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The Medival European Knight vs a Japanese Samurai

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  • Originally posted by daemonofdecay View Post
    I think one of the reasons there is/was a popular sentiment that a Samurai was somehow a superior swordsman was the fact that Japanese martial arts remained well preserved when European martial arts faded away into relative obscurity.
    Actually i think its because of movies. Movies would exaggerate the samurai. but when they showed knights they would show slow clunky fighting. I think it was just a few popular examples that created a trend. What you are saying might play a part in this though.

    I wouldn't say Japanese martial arts were well preserved but i would agree that a few good examples of Japanese martial arts were well preserved. For the most part i think it suffers from mcdojo syndrome as most martial arts do.

    The surviving examples are true treasures though. I also think that the manuscripts that German and Italian masters wrote down are treasures as well.
    Last edited by Moon Lancer; 29 Oct 10, 01:20.

    Comment


    • you might be right in your final conclusion, but both og these warriors were professionals. Why would a professional go into fight without all of his equipment? The weapons of a samurai were primary cutting weapons, not optimized for stabbing. Take a knight in a gothic suit of plate with a polearm such as a halberd or glaive and a long sword(both very efficient stabbing weapons) vs. a samurai in the best suit of lamellar armor they were ever equipped with and a fairly competent knight would win 9 times out of ten. This is not a disparagement of the samurai's skill, it's just a recognition that in japan, true suits of plate were never developed and their weapons were not designed to defeat it. Even knights never used swords against full plate. They used maces, mornigstars, etc. In recognition that the only effective method was to concuss the guy or knock him out then stab through one of those tiny slits.

      If equipment is the same it's about skill, but when the equipment is different, you must evaluate that also. There is not much doubt that if you take a knight in full battle plate (and no, not jousting armor that's way too clumsy, he's not jousting), his advantage is almost overwhelming.

      Originally posted by Moon Lancer View Post



      These videos are the videos that inspired me to take classes in the German longsword. I think they are pretty well known videos and probably have been posted in this thread already. I think they are great at showing the fluidity and diversity and efficiency of fencing with the German longsword.

      I wouldn't say Kenjutsu has it easy, but for some reason the majority of people think the longsword is this really heavy slow weapon which requires little skill. I think Kenjutsu also has a few myths surrounding it but it tends to get good pr in the process


      Astounding they are. To bring this thread full circle, this is one of the reasons why i think that think if a samurai and a knight, both without armor where somehow put in a dual against each other, it would be a very even match.

      Comment


      • Originally posted by BrentL View Post
        you might be right in your final conclusion, but both og these warriors were professionals. Why would a professional go into fight without all of his equipment? The weapons of a samurai were primary cutting weapons, not optimized for stabbing. Take a knight in a gothic suit of plate with a polearm such as a halberd or glaive and a long sword(both very efficient stabbing weapons) vs. a samurai in the best suit of lamellar armor they were ever equipped with and a fairly competent knight would win 9 times out of ten. This is not a disparagement of the samurai's skill, it's just a recognition that in japan, true suits of plate were never developed and their weapons were not designed to defeat it. Even knights never used swords against full plate. They used maces, mornigstars, etc. In recognition that the only effective method was to concuss the guy or knock him out then stab through one of those tiny slits.

        If equipment is the same it's about skill, but when the equipment is different, you must evaluate that also. There is not much doubt that if you take a knight in full battle plate (and no, not jousting armor that's way too clumsy, he's not jousting), his advantage is almost overwhelming.
        Due to myth, legend, and Hollywoodization, most of the Western world only thinks that samurai used only cutting weapons. While it is true that, during the Edo Period, swords were the most common weapon, the Heian through Sengoku Periods saw a vast diversity of weapons to include stabbing weapons like the yari (but also had a good edge) as well as mace and battle axe equivalents. A knowledgeable sensei told me that schools and styles devoted to the battle axe developed around the 12th Century. Another variable are the tripping and catching weapons that samurai were also known to use such as the kusarigama or jitte. Certain styles of swords were quite efficient in the thrusting role such as the Shobu Zukuri, albeit not as good as a some of the diamond cross sectioned longswords that were designed primarily for such.

