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. Medieval shields varied considerably in shape and construction as early round shields gave way to the ubiquitous kite shield 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 rarely used in single combat, but when they were could be used to shove opponents. Some manuals depict dueling shields that would be used without any other weapon. These shields had blades and spikes that would be used to strike an unarmored foe.
Components and Construction
Shields have a handle generally of either wood or leather and are strapped to the arm to help support the weight and provide additional strength when meeting blows. Round shields often would have a steel boss where the hand would be when holding the handle. Shields were almost always made from wood and could be bound in leather or 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.
At Sword Academy we use a variety of shields in our training. Leather wrapped wooden shields are used for drills with wooden wasters and aluminum practice swords, while shields covered in high impact foam are used for padded sparring.