The Art of Combat
by Joachim Meyer
Translated by Jeffrey L. Forgeng
This is a translation of a text that was written in 1570 by Joachim Meyer. It is a full guide to German martial arts of the time. The introduction is very informative and gives historical details of the time that helps the reader to fully understand the text. This includes earlier forms of martial arts and how they were taught compared to Meyers preferred method.
The actual writing is fairly easy to understand and pretty fun to read. The translator Jeffrey Forgeng mentions that there was difficulty in translating exactly and he did the best that he could. The writing is very colorful and sometimes rather comical (to me anyway). Many texts of the past come off as dull, however this is clearly not. Some spots can get a little confusing, but that’s not the case overall and a quick look at the illustrations when available helps out a lot.
This book has re-printings of original black and white, wood-cut prints, which are quite beautiful. They were apparently very expensive to produce at the time. The illustrations are actually quite useful as you’re trying to grasp the instructions. The book goes through the long sword, Dusuck, a rapier, and staff weapons.
Overall, I liked this a lot. This is good for anyone interested in historical warfare, martial arts, German history, or cultural changes in weapon use. This is written at a time when martial arts are waning in favor of guns. Meyer was trying to preserve and promote what Meyer described as “the knightly and noble art of combat”. You can tell throughout this book how proud and honorable he felt his craft was and this book is the result of such a passion.
Among the substantial legacy of martial arts texts left by combat masters working in the medieval German tradition, this book stands out as one of the most remarkable and important, translated for the first time in English by Jeffrey Forgeng. The only major original text in this corpus to be disseminated in print, Meyer’s manual is an ambitious comprehensive encyclopedia of traditional German martial arts, covering a range of weapons forms, and offering a rationalized introduction to a complex and organic tradition inherited from the Middle Ages.