Usage and History
The buckler is a weapon that was in constant use from the earliest periods of the middle ages throughout the Renaissance and up until the prevalence of firearms rendered it obsolete. In addition, buckler combat is the oldest fighting style for which we have a surviving manual.
There are two buckler traditions, the earliest being represented in the 13th century German manual known as I33. In I33 combat, the sword and buckler are kept together and separation is to be avoided. This combined with a forward leaning stance and the I33 guards provides a very effective style of combat that maximizes defense. The buckler combat depicted in some later medieval manuals has many similarities to rapier and buckler techniques and makes use of simultaneous attacks and defenses that require separating the sword and buckler. This may be due to the increased use of armor and is more likely to be found in combination with longer swords.
When examining bucklers it is impossible not to make comparison to shields. In fact, bucklers are small shields, but what differentiates them from other small shields, such as targes, is the ways they are used. Whereas shields are used in combination with many weapons, such as the sword, axe, mace or spear, buckers are generally only used with single handed swords. There are however some references to bucklers being used with a long sword or even more commonly a hand and a half or bastard sword. Later, during the Renaissance, a buckler would often be used to compliment a rapier. The other major difference from a shield is how a buckler is held. Unlike a shield that is strapped to the arm, a bucker is held only with the hand giving it added mobility. This allows it to be rotated to protects the sword hand from both sides or thrust out to meet blows or strike a blow itself.
Components and Construction
Bucklers are most often made of steel and consist of a face, boss and handle. The face of a buckler was most often circular, but could be square or shaped to create one or more spikes at it's edge. It would commonly be curved to redirect blows and the edge could be sharpened to allow cutting. When holding a buckler the hand would usually be partially inside the boss. The boss could be rounded for crushing blows or spiked for impaling an opponent or catching a sword.
The type of buckler trained with at Sword Academy depends on the type of weapon it is paired with. When we drill with aluminum swords we use solid steel bucklers or wooden bucklers edged in aluminum. When drilling with wooden wasters simple wooden bucklers are used. Steel bucklers are used in rapier sparring and padded bucklers are used in padded sparring.