GFFG is since 2019 full members of the international organisation Meyer Freifechter Guild, and for our studies in the fencing art of fechtmeister Joachim Meyer, it is possible to attain different ranks, both internally in the club, and at international events. How the ranking and testing works is under revision, but it usually includes testing with pure fact knowledge, being able to demonstrate and understand techniques and examples from manuals, and sparring. Of course, testing for rank is completely voluntary and there is no pressure to do it.
The then captain of the MFFG, Mike Cartier, described it in these words in 2014, slightly edited for clarity.
About Guild Rankings
What do the rankings of the Guild represent and more importantly what is the purpose of the ranks and why do we bother with them:
The Meyer Freifechter Guild has 2 types of rankings
2. Martial Skill and application
The administrative ranks are positions that aid the daily function of the guild at various levels. They are; Study Group Leader, Regional Unterhauptmann , Guild Council members, the Board of Directors and of course my rank of Oberhauptmann. All the administrative ranks are temporary and subject to being withdrawn by the guild after a vote or other action by the general membership. Other than this paragraph we will only be speaking about the martial Skills rankings.
Firstly let’s be clear and say that Martial Skill ranks mean nothing more than skill testing, an evaluation within the guild. No rank makes any member better than any other member or in any way elevated above others. The ranks are merely provided to create a road map of skills we can follow to better ourselves on the path we have chosen, to learn and spread Meyer’s Art as close to historical reality as we can.
Why have ranks at all?
Well, good ranking systems drive the practitioner onwards to greater skill levels, we felt that there was room and that we had scraped up enough meager skills and knowledge to start making a testable curriculum that others could then follow. Something we could build upon as we grow.
Currently the guild offers martial skill rankings
… with a Research Scholar rank that is not tested for but rather granted based upon a body of work.
It is truly a group guild project and as such it is strengthened by deep collaboration rather than any one person’s viewpoint. We are very happy with how this test has turned out and with the skills we see in those who succeed in achieving it. Currently we have 48 official Fechter ranks in the guild. We offer Fechter Tests in Longsword, Dussack, Dagger and Wrestling with work on Rappier, Staff/spear, Halberd and Pike in progress. testing is done at events , if possible by a ranked guild member other than your instructor. We also offer a long distance Longsword and Dussack Fechter tests for those members who cannot make it to events or have no study group nearby.
Current Rankings within the Meyer Freifechter Guild
Schulfechter (grey ribbon)
This is a preliminary rank given to beginners to give them a understanding of the first few steps on the path and to give a new study group leader some basics for the group to focus on and study. Members should not spend very long at this rank as it is just a stepping stone. Most members skip this and go straight to Fechter.
Fechter Rank (Red)
This is a basic skills test in the art of a Joachim Meyer weapon. this test represents an assistant instructor level of knowledge and should be more than enough for anyone to be able to teach the basics of this art. We have carefully tweaked this test over the last few years, adding and taking away to get what we think is the best possible Meyer Longsword basics test available, and the skills of our fechter ranks supports this belief.
It represents a test of core competency for advancement in the Meyer Kunst Fechten with an emphasis on Basics and clear demonstrable understanding of Meyer fundamentals, our goals and methods of practice. It is estimated that the average person can attain this rank within 3-6 months of joining guild with diligent practice and attention to historical terminology and techniques. Martial intent and fighting skill are necessary to attain this rank.
Kunstfechter Rank (Gold)
This is the advanced instructor test. The test is harder and an academic test is required plus an unstructured peer review. In addition a marathon fight stress test is included which requires the tester to fight for 30 mins straight doing something like 50 – 75 fights in that time while winning a 50% of your fights or more. While lots of fun and certainly a much higher level of skill and knowledge required for this test, we are much less happy with it. Mostly because we are not sure enough of what was required historically so we have simply tried to increase the levels across the whole test in relation to the Fechter test.
Now after a recent guild vote, a Freyfechter ranks test requires 3 fechter ranks in Meyer’s weapons before the Freyfechter test can be attempted. Currently there are 6 ranked Freyfechter in the guild with no immediate plans to make more.
It represents a senior or instructor level of understanding and practice of the material of Meyer. This test involves an academic test of some significant knowledge level as well as a 30 minute non-stop pressure test fight averaging 50 – 75 bouts given (50% min success rate required) in rapid fashion to test the insides of the fighter as much as his knowledge or fighting skill. It is estimated to take at least 2 years of diligent and dutiful practice to successfully test for this rank, which requires a pass on the online test. This rank is specific to the weapon and so as new weapons are added to the persons rank they must sit for a prize in that weapon (more than one weapon can be tested for at a time). Martial intent and fighting skill are necessary to attain this rank, a minimum of 10 Fechter ranked Guild opponents must participate in the skill test.
This is a future rank we will offer once our collective knowledge and skill advances to such a point that such a rank seems attainable or justifiable. This rank would be intended as an ultimate skill level in the weapon chosen and quite possibly much more research will be needed to accurately emulate this type of rank. We cautiously estimate that this rank will be possible in around 5 – 10 years. Roughly 30 ranked Freyfechter will be required before we can test for this rank.
A minimum of 30 Freyfechter are needed to begin testing for this rank so it will not be available for at least a few more years.
Research Scholar Rank (Blue)
This is at the core of what we do as a guild and is probably the most important rank. The other ranks test practical knowledge, skills and help us measure ourselves and drive ourselves forwards to better levels. This research ranks allows all of that to happen for without a focus on research we would know nothing and we would have no reference point to build the guild from. this rank is not tested for but rather granted based upon a body of work
It represents great service and work in the area of research to support our Guild and the work of Meyer and the Freyfechters and Fechtschulen of Renaissance Europe with a specific focus on Meyer and his contemporaries.
Why no master rank?
There will never be a master rank given by this guild, there is only one master and his name is Joachim Meyer and we are honored to be his students.
Meyer Freifechter Guild
At the present, our instructor Roger Norling has been given honorary rank as Fechter in longsword, as well as been awarded rank as Research Scholar. He is also Unterhauptmann for Region 8, covering most of Europe, except for France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium.
More rankings will be done in the coming years.
More concerning this can be found at the MFFG page about ranknings.