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The Medival European Knight vs a Japanese Samurai

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  • [QUOTE=Swampwolf;647952]England has its legend of Robin Hood, splitting one arrow with a second, and Japan has Yoichi, splitting in half the Taira (enemy clan, during a major naval battle) symbolic fan in half with an arrow.

    /QUOTE]

    I also think you will find that this "Y" shaped arrows was commonly used for rope cutting,

    An example can be seen in the link below

    http://www.artswords.com/sukashiarrows.htm

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    • OMG, how can I not throw my two cents in. Sowwy....

      I seen a bit of both cultures - I've fenced for many years and was an SCA hanger on and use to take Aikido and now take Kendo and Iaido. I think that looking at the different time periods creates a different situation. The 11th to 12th C has knights wearing mostly chainmail, which would be less effective against the Yumi, or bow. With both on horse, a samurai could avoid the knight and dismount him first, then fill him full of arrows.

      As plate is introduced, the equation evens. During the Nanbokucho Wars of the 1300's, the samurai often use impact weapons like a large, two-handed mace and the No-Dachi, the two-handed sword. Horse archery is still used somewhat, but on the decline. In a one on one duel, this would likely neutralize the lance charge. Also, the Japanese blades developed during this era were second to none. Smiths such as Masamune or Muramasa (the cursed) created blades that could cut through four or five persons with one stroke. I once saw a katana that came with a certificate of authenticity that it had sliced through two people with one cut.

      During the 1500's, I'd give an advantage to the knight in full plate with a barded horse. The plate armor of the time, like the Maximillian armor, was difficult to penetrate with any missile or bladed weapon. Also, a weapon like the pole axe or Bec de Corbin was devastating in the hands of an expert. The advantage the samurai would have would be in visibility. Against the knight I would have a naginata or yari and a katana as backup.
      TTFN

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      • Originally posted by Kendoka Girl View Post
        OMG, how can I not throw my two cents in. Sowwy....

        During the 1500's, I'd give an advantage to the knight in full plate with a barded horse. The plate armor of the time, like the Maximillian armor, was difficult to penetrate with any missile or bladed weapon. Also, a weapon like the pole axe or Bec de Corbin was devastating in the hands of an expert. The advantage the samurai would have would be in visibility. Against the knight I would have a naginata or yari and a katana as backup.
        The standard way to beat a knight that I have heard of is team tactics, Get him off his horse (if mounted) with arrows or a billhook, and get him down with two or three opponents (am thinking Agincourt here), and use a very thin, long blade to get in between plates. I will look around for a picture. Did the Japanese have any long thin Blades for getting in between armour joints? Go ahead, suprise me, I bet they're out there somewhere......... Mind you this would be less likely in a one on one combat....
        One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions - Admiral Grace Hopper

        "The eunuch should not take pride in his chastity."
        Wu Cheng'en Monkey

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        • Originally posted by Chukka View Post
          The standard way to beat a knight that I have heard of is team tactics, Get him off his horse (if mounted) with arrows or a billhook, and get him down with two or three opponents (am thinking Agincourt here), and use a very thin, long blade to get in between plates. I will look around for a picture. Did the Japanese have any long thin Blades for getting in between armour joints? Go ahead, suprise me, I bet they're out there somewhere......... Mind you this would be less likely in a one on one combat....
          While your tactic would work, the whole thread would was geared towards a one-on-one combat. Be it on horse or foot, who would win in a head to head matchup?

          TacCovert4 did bring up an interesting point about that the knight that trained in the heavy armor, knowing nothing else, would be just as quick as a samurai on foot. I'm not totally sold on his concept, but it does raise questions on how a knight on foot would fight. I still believe that a knight on horse meeting a samurai on horse willing to charge each other; the knight wins. On foot; samurai hands down.
          Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

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          • I certainly would agree with R. Evans on that. The shock value of a knight's charge is hard to beat. While the samurai did employ some shock cavalry, such as with the Takeda, they often used their yari in a slashing attack rather than like a lance, using the weight of the horse for added impact.

