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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > The left-handed use of sword and shield Reply to topic
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Patrick Kelly




PostPosted: Sun 24 Jul, 2005 1:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

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The neighbors do look at you funny, though.


That's why I have a six-foot privacy fence. Laughing Out Loud

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Thomas McDonald
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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jul, 2005 3:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Aaron Schnatterly wrote:
Mac, that was just downright cool. Thanks for posting that for the rest of us to see and appreciate. Even though I knew they were left-handed pieces, they still looked "wrong" - perfectly so by design, but just not the norm.
Also, my friend, you keep this up and I may just have to admit I actually do like those basket-hilts after all... Wink
Oh, and yeah... 4 notches... really makes one wonder about the history behind the piece.


Your welcome, laddie !

I'll keep working on you guys .... ;-) Mac


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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jul, 2005 3:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This topic has been promoted into a Spotlight Topic.
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Jean Thibodeau




PostPosted: Sun 24 Jul, 2005 8:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephen;

Just ordered Spada1 and Spada II from Chivalry Bookshelf: looking forward to them, and thanks for the heads-up about Spada II, while I was ordering I decided to also get the first one also.


Nathan;
Oh, I made sure to order by going through the Affiliate program to be sure that I'm helping to support this site.
Just thought it would be good to remind people to do this. Wink Laughing Out Loud

( Note although the original subject is about lefthanded use any general information about sword and shield work is encouraged by me ! Although nobody needs my permission to expand or stray from the original topic: Some of the best content here happens that way. Razz Wink Cool Laughing Out Loud )

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William Hurst




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jul, 2005 9:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Mac, what museum did you steal that from? All I have to say is......nice.
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Thomas McDonald
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PostPosted: Tue 26 Jul, 2005 11:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William Hurst wrote:
Hey Mac, what museum did you steal that from? All I have to say is......nice.


...... Why, myArmoury of course !

Actually their part of Baron Thomas McDonald's vast holdings of Hieland arms & armour, Massachusetts Division, USA.

;-) Thanks, William, Mac



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Ryan A. C.




PostPosted: Thu 28 Jul, 2005 7:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was going to post this in a thread of my own, but since I haven't been on lately I thought I should tag this on here. Seeing as how this one already exists! I found the passage interesting as it shows there were enough of us to take notice of.
_____________________________________________________________

Also if there were any pikers that were left handed from their youth, I would wish them to carry their pikes upon their right shoulders, and to practice and use their pikes with their right hands, in couching and making head with them against either horsemen or footmen, and in all other military exercises and actions. And because such left handed soldiers do wear their swords upon their right sides, I would wish that they should not be placed neither in single bandes, nor in squadrons, upon the uttermost flanks or sides of them, but in some other of the inner ranks



Certen Instructions, obseruations and orders military, requisit for al Chieftains, Captains, and higher and lower men of charg, & officers to vnderstand, know and obserue. Composed by sir Iohn Smythe, knight, 1591


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Stephen Hand




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Jul, 2005 4:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Ryan,

Do you know where I could obtain a copy of Smythe? It's notably absent from my collection of fencing and drill manuals (not that it's strictly speaking either of those).

Cheers
Stephen

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Dimytri Komanatov




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PostPosted: Tue 09 May, 2006 10:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

With all due respect for the obviously learned assembly, I feel I have to chime in here:

In regards to the idea of facing a left-handed opponent: if you are expecting the sword to be in a particular place, then you've lost the fight to begin with. a practitioner (of any sword art) should be taught how to respond to an attack and how to launch an attack, not how to respond to specific maneuvers and techniques. If one is taught how to fight as opposed to how to dance, then handedness of one's opponent is irrelevant.

In regards to the idea of Sword-and-shield on both RH and LH opponents, I keep reading "it would be shield against shield ... sword against sword" and so on, and this idea is likewise - to me - very myopic in scope. Again, the shield and sword are tools in the fight. your training and instincts should guide you - not the rote memorized steps and movements.

Not that I am a follower of his at all, but Bruce Lee put it very succinctly when he said (and I paraphrase here) one who learns movements steps and forms learns only to dance very nicely, even in a martial way. One who learns dynamics, motion, and how to make effective responses to attacks learns to be a fighter. Learning forms teaches only to expect the taught. Learning to fight means learning to expect nothing and be able to respond to anything: to be open.

If you understand how to attack and how to defend, then handedness of your opponent should be irrelevant. Likewise, if you are properly trained to fight, you should not be expecting the weapon to be anywhere - you should be observing your opponent and responding to his attack - wherever it might come from.

