A first class on Meyer's rapier.
Sword terms: The sword has a point, a long edge (knuckle-side, the edge you do most of the hitting with), a short edge (the other edge, the one that faces you in stance) and a flat. Meyer uses all these surfaces to some extent.
Basic stance and footwork: Wide stance (feet further than shoulder width apart); right (for right-handers) foot forward, pointing at the opponent; left foot at an approximate right-angle. Weight well forward, front knee well bent, back knee slightly bent. "Imagine you're pushing a car" (thanks, Chantelle). Back foot, which has little weight on it, normally moves first.
Posture - Eisenport or "Straight parrying": right arm is fairly straight, hand in front of the right leg and about belt level (for the gentlemen). Sword point aimed at opponent's face.
A basic attack - Oberhau: step off-line with the back foot to your right, lifting your hand (and sword) above your head. Cut down diagonally at your opponent's left shoulder with a step towards him on the right foot. Also called a Zornhau.
Basic defence: Step away (with the left foot) from your opponent's attack and turn your long edge against your opponent's weapon.
Basic counter-attack: Having blocked your opponent's Oberhau, thrust at their face maintaining blade contact with their sword (thrust "on sword"). Include a step forwards with the right foot if necessary.
Another defence - body void: When your opponent cuts at you, pull your right foot back near to the left foot and lift your sword up so that the hilt is before your face and the blade up to avoid your opponent's (thus the sword still protects your head in case the void is insufficient). Counter attack with a step forward on the right foot.
Double step: Three steps (just like in dancing), right left right. This allows you to cover more distance while still ending on the right (to accompany the eventual cut or thrust).
Fancy defence: When your opponent attacks with an Oberhau to your left, then step with the right(!) foot towards(!) the attack, blocking with the strong of your sword. Go through under his sword leading with your hilt with a step on the left foot (your blade will be roughly horizontal or hanging, pointing over your right shoulder) and deliver a cut to his right side with a step on the right foot. Timing is important, but this is a great variation. You might not need/want the third step. This be done on the other side as well.
Another basic attack - Unterhau: Deliver a cut up from below with the long edge (hilt up, point down). The cut is often to the arms, but not usually used as an opening move (the Unterhau is over-reached by the Oberhau).
Defence against Unterhau: Just as against the Oberhau, step away from the attack with the back foot and turn your long against your opponent's weapon. Watch your fingers on the counter-thrust!
Defence against attacks to the knee - Sperren: In general, defending low/high should be accompanied by lowering/raising the body (so that the hand doesn't move too far from guard position). However, lower attacks can be defended with a hanging guard ("barring"). Cut into the attack with your long edge and hanging blade, pushing it to the side. Follow up with a "groin thrust", thrusting under the opponent's weapon at his body, turning your short edge against his sword.
Next week: We'll learn some more postures, discuss cutting some more, and see a few more variations of the above defensive techniques.