Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

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Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

Postby admin » 18 May 2012 22:20

Over the years I have noticed that a lot of medieval images show swords and shields held in very similar positions to those shown in sword and buckler treatises.

I just stumbled on this:
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Re: Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

Postby henri de la garde » 20 May 2012 09:20

Hi there.

Thanks for posting this. I've been working on extrapolations for heater shield for a number of years, and this general statement is consistent with what my training partners and I have found from research and testing. One of the important factors in shield use which is often overlooked is the forward reach of the shield. Centre-gripped Viking round shields have excellent forward reach beyond the fist (in some cases nearly as far forward as the sword point is, or at least half that length). Bucklers and arm-strapped heater shields, while dramatically different in size, have nearly identical forward reach beyond the left fist. As a result, we found that many of the Talhoffer S&B and I.33 binding and trapping sequences applied very effectively to sword and heater shield use. Our findings include the idea that shields with moderate to light weight and little forward reach typically close the lines by being extended forward, often also covering the hand.
The Viking centre-gripped round shields, on the other hand, are a dream for trapping, binding, and striking motions as they allow you to keep the enemy at prime sword-strike range when using the shield edge. The drawbacks include the ease with which an enemy can turn or 'table' the shield.
Anyway, thanks.
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Re: Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

Postby admin » 20 May 2012 09:45

Interesting stuff.

I have to say that the vast majority of heater shield positions shown in medieval art just seem to show it held covering the left side not doing much at all - in fact in many cases you can see that the shield is actually strapped to the upper arm or hung round the neck, leaving the left hand free to grab things (example below). In the Bolognese large shield material the shields don't seem to be moved much at all, except occasionally to cover the head whilst giving an attack underneath in the same tempo.

However, occasionally I find these 'bucklerish' positions shown, with the shield being used more actively - when I find examples I'll post them.
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Re: Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

Postby admin » 20 May 2012 09:49

Despite what some HEMA people have written about shield use, this example from around 1470 clearly shows the shields held front-on to the opponent:
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Re: Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

Postby admin » 20 May 2012 09:52

And a similar example from the same source:
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Re: Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

Postby admin » 20 May 2012 10:00

For the record, this is sword and buckler shown out of armour from the exact same source, so a potential comparison within one source between buckler and heater shield - the 'guard' position looks pretty much the same to me - front of the shield held to the front (this is somewhat like a Bolognese Guardia di Alta or Guardia di Testa):
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Re: Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

Postby admin » 20 May 2012 10:24

There are all from an English manuscript of c.1280:
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Francias123fol55.jpg
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Francias123fol47v.jpg
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Francais123-fol137v.jpg
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http://www.antique-swords.co.uk/

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Re: Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

Postby admin » 20 May 2012 11:01

Incidentally, for shield fans here is one of those rare occasions when the inside straps and padding are shown, from the early-14thC:
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Re: Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

Postby fabrice » 20 May 2012 16:54

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Re: Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

Postby henri de la garde » 20 May 2012 18:59

Edge on vs. flat on:

Thanks for the additional images. There are a large number of illustrations which show shield being held face forwards. The great majority of these illustrations depict deeply curved shields, however, meaning that the use of the shield varies according to its curvature.
There are a few very important factors that determine shield use, although many tend to consider only the first, the others have great influence:
1) weight
2) size
3) curvature
4) forward reach
5) suspension (guige vs enarmes vs center grip, just to name a few).