[ Edit : just realized how old this topic was - sorry for dragging it out of the quagmire ]
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Mark Eskra




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PostPosted: Thu 15 Jun, 2006 6:21 am    Post subject: Remember         Reply with quote

Well, as far as skill is involved, i use both hands (not at the same time, mind). But remember, you heart is on the left! I prefer having a shield there, personally . Getting hit in the lung'll stop you, but maybe not kill. Getting hit in the heart, well, go figure.
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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Mon 20 Aug, 2007 9:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My response may be a little late but I think that it will fill in a big void. The answers so far are typical of too much accademic work and not enough real fighting. I will not refer to the matter as an issue of left handed or right handed, but rather as off-handed. Regardless if you are right handed fighting against a left handed fighter or left handed fighting against a right handed fighter the challenge is the same for both.

My primary form is sword and shield. I fight both right handed and left handed in the SCA, MSR and in unofficial circles with less restricted rules. I also fence rapier both case and with dagger.

In the case of rapier, longsword, polearm, or single sword were no shield is involved fighting with the off-handed presents little difference. With rapier dagger there is some issue because you can not comfortably block the rapier with you dagger. A rapier fight between off-handed fighters will resemble more of a single rapier fight. The daggers will be largly out of play unless they cross them over their rapier or fight in an extrem refused guard where the dagger is out in front of the tip of the rapier. In any case the off handed opponents will be use to fighting single and will not have trouble adjusting. Crossing your blades is also very risky and should be avoided.


When fighting sword and shield, with a heater size shield, the fighting style changes significatly from like-handed to off-handed fights. In a like-handed fight, the shield is held more open so it covers the the side and front partially. It only need cover half your chest. The sword side of you chest will be out of reach from the other fighter. There is an advanced shot that can hit that opening, but that is the exception. The front foot is always pointing at your opponent or the direction you plan to move in. The back foot among like handed fighter will set further back and to the side for balance. The angle can be anywhere from a 90 degree "L" to 45 degrees.

Among off-handed fighters, the first thing that must change is the footplacement. The back foot must be at a "T" directly behind your front foot. This will shift the shield in front of you body. An off-handed fighter presents little threat to the shield side of your body. His sword arm can't reach you. You sword side is wide open. He can throw wraps all day at your sword side from behind his shield. You can do the same to him if he does not bring his shield over. You have to tilt you body so you shield is flat in front you, not off to the side. Putting one leg behind the other and bringing your shield arm over, will do this.

The shield naturally hinders some of your offensive capabilities as well as you visibility. The bigger the shield, the more defense you have but the more your visisbility and range of attack will be hindered. Moving the shield accross you body as I mentioned before will hinder you even more. Not a problem since both fighters are limited in a similar way. It is very hard to throw an on-side cut from the position I mentioned. If you try to throw an on-side cut, you will naturally rotate you body, move your shield and expose yourself. Your main offense is an off-side cut that comes over your shield to his head (from the shield side) or an on-side wrap to his head or body. The wrap is an on-side cut where you rotate the wrist and strike with the false edge. The dynamics of this cut allow you to bend you arm at the elbow around your shield (and his) to get to your opponent. You will not see you target, you have to anticipate where your target is based on what you can see.

A word of caution on shield bashing and charging. Yes, it does have a place in fighting but it can easily be turned against you because you typically open your shield and move it forward in order to bash. A skilled opponent will be happy to take advantage of this opening. It is more useful when used infrequently. Among like-handed fighters, hooking the edge of your opponents shield and gently pushing it aside can effectively create an opening for you to get your sword in without exposing yourself.

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
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Jean Thibodeau




PostPosted: Tue 21 Aug, 2007 10:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Vassilis Tsafatinos wrote:
In the case of rapier, longsword, polearm, or single sword were no shield is involved fighting with the off-handed presents little difference.


I just started training with longsword a few months ago and I decided to do it right handed just to avoid the confusion of trying to reverse instructions in my mind as I try to do a new exercise.

I'm left handed but very ambidextrous so this has been working well.

But to comment on the above from your very interesting post: I'm agreeing that left handed or right handed doesn't seem to make much difference except on which side the forearms will cross with some guards.

My instructor is actually left handed and often changes lead hand when giving instructions: After I finish the current course of 15 lessons I may just change to left handed for the next session of lessons.

Vassilis: Oh, and I enjoyed your entire post: I just quoted this small portion of it to avoid people having to read it all over again as a very long quote. And I did have specific comments for the part I quoted.

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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Aug, 2007 12:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am glade you got to read my post Jean. You asked the question a while ago and I did not know if you were still looking at the thread.

