Provoker, Hitter, & Taker

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Provoker, taker, and hitter refers to the usage of the various strikes while fencing. It first appears at length in the section on the dusack, and again in the rappier text, though Meyer tells us that it has application in all types of fencing. The concept is absent as an explicitly described concept with its own section in Meyer’s earlier texts (eg. 1568), however is implicit to all of the devices he describes and is clearly not an idea developed later in the piece.

In brief, Meyer tells us that now we understand the basics of cutting and parrying, we can begin to understand the three general uses for cuts. Provoking an opening, taking out incoming blows, and hitting to the openings. First is the provoking stroke. The provoker goads the opponent out of his advantage and in in doing so provides us an opportunity to gain the upper hand. This provocation takes two main forms. The first manner of provocation is to make a series of blows which seem to have intent behind them, but leave you intentionally open to an attack. In this manner you seize the initiative from him as he goes up to attack at your opening. The other way of provoking the opponent is to attack with a feint which causes him to go up precipitously to parry it. This takes him away from his strong guard position and provides an opportunity to follow up with further handworks. Many of the devices in Meyer’s texts are based implicitly on these ideas of provoking, taking, and hitting. Often a technique will give with a provoking thrust only to change of to taking or hitting blows. As such it is good to recall Meyer’s various deceptions:

Meyer is also insistent upon the comportment of the fencer during the feint; it should be accompanied by all of the appropriate body language and demeanour that would be included in a normal blow. Second usage of the blow is the taker; a blow which bears away the opponent’s attack, particularly one we have goaded them into. By this time Meyer has given a great deal of advice on how to cut away attacks, but in the very least we know that we can bear away cuts with an Oberhauw, or in the case of high cuts, and Unterhauw. The taker not only clears away his attack, but also provides the opening for our third type of blow; the hitter. The hitter is the simplest of all the usages; it does exactly that - hits the opponent.

So altogether in Meyer’s own words:

If you find your opponent in a guard or quarter in which he waits for your thrust or cut, then cut through to his nearest opening, not that you intend to hit him; also be sure that you are not too near him and take heed that you do not overcommit to this cut, or let your weapon go far out of your control, but keep control over your weapon without him realising it, while you act as if you had overcommitted to your cut. At once as he rushes to the opening you have made with the cutting or thrusting, then recover for the stroke, and cut out is incoming cut or thrust with your forte, or deliver a Suppressing Cut down onto it, depending on the situation; and that is called the Taker since you forcefully take out his weapon, which he has has not expected. As soon as you have thus taken his stroke or thrust, then rush to the nearest opening with cutting or thrusting; these counter-strokes are called the hitter. (Forgeng, p189). Meyer is clear here that our provoking and taking strokes may indeed hit the opponent, and should generally be carried out in such a way that they would do so if the opponent didn’t react. An opponent who fails to react to a provoking thrust, for example, will surely be struck by it. We should always be ready with the other types of strike to follow up, however. Likewise we are told that a single stroke might simultaneously fulfil all three roles. Lastly it should be noted that while he describes the provoker, taker, and hitter in that order, it is not essential that they be performed that way in the fight. It is entirely likely that you can do things out of order; you might provoke first, then immediately hit to the opening created by this provocation, then retreat with a taker which parries his afterblow.

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