        The Edo Period was known for swordsmanship due to the fact that armor was no longer worn on a day to day basis and carrying around a mace, axe, or spear was a bit impractical.

        Into the Sengoku Jidai, solid steel cuirasses were heavily in use mixed in with chainmail and lamella. I think it's very true that, from about the early to mid 1400's the best European armor was superior in its protective quality, but the Japanese Do style armors were the right armors for the region, given the heat and humidity during the summer months as well as the prevalent uneven terrain. So, unlike cooler, temperate, more open terrained Europe, armor developed along different lines. The earlier kebiki odoshi lacings did tend to soak up too much moisture during longer campaigns, but the later sugake odoshi rectified that. I can tell you for a fact that overheating in armor is not a good thing. Visibility is also a factor in armor as the Israelis showed the Arabs, to use a more modern example. Sengoku era armors were no slouch though and there are many written records of warriors being saved by them to include Tokugawa Ieyasu's armor stopping a bullet during the Battle of Mikata ga Hara.

        So, just playing the devil's advocate, a smart samurai might use a variety of weapons designed to trip, snag, wear down and degrade a knight's protective advantage. In Sun Tsu fashion, advantage can be turned into disadvantage in the right circumstances.
        TTFN

        Comment


        • Originally posted by Kendoka Girl View Post

          The Edo Period was known for swordsmanship due to the fact that armor was no longer worn on a day to day basis
          Actually armor was worn very often during the Edo period. The armor just did not need to be the heavy armor used to protect against bullets, long spears and naginatas etc. If you look closely at prints from the Edo period you can plainly see many of the samurai wearing chain armor "kusari" as well as other types of armor under their kimonos. This armor can be seen at the neck line, calf, and arms as cross hatching. A lot of the armor worn was concealed between layers of cloth and was not apparent to the casual observer. Karuta, kusari and kikko armor of all types was commonly worn as they could be easily carried and put on in a moments notice and they were excellent defense from sword attack. If you search for samurai prints online and look closely you will see armor being worn. Just not the "traditional" armor. Swords became the dominant weapon during the Edo period. Long pole weapons and bows were not much good in crowded cities. Anti sword pole tools such as the sasumata and sodegarami became common instead.

          Comment


          • Yes, you are correct. Duh, I was just thinking of the traditional yoroi/Do style battle armor or the ceremonial Sankin Kotai armor. Even the 47 ronin put together some good protective pieces. Supposedly, they all or nearly all survived the battle. Good call.

            I do think that there are many misconceptions about what knights and samurai could do or not do. Also, there is no 1 to1 translation of size, speed, length, sharpness, protectivie quality, or even skill into victory.
            TTFN

            Comment


            • Originally posted by Kendoka Girl View Post
              Yes, you are correct. Duh, I was just thinking of the traditional yoroi/Do style battle armor or the ceremonial Sankin Kotai armor. Even the 47 ronin put together some good protective pieces. Supposedly, they all or nearly all survived the battle. Good call.

              I do think that there are many misconceptions about what knights and samurai could do or not do. Also, there is no 1 to1 translation of size, speed, length, sharpness, protectivie quality, or even skill into victory.
              I think you have to be quite specific as to what era of samurai v knight you are comparing, also if you are comparing 1 to 1 combat or an army against an army.

              On 1 to 1 combat I think there is no doubt that the best made armor and weapons of any era knight would defeat the best made armor and weapons from any era of a samurai....the knight just had much heavier and complete coverage on the armor and heavier weapons then a samurai had available.

              If you would compare fully equipped historical armies against each other then in many cases the samurai would have had a much larger force of men then a historical army of a knight, a larger force would compensate for differences in armor and or weapons. From what I have read the samurai could field a much larger force of fully armed men then knights could depending on the era.

              How you word a comparison makes a big difference.

              If you were to compare a samurai with no armor and a weapon of choice against a knight with no armor and a weapon of choice I think they would be quite equal and it would be up to individual skills then.

              Comment


              • Originally posted by Kendoka Girl View Post
                Yes, you are correct. Duh, I was just thinking of the traditional yoroi/Do style battle armor or the ceremonial Sankin Kotai armor. Even the 47 ronin put together some good protective pieces. Supposedly, they all or nearly all survived the battle. Good call.