            While the best armor of the late medieval period was well fitted and relatively easy to move in, it was still heavy and many of the helmets lacked visibility. If the knight wore an open faced helm or removed it, he'd present a nice target for a cut or thrust.
            TTFN

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            • the idea of the knight being trained in his armor is valid ive seen guys doing forward rolls in full plate but id still have to give it to the samurai hes got aikido and thats that .
              aikido is all about unarmed combat fighting and disarming your enemy and useing an enemys strength aginst them
              thats right folks the stonger you are the more its gonna hurt
              BE PURE! BE VIGILANT! BEHAVE!

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              • While a samurai (as opposed to the rank and file ashigaru or bushi) was usually training in unarmed combat, his daisho (katana and wakizashi) were his heart and soul. Generally, they trained in a form of Jujutsu, which stressed grappling. Aikido actually came about in the 20th Century with Ueshiba Morihei, known as O-Sensei.

                The jutsu arts were the actual, lethal combat arts, but you are correct in that Aikido uses the opponent's force against him.
                TTFN

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                • thank you for for the educateing me kendoka girl i know it from painful exp
                  BE PURE! BE VIGILANT! BEHAVE!

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                  • Originally posted by captainsennef View Post
                    I'm not so sure about the outcome...
                    Unlike the knight, the samurai didn't think it was 'ungentlemanly' to use a bow in battle.
                    Such an encounter might have been more akin to what the knights experienced at the hands of the Mongols.
                    In a corridor the knight would win; but with room for manoeuvre, the samurai could keep his distance and continue to shoot arrows at the knight till the knight was unhorsed; then proceed from there as the situation presented itself.
                    That is very true, contrary to popular belief, the traditional weapon of the Samurai was the bow; they were originally horse borne archers. It would be interesting to see a test of how a katana would perform against European armor.

                    They were frightning weapons; the traditional way for a Samurai to test the sword prior to accepting it from the smith was by executing a criminal. This involved using a stroke that started at the shoulder, on downward diagonal through the torso, in the process cutting trough the ribcage and spinal column, cutting off the head and upper right torso of the criminal being thus executed.

                    If the Samurai was unable to carry out the execution in a single stroke, the weapon would not be accepted from the smith. It would be interesting to see how a sword that was capable of inflicting such a cut would preform against plate armor.
                    Give me a fast ship and the wind at my back for I intend to sail in harms way! (John Paul Jones)

                    Initiated Chief Petty Officer
                    Hard core! Old School! Deal with it!

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                    • Originally posted by bass_man86 View Post
                      That is very true, contrary to popular belief, the traditional weapon of the Samurai was the bow; they were originally horse borne archers. It would be interesting to see a test of how a katana would perform against European armor.

                      They were frightning weapons; the traditional way for a Samurai to test the sword prior to accepting it from the smith was by executing a criminal. This involved using a stroke that started at the shoulder, on downward diagonal through the torso, in the process cutting trough the ribcage and spinal column, cutting off the head and upper right torso of the criminal being thus executed.

                      If the Samurai was unable to carry out the execution in a single stroke, the weapon would not be accepted from the smith. It would be interesting to see how a sword that was capable of inflicting such a cut would preform against plate armor.

                      Welcome to the discussion

                      Or how a katana or broadsword would stand against each other? That's the question in my mind. If the swords meet, granting that each contestant blocked the other's blow, then which one stands that test? I've read of Japanese blades being very strong for their size, however the European swords weren't exactly made of wood. So does the pure heft and weight of the knight's sword break or bend the samurai sword or does the sheer cutting power of the katana or no-dachi slice the broadsword in half? That's what this would boil down to, all things being equal.
                      Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

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                      • Originally posted by R. Evans View Post
                        Welcome to the discussion

                        Or how a katana or broadsword would stand against each other? That's the question in my mind. If the swords meet, granting that each contestant blocked the other's blow, then which one stands that test? I've read of Japanese blades being very strong for their size, however the European swords weren't exactly made of wood. So does the pure heft and weight of the knight's sword break or bend the samurai sword or does the sheer cutting power of the katana or no-dachi slice the broadsword in half? That's what this would boil down to, all things being equal.
                        I dunno.

