It is seen as one of the most complete systems within medieval German martial arts. His book mostly consists of descriptive text, with only a few dozen woodcuts , each of which depicts several players enacting various techniques described in the text itself. The book consists of five chapters, covering the long sword , dussack a training weapon not unlike the messer , rapier , dagger , and pole weapons. Meyer is mentioned in a brief Latin treatise on martial arts by Heinrich von Gunterrodt and is also the only German among the famous masters listed in the late 17th century fencing treatise by Giuseppe Morsicato Pallavicini.
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Perhaps the most common claim to schulfechten that I have heard, though, is that Meyer will use the flat of his sword to attack an opponent occasionally, rather than use the edge to land a crippling or fatal blow. The single is done thus: if your opponent cuts at you from above, then intercept him with a Thwart. As soon as it clashes, pull the sword around your head and strike from your left with the outside flat at his ear, as shown by the large figure on the right in Image K, so that the sword rebounds back away.
Pull it back around your head in the impetus of the rebound; cut with the Thwart to his left ear; thus it is done. And as soon as it clashes or connects, then jerk it upwards and at the same time wrench to the left, and strike quickly outside with the back of your hand, back into the same opening, that is with the outside flat, such that it has rebounded around and right back in; thus you have done it rightly.
It did not seem practical, at least to my mind, to have a weapon in your hand but with with the portion of it guaranteed to do the least damage.
Why would you ever hit with the flat? The fighting arts are always molded and constrained by the contemporary social context surrounding them, and this will change what techniques are used, when and why. In the German martial tradition, at least as it applies to Meyer, it is important to remember that the town law in the Free Imperial Cities was such that concealing a sword, drawing a sword, or fighting in general could get you fined heavily, and in the event that someone died, you could be tortured to gain information about the nature of the fight, executed or exiled.
While there were many written rules as to how threats of violence or actual violence were managed and handled, there were also many unwritten rules, usually pertaining to the escalation of said violence. Usually if a fight broke out, it might begin with striking of an opponent with the flat of the blade first, then escalating to use of the edge, and finally in lethal situations usage of the point. Using the point implied lethal intent, and there were even laws in some cities forbidding the use of certain swords with too sharp a tip.
Despite the fact that most people were armed to some degree in the German Free Cities, they took violence very seriously. Below is an excellent video taken from IGX , where Jean Chandler gives an extensive look into the cultural context of German martial arts and weapon possession and usage in the late 16th and 17th centuries.
Though it can be a little exhaustive at times, it is definitely worth watching. In my group we began working on the Prellhauw last week, and though I was not a huge fan of the cut originally, I can now be considered a convert: I LOVE the Prellhauw now! When doing the Prellhauw, you are essentially taking advantage of the natural flex and spring inherent in the longsword, such that the rebounding energy from your flat strike is what powers your Zwerchhau Thwart Cut at the end of the technique.
We spent probably a half hour just hitting the pell with the single Prellhauw before we moved on to partner drills, and we discovered a few interesting things: 1. This is not a fatal blow, obviously, but it is enough to get your opponent to push his sword even more to one side to protect his face from that attack, and in that moment he is much more open than he was previously, allowing your finishing Zwerch to do maximum damage. If you are going to parry the Prellhauw, do a Krump.
Concerning the double Prellhauw: you should fear this cut. Natural reaction will usually cause the fencer receiving the Prellhauw to push his blade out there in a textbook barring technique, which is inadequate for stopping the Prellhauw, but also allows the wrenching action to take place more easily. The sensation of feeling almost safe and then being hit, coupled with the flinch reaction that happens when your sword is suddenly pushed aside and you are hit again is enough to make you want to run away and find mama.
Though flat strikes seem like just a silly sporting move, they can be brutally effective, even when just working with Blackfencer longswords. I am definitely looking forward to trying this cut out in sparring now.
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Joachim Meyer’s Longsword: Beware the Prellhauw!!