                I do think that there are many misconceptions about what knights and samurai could do or not do. Also, there is no 1 to1 translation of size, speed, length, sharpness, protectivie quality, or even skill into victory.
                Since you mentioned the armor worn by the 47 ronin, here is an interesting link with a picture of a chain armor supposedly worn by Oishi Kuranosuke, leader of the 47 Ronin. http://wiki.samurai-archives.com/ind...Kuranosuke.jpg


                Comment


                • Originally posted by americansamurai View Post
                  Since you mentioned the armor worn by the 47 ronin, here is an interesting link with a picture of a chain armor supposedly worn by Oishi Kuranosuke, leader of the 47 Ronin. http://wiki.samurai-archives.com/ind...Kuranosuke.jpg


                  Wow, that's pretty cool. I've seen a few versions of Chushingura and they always depict a pretty nifty set of armor for him. It was interesting how they smuggled in the armor, piece by piece, to avoid detection by the Bakufu and Kira's spies.
                  TTFN

                  Comment


                  • Originally posted by Kendoka Girl View Post
                    Wow, that's pretty cool. I've seen a few versions of Chushingura and they always depict a pretty nifty set of armor for him. It was interesting how they smuggled in the armor, piece by piece, to avoid detection by the Bakufu and Kira's spies.
                    "revenge is a dish best served cold"

                    Comment


                    • good post. I'm sure there are many different types of weapons that would be employed by the samurai. It makes sense that a professional warrior would train with many tools so he would be proficient with the best one for the job at hand. But whether he employed a cutting sword or another stabbing weapon, neither would be effective against full plate (once again assuming a skilled knight). Very interesting point about weapons designed to trip, tangle or ensnare. It would be interesting to know how a knight would deal with those. We should keep in mind that the suits constructed for battle were not the clunky, heavy contraptions jousting armor was. The battle suits typically weighed around 60lbs. While that is a significant weight, if it's well made and well distributed, that is alot less than the typical gear of a modern infantryman and the knight trained constantly in it. I have a feeling most people would be amazed how lightly he could move. But it's also true the vision restrictions might weigh in favor of an opponent using an ensnaring weapon. This all being considered the samurai would still be at a tremendous disadvantage. He's trying to trip the knight while the knight is using a 6 foot polearm (halberd etc) to try to stab him full of holes.

                      I never assumed that the samurai would be unarmored, quite the opposite, I assumed he would be. You said it best when you said the samurai would be in armor that is appropriate for a warm climate. I agree that if you put them both intheir respective armor in Honduras, made them walk a couple miles at midday to meet to fight, the knight would be medium well and dead before he got there. But assuming a neutral climate, both sides would get to the site and when they did, the samurai would have large parts of his body protected either by lamellar or chain. Chain is probably even less protection than lamellar against a stab of a long sword or the point of a polearm. Even riveted mail isn't going to stand up to a thrust with some muscle behind it. Interesting to see how much a simple environmental element such as temperature effects the equipment of the warrior who lives in it.

                      Originally posted by Kendoka Girl View Post
                      Due to myth, legend, and Hollywoodization, most of the Western world only thinks that samurai used only cutting weapons. While it is true that, during the Edo Period, swords were the most common weapon, the Heian through Sengoku Periods saw a vast diversity of weapons to include stabbing weapons like the yari (but also had a good edge) as well as mace and battle axe equivalents. A knowledgeable sensei told me that schools and styles devoted to the battle axe developed around the 12th Century. Another variable are the tripping and catching weapons that samurai were also known to use such as the kusarigama or jitte. Certain styles of swords were quite efficient in the thrusting role such as the Shobu Zukuri, albeit not as good as a some of the diamond cross sectioned longswords that were designed primarily for such.

                      The Edo Period was known for swordsmanship due to the fact that armor was no longer worn on a day to day basis and carrying around a mace, axe, or spear was a bit impractical.

