Thrusting in Meyer's longsword

"I will here remind the friendly reader at the outset, since there is a great difference between sword combat in our time and how it was practised by our predecessors and the combat masters of old, that this account of the cuts will only cover what is currently in use and pertinent to the sword. And as to the practice of former days, when they fought dangerously both with cuts and thrusts, I will discuss it in its proper and separate place." - Meyer

Meyer is interesting when it comes to thrusting. He directly says thrusting has fallen out of fashion and it's a great difference between his art and the art of the past. Some people have taken to mean that Meyer does not "do" thrusting, that the whole system is a type of "sport" fencing and therefore flawed.

However, in true HEMA style, I would argue that this is incorrect.

Mainly because there are examples of thrusting in his long sword, these are just a couple I found within a couple of minutes flicking through my copy:

"Rule: when you stand in the Right or Left Wrath, and one strikes to you from below committing to your right or left opening, then strike high outward with the long edge and, just as it engages, then shoot the point on his sword inward to his face, just then drive off with your hands and work to the next opening with elements of going before or after." - Meyer

"when you approach against your opponent with the Plunge Strike, which plunges as you hold your point toward him, and hold it steady (as was taught above) so that your thrust is obviously indicated" - Meyer

But also from my experience of the treatise what I actually think is happening is that the system itself protects you from thrusting and if you are competent at it then it is very difficult to land a thrust, this is why he focuses on cutting.

It's like a catch 22: if you and your opponent are trained in thrusting then you can deal with thrusts and therefore you both have to cut, therefore it looks like you don't know how to thrust.

So I think it looks like this:

Thrusts are biomechanically a very short, quick action. To make a thrust you need the point to be on line with the target and you need the ability to move the blade forward, which can be as simple as extending your arms forward. Thrusts are however easily deflected as all that is required is to move the point offline to render the action useless. Because of these two factors a thrust is best done from close measure (i.e. with simply extending the arms) this is because your intent is obvious and the longer time your opponent has to perceive this the more time they have to make the small move required to deflect it.

Even very tight cuts (done with the smallest possible "cone") are a longer action. The point has to come off line and make a circle in the air to generate the momentum to land with impact. This can be as simple as making a small circle with the pommel or chopping the blade up and down. Even relatively small cuts however are not necessarily easily parried, this is because the intention can be easily varied mid-cut, i.e. what appears to be a high cut can easily be dropped to a low cut, and the amount of force being put into a cut can be easily varied and is hard to gauge. Cuts are best done from long measure because in close measure you have to take your point offline to cut which allows your opponent to put their point online for a thrust.

Therefore the general rule would appear to be:

1. You cut from long measure
2. Make a bind
3. You then thrust in close measure.

However the binding part upsets this theory. As soon as you come into measure with either a cut or thrust your opponent will try to parry. It's very difficult to not get bound, especially in close measure. Binding makes thrusting extremely difficult because when your swords are touching it is very easy for both parties to "feel" the intention of the other and then make the short, quick movement to push the point off line and prevent a thrust.

Meyers system supports all of this. When you look at his point forward guards Ox, Plough and Long Point, the point of the sword is always online with your opponent: perfectly setup for the thrust. They are lousy position to parry with but great for Counter-attacking so the logic is perhaps "parry with a thrust, to force an opening for your next cut." If your opponent is untrained or foolish you will actually be able to land the thrust and your work is done.

Which I think is what is being described above.

However if you opponent is trained then you will be more or less at balance. Your thrusts can be offset by his guard and his thrusts will be offset by your guard. As long as you can maintain this balance thrusting is more or less useless: you will need to cut. Big cuts from out of measure when you are not bound and the threat of thrusting is less acute and small cuts (flicks and doubles) within measure that break the bind for the smallest possible time. Becuase this is the real skill this is why Meyer has loads of examples of all the small cuts and tricks to use from the bind. However if you are not properly trained in thrusting and/or maintaining measure you cannot get to this point.


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