Fechtmeister, Freifechter, All Round Nice Guy...
Joachim Meyer was a Fechtmeister ("Fencing Master") from Strasbourg (in modern day France) which was at that point a German city in the Holy Roman Empire.
Born in Basel sometime around 1537, Meyer was originally a member of the Cutlers guild. Meyer travelled a great deal during his early years which allowed him the opportunity to study a number of different fencing styles. These travels, along with his residence in Strasbourg (which was a major road for traffic in the Empire), allowed him to incorporate many non-German styles and techniques into his fencing. We first see Meyer identify himself as a Fechtmeister ("Fencing Master") during 1568 in a petition to the Strasbourg City Council, requesting that he be allowed to hold a Fechtschule (fencing competition).
While Based in the Liechtenauer tradition of the German School of Fencing ("KdF" or "Kunst des Fechtens"), Meyer innovated and updated his fencing with the new moves he had learned. It was his opinion that in order to overcome the new fighters coming into Germany from the rest of the world, the Germans would have to relearn and adapt to the new methods of fighting which were also being brought in. By analysing the techniques presented by Meyer which are not traditionally German in nature, some scholars have postulated that Meyer may have studied the fencing style of Achille Marozzo (Italy) and there may also be traces of some Polish and Hungarian swordplay within his writing.
Meyer has three works attributed to him;
- MS A.4º.2 or "The Lund Manuscript"
His first original work concerning the Longsword, Dussack and Side Sword (Rappier).
- Fechtbuch zu Ross und zu Fuss or "Manual on Fencing, on Horse and on Foot"
This is mainly a compilation of glosses of other fencing masters works such as Andre Liegniczer and Liechtenauer which Meyer acquired sometime in the 1560's. It is notable for a number of notes which Meyer made in the text on his intentions to adapt the traditional German style of Messer fencing to a new weapon which was emerging at the time; the Side Sword.
- Gründtliche Beschreibung der Kunst des Fechtens or "A Thorough Description of the Art of Fencing"
Meyer's Magnum Opus. This work contains his instructions on the Longsword, Dussack, Rappier (Side Sword), Dagger, Wrestling and Polearms. This work has since been translated into "The Art of Combat", which is the OSS's core treatise.
Following the printing of his last work ("Thorough Description..."), Meyer landed a position as Fechtmeister to one Duke Johann Albrecht of Mecklenburg. Hoping that this would also give him a platform to sell his book to wealthy customers, Meyer sent the printed versions of his work ahead of him and set off on the 500 mile journey. Unfortunately, the harsh winter weather ravaged Meyer on his way and he died two weeks after arriving at the Duke's court.