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Someone recently asked me if there was ever a reason to attack the shield side when fighting a right-handed shield man. The answer is a resounding “Yes!”
Many people avoid attacking the shield side because reaching it is a slow, risky and difficult process. To reach the shield side the lefty must throw cross body, which requires the sword to travel a fair distance. During this travel the sword is out of position to block the left side of the body, leaving the lefty exposed to a counter attack or riposte. The opponent’s shield is blocking off easy access to the shield side, making hits more difficult to achieve.
All of these objections are valid, but there are several excellent reasons to attack the shield side anyway. Shots to the shield side keep the opponent honest. The vulnerability of attacks to the shield side can be exploited to gain control of the fight. Some shield-side attacks just look cool, and looking good is important.
Attacking the shield side keeps an opponent honest. I’m not referring to the opponent breaking the rules, I’m referring to them cheating (aka shifting) their shield over to their sword side, weakening their shield-side defense in the expectation that you won’t attack that side. Attacks to the shield-side force the opponent to keep their guard in a more balanced position, which in turn leaves the more vulnerable sword side less protected.
Additionally, attacks to the shield side keep them mentally honest. Not only do they have to physically protect that side but they must mentally be prepared for attacks in that area. This opens the opportunity to throw more fakes and baits; throwing actual shots to the shield side lends verisimilitude to fakes to the shield side. By expanding the mental space of shots they have to consider you make their defensive choices more complex and difficult.
The vulnerability of shield-side attacks can also be exploited. Knowing how an opponent will counter to an opening allows you to fake that opening, baiting them into making the “sure-fire” counter, and then you can exploit the attack they have made. This enables you to force your opponent to act in a known matter, which makes you the one controlling the fight. For example, when an opponent knows they can chop your ribs when you high cross, you can bait the high cross by throwing a short chop to the shield instead (which can look a lot like you’re starting a high cross), catch the rib chop with a sword block, and now, having the inside lane, kill your opponent. This is, in fact, one of my default baits.
Finally, shield-side attacks can just look cool. Throwing dark side hip-wraps is a visually impressive way to kill people. I’ve actually had people give me money to kill other fighters that way. I’ve thrown dark side shoulder chops on tall people just for the humorous response when they get hit in the shield shoulder from under the shield. Even the much-maligned high-cross has a place in your fighting toolbox. All this demonstrates another important element of truth; shield-side attacks can work, and killing the other guy is the point of the game.
Learning shots to the shield-side is an important part of building your lefty game. These shots force your opponent to defend all areas of their body and make their defensive choices more difficult. Shield-side shots make your feints and baits more believable and give you more feint and bait options. Most importantly, shield-side attacks work, which expands your options as a fighter and makes you a bigger threat on the field.