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Death of a Hundred Dollar Shield
Notes on Realistic Crudity in Combat
© 2013 James LaFond
This past Saturday, 1/19/13, Cory and I fought two machete duels and one duel with a Cold Steel gladius, which was even nastier. [Thank you Lynn Thompson—you psychotic millionaire!] We fought with only head and hands. Cory did have bracers on. We were assuming gladiatorial limb protection. The idea was not to call ourselves out [FMA style] for disabling limb shots, because the gladiators we were representing wore limb protection. Of course, since those gladiators faced sharps instead of blunts we went without limb protection in order to experience some of the actual ancient risks; if not to life, at least to limb.
I have done hundreds of these duels and Cory only a handful. He has never gotten to me with a steel blunt so I walked out there confident that I was going to school, then hunt, then execute him. He is a huge dude at 6’ 5” and over 350 lbs. He does not have a shield of similar proportions. In edged weapon dueling, unless a guy this big has a massive shield he is at a real disadvantage due to his large target area. Relatively speaking my shield offered much more coverage.
As the instructor at a weapons seminar I wanted to demonstrate some integrated slash and thrust and aggressive shield work.
Cory had other ideas. The big man had lost 30 pounds and was fighting in front of Bob Light, his karate instructor. Everyone was impressed by his dynamic movement, except for me. It scared the shit out of me! In three seconds I went from trainer sparring with one of his fighters to a little primate battling a really big aggressive one for a really small piece of turf!
People who teach shield and blade tell you not to just beat on the other guy’s shield to save your blade. They also tell you to parry with the flat or spine not the edge. You know what, the edge gets there quicker! Screw the blade. I’ll sharpen it after I survive this bad idea gone worse!
There is a purpose to beating a shield, which is what this devolved into, a shield smashing contest. I was beating on Cory’s shield to tire his arm and to cause him to momentarily tense his shoulder so that I could get the pronated stab or lateral forehand over the top after a feint or a beat.
Cory just decided to destroy my Museum Replicas shield! And he did; bending the frame, smashing in the boss, popping a rivet, and bruising my large knuckles. My strategy devolved into wearing him down by staying on the outside. The videos will be up on this site on the Agonistics page before January is out, so judge for yourself how this all worked out for us. Charles commented that it almost looked like something from Myth Busters—a crude shield test. I agree that it was crude. I had been working on lots of technical marvels to dazzle the students and drop the big man at my feet.
What changed my mind?
Well, when he began moving so aggressively and threatening low stabs with a 360 pound lunge behind it, I decided to be careful; and got real conservative, hoping he would tire out. But then, minutes on, when he was still going strong, sucking in air with such bellows like authority that I was robbed of my own oxygen supply, I decided to get nasty—behind the shield of course. Then he sheared into the shield and I felt it shiver and bend, my hand getting numb. I knew if he caught me punching with that shield and cleaved my unprotected elbow I would lose use of that arm. I settled for hand sniping and shield beating until he got tired enough to drop the thing and expose his juicy neck…
I really can’t tell you what the hell happened because I was afraid and fighting on instinct; a weathered old chimp taking on a young gorilla. A primal rush it was; art it was not. It is what contact weaponry is all about, putting a reality check on the artistic impulse to perfect the chaos of combat.
Check out the videos and judge for yourself. In the meantime, all I can say is that I’m proud of Cory, and glad I can actually type with both of these bruised up hands today.
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