Lesson Plan: A Student’s First Lessons

The first lesson for a student can be quite daunting, and so the following lesson plan has been created to make things easier for both the teacher, and the new student.

It’s important to note that this lesson plan doesn’t mean that everything here has to be covered in the first lesson; it simply gives some advice for ongoing progress to be made in a structured manner.

Introductions

It’s a good idea to introduce the student to the background of Meyer and the German longsword tradition.  By explaining the the historical context of Meyer both as a continuation of a martial art, and as the beginning of a clear martial sport it will be easier to explain why certain features of Meyer’s system exist (for example the prevalence of cuts over thrusts, the oddities of the weapons such as dusack as a continuation of messer methods, and so on).

Now is also a good idea to establish if the student has any previous martial arts or dance experience, both of which can be helpful.


The Sword

With introductions over it’s time to begin playing with swords!  Give the student a feder, making sure to explain how it differs from a “real” sword and why we use it (referring back to the context of Meyer).

  • Explain the basic parts of the sword:
    • long edge
    • short edge
    • weak
    • strong
    • crossguard
    • pommel
    • haft
  • Describe the various ways the sword can be used offensively:
    • hewing
    • slicing
    • thrusting
    • pommel striking
    • grappling
    • half-swording
  • Allow the student to feel the weight of the weapon and to swing it around a little.

Body Position and Stance

Now that we know what a sword is all about, we can have them put the weapon aside so that we can find out how we stand.

  • Show the student the basic Meyer longsword stance
  • Key points:
    • The head is held upright, not gazing down nor upturned.
    • Hips and shoulders are aligned and toward the target, not held at an angle.
    • The back and hips are one unit; the spine is not excessively arched nor hunched, and the core is tight.
    • Hips are tucked under so as not to introduce spinal instability.
    • Front leg points directly toward the opponent, knee bent so that the lower leg is roughly perpendicular to the ground, you should just be able to see the toes of the front foot if you glance down.
    • Rear leg extends back and to the side slightly.  Also bent somewhat to allow for movement.
    • The foot faces out to the right at an angle which can between 45 degrees and perpendicular to the front foot.
    • The front and rear feet are best placed on opposite sides of an imaginary centre line in order to stay well balanced.

We should stress the importance of proper stance, particularly hip alignment.  This can be demonstrated by holding a sword and turning the hips offline, effectively “shortening” the sword, as compared to turning the hips & shoulders somewhat forward, thus giving better reach.  It’s also worth noting that balance and movement are easier from this position.


Footwork

Footwork is a key to any fighting system and Meyer is no different.  At this point we really only need to teach the student very simple footwork, in fact for now we’ll just focus on the passing step.

  • Demonstrate the different types of footwork in the system
    • Stepping/Passing Step
    • Gathering Step
    • Triangle/Double Triangle
  • Explain that we are only going to do the passing step for the initial cuts etc.

This is the simplest form of stepping and the most natural.  From a left stance we simply step forward so that the right is now in front.  This should be a gliding movement with no bobbing up and down, legs remaining slightly bent throughout.  Neither should the foot be stamped down hard (this immediately stiffens the leg and makes you prone to having your balance taken from you).

Often the passing step will be performed offline to one side or the other as part of a particular technique.  For example as our opponent attacks with a straight down cut we might passing step forward to his side to achieve our own technique or counter.  The passing step can also be done backwards, in the same way.

Have the student practice without a sword.


Holding the Sword

We’re almost ready to fight!  Now we just need to know how to hold a sword; explain and demonstrate:

  • Orthodox grip
  • Crossed hands grip
  • Thumbed grip for both cases
  • Key points to remember in gripping the sword:
    • keep the wrists aligned properly,
    • grasp should be secure but not rigid; the wrist must be able to rotate in certain movements
    • the hand position should generally not be a “hammer grip” for most basics.

Guards for Protection (and Thrusting!)

First let’s give our student some protective skills.  We’ll teach ochs and pflug.

First for pflug, then for ochs:

  • Demonstrate the guard
    • hands out from the hip slightly or above for ochs
    • point online
    • solid structure
    • explain that pflug can be used to parry attacks from below and the side, as well as thrusts, while ochs does the same for attacks from above and the sides as well.
    • explain movement while stepping as a winding action which is itself defensive.
  • Have the student perform passing steps in pflug, then in ochs
    • Reassess stepping/body position
    • Ensure correct sword grip/position
    • Ensure winding motion

First Guard and Cut Exercise – Vertical Oberhauw/Sheitelhauw

The first guards and cuts we will teach are vom-tag and alber, and the cut will be oberhauw through the vertical line.

