The Art and Practice of 16th Century German Fencing
Joachim Meyer (ca. 1537 – 1571) is without doubt one of the most influential fencing masters of the Renaissance. A prolific writer of fencing manuals, his monumental “A Thorough Description of the Free, Chivalric, and Noble Art of Fencing, Showing Various Customary Defenses, Affected and Put Forth with Many Handsome and Useful Drawings” was reprinted, adapted and outright plagiarized for over a century after his death. As a martial artist, he was both the last great master of the medieval Liechtenauer fencing tradition and a young innovator, who combined his native, German traditions with those of the Italian and Spanish fencing masters to create a wholly unique systems of fighting with a vast number of weapons. The centerpiece of his work, however, was the cut-and-thrust “sidesword” or “early rapier” which was rapidly eclipsing the knightly two-handed longsword in popularity. Meyer’s synthesis not only adapted his native art to this Mediterranean weapon, but in some cases, his innovations prefigured the developments of rapier fencing that Italian masters would promote in the next quarter century after his untimely death.