Thanks for the speedy answer.
Do you ask all your interested students to make their own shields? Or do you (as the overworked sifu) make them? We have thought about spending a weekend or so leading a group where everyone wove their own rattan shields.
We rapidly discovered that rolling with a shield is a lot harder to do than it looks. Rolls and a few other moves are harder still when using a rattan shield as there is a larger
diameter and the shield is “deeper”. We also found the shield sets are tiring because there is so much difference between the arm holding the shield and the one holding the blade.
Have you ever fired an arrow at a rattan shield? I am reluctant to risk a shield (or an arrow, for that matter) to find out at what range an arrow penetrates. Of course, if the arrow does go through, but then no longer has enough energy to seriously injure the target then the shield did its job.
I would imagine, were I a Japanese commander fighting in China, I would have my archers, who typically out-ranged Chinese archers, try to fire through the Chinese shields. If the Chinese infantry could maintain their charge after the arrow attacks I would order spears to be used next with katanas only as a last resort. I am not sure how useful heavy pole weapons like naginatas or kwan daos would be against
shields. I had hoped to find someone like yourself who had dared to risk precious shields (and probably equally expensive long weapons) to find out.
Choy Lay Fut Grandmaster Doc Fai-wong wrote an article 7 or 8 years ago specifying sheet copper for shields. As you probably know, few Chinese shields have survived. As far as I know, none were copper. We experimented with copper – with sufficient thickness it can withstand a sword poke or a saber slash. The copper will bend, but, ironically, it is too soft to break. A spear or an arrow is a different story.
But from an economic point of view even then a thick copper shield cost too much and took too long to make. Also way too heavy to fight with for very long. Bronze is actually stronger and can be lighter but costs even more. So I am obliged to conclude that maybe some high ranking officers had metal shields, but that infantry used wood probably with some leather.
I was always very impressed in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings
that the Witch King shatters Eowyn’s shield, breaks her arm and drives
her to her knees.