Sword and shield fighting is often not discussed in forums. This is a result of no early period historical manuals having been written that present a comprehensive fighting system. I have only seen a few plates with pictures of fullsize shields. There is some material on buckler fighting like I.33 but I fear that it largely incomplete and focuses only on certain aspects. Despite that we have such little written material on sword and shield fighting, the use of the shield goes back before ancient Greek times and is usually the main armament that the other armor and weapons center upon. The Romans used a Scutum shield that at four feet high would covered them from their ankles to their neck. Their fighting style would have been very much effected by their restricted range and visibility. The Romans fought many civil wars among themselves, so they would have to devise methods to get around their own shield and the shield of their enemy in order to attack. Through the middle ages I believe the shield was also the main protective armor. Men has to equip themselves for battle and iron was expensive. I suspect that most of the army was covered in leather rather then maile. The images that are often presented in painting and poems are of high nobles not the average soldier. The shield would have been key to their personal defence.

That is what Sword and Shield fighting is all about: How to get around the shield. That includes both your own shield and your enemies. You want to be able to attack from behind your shield without moving it out of the way. Doing so opens you up.

I have a website that I have been developing to illustrate some methods that work. These methods are not rooted on any historical manuals, but on what works from over 30 years of trial an error since the SCA was started. The SCA is an international organization with 50,000 core members and another 100,000 non-member fighters. In a pool that large, you can imagine that there has been a lot of experimentation over time with what works and does not work. We also fight mixed weapons forms. We all wear full armor since the hits are at full speed and full power. This is a critical factor, because a sword is not a light saber, it must strike with speed and power to do the job. Often some tactic that works at slow drilling speed, does not work at high speed. A good example of this is shield positioning. If your shield is out of place and we are fighting at half-speed, as the blow comes in, you will have time to adjust because you can clearly see where my sword is going and that you are not covered there. At full speed and power, if you shield is not already in a good defensive position, you will not have time to adjust. A large shield does not move very fast too far, so it must be in a position where you only need to make minimal movements to cover open areas.

Here is a link to my website: http://mysite.verizon.net/tsafa1/pell/index.htm

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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Tue 21 Aug, 2007 12:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Vassilis Tsafatinos wrote:
The answers so far are typical of too much accademic work and not enough real fighting.


No offense Vassilis, but it is important to understand that none of us, yourself included, have done any real fighting in the middle ages, either. If you have, you're either really old, or have a time machine. Happy I'm not dismissing your experiences based on SCA fighting, but please don't dismiss others who are using "academics" to discuss, because both experimentation and academics are necessary for us to understand. Taking one out of the mix leads us to having misunderstandings of history.

Quote:
In the case of rapier, longsword, polearm, or single sword were no shield is involved fighting with the off-handed presents little difference. With rapier dagger there is some issue because you can not comfortably block the rapier with you dagger. A rapier fight between off-handed fighters will resemble more of a single rapier fight. The daggers will be largly out of play unless they cross them over their rapier or fight in an extrem refused guard where the dagger is out in front of the tip of the rapier. In any case the off handed opponents will be use to fighting single and will not have trouble adjusting. Crossing your blades is also very risky and should be avoided.


I have to strongly disagree here. Left handedness or no, your sword is your primary defense in rapier & dagger, with your dagger being an aid to the sword. The difference between fighting righty vs lefty is the fact that things are backwards, and if one is not used to it, it throws you off. The fencing theory and techniques themselves, however, for the most part remain the same.

Quote:
In a like-handed fight, the shield is held more open so it covers the the side and front partially. It only need cover half your chest.


I understand what you're saying here, and once upon a time I would have agreed with this. But over the recent years there have been a great deal of study (notably Stephen Hand) where historical documentation doesn't agree with this. If you haven't already, I recommend checking out Hand's articles in SPADA and SPADA II, in which he shows strong evidence of holding the shield edge forward when engaged in one-on-one combat. Furthermore, in this methodology, the body moves around the shield moreso than the shield moving around the body. This will make the lefty/righty issue a little more even, though still going back to the issue of the fact that it will look backwards to a person unused to fighting a left hander.

Quote:
An off-handed fighter presents little threat to the shield side of your body. His sword arm can't reach you. You sword side is wide open. He can throw wraps all day at your sword side from behind his shield.


In the methodolgy Steve Hand brings up, wrap shots are really not going to work, because they will leave you exposed and in range for an easy counter-attack. So it won't matter whether the opponent is right handed or left handed.

Quote:
The shield naturally hinders some of your offensive capabilities as well as you visibility.


I'll accept that, provided you mean that the shield prohibits the offensive capabilities of your sword. The shield itself, however, is still and offensive weapon.

