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Because Practise is better than Art… A Student’s Tale

The 30 Day Cork Blademasters Meyer Diagram Challenge

‘Become a better swordsman in 2018 with Cork Blademasters!’ was the clarion call to arms we all saw on the Facebook event page. The concept was simple yet elegant; for 30 days in January participants would take up a sword or other similarly double edged tool and perform the German fencing master Joachim Meyer’s Diagram cutting pattern from the 16th century. To the unfamiliar, it’s basically a square, with lines drawn across it to represent the different openings or lines of attack with numbers indicating where your first, second, third and fourth strikes will start from. When I first saw one I had no idea what I was looking at but once you see your coach do one it makes perfect sense-the Diagram done once is four cuts done four times which means sixteen done in total. Each daily sequence would increase in number throughout January. The more you do it, the more fluid and natural your movements are supposed to become- and after speaking to participants from not only Ireland but German, Italy, Poland and even Sweden, that’s exactly what happened!

One participant, Chris So from Schwertfechten Nordhessen, Germany had this observation: ‘I improved in speed and technique in general. But my body transformed as well, and now I can hold my sword in higher guards much longer. No kidding! The daily routine trained the muscles very effectively.’ This was similarly echoed by Callum O’Connell of Cork Blademasters ‘There’s a noticeable difference in my endurance as the month went on. I’ve felt like I’ve got much more fluid in my movements and my speed has certainly increased.’ and also Enrico Tomasi of the famed Sala d’Arme Achille Marozzo in Italy who noted that despite how complex the movements became as the Challenge wore on that ‘Performing longer sequences, especially in the last days of the challenge, really helped me since the wear and tear of my forearms and shoulders (consider my Feder is fairly heavy) required and imposed smooth body mechanics.’ Clearly, Joachim Meyer knew what he was talking about and that 16th century biomechanics still work for us in the 21st when we use weapons from that era, even utilising the sometimes difficult Short/False Edge technique as Bartosz Grzaslewicz remarked:With time and adding more routines I felt a lot more comfortable with delivering the cuts (especially the false edge ones)’.

We all learned an enormous amount about how our strikes can flow from one into another doing the Meyer Diagram Challenge but it was far from plain sailing some days to either integrate it into our routines. This was especially difficult for people with young families and long work hours. One of the challengers noted that towards the end of the month with a much longer sequence pattern with more technical cuts (such as using Different Edge and Feints) that it became a bit of a ‘nightmare’. Chris So found that ‘With more progress (especially at half time) I had to organize for more spare time and ended up doing the drills before going to bed.’ I myself found I had to skip some days due to other commitments or just sheer fatigue-in fact I ended up doing two days sequences more than once-something I want to avoid next year!

Through it all, though, Andrzej Rozycki was there with us- either through helpful instructional videos explaining how best to accomplish the day’s challenge by demonstration and helpful advice, and by sharing posts noting a particular pattern was killing his wrist as much as ours! If my coach was finding it tricky, it was perfectly acceptable for me to admit to myself it was hard doing too and that’s something that I think ultimately kept us all going. Martin Buckley, due to a new job and young daughter, found that he had to miss seven days of the Challenge. Personally I would have had bowed out with regrets, but not Scholar Buckley! With support from his family-the living room was cordoned off and a whiteboard assembled with the entire seven days worth of Meyer Diagrams. From Martin’s estimate he must have completed over 3,000 cuts in one afternoon! He even posted the pictures to prove it on Facebook, and mused that ‘as I got nearer the end of that day I felt like the weapon became like a part of me- I went into a very different zone and it flowed by the end!’

If that isn’t an example of Fiore’s Audatia concept-the will to fight on despite setbacks- or a strong Martial spirit, I don’t know what is. All of us were gobsmacked at his accomplishment and it was with this incredible sense of fraternity, of camaraderie and accomplishment that we cut, feinted and struck our way through January and into February. I hope we did Master Joachim Meyer proud.

Dave Neville,
Scholar of Cork Blademasters

You can find more videos related to the Meyer Diagram Challenge at our You Tube channel below: