Blog posts of '2013' 'April'

Stabchats Podcast Episode 3

Anatole, Brennon, MHoG, and Peter the Quick talk about SKBC, the differences between Amtgard/Belegarth/Dagorhir, the future of foam fighting, and the nature of good fighters. Enjoy.

No, You Don't Need a 30" Shield

NOTE: Make sure and scroll down to the bottom for pictures of strapping and stance

If you take a critical look at the shield size of high-end sword and board fighters you will notice a trend: They aren’t very big. Actually, I don’t know any that are larger than 28”, and most of them are around 27”. The two exceptions I can think of are people that are pushing 7ft in height.

The reason for this is simple: A shield that is too large is a detriment to your fighting ability and makes you less effective on the field, not more effective.

Okay, so with the basic premise of “bigger is not better” out of the way let’s cover some of the common mistakes that lead people to think they need an enormous shield.

Issue 1 - Poor Strapping
Poor strapping is a big problem for a lot of shield users. By ‘poor strapping’ I don’t mean ‘poor positioning’ but rather that the straps themselves are actually poorly attached to the shield. This leads to the shield having a bit of lag time as the body of the shield can only move after the slack is taken up from the straps. It’s only a millisecond delay, but it’s meaningful and real. Another issue caused by poor strapping is the inability of your shield to block hard hit; a shield with sloppy straps with play in them can be forced out of the way by a hard swing or well-placed shot even if the shield is otherwise correctly positioned. If you’ve got loose straps on your shield you’re giving away free kills.

This is easy to fix: Have tight straps that can be adjusted for slack if they loosen up. You should use durable, non-stretch fabric that is strongly affixed through the board and onto it’s face. Bolts are okay, but if the fabric stretches over time you’re going to have to re-bolt it, which isn’t something you can do in the field. I recommend looped velcro straps with steel retaining links.

Issue 2 - Poor Shield Placement
How you place the straps on your shield is a personal thing. I believe that the best way is a center strap with the straps slightly offset towards the sword-side edge. I think this gives you the greatest range of offensive and defensive options with regards to how you move your shield. That said, shield placement is about what your shield covers while you are holding it. From that perspective your actual strapping isn’t as important as the end result. At rest your shield should extend above your shield-side shoulder by about two inches. Your shield should extend across to the far edge of your sword-side pectoral, but should not interfere with your sword movement or your ability to throw a cross-shot with your sword. If your shield crosses over to your sword-side shoulder, it’s too far. The bottom of your shield should cover your shield-side hip in the front and the very top portion of your thigh.

Your shield should not cover your sword-side ribs, hip, or shoulder. Your sword blocks those things. Your shield should not cover more than the very top of your thigh when in a resting position. If it does it’s going to interfere with your ability to use your legs to move about. Your shield should not cover your shield-side ass; if it’s big enough to do that it’s going to be too tall, relative to your arm span, to throw under-shield shots.

Issue 3 - Lack Of Sword Blocking
Your shield is not your only blocking implement. Your sword is far and away more important in terms of creating openings than your shield is. Your shield is primarily a passive blocking device while your sword is primarily an active blocking device. That isn’t to say that you can’t create openings with your shield (you can) or that you can’t block passively with your sword (you can) but those are general rules of thumb. Most people who feel they need a bigger shield are trying to cover their sword-side hip or ribs with their shield. This is wrong. By the time you’ve got a shield big enough to cover that area you are massively inhibited in your ability to throw shots or mount a credible offense. If you can’t mount a credible offense with your sword then you WILL lose, it’s just a matter of time until it happens.

Do not try and block your sword side with your shield unless you are actively throwing a shot with your sword at the same time. Your sword side should be blocked by having a good, low guard that keeps your sword parallel with the shield and prevents anything from sneaking in. If a shot goes really low you can dip your sword hand a bit while bending at the knees slightly; no need to pull your shield out of position. Trying to block your sword side with your shield means that you’re leaving your shield side open to attack. a sword-side feint is going to pull you out of position and make you vulnerable to a shield-side shoulder wrap.

Issue 4 - Move Your Feet
A shield is a great defensive tool, but it has limitations. One of those limitations is that the closer your opponent is to you the easier it is for him or her to go over, around, or under your shield to score a hit. The best answer to this is pretty obvious: Don’t let them close on you. If your opponent is pressing hard against you then you need to use your feet. Side-step, move backwards, move forwards at an angle and off path, counter-press, whatever. Don’t just stand there and assume that your shield is going to do the work for you. Shields are most effective at mid and long ranges; they are least effective at short range... So endeavor to keep your opponent at mid range and longer unless the range change is on your terms.

Summary - Your Shield Is Not MagicJust carrying a shield isn’t a sure-fire defense against being killed. If you think of it as the whole of your defense rather than just a piece of the puzzle you are always going to be disappointed with the results. A good solid sword and board defense includes proper stance, passive shield placement, distance control, footwork, and good sword side blocking from your sword. If you focus on improving all of these skills instead of just focusing on the size of your shield you are going to be a lot happier with your results.

Close up of centered shield strapping
sword shield brennon

The front of sword-leg-forward shield stance
sword shield brennon

The rear of a sword-leg-forward shield stance
sword shield brennon