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You don't need a partner to do longsword drills. Joachim Meÿer gives us a wonderful tool which we can use to create a large amount of useful drills.

The Meyer Cutting Diagram, aka the Meyer Square.

How it works

The numbers create a sequence, their position mark an opening. Cut at a number and move to the next.

Looking at the outer sequence, 1 marks an opening on their upper left side (your upper right), the next is the exact diagonal opposite, their lower right. Next go opposite but not diagonally, their lower left and finally the last opening at their upper right.

Example:

  1. Cut an Oberhau from your right shoulder towards their head or shoulder at your right.
  2. Cut an Unterhau from your left at their hip, going back to the shoulder you cut to at 1.
  3. Bring your sword down and around and cut an Unterhau at their opposite (left) hip from your right.
  4. Cut an Oberhau at their right to the head or shoulder from your left.

Here is some of the translated text:

"step and strike first from your right against his left ear, as soon as the strike hits on, then quickly twitch to fly off again, and strike the second from below diagonally against his right arm, however in this strike keep your cross high over your head, and step to him with your left foot a little to his right together with your strike from below, and hit on with this as well, should you nimbly move your sword over you to your right, and thus from your right strike to his lower left opening, as the right is pulled or hit then twitch off again to over your head, and strike the fourth seriously against his right ear, from then traverse over and pull out. The first four Strikes shall be nimble and quick from one opening to another for your steps to be successful."

You will note in the second strike Meÿer tells us to keep the hands high, this is done to maintain a defensive position as the other person is likely to strike back at us.

The diagram trains us multiple skills:

  • Attack to opposite openings.
  • Nachschlag - Keep attacking. Creates second, third and fourth intent.
  • Different ways to cut.
  • Footwork.
  • Feinting, pulling.
  • A variety of cuts.
  • Cutting to openings from various guards.

I'll write a number of drills you can do and get back to the concepts at the end.

Working the Meyer Square

For clarity, I've made this color coded diagram which divides the original diagram into clear squares. The diagram was inspired by one Keith Farrell had all I did was to add color coding to help distinguishing the sequences during workout.

If you like, print the file and use it in your training.

Single Sequence

Pick a single sequence and work your way doing the 4 cuts involved. Iterate, then alternate. For simplicity, start with long edge cuts only.

  • Start with the outer (blue) square, do it 10 times or until you are comfortable.
  • Move on to the next square. Do it 10 times.
  • Continue with the next, and the next.
  • You can always go back to different squares and re-do them.

Think of each square as a way for you to engage. You enter the spar and attack at an opening, then immediately work to the next opposite opening, and the next, then with a step out attack at the last opening to give you safety in the retreat.

Adding Footwork

Now that you are striking at the openings, add footwork to it.

  • Attack to the first opening, follow in with a step in and to the side. Don't step directly forward, you want to get an angle for the attack as this gives you advantage.
  • Attack to the next opening with a triangle step to that side. Bring your body behind your sword so that you are covered.
  • Attack to the third opening, again with a triangle step, bringing your body behind your sword for cover.
  • Attack to the fourth opening with a back step to the side, bringing yourself both out and at an angle. The attack covers your withdrawal and presents a threat.

Pull The Attack

Strike at an opening, then attack at the next, but before you connect, let your strike fall and move on to the next opening.

This has a powerful psychological effect. The person may be going to the position to meet your blade and subconsciously they will wait for the pressure signal before moving on. This may allow you to gain a free hit elsewhere.

Alternate when you pull the attack. Sometimes the second, at times the third. Work through pulling a different number each time, and sometimes pull twice in a sequence,

Cut Twice At Openings

Cut to the same opening twice before moving to the next one. This will teach you more ways to come around with the sword and is overall a useful skill to have as people tend to move away from their openings, especially if there is a feint or pull involved.

Example:

  • Strike at 1.
  • Strike at 2.
  • Strike at 2 again.

Example with pulling:

  • Strike at 1.
  • Attack at 2 and pull the attack.
  • Strike back at 1.

It is also useful to do the entire square attacking each opening twice as it will teach you many movements.

  • Strike at 1.
  • Strike at 1 again.
  • Strike at 2.
  • Strike at 2 again.
  • ...

Long Edge Cuts

Do your square with long edge cuts only. Work your way around to cutting through the guards and getting the long edge in.

Short Edge Cuts

Now replace the long edge with short edge cuts. Find new ways to move and to power your strikes.

(Optional) Flat Cuts

Meÿer says you should be able to cut with the long, short and flat.

