might rush upon it you with chasing as I have taught before; but remain hard on his blade with the bind, and turn the short edge or the point in at his body, and plant your weapon on him."

- "you" and the "opponent" start with swords crossed (equally, in front of you, hilts down points up) and "hard in the bind"

1. Raise you hilt and turn your short edge against your opponent's blade (maintaining pressure on his blade, but allowing him to push you out to the side somewhat)
2. Thrust "around" his blade his face or shoulder

Note: this works beautifully, as long as your opponent *keeps* pushing, so that their point goes over your shoulder.

Second exchange: (add second sentence above)
"If he parries that and pushes your blade out to the side, then quickly pull through beneath, and thrust on the other side with a back-step."

"Back step" is the troublesome term.
Forgeng - "These terms [back-stepping, back-step; abtritt/abtretten] appear to be used both for a step backwards away from the opponent, and a circular step with the rear foot behind the forefoot (like a modern fencer's inquartata)" (p284).

Note-taker fail: I remember being the opponent, and practising the defense described here, but I don't remember the next step clearly enough to describe it.

Third exchange: (add final sentence above):
"However, if you see that he does not send it out to the side, but as soon as he perceives your winding in, crowds straight before him with a thrust in at your body, then keep your point at his body, and turn your hilt and long edge down against his blade; thus turn out his point, and crowd further on him with a thrust, palm away from him, meanwhile stepping out."

"Palm away from him" is the troublesome term: does it refer to the orientation of the sword-hand (i.e. perform your thrust with your palm facing away from him), or an action with the left hand (i.e. as you thrust, defend yourself by pushing away his blade with the palm of your left hand)?

We decided that both were reasonable interpretations, and came up with several actions that seemed to be both effective and in accordance with the description given. We don't know, yet, which (if any) Meyer meant to describe. More research required!

Second note-taker fail: I can't describe these clearly without trying them again - anyone else want a go? I've made a start, but it could really use work.

Begin as above: "you" and the "opponent" start with swords crossed (equally, in front of you, hilts down points up) and "hard in the bind"

1. Raise you hilt and turn your short edge against your opponent's blade (maintaining pressure on his blade, but allowing him to push you out to the side somewhat)
2. The opponent doesn't keep pressure on your blade, but instead extends his arm to thrust straight at your body (either recklessly, looking for a "double kill", or because he can do so more-or-less safely having longer range, or having picked up your point with the left hand?)
3. . . . nope the various options we tried for the last two sentences have become one big blur - there was something that looked like an inquartata, moving the back foot, and something that looked like an avoidance of the body, moving the front foot, and . . . stuff.

Concerning Stepping

The last paragraph in the first part of the rapier book - and all it says is that he won't tell us about stepping here, because that will be included in the individual discussion of each device.

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