Given this number of variables, there are probably more variations of shield types in the later Early Middle Ages to High Middle Ages than there are sword types.
So Matt is dead on with the observation that most heater shield illustrations show the shield on a guige strap close to the torso. Joinville's account refers to his shield in several places; and though there are some cases of 'holding out one's shield', the default method of use for armed - mounted - French cavalry was to use the shoulder strap (Joinville mentions at one point that when he takes a tumble from his horse he is glad to have the shield around his neck at that point, as he did not lose it; this seems to indicate that there are stages of use and some personal preference is also involved).
The flat or gently curved shields are often shown edge forward in either the open position (on the left side) or the closed position (angled in on the right), and there is quite a bit of debate and discussion on the artistic conventions that surround this. The later period illustrations often show shorter or pointier deeply curved shields held 'flat' forward to the opponent, allowing the extreme ends of the curved shield to at least partially close off the left and right lines (no one I've ever heard of has done work with these types of shields yet; and I have a hard time imagining proper cutting actions occurring when hiding behind something that closes off the front and some angles of left and right as well).
I work extensively with a HEMA-ish extrapolation for (here's specific for you) use of the knightly medium sized arm-strapped (though we throw in guige use too) heater shield for personal combat assuming mid 13th century armour and equipment. I say HEMA-ish because I also do longsword, and while there is boatloads of material to draw upon for the extrapolation, it is still an extrapolation by comparison with other periods/weapons and I don't wish to offend the side of me that is a bit purist on the 'H' in HEMA.
I know of Colin Richards' efforts with shields (mostly center gripped rounds, I think), the Hammaborg work with S&B and center gripped Viking rounds, AHF's efforts with rotella, Bill Carew (Aus) did some messing about with Norman kite shields, and some other groups like WIlliam Short's Viking stuff, but does anyone know of any other groups working with shields (non-reenactment)? I'd be interested to hear their take on these images (which fit into our iconographic survey consistently) and my blanket generalizations...
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Re: Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

Postby admin » 20 May 2012 19:08

Here is a really cool PDF by Steven Reich on the use of the sword and shield from Manciolino:

www.nova-assalto.com/files/BologneseSwo ... ctions.pdf
http://www.antique-swords.co.uk/

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Re: Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

Postby henri de la garde » 20 May 2012 22:41

Yes, thanks, I forgot about this one. Steven did a great job on this, I found it some time ago and it was particularly useful. Thanks.
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Re: Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

Postby Steve Reich » 21 May 2012 00:19

Glad to hear you guys are finding the material useful. Since downloads are "silent", I'm never sure how many people find them useful.

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Re: Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

Postby clubinglex » 26 Aug 2015 23:36

what surprise me about the example from around 1470 is a single handed sword bash can affect someone in plate armour, is it a thing ?
cheers, alexis
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Re: Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

Postby Cosmoline » 27 Aug 2015 03:54

Roland has talked about that on the Dimicator FB page quite a bit. I personally think what we're usually seeing there are actually artistic renderings of guard positions. So what looks like a big oberhau being prepared is really just a kind of fourth ward or second ward variation. But on the flip side, a fair number of these illustrations show steel helmets being split by direct blows to the head. Which is questionable. So maybe it's just artistic.
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Re: Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

Postby Herbert » 27 Aug 2015 13:56

clubinglex wrote:what surprise me about the example from around 1470 is a single handed sword bash can affect someone in plate armour, is it a thing ?
cheers, alexis

I think you have to take theses things with a grain of salt.

Iamgine that movies are a rendering of todays society. What would someone in 500 years think when he sees todays movies (Die hard, Fast and Furious, Mission Impossible etc.). They are not made to represent reality.
The same mechanism worked back then I guess.
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Re: Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

Postby clubinglex » 08 Mar 2016 22:15

If the only strike usefull against armoured knight was the thrust in face / neck / armpit, can we say that central grip was better in armoured sword-fight on foot ? Did anyone try it ?
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Re: Sword and shield held in buckler-ish ways

Postby Cosmoline » 14 Mar 2016 17:44

If the only strike usefull against armoured knight was the thrust in face / neck / armpit, can we say that central grip was better in armoured sword-fight on foot ? Did anyone try it ?


The art suggests that as armor got thicker and more advanced over the medieval period the shields either vanished or became arm-strap type usually of a triangular shape. Centergrip shields are less common and bucklers are more associated with secondary weapons or blossfetchen as in I.33. The arm strap type would probably give you more leverage. But I don't know how many have tried to test the types in realistic harnessftechen. It would be interesting to see. Of course part of the problem is we don't really know how they were fighting at all until the end of the period, and the shield work shown is with giant dueling shields.
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