The reason behind it is that at his time fencing was a sport with fights lasting until one drew blood. Their swords were somewhat flexible which meant that cutting with the flat had a rebound effect when parried strongly, causing the tip to flex towards the target and possibly drawing blood. Meÿer seemed happy to game the system.

Personally, at time of this writing, I don't feel that cutting with the flat is overly useful in our modern HEMA environment as some places tend to discount hits with the flat and our rules and safety gear are quite different compared to Meÿer's time. That said, I am always happy to train more skills, so ¯\(ツ)/¯.

Mixed Cuts

Now that you have done strikes with your long edge, short edge and possibly the flats, starting mixing them around. The number of possibilities to work through will leave you with much to do.

Zwerchau!

Can you do the square with the Zwerchau all the way around?

Add Thrusts

Every now and then transform your strike into a thrust. Perhaps cut and drive in the point after your cut, or maybe simply thrust.

Work The Entire Diagram

So far we've been focusing on a single square or sequence. Now work your way from the outer square to the inner square.

You can also work your way from the inside to the outside, and if you are really hard working, mix them all up.

Cut From Unusual Guards

Let's be honest here: your very first cut was probably from Vom Tag or Ox on your right. Can you strike their upper left opening with strength from your left Plow?

Of course your attack will have less power, but can you do it? Meÿer says you should be able to. Get back to work!

Put This All Together

Work the entire diagram in any order with the long edge and the short, and the flats and with pulling and with striking to the same opening twice.

Bonus: Eliminate Bad Movement

Find where are you tells, make sure you are moving your sword before your body. Eliminate any useless motion.

Concepts

Let's review some of the concepts these drills give us.

Attacking Opposites

Meÿer says that when you attack at an opening, if they meet you, they are likely to be open at the opposite opening. This is why we attack crosswise, but not always diagonally.

Nachschlag, Keeping The Attack

We are told to keep attacking and move fluidly from one opening to the other. This exercise helps create that rhythm and the muscle memory to do so.

Footwork, Angles and Covering

It is important to move side to side and not back and forth.

Moving to the side gives us an angle at the opponent that maintains the distance for us but puts them offline and shortens their reach (unless they pivot), this is basic Pythagoras Theorem.

Attacking at an angle in which your opponent is offline also puts them at an unfavorable position to parry it, which also limits their ability in performing their plays.

In addition to the angles and gained advantage, combining this with moving behind your sword and covering yourself from their new angle of attack gives you safety.

Pulling, Feinting, Psychology

Pulling and striking to the previous opening is powerful. If done right, the other person is left with the facial expression that says "I have no idea what just happened here" as they get hit.

Someone said that fencing is like playing chess at 60 miles an hour. Psychology and getting your opponent to do what you want them to do has a big part in the battle.

Long Edge, Short Edge, Flats

These are all useful cuts and have many uses. An instructor here is very fond of cutting short edge from a lower guard (Alber or the Italian Boar's Tooth) at an oncoming strike, displacing the attack and then strike diagonally and opposite with the long edge.

We also gained some insight on the flats and how they were used.

Attacking To Any Opening From Any Guard

We learn to move in ways we are less comfortable with, yet still generate a valid strike. This is a very useful skill to have when the dynamics of a fight becomes unpredictable.


Now that you have a large combination of drill to practice, try to take 30 minutes a day doing the Meyer Square. This becomes both a mental exercise and a physical one.

Hope this helps! :)

P.S. It is useful to note that you can do these drills with other weapons. These are not exclusive to the longsword.

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Home About Recent Longsword Solo Drills - Meÿer Square Starting Historical European Martial Arts Group Historical European Martial Arts - Equipment D&D Journal: I Generic A* for Games Game development Generic A* for Games Procedural Island Generation Data-Oriented Design Matters Misconceptions of Component-Based Entity Systems Level of Detail Experiments Planet Generation - Part II Planet Generation - Part I Procedural Generation in Games Oculus Rift Integration Android Favorite Android Games NDK with Android Studio Android NDK Programming - Part III Android NDK Programming - Part II Android NDK Programming - Part I Personal Personal Stuff: Running! Global Game Jam 2014 Experiences Anime Claymore The Twelve Kingdoms Games Favorite Android Games Dungeons & dragons D&D Journal: I Historical european martial arts Longsword Solo Drills - Meÿer Square Starting Historical European Martial Arts Group Historical European Martial Arts - Equipment Longsword Longsword Solo Drills - Meÿer Square