The Four Basic Elements of Defense
for Sword and Shield/Buckler
There are Four basic elements to use in your defense when using the Sword and Shield in combat, that is besides your armour. But after all, the goal is not to get hit in the first place.
These Elements are Shield Blocks, Sword Blocks, Dodging and Range. In a proper defense you should be ready with at least 2 elements to cover every area of your body at any time. This means training so you have at least 2 layers of defense ready against any attack.
1. the Shield. You need to practice and develop methods to block every point of your body with your shield alone. In an actual fight it may be impractical to block a particular area with the shield but it can prove very useful in the “unusual” situations that can develop. It is very important to “dial in” you shield work, moving it just enough to pick up a shot and not over block with the shield. The more you over commit to one area the longer it takes to block an opposite area of the body. The “tighter” your shield work the faster you can move from block to block and you will expend less energy.
2. the Sword. As you do with the Shield, you need to learn and develop techniques to block every part of the body with your Sword alone. Once again it’s impractical to block certain areas with the sword when the shield is ready and more reliable, but you never know what situations may develop or when you might end up without a shield. The important consideration is that when your sword is busy blocking it’s not able to strike. It’s important to keep your sword as free as possible and develop the ability to strike right from your blocking positions.
3. Dodging is moving your body out of the way of blows. It is important to practice moving each and every part of your body out of the way of attacks. The extremities are the easiest to do this with, then the head is a little more difficult to dodge with leaving the torso as the most difficult to spur to movement and dodge attacks. For the legs, practice sliding them out of range or bending them out of the way of an attack. For the arms, practice pulling them away from a strike or down behind the shield. Ducking the head can work, but is the most difficult to master and leaves you often blind with your eyes often ending up behind your shield. Dodging your head back out of a shot or side to side to roll with a shot is the most common practice. Now for the body, it is very difficult to move the whole thing out of range of an attack. You can move the chest out of an attack easier than the abdomen, but they can all be done if practiced a LOT. The best use of body work is to roll away from a shot with the torso. This delays the impact of a shot, often giving you the extra time to pick up the shot with a shield or sword block. Moving with the motion of the blow also can greatly reduce an impact or cause it to hit well past the power point of the stroke.
4. Range is the simplest concept of defense, but still needs to be practiced regularly. Simply, if you are not within an opponent’s range you cannot be hit. You will notice that proficient fighters use range as a way of controlling the fight and the other fighter. Moving out of range allows a fighter a degree of safety to rest and to refocus his efforts if needed. Moving into range often stimulates an opponent to immediately throw a shot which is a control technique used by the best swordsmen. You can stay out of an opponent’s range entirely to keep safe, or you can keep your legs out of range while entering range with your upper body, or reverse by leaving your legs and shield in range while pulling your torso and head back in order to bait your opponent to swing at “air”.
Layering. As I said earlier you need to develop a style in which you double up on your defense for every shot. That way if your primary defense posture fails your secondary can take over. That could mean blocking with the shield but having the sword poised to block the same shot as well. It could mean blocking with your sword while dodging your head away from the blow at the same time. It could mean sliding your leg out of range while blocking with the shield, just in case. If you practice all aspects of defense and always try to layer up defensive options you will find yourself much more capable and confident in fights.