A Little History
The Oxford Sword and Staff was founded in 2016 by a small group of HEMA enthusiasts who, much to their chagrin, lacked the ability to travel to start studying their areas of interest.
Resolved to improve their situation, the club was set up in a small community hall in the south of Oxford. Over time, membership grew and the club was able to expand and pursue its aim of developing a comprehensive fencing syllabus based on the teachings of Joachim Meyer.
In order to help members work towards goals and aid their development, the club uses an internal ranking system. For more information please CLICK HERE.
Currently, the club has incorporated the following weapon systems into its curriculum;
The longsword (or simply, "Schwerdt") is the first part of Meyer's 1570 treatise and serves as an ideal introduction to his method of fencing.
Meyer's teachings of the Longsword are somewhat unique in that he devotes a large amount of time to what he calls "Handwork". This is the stage of a fight where both parties have engaged and the struggle for victory begins. This results in a comprehensive breakdown of the three stages of a fight and options for offensive in each stage.
Through studying the longsword you will be introduced to the concepts of distance and measure, the three stages of fighting and the core concept of provoking reactions from your opponent in order to open them up for attacks. The longsword serves as the basis for all other weapons in the treatise so a developing a good understanding of it is encouraged.
The second section of The Art of Combat covers the Dussack .
An extremely popular weapon throughout Germany in Meyer's time, the Dussack (originally a complex hilted sabre) was the common sidearm for many of the countries population.
The Dussack which we are more familiar with these days is a simpler training tool, often made of wood or leather. It's broad blade and short length make it reminiscent of a butchers cleaver but don't let its basic appearence fool you! The techniques of the Dussack build on those learned with the Longsword to create an elegant system of fencing.
The Dussack also goes on to form the basis of Meyer's Rapier ("Rappier") system.
The Third section of The Art of Combat covers the Rapier ("Rappier") .
In Meyer's time, the Rapier was starting to see a rise in popularity in Germany, with Iberian and Italian fighters bringing it with them on their travels through the Holy Roman Empire. Meyer was able to see which way the wind was blowing and exhorted his countrymen move with the times and learn the ways of these "foreigners" so they could fight them effectively.
Meyer's rapier system is an eclectic mix of traditional German techniques (adapted from more classical German weapons such as the Dussack) and methods lifted from other contemporary styles. Throughout it all, his fight philosophy of "Provoke, Take, Hit" runs strong and creates a unique and immediately identifiable style of combat with the rapier.
The fourth section of The Art of Combat concerns the use of the Dagger ("Dolch") and wrestling ("Ringen").
The dagger displayed in the treatise is the rondel dagger which, while somewhat outdated by 1570, serves as an excellent training tool. The dagger is presented as not only a stabbing weapon, but a multipurpose tool which can be used for stabbing, bludgeoning, defensive manoeuvres and also as a lever for the application of a number of ruthless joint locks.
While roundel daggers are used, Meyer assures us that all the techniques are transferable to any similar short (and not necessarily bladed) weapon.
The Quarterstaff (or "Halbenstangen") is the last book in The Art of Combat. Training with the quarterstaff builds on fundamentals and concepts which are introduced by Meyer earlier in the treatise and also forms a bridge between swords and weapons such as the Halberd and Pike (whose use is also covered in the treatise).
The quarterstaff utilises Meyer's key concepts of deception and provocation which, when coupled with the staff's enormous potential for damage , make for an extremely effective form of fighting.
As well as these weapons, the club will also be adding Ringen ("Wrestling") to the core syllabus as it continues to develop.
As well as Meyer's treatise, the OSS also encourages its members to delve into other systems and learn new things (as was the way of Meyer). Occasionally, club members will even be able to deliver seminars to other members on systems/styles which they study.