Tag Archives: shields

how could someone with a knife and a shield fight someone with a sword and not die, if running away wasn’t an option?

Bash them with the shield.

It’s easy to look at shields as a strictly defensive item, but they are a weapon. Historically shields saw some pretty aggressive use in combat. Shields aren’t simply about blocking an enemy attack, they’re also for retaliating, and creating openings in your opponent’s guard. This may be as simple as (briefly) tying up your opponents weapon by swinging the shield away, after you’ve deflected a blow, or it may be something more involved, such as using the edge of the shield to wedge into an opponents armor, pinning them.

Shields do offer a lot of options to a creative fighter. Including allowing them to close distances, through an enemy’s guard, in ways that an unshielded combatant can’t.

One very simple (and risky) solution to your problem would be to rush the swordsman with the shield up, to prevent them from getting a good swing in, pin them against a wall, and run the dagger through their foe’s neck. It’s risky, because if they’re not able to pin the sword before closing the gap, they could end up running themselves through.

Remember, swords do have a minimum effective range. Get close enough to someone, and they won’t be able to get a good hit in with their sword. While this is also true of shields, it’s not the case with most daggers.

It’s not an optimal situation for dealing with a sword, but a shield does offer options to negate the sword’s advantage over a dagger. The shielded combatant has options for dealing with the sword’s reach. Without that, the knife fighter would be screwed.


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Is there any situation (not modern-day) in which wooden armor would be useful or at least adequate? Like maybe made out of lighter wood like bamboo or balsawood?

Well, there is the myth that bamboo was used as armor in Japan. You’ll not the word “myth” there, actual feudal Japanese armor was made from varying combinations of leather and metal. So, that’s out.

Bamboo is used for the construction some styles of staves. It’s not armor, but you can make weapons out of the stuff, so at least there’s that. Then again, being able to make some varieties of weapons out of wood isn’t news.

Moving on, Balsa is not a good option. For those who’ve never worked with this stuff, Balsa is a very light wood. It’s used in architectural models, airplane toy kits, and to create breakaway furniture for film and TV.

If you’ve ever watched a movie where a character pulls the leg off a chair without much force, or shatters one against wall, the prop was probably made from balsa.

In addition to being a very light wood it’s quite fragile; which is what makes it ideal for stunt work. It’s also quite easy to work. You can easily cut this stuff to size with a pocket knife. If you’re making a trestle for your model railroad, or whittling pieces for a diorama, balsa isn’t a bad choice.

But, when you’re trying to stop an incoming attack, balsa is far less appealing.

The closest you’ll get to wooden armor in the real world were
shields. Interestingly, softwoods (such as pine or yew) actually made for better shields.
As I understand it, the reasoning is that softwoods better absorb force,
while hardwoods (such as oak) are more inclined to breaking. (Amusingly, Balsa is a

If you’re working with a fantasy setting, there’s no reason you couldn’t have some kind of cured light wood that can be used as the base for a practical armor. But, I’m not aware of any tree in the real world that would work.


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In regard to only using a shield in battle, there is an odd looking long shield from Germany called a Duelling Shield that was designed for both offense and defense. It was only designed for judicial duels, but I guess it could manage unarmed foes.

With the caveat that I’m not incredibly familiar with judicial dueling practices through history. Those got weird over time.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a judicial duel was a means of arbitrating a dispute. It’s a direct ancestor of modern legal systems. Over time there was a move away from deciding who was right via killing one of the parties or their representative. Feel free to insert a cheap lawyer joke here.

What little I know of the German Dueling Shields was that they were were intended to be used with a sword. The manuals I’ve seen do have techniques intended to be used if the sword is lost or, and otherwise unavailable. I don’t know if that was for certain kinds of disputes or if they were contingency techniques.

Shields that are specifically designed to harm the opponent are real. But, again, they’re designed to harm the opponent, but they’re not designed to be used alone.


How does one fight with a shield as their primary equipment? I’m aware that this is impractical, but in the case where a warrior was disarmed, how could they put up a fight with a shield alone? Sorry if this has been asked before.

You can bash with the shield, and in a pinch, depending on the specific design of the shield, you could strike with the edge.

That said, your character’s first goal should be to get their hands on another weapon, using their shield to buy enough time to do that. Ideally your character should be carrying a backup weapon already, but, if they don’t, or their sword was their final fallback weapon, they’re going to need to get creative and find or improvise one quickly.