|Died||24 February 1571 (aged 34)
|Language||Early New High German|
|Notable work(s)||Gründtliche Beschreibung der
Kunst des Fechtens (1570)
Joachim Meÿer (ca. 1537 - 1571) was a 16th century German Freifechter and fencing master. In addition to his fencing practice, he was knife smith (Messerschmidt) and a member of the German middle class (Bürger). In his life he devised at least three distinct and quite extensive fencing manuals, and his writings clearly show that he stood in the tradition of the German grand master Johannes Liechtenauer. His writings also reflect other contemporary systems that he encountered in his travels, including the Italian school of side sword fencing.
Meÿer was born in Basel, and he writes in his books that he traveled widely in his youth. The details of these travels are unknown, but records show that on 4 June 1560 he was living in Strasbourg, where he married Appolonia Ruhlman (Ruelman). In 1561, Meÿer petitioned the City Council of Strasbourg for the right to organize a fencing event, and again in 1563, 1566, 1567 and 1568. Presumably this sort of petition required at least some explanation of his teaching status and his sources, proven by documents or letters or at least detailed in some manner by Meÿer himself.
Meÿer wrote his first manuscript in 1560 for his private student Otto Graf von Sulms, Minzenberg and Sonnenwaldt. Its contents seem to be a series of lessons on training with longsword, dussack, and side sword. His second manuscript, written in 1570-71 for Heinrich Graf von Eberst, is of a decidedly different nature. Like most fencing manuscripts from the previous century, it is an anthology of treatises by a number of prominent masters including Sigmund Schining ein Ringeck and Martin Syber, and also includes a brief treatise on side sword that he wrote which is quite distinct from his prior teachings. In 1570, Meÿer also published an enormous multiweapon treatise entitled Gründtliche Beschreibung der Kunst des Fechtens ("A Thorough Description of the Art of Combat"). It was dedicated to Johann Casimir, Count Palatine of the Rhine, and illustrated at the workshop of Tobias Stimmer.
Unfortunately, Meÿer's writing and publication efforts incurred significant debts (about 1300 crowns), which Meÿer pledged to repay by Christmas of 1571. Late in 1570, Meÿer accepted the position of Fechtmeister to Duke Johann Albrecht of Mecklenburg at his court in Schwerin. There Meÿer hoped to sell his book for a better price than was offered locally (30 florins). Meÿer sent his books ahead to Schwerin, and left from Strasbourg on 4 January 1571 after receiving his pay. He traveled the 500 miles to Schwerin in the dead of a harsh winter, arriving at the court on 10 February 1571. Two weeks later, on 24 February, Joachim Meÿer died; the cause of his death is unknown, possibly disease or pneumonia. The Duke sent a letter to the City of Strasbourg announcing Meÿer’s death.
Antoni Rulman, Appolonia’s brother, became her legal guardian after Joachim’s death. On 15 May 1571, he had a letter written by the secretary of the Strasbourg city chamber and sent to the Duke of Mecklenburg stating that Antoni was now the widow Meÿer’s guardian; it politely reminded the Duke who Joachim Meÿer was, Meÿer’s publishing efforts and considerable debt, requested that the Duke send Meÿer’s personal affects and his books to Appolonia, and attempted to sell some (if not all) of the books to the Duke.
Appolonia remarried in April 1572 to another Messerschmidt named Hans Kuele, bestowing upon him the status of Burgher and Meÿer's substantial debts. Joachim Meÿer and Hans Kuele are both mentioned in the minutes of Messerschmidt Guild archives; Kuele may have made an impression if we can judge that fact by the number of times he is mentioned. It is believed that Meÿer’s widow and possibly her husband or her brother were involved with the second printing of his book in 1600. According to other sources, it was reprinted yet again in 1610 and in 1660.
The Fechtschule of Joachim Meÿer in Strasbourg, a thriving school of fence equal to many others in Germany at the time, was taken over during the Acquisition of Strasbourg by Louis XIV in 1681; it was turned into the "Academie de Arms" and essentially absorbed into the French school of Fence.
- Kiermayer, Alexander. Joachim Meyers Kunst Des Fechtens. Gründtliche Beschreibung des Fechtens, 1570. Arts Of Mars Books, 2012. ISBN 978-3981162738
- Meyer, Joachim. The Art of Combat: A German Martial Arts Treatise of 1570. Translated by Jeffrey L. Forgeng. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
- Dupuis, Olivier. Joachim Meyer, escrimeur libre, bourgeois de Strasbourg (1537 ? - 1571). In Maîtres et techniques de combat. Dijon: AEDEH, 2006.
- Naumann, Robert. Serapeum. Vol. 5. T.O. Weigel, 1844. pp 53-59.
- Castle, Egerton. Schools and Masters of Fencing: From the Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century. London: George Bell and Sons, 1885. pp 74 - 76.
- According to his wedding certificate.
- Van Slambrouck, Christopher. "The Life and Work of Joachim Meyer." Meyer Frei Fechter Guild.
- Whose members included Christoph Maurer and Hans Christoffel Stimmer.
- Schaer, Alfred. Die altdeutschen fechter und spielleute: Ein beitrag zur deutschen culturgeschichte. K.J. Trübner, 1901. p 76.
- Pollock, W. H., Grove, F. C., and Prévost, C. Fencing. London and Bombay: Longmans, Green, and co, 1897. pp 267-268.
- Castle, Egerton. Schools and Masters of Fencing: From the Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century. London: George Bell and Sons, 1885. p 147.