Funky Buckler and Vier Blossen Historical Fencing paired up to see how shields compare to bucklers. This blog will explore the data from the workshop and what can be learned from this experiment.
Fencers were broken up into two groups. The groups were captained by someone with single-handed sword experience and were given 30 minutes to train their team on the use of sword and buckler and sword and shield. Then, each fencer would fight two fights with both the shield and the buckler.
As a control, the groups would only fight opponents using sword and buckler.
Fencers would fight to 5 points. Points were determined by the following hits:
The shields used had only one single grip and were selected based on the following research on how shields were held before the time of I.33: https://www.degueulesetdargent.fr/2017/03/02/shield-straps-and-holding-of-the-shield-in-the-early-13th-century
The Fencers and their Categories
Donny and Lane – Control group of practiced sword and buckler fencers who will face all the other fencers with their shields and bucklers.
Ryan and Joe – Captains of their group and tasked with training the fencers who had less experience with single-handed sword systems. Ryan has more experience with sidesword while Joe has more experience with messers.
Burhan, Tony, Erik – Members of the group with experience in swordsmanship. Tony has had some training with sidesword while Burhan has studied some of sword and buckler through I.33. Erik has studied some sabre but is primarily a longsword fencer.
The Outlier – Ryan and Lane with Sword and Buckler
There was one fight that was excluded from the overall data analysis. Lane and Ryan both had a long fight that resulted in 7 doubles which dramatically skewed their data. This double rate for both fencers was unusually high and both Ryan and Lane assumed this occurred because it was one of the first fights of the day and they were both still warming up.
Groups 1 and 2’s Potency
As expected, all of the fencers except for Ryan were more effective with the shield than they were with the buckler. Given that each fencer was only given 30 minutes to prepare, it is expected that the fencers found the shield more intuitive to use than the buckler as the shield offered more protection in the fight.
Ryan lost potency with the shield over the buckler. Given that Ryan has trained with sidesword and off-hands like the targa and daggers, it seems that with dedicated practice the buckler can become more effective than the shield when fighting in a duel. However, in the post-fight discussion Ryan believed that he would prefer a shield over a buckler if he were in a skirmish setting or if he had to fight multiple opponent.
Another interesting observation is Erik’s performance. While his data supports the hypothesis that shields are more intuitive than bucklers, he saw dramatic improvements over others in the two groups. It is possible that Erik is a natural with sword and shield. It is also possible that this is an indication of 1 on 1 instruction over group instruction. Joe captained group 1 which only included Erik which allowed for Joe to focus all 30 minutes on Erik as opposed to Ryan who had to split his attention on training his group.
Groups 1 and 2’s Ability to Avoid Doubles
Interestingly, the amount of doubles and afterblows in a fight was relatively the same with the buckler and the shield.
One possible reason for this is that doubling is more of a mindset. If a fencer is prone to doubles or afterblows then it is likely to occur regardless of the circumstances.
Another possible reason is that the shield and the buckler create relatively similar opportunities for both fencers to hit each other.
Groups 1 and 2’s’ Survivability
All fencers saw an increase in the total time of their fights. This may indicate that fencers are more likely to extend their fights when they use a shield over when they use a buckler. However, the shield fights were conducted after the buckler fights so the longer fights may be due to fatigue rather than the weapons.
Lane and Donny’s Potency
The average points scored per engagement was not impacted for Lane who averaged 5 points scored per fight (excluding the fight against Ryan with a buckler). Donny performed slightly worse against the shield as opposed to the buckler which could indicate that the shield was more difficult to beat for Donny. Overall, the average points scored does not appear to indicate a difference between shield and bucklers in the hands of the opponent until we analyze the points allowed trend.
The average points allowed indicates that Donny struggled with adapting to the sword and shield fight. Lane on the other hand, gave up more points against the buckler than the shield. This seems to indicate that when fencers are armed with a sword and buckler, it is up to them to adapt to their opponent. If this is the case, then Lane was far better at adapting to the shield than Donny was.
Lane and Donny’s Ability to Avoid Doubles
Donny’s data indicates that you are equally as likely to double against a buckler as you are against a shield. However, Lane’s data tells a different story. Lane was far more likely to double against the shield than he was against the buckler.
Given that the shield fights were after the buckler fights and that Lane and Donny had more fights than groups 1 and 2, it is likely that the increase in doubles and afterblows by Lane had more to do with fatigue than the weapon sets themselves.
Lane and Donny’s Survivability
As discussed earlier, fight lengths were longer against the shield than they were the buckler for both Donny and Lane.
While the data is what excites me the most when conducting these experiments, it is also exciting to make fencers fight with weapons they are less familiar with. Both groups had their own take on how to use the shield with the sword and with just 30 minutes to train, all the fencers became effective with the shield.
For me, if I was in a duel, I would still prefer my buckler. However, it is impossible to deny the effectiveness of the shield in all forms of combat. If I could not control how many opponent’s I would be fighting, I would certainly take a shield over the buckler.