Quote:
Moving the shield accross you body as I mentioned before will hinder you even more. Not a problem since both fighters are limited in a similar way.


Very much agreed, which is why I mention the methods that Steve Hand outlines, as this strongly negates this issue.

Quote:
A word of caution on shield bashing and charging. Yes, it does have a place in fighting but it can easily be turned against you because you typically open your shield and move it forward in order to bash. A skilled opponent will be happy to take advantage of this opening. It is more useful when used infrequently. Among like-handed fighters, hooking the edge of your opponents shield and gently pushing it aside can effectively create an opening for you to get your sword in without exposing yourself.


I think this last part has a lot of truth to it.

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


"A despondent heart will always be defeated regardless of skill."
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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Aug, 2007 2:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Bill, thank you for you responses. I have a few things I would like to clarify. I may not have been clear on my original posts. I did not mean by any means that "academics" should be ignored. I whole heartedly agree that they should be looked at first and understood and with that forknowlegde begin hands on training and sparring. I think that there is a lot of information that the manuals do not include. A lot of it may have been lost over time or just not included because it was taking for granted. I do believe that the manuals where written for well to do people mainly for the purpose of dulling. I do not think that the original authors would have had any interest in the frontline tactics of common soldiers. Hence there is little information on fullsize shield fighting. I do think that a lot of missunderstanding arrises when people only look at manual and do slow drills. The techniques in those manuals were meant to be done at full power and full speed with the purpose of hurting someone.

On the issue of the Rapier Dagger, I don't think we have a disagreement either. I agree that the rapier is the main defense and offense. The only thing I was pointing out is that in the case of off-handed fighters the daggers are out of play and that fight resembles more of a fight between single rapiers because the rapiers are matched up on the same side. It is awkward for the dagger to cross over to block any shots unless they are thrown to his dagger side and that is not likely. The only exception might be if the person leads with his dagger so that it is past the point of his rapier as I mentioned earlier.

Now on the issue of Sword and Shield which is the focus of this thread. Holding the shield slightly forward is fine for like handed fighters, but this is suicide for off-handed fighters. In the texts that you mention, does it specifically mention if the fighters are off-handed or like-handed?

If you hold your shield out against an off-handed fighter he hardly needs to even wrap. You are open enough so that a vertical cut or a thrust will get you too. I practice twice a week week with sword and shield. Once lefty and the other righty. I have a lot of experience with off-handed fighting. If you open up, you get hit easily in an off-handed fight. Fighting off-handed is a very different fight then fighting like-handed with a shield. For off-handed fighting the shield need to come all the way across you body and cover it.

I should also mention that in the course of fighting off-handed, I sometimes do get sloppy and let my shield drift open. That is when I get hit.

On the issue of wrap shots for an off-handed fighting, the key to your safety is to keep you shield in place. The shield covers the front of you body entirely. The wrap shot first most come around your shield and then your opponents shield. You can not throw an on-side shot from this position without opening you shield or banging your forearm against your own shield. In the case of the wrap the inside of your elbow hits you shield and your forearm continues it course, bending around the shield to your target.

So because the shield stays covering the front of your body and you are throwing your forearm around your own shield, you are still in good defensive position. This is rather complicated, and requires practice. But once you learn it, it works well.

I think we are agreed on the rest of the points Bill. If I have not convinced you yet of what I have said, then the fault is with my explanations rather then with the technique. I shall have to find someone to do a slow video demonstration with and post it.

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
Roger of Hoveden, 1174-1201
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Michele Hansen




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Aug, 2010 1:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Aaron Schnatterly wrote:
One additional thing to consider here, guys... the shield isn't solely there to be bashed on by an opponent. There aren't many who I have run into that actually put this into practice, but those who did, often kicked my back side thoroughly with the shield as a weapon.

That shield can be used to bash, trip, hack, bind... it's a real nuissance when it's actively deployed rather than passively placed in the way. In a nasty, heated, got-out-of-control, seriously insulted my lady's honor and I really got pissed off pseudo-duel once, I put the point of a heater in an opponent's solar plexus, then beat him halfway to nowhere while he was sucking wind. I'm not proud of the event, but it is an example of what someone can do when they actually mean it. A decade later, I ran into him again, and that's the first thing he thought of... the pointy part of that heater.

Skilled men-at-arms of the day would have developed great skill with a shield, and would have fought with both hands - sword AND shield. With an aggressive weapon in each hand, lefty or righty, nasty from any direction.


