Scottish sword and buckler was not a system in its own right, but a variation on the art of the broadsword. Once a swordsman understood the art of the single broadsword sufficiently, his broadsword master would give him a few tips about what to do with a buckler:
Donald McBane (1728):
“At Sword and Buckler, keep your left hand extended with your Buckler, at such a rate as not to hinder your fight, taking care to cover your Buckler with your Sword, and as much on your Out-side Guard. And if you cut at his leg, take care to cover your head with your Buckler.”
Archibald MacGregor (1791):
“Whole armies used to engage with sword and buckler, and warded off the blows with the latter, by raising it up, keeping it low, or to one side, just as the blow was directed. And those who were the most dextrous at using it, came best off. After keeping off their adversary’s blow with the shield, they returned theirs with the sword.”
From these brief comments, we can see that the guard for sword and buckler was the outside guard, with the left arm extended and the sword crossing in front of the buckler. This matches what Page has to say about the sword and targe, and McBane’s advice to cover the head when attacking the leg is also found in Page. MacGregor’s comment describes a method based mostly on parrying with the buckler and then riposting with the sword rather than attempting a simultaneous counter. MacGregor also emphasizes that the more “dextrous” swordsman is likely to win in a bout with sword and buckler, and in our experience the presence of the buckler results in a highly dynamic bout.
In the first video, both fencers begin on the hanging guard. While this is not specifically mentioned by McBane, Page mentions that the hanging guard was sometimes used with sword and targe, and this was probably true of the buckler as well. At :20 seconds, both fencers switch to the outside guard as described by McBane.
At 1:04, you can see the leg attack with head cover described by McBane. At 1:22, there’s an example of Page’s Drop. This is a leg attack made on deeply bent knees, also with head cover as McBane recommends. The Drop is repeated at 2:25.
Throughout the video, you can see how the buckler allows for a highly aggressive, “dextrous” style of play. We use the circular footwork of the older broadsword systems frequently in this video, but the speed of the action requires us to apply the footwork in a rapid, fluid way.
Most of the exchanges match MacGregor’s description of a method based on the riposte, but we use a lot of Page’s sword and targe system in our interpretation of sword and buckler. At 2:43, Chris lowers both weapons to his waist in an invitation described by Page. When Matt attacks, Chris parries with the sword, lifts Matt’s sword up with the buckler, and cuts under. We call this technique the Lift. Versions of the Lift are found in several broadsword systems including Page and Lonnergan.
The Lift is also a good example of our principle of “contact, control, kill.” You make contact with the sword as you close in, control his sword with your buckler, then kill him with your sword.
So, how does the extremely simple Scottish method of sword and buckler compare with a true sword and buckler system like I.33?
In these bouts with Seth Robinson, Chris takes the offensive from McBane’s outside guard and then lands a touch at :31 with the covered leg attack. At :45, Seth parries with his buckler and lands a cut on Chris’s left flank. Seth closes in with a simultaneous buckler parry and head cut at 1:17. Chris charges in with a barrage of attacks at 1:20, and cuts the left flank while covering his head with his buckler. Seth does the same thing to Chris at 1:33. Chris makes another covered leg attack at 1:36. Seth cuts in between Chris’s weapons and strikes his face at 1:43. Chris makes a covered leg attack but is also struck on the left flank at 1:53. In the second bout, Chris lands a strike to Seth’s buckler arm at 2:30, and a small slice to the face at 2:40. He walks right into a rising cut to his left flank at 3:05. Seth scores a leg cut at 3:47. Chris parries with his buckler and makes a cut to the high lines at 3:55. (All times given are approximate!)
The results of these bouts were almost exactly even, so the Scottish approach of treating sword and buckler as a variation on single broadsword seems to be a viable method.
When experimenting with this combination, the most effective approach seems to be to use a hit and run style based on sudden barrages of attacks followed by equally sudden retreats. Every once in a while, cut at the legs while covering your head. Use “contact, control, kill” when you get the chance.
Source ‘The Cateran Society‘