                        I think the main question is who would survive the longest? The samurai would have the agility and a better weapon, but he would have to hit a very small spot for a killing blow (the joints in the armor), while the knight would only need one good solid blow to severely injure the samurai.

                        If we put the knight in the 15th century gothic armor of Germany/Italy, I think the knight would win. Even if he were using a slow, two-handed sword, the samurai couldn't dodge/block forever. The samurai would need to win quickly, while the knight could afford to take his time. The knight doesn't need to block every strike against him, while the samurai would have little to no room for error.

                        And well-made armor for knights wasn't too much of an inpediment. From wikipedia:

                        While it looks heavy, a full plate armour set could be as light as only 20 kg (45 pounds) if well made of tempered steel. This is less than the weight of modern combat gear of an infantry soldier, and the weight is better distributed. The weight was so well spread over the body that a fit man could run, or jump into his saddle. Modern re-enactment activity has proven it is even possible to swim in armour. It is possible for a fit and trained man in armour to run after and catch an unarmoured archer.
                        Knowing this, the samurai would only possess a slim lead in manuverability. And that wouldn't be enough in my mind.

                        I bet if you make them duel in a desert or in a marsh, then the outcome could be different.

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                        • Originally posted by daemonofdecay View Post
                          I dunno.

                          I think the main question is who would survive the longest? The samurai would have the agility and a better weapon, but he would have to hit a very small spot for a killing blow (the joints in the armor), while the knight would only need one good solid blow to severely injure the samurai.

                          If we put the knight in the 15th century gothic armor of Germany/Italy, I think the knight would win. Even if he were using a slow, two-handed sword, the samurai couldn't dodge/block forever. The samurai would need to win quickly, while the knight could afford to take his time. The knight doesn't need to block every strike against him, while the samurai would have little to no room for error.

                          And well-made armor for knights wasn't too much of an inpediment. From wikipedia:



                          Knowing this, the samurai would only possess a slim lead in manuverability. And that wouldn't be enough in my mind.

                          I bet if you make them duel in a desert or in a marsh, then the outcome could be different.
                          Good points, but let's not forget that the samurai also wore armor and in the time frame you're talking about, had access to European breastplates from the Portugese.

                          So we are back at square one, no?

                          Edit: I see you said 15th century which is the 1400s correct? Then the samurai would not have the breastplate armor. It wasn't until the mid 1500s that they started wearing these. But still, samurai armor was very protective and could withstand a few blows from swords. It did have armor plates woven into the overall scheme, especially on the arms, shoulders and torso.
                          Last edited by R. Evans; 08 Dec 07, 18:44.
                          Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

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                          • Originally posted by R. Evans View Post
                            Good points, but let's not forget that the samurai also wore armor and in the time frame you're talking about, had access to European breastplates from the Portugese.

                            So we are back at square one, no?

                            Edit: I see you said 15th century which is the 1400s correct? Then the samurai would not have the breastplate armor. It wasn't until the mid 1500s that they started wearing these.
                            Yeah, I was trying to keep it before the spread of western technology to Japan occured, and before the widespread use of firearms.

                            Because in that case, I think the man with the gun would win.



                            And I think that the best of european armor and weaponry at the begining of the 1500's would result in a massive bonus against the best arms and armor that the late 15th century samurai could muster.

                            But still, samurai armor was very protective and could withstand a few blows from swords. It did have armor plates woven into the overall scheme, especially on the arms, shoulders and torso.
                            But I think that samurai armor would not be as able to survive a strike from a heavy broadsword, or even some of the other medieval weapons knights used (axes, maces, halberds, etc.). All the knight would need was one strong blow almost anywhere on the samurai's body to do some major damage.

                            The samurai, on the other hand, would do little damage to a knight with a strong slash against the torso of a medieval knight. If he were able to get into a vulnerable joint, then he could cause some serious damage. But the knight has better protection, and a heavier weapon (along with more choices; samurai were kinda limited to katana, spear, and bow).

