Medieval Fighting Tactics

The style of fighting with sword and shield varied little through out Europe and consisted mostly of cutting at the foe from behind the shield. With the sword drawn back it could be held out of sight of an opponent behind the shield so they could not see where a cut was coming from. This type of deception is why the quickest and most aggressive usually won an encounter- you had little warning where to move your shield to block a blow.

It should be pointed out that a blow was almost always blocked with the shield and not with the sword (except in dire instances), because it left you vulnerable to counter attack, off balance and could damage your prized weapon. You can’t fight well without a shield, but you were in real serious trouble if you broke, nicked or dulled your sword on top of it.

Strong foes who knew their stuff would go at each other blow for blow for longer periods (minutes usually) causing the shield to become so damaged it was rendered useless and at this time one had to rely on good swordsmanship to both cut and parry as well as thrust. Even so, if your foe still possessed the use of a shield the outcome was almost always in their favor.