You are absolutely correct with your statement about the shield attack. In my sojourn with a re-enactment of the 14th C. the key factor of the use of the sword is not about "fencing," but actually wrestling against an opponent. The right hand shield attack could very effectively be used to break a jaw or neck of an opponent under his helm before he could adjust his fighting style, rendering an enemy unable to contine fighting, and move quickly to dispatch the next man in line. I doubt left-handed fighters had to "yield to strength" as often as their right-handed counterparts. Your solar plexus example is actually quite hilarious. There is nothing cooler to watch than a well trained, enraged man, weighing somwhere around two-hundred pounds or more beat the crap out of his opponent, even with padded swords. Wish I were there to witness it.

Il est apelée de Montfort. Il est el Mond, et si est fort. Si ad grant chevalrie; Je vois et je m’ acort. Il eime le droit, et het le tort. Si avera le mestrie!
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PostPosted: Tue 03 Aug, 2010 10:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I missed this discussion in the way back when. I find it very interesting, and have a specific comment about LH vs. RH sword and buckler.

I work a lot with I.33, and one of my students is a lefty. I.33 does not discuss left-handed use at all.

It took some effort for us to find the corresponding techniques against an opposite handed person, but it more or less works following the same principles. It's just a matter of doing as close to the same thing on the other side as possible.

However, there is a significant exception that gives us a lot of grief. I.33 uses a lot of buckler pins, where you pin the sword and buckler simultaneously with your buckler. With a same handed person, this pins the sword hand across your opponent's body under the buckler. Against a mirror-handed person, the sword arm doesn't cross the body, meaning that it is less strongly pinned down. The follow up is to release the sword bind and strike a blow, but a mirror-hander can free their own sword and be on the inside of the line when they do it. This makes the shield-knock pretty much useless against a mirror-hander that has any practice, which of course the lefty has more practice than the righty.

As is often the case, this is harder to describe in words than to demo in person, but I hope I've conveyed the meaning.

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PostPosted: Tue 03 Aug, 2010 1:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Shackleton wrote:
I... Against a mirror-handed person, the sword arm doesn't cross the body, meaning that it is less strongly pinned down. The follow up is to release the sword bind and strike a blow, but a mirror-hander can free their own sword and be on the inside of the line when they do it. This makes the shield-knock pretty much useless against a mirror-hander that has any practice, which of course the lefty has more practice than the righty.


Thank you, Craig, for your insight and experience with Lefty sword tactics. I just joined this site, therefore, only read this thread yesterday. I have read accounts of left-handed knights when well trained, being some of the deadliest fighters in the field. My assumption about the effectiveness of using the right-side shield as a weapon, was based on the lefty having the advantage of A. surprise, and B. the natural tendency for most men to use over-shield, or cross-body attacks from behind the shield to to hit an opponent's less protected "sword arm." A left-hander might sustain a lot of right arm injuries, but still have free use of his sword to diapatch an enemy. Besides, spending one's life with a symbolic "sinister" characteristic might have made such men strive to prove their valor with more vigor, or follow their "cursed condition" into ruthlessness and debauchery. LOL! There's an interesting plot device for developing an SCA back-story.

Il est apelée de Montfort. Il est el Mond, et si est fort. Si ad grant chevalrie; Je vois et je m’ acort. Il eime le droit, et het le tort. Si avera le mestrie!
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Jean Thibodeau




PostPosted: Tue 03 Aug, 2010 9:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michele, just welcome to the site and as Nathan mentioned on another Topic thread there is a great deal of content on this site you may want to explore: Many people who find this site through the Forums may not be immediately aware of the great number of articles and features that give more depth to this site.

Just saying that I hope you explore the content here as I'm sure you will find it very interesting.

You may notice also that this site is very friendly and we try to be helpful and welcome questions. Wink Cool

Somewhat off topic, but I like your enthusiasm. Big Grin Cool


Note: I'm naturally left handed but generally train as a right hander, with a shield holding the shield as a right hander also means that my heavy shield would also be held by my strong side.

With 1:33 I also trained as a right hander but our director is left handed and uses the shield as a left hander and manages quite well to teach right handers ...... at times it might be slightly confusing to reverse stuff in our minds but it does develop a lot of mental flexibility.

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PostPosted: Wed 04 Aug, 2010 4:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well I'll add my two pence, as a lefty and a HEMA teacher. In the case of LH versus RH, LH has an advantage only if the RH is unfamiliar with this opponent. Oddly, I've never found facing another LH all that daunting. As for using a shield (or buckler) LH...it is possible, but it reverses nearly everything and frankly doesn't appear to have happened with any regularity historically. Of the two forms I found that a large shield (being more a static defense) was easier to use LH. A buckler on the other hand was a different beast...I found that everything was in the wrong place. In the end I have found it far easier to learn and teach sword & shield techniques RH.
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