                            For instance, how would a samurai react to a morning star or some other weapon they are not experienced in dealing with?

                            Between two skilled opponents, my money is on the knight.

                            I disagree, DoD. The samurai could just call on a ninja to kill the knight while he slept in his camp.

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                            • Bass Man, good point on the testing of the katana. I've read that some of the legendary Masamune blades were reputed to have cut through five bodies. I had the honor once of viewing a blade forged in the 1700's that came with a certificate of authenticity for having cut through two bodies.

                              The whole process of forging a katana blade makes it incredibly resilient too. It has two types of metal, one embedded within the other, creating a fusion of flexibility with hardness.

                              Despite that, I don't think the blade would readily cut through the finest plate armor of the mid 15th to 16th Centuries. However, evidence suggests that such armor could be damaged and made vulnerable - straps cut, plates dented. Apparently, Richard III wore a magnificent harness at Bosworth, which was heavily damaged, allowing Henry Tudor's soldiers to kill him.

                              R. Evans, you're correct in that Spanish cuirasses were incorporated into many Japanese suits of armor called Namban-Do. Many even had the morion as a helmet. In actuality, the late Sengoku Nuinobe-Do or Mogami-Do suits were quite protective.

                              A good European sword was also a fine weapon. I think "Cold Steel" has a video of a man cutting tatami mats with a broadsword. I do agree that a good solid blow with a knight's weapon would likely have a crippling effect.

                              One thing about a morningstar is that it requires incredible stamina to use as you have to keep it in motion for it to be effective. In Japan, weapons like these were common too, like the kusarigama, which uses a sickle and chain. Samurai also used maces including a wicked two-handed mace common in the Onin no Ran of the 1400's or the Kumade, a mace with claws, common in the Gempei Wars of the 1180's.

                              One thing that I haven't done much research in regarding Europe is unarmed combat. The samurai had much Jujutsu type training and grappling in armor with a tanto as the primary weapon.

                              Regarding firearms, by the 1500's, Japan also had the arquebus from Portugal and made some fine examples.

                              All things considered though, I would give the knight a very slight advantage in the late medieval period due to the armor, which was pretty darn amazing.
                              Last edited by Kendoka Girl; 08 Dec 07, 23:43.
                              TTFN

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                              • Originally posted by R. Evans View Post
                                Welcome to the discussion

                                Or how a katana or broadsword would stand against each other? That's the question in my mind. If the swords meet, granting that each contestant blocked the other's blow, then which one stands that test? I've read of Japanese blades being very strong for their size, however the European swords weren't exactly made of wood. So does the pure heft and weight of the knight's sword break or bend the samurai sword or does the sheer cutting power of the katana or no-dachi slice the broadsword in half? That's what this would boil down to, all things being equal.
                                There is no doubt in my mind that a Katana is a far superior weapon on the whole to most European blades, there is just no comparison; some Japanese smiths literally spent years working on the same blade. By the token Italian and Polish suits of armor absolute wonders of military technology; Italian armourers used to test their breast plates by shooting crossbow bolts from crossbows that were rated at 220 lbs of windage, and by firing muskets at them as well. I really believe that a carefully crafted computer model is needed to settle the question.

                                As an addendum, some years ago, when I was still stationed in Japan, one of the young sailors on my ship was married to young lady from a Samurai family. He came in one morning looking rather flustered and I asked him what was wrong. He replied that he had gotten in an argument with his wife, and she had broken out a katana. He told me that she had put that sword right through his Gibson Les Paul guitar four times; that guitar is traditionally made out of African mahogany, two inches in thickness. Considering that I would describe most Japanese women as being delicately built, and that this woman fit that bill, I have to wonder what her Dad would have been capable of doing!
                                Give me a fast ship and the wind at my back for I intend to sail in harms way! (John Paul Jones)

                                Initiated Chief Petty Officer
                                Hard core! Old School! Deal with it!

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