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My study guide for
“The German art of Fighting
With the Longsword”
Meyer’s main sections on footwork are Chapter 7 [23v], 46r-47r, and 59r. Döbringer 19r distinguishes the forward step (Zutritt), back-step (Abtritt), and stepping out to the side (umschreiten/umspringen). Cf. Umbtritt in Meyer [5v]. The volte step appears to feature in Egenolph and Mair as the “triangle” or “false step” [Egenolph 5v, 8v, 9v; Mair (Vienna) 54v, 58r; on the triangle, cf. Jörg Wilhalm 3711 10r (=3712 105r), Meyer 24r, Wassmansdorf 1870: 57 (a text of 1589)]. Meyer seems to use falsch Tritt to describe stepping through between oneself and the opponent [57r.3]. Gathering steps are explicitly mentioned in Meyer 59r. For a volte step used to deepen a Thwart, see Meyer 33v.1.
It isn’t always clear what Meyer means by the “back-step” (Abtritt): in most cases this may be the obvious backwards passing step, but in a few places he speaks of a “back-step toward the opponent,” apparently a form of volte, and in some cases the distance would seem to require a step of this sort even where it is simply called a back-step [cf. the end of 26r.1, 35r.3]. For working purposes, it probably makes sense to assume that back-steps should be executed in whatever direction is necessary for the technique to be at an appropriate distance.
In Meyer, most attacks seem to be delivered with a single step, but a few involve a double step [24r, 50v, 53v, 59r]. On stepping with a followup cut after engagement, see Meyer 56v.1. In Meyer, steps are sometimes used to deceive the opponent [24r, 47r]; he terms these “broken,” or feinting steps, and suggests that they are mostly for the rapier [24r]. Feinting steps do not appear to be common in the tradition. A step in Meyer can be either a lunge-step (extending one foot away from the other), or a pass, in which the feet change relative positions (e.g. the rear foot becomes the forefoot). To facilitate lunge-steps, gathering steps should be inserted as necessary. Meyer’s double step actually consists of three steps, lunge-stepping with one foot away from the other, gathering the other toward it, and lunge-stepping with the first foot again [59r].
One feature that is consistent throughout the tradition is that an attacking combatant steps so that the foot lands with the cut, and such that the body turns in same direction as the cut—for example, stepping with the right foot for a cut from the right if stepping forward, with the left foot if stepping backward [Ringeck 12r-v; Starhemberg 10r; Meyer 23v, 29v, 49v, 50r, 59r]. Ringeck specifies that the step follows the cut [12r-v; cf. Meyer 46r.1], which would agree with the findings of many modern practitioners that the weapon needs to present a threat before the body is brought forward.
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