Shield Usage and History
The shield is one of the oldest combat tools in the world, and it appears at numerous times in many diverse cultures. Early European, but also medieval and renaissance shields varied considerably in shape and construction as early round shields gave way to the ubiquitous kite shields and later heater shields favored by mounted knights.
Contrary to popular belief, sword and shield combat is not a static event. Historical sources speak of agile cuts and thrusts under and around the shield, as well as, the targeting of weakness in armor and helmets. Kicks are also utilized when the opportunity arises. When leather and chain mail armor were common, shields were used to provide additional protection, especially in crowded battle field conditions and against missile weapons (arrows, spears, slings etc).
Shields were also used in single combat and can be used to deliver edge blow and strikes to the opponent and his weapon.
Some historical sources show unique dueling shields that were used with other weapons or as the weapon on their own. These shields had spikes and hooks that would be used to injure an opponent.
Shield Components and Construction
Shields have a handle generally of either wood or leather and are sometimes using a system of straps to help support the weight and provide additional strength when meeting blows.
Round shields often would have a steel boss deflecting blows and protecting the hand underneath.
Shields were almost always made from wood (though there were a few rare metal shields) and could be bound in leather or thin layer of metal / steel.
When the edges of the shield were not bound they could be used to trap enemy weapons that would become stuck in the grain of the wood.
Sword Academy uses in our our Western Martial Arts (WMA) / Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) curriculum leather wrapped and hide edged wooden shields.
In our curriculum Sword Academy studies both medieval and renaissance techniques of shield combat inspired by German, Italian and other sources.