I think there are likely a fair amount of people that are confused about the footwork used with Meyer's Sidesword. They scratch their heads and wonder why there seems to be no passing footwork. Why would Meyer leave out passing footwork when it seems to work so well? Why would Meyer have no left side forward stances? Here's what I've come to believe.
If you have a single-hand weapon with some length to it like a Sidesword, and you take a left foot forward stance or do a passing step that places your left foot forward, then you are at a disadvantage when facing someone with their right foot forward with the weapon held in the right hand. You have put yourself in a bad spot. They have their weapon between you and them, but you do not. Therefore you are not prepared to defend as well as if you had your right foot forward.
One school of thought might say that this is no big deal. Just pass back with your left foot as you bring your weapon to bear, or pass forward with the right foot and go on the attack. Paulus Hector Mair seems to think this way, because he features both passing footwork and left side forward stances with his Sidesword method.
But another school of thought might say that passing back as you defend is just too slow when dealing with a lighter single-hand weapon, and that passing forward increases the chance of a double kill. So the prudent fighter would avoid this situation. I think Joachim Meyer thought this way. Within the Sidesword section of his book he has descriptions of types of fighters. One type of fighter he talks about is the cautious fighter. He also notes that this is typically his own tactical approach. So this fits.
So we find that when describing the Sidesword alone, Meyer has no left foot forward stances and almost no passing footwork. However, this changes when you have a companion weapon in the left hand like the Dagger or Cloak (and I would add Buckler), because now the companion weapon can be used in defense and therefore mitigates some of the risk of having the left side forward. When doing grappling with the single Sidesword passing footwork will be necessary. This makes sense because you have to put your left side up front to use the empty left hand. You are also at a closer distance and are looking to tie the opponent up with your left hand. This makes it harder for him to use his sword. But again, this is NOT a good idea if your distance is a little further out so that you cannot reach him with your left hand. This is what typically happens when doing a passing step, and is certainly what happens when standing in a left foot forward stance to face the opponent.
Its a little different with the Dussack because it is a shorter weapon, so Meyer does show more passing footwork and left side forward stances. The Dussack is less of a "thrusty" weapon, so you are less likely to run onto his point. When doing the typical passing footwork with a shorter weapon you are a bit closer than you would be with the Sidesword and therefore have a higher potential using your empty left hand to tie him up. You see a fair amount of "checking" with the left hand when doing Dussack, a lot like the Filipino Martial Arts. But you don't really see this with the Sidesword because it is a longer weapon and you typically aren't close enough.
I think Meyer essentially left passing footwork out of his single Sidesword for good reason. I've often seen the argument that since Meyer states that anything he has shown with the Longsword and Dussack can be applied to Sidesword, this includes passing footwork. He doesn't bother to mention it because he assumes we have already learned it with the Dussack. But I don't think this argument is valid. In several places Meyer mentions a technique or concept and says something to the effect of "but I have shown you this already with the Longsword." He never mentions passing footwork in this way. He actually never really covers footwork at all. He tells us that we will figure this out by going through the various devices. And in those devices, no passing foot work is described until we get to Sword & Dagger or Sword & Cloak. So I don't think its fair to say that Meyer intended us to do passing footwork with the Sidesword because we do passing footwork with the Dussack, but then ignore the fact that passing footwork is never described in the single Sidesword devices. Except maybe once, which seems to be an exception and not the rule.
So there you have it! As always, feedback is welcome!
Keith P. Myers
Lifetime Member HEMA Alliance
Affiliate: Bartitsu Society & Cateran Society
Friend: Meyer Frei Fechter Guild