Vom tag:

  • Demonstrate the guard of vom tag (from the day/roof)
    • Elbows out
    • Sword back at 45 degrees or so
    • Pommel just up above the head
    • Crossguard not too close to the scalp!
  • Have the student perform passing steps in vom tag
    • Reassess stepping/body position
    • Ensure correct sword grip/position

Now Alber:

  • Demonstrate the guard of alber (from the day/roof)
    • Sword extended out and down
    • Tip just off the ground
    • Arms and sword in a line down toward the ground
  • Have the student perform passing steps in alber
    • Reassess stepping/body position
    • Ensure correct sword grip/position

Guard transition:

Have the student perform passing steps transitioning from vom tag to alber

  • Reassess stepping/body position
  • Ensure correct sword grip/position

Oberhauw:

Now is a good time to point out that what you’ve actually taught them isn’t just a guard transition; it’s a cut!  From vom tag to alber is an oberhauw!  Now that they know this we can refine their cutting form:

  • Explain that the cutting motion for major cuts with the orthodox grip should use a levering action.  The lead hand becomes a moving fulcrum for our lever and the rear hand imparts the force by drawing the pommel in opposition to the lead hand.  This means that the rear hand is really doing all of the work of turning the blade, while the lead hand casts forward and creates a solid centre of rotation for our cut.
  • While cutting the wrists should be rolled inward so that they’re pushing it from behind; this prevents the wrists from bending on impact and avoids losing control of the sword.  It also helps keep correct alignment of the blade.
  • The blade should be cast out to the guard of long-point as it move through the cut
    • Longpoint is a secondary guard
    • Vomtag and Alber are primary or principal guards.
  • Critically, the hands should lead the motion then the feet should follow momentarily.

You can also show that the movement from alber to vom tag is a slash upward, though is far less effective as a cut.

Have the student perform some cutting lines.


Second Guard and Cut Exercise – Diagonal Oberhauw/Zornhauw

Repeat the exercises from the previous section, this time with the guards of Tag and wechsel, and the cut of zornhauw (also demonstrate Zornhut)

Key points:

  • In this case, all of the guards are secondary guards; explain that these guards are just variations on vom tag and alber

 


Third Guard and Cut Exercise – Diagonal Cutting to and From the Hangings

This exercise teaches cutting on-point then cutting from a hanging.

Key points:

  • Begin in Tag
  • Cut to longpoint
  • Withdraw to Pflug
  • Lift to Ochs
  • Cut around to long-point with a step
  • Repeat

First Common Parrying Exercise – High Hanging Parries

We can now teach the continuous hanging parry drill which protects against the high cut.

Have the student start in Alber.  As you cut down at them they step out to the right and go into a high hanging to deflect, then cut around with an Oberhauw, change roles, going back and forward.

Key points:

  • Point out that this ‘common parrying’ is not ideal – we would prefer to use single time counters, but these parrying skills are important.

Second Common Parrying Exercise – Low Hanging Parries

We can now teach the parries with Pflug

Key points:

  • The student starts in Pflug on the right
  • Attack them with a Zornhau to their left
  • They pass back and parry with straight parrying in the form of Pflug online (you are soft)
  • They wind to Ochs and thrust with an advance on the lead leg
  • You parry
  • They cut around with a Zornhau and a step

Repeat against thrusts.


Third Common Parrying Exercise – Flow drill

Do some very slow academic free play – set up the techniques above.


Third Guard and Cut Exercise

Repeat the exercises from the previous section, this time with the guards of zornhut to zornhut, and the cut of mittelhauw.  Notice we are simplifying by using only zornhut and no mittelhut here.

Key points:

  • Keep the blade long-edge on to the target until you’ve cut through.

Fourth Guard and Cut Exercise

Repeat the exercises from the previous section, this time with the guards of nebenhut and ochs, and the cut of unterhauw.

Key points:

  • In this case nebenhut is a secondary guard, and ochs is a primary guard.
  • Ochs is also used for defence against attacks from above.
  • Ochs is also a good thrusting position.

Review Principal Cuts and Guards

Point out that you’ve now taught what are known as the principal cuts and guards.

  • Reiterate the principal guards:
    • ochs
    • pflug
    • vom tag
    • alber
  • Reiterate the principal cuts – the cover the various axes of a square (vertical, horizontal, and diagonals)
    • oberhauw
    • unterhauw
    • zornhauw
    • mittelhauw

Meyer Square

You can now teach the outer ring of the Meyer square first solo cutting through, then in opposition to a simple parrying:

  • Zornhauw
  • Unterhauw
  • Unterhauw
  • Zornhauw

Guards Drill

Teach the application of the guards drill.