                      Into the Sengoku Jidai, solid steel cuirasses were heavily in use mixed in with chainmail and lamella. I think it's very true that, from about the early to mid 1400's the best European armor was superior in its protective quality, but the Japanese Do style armors were the right armors for the region, given the heat and humidity during the summer months as well as the prevalent uneven terrain. So, unlike cooler, temperate, more open terrained Europe, armor developed along different lines. The earlier kebiki odoshi lacings did tend to soak up too much moisture during longer campaigns, but the later sugake odoshi rectified that. I can tell you for a fact that overheating in armor is not a good thing. Visibility is also a factor in armor as the Israelis showed the Arabs, to use a more modern example. Sengoku era armors were no slouch though and there are many written records of warriors being saved by them to include Tokugawa Ieyasu's armor stopping a bullet during the Battle of Mikata ga Hara.

                      So, just playing the devil's advocate, a smart samurai might use a variety of weapons designed to trip, snag, wear down and degrade a knight's protective advantage. In Sun Tsu fashion, advantage can be turned into disadvantage in the right circumstances.

                      Comment


                      • Originally posted by BrentL View Post
                        good post. I'm sure there are many different types of weapons that would be employed by the samurai. It makes sense that a professional warrior would train with many tools so he would be proficient with the best one for the job at hand. But whether he employed a cutting sword or another stabbing weapon, neither would be effective against full plate (once again assuming a skilled knight). Very interesting point about weapons designed to trip, tangle or ensnare. It would be interesting to know how a knight would deal with those. We should keep in mind that the suits constructed for battle were not the clunky, heavy contraptions jousting armor was. The battle suits typically weighed around 60lbs. While that is a significant weight, if it's well made and well distributed, that is alot less than the typical gear of a modern infantryman and the knight trained constantly in it. I have a feeling most people would be amazed how lightly he could move. But it's also true the vision restrictions might weigh in favor of an opponent using an ensnaring weapon. This all being considered the samurai would still be at a tremendous disadvantage. He's trying to trip the knight while the knight is using a 6 foot polearm (halberd etc) to try to stab him full of holes.

                        I never assumed that the samurai would be unarmored, quite the opposite, I assumed he would be. You said it best when you said the samurai would be in armor that is appropriate for a warm climate. I agree that if you put them both intheir respective armor in Honduras, made them walk a couple miles at midday to meet to fight, the knight would be medium well and dead before he got there. But assuming a neutral climate, both sides would get to the site and when they did, the samurai would have large parts of his body protected either by lamellar or chain. Chain is probably even less protection than lamellar against a stab of a long sword or the point of a polearm. Even riveted mail isn't going to stand up to a thrust with some muscle behind it. Interesting to see how much a simple environmental element such as temperature effects the equipment of the warrior who lives in it.
                        I would have to disagree that armor is the primary arbiter of victory in such a battle. I looked back over some of my material about the Wars of the Roses and the later Scottish wars and a common theme about full plate armor was overheating and lack of visibility. At Tewkesbury, knights wearing armet helms had great difficulty on foot over broken terrain due to poor downward visibility restricting sight of the ground around the feet. At Towton, a gravesite uncovered a great number of skeletons with edged weapon damage around the head, indicating that swords either penetrated the helm or the soldier removed their helmet during the battle even though it was cold. The positioning of the wounds indicated that the soldier was fighting and not fleeing. Even the sallet helm had gaps in which weapons could be thrust into. According to what I read about the battles, many knights either raised their visors or removed their helms entirely, creating a vulnerability.

                        Everything that I've read does indicate that good plate armor was not all that heavy, was well fitted, and had good weight distribution as well as being designed to deflect blows. There is some evidence though that good thrusting weapons could penetrate it or be more easily thrust through the weaker points. Of course, it wouldn't be easy when your opponent is trying to do the same.

                        My counterargument is that Momoyama era armor was not dramatically less protective than a knight's plate armor although it cannot be denied that plate was better. Okegawa do or hotoke do armor was constructed of metal bands, riveted into a solid breastplate or even a single, smooth metal plate forged of a single sheet of metal. Made in the tachi-do style, they also had good weight distribution. The best quality steel came from Dutch imports or the Shiso region. A quality steel do would contain 5.7 kg of metal about 2mm thick. According to one Osprey source, a full suit of armor might weigh 18-30 lbs.

                        Additionally, samurai also wielded a variety of polearms, many designed to act like a bill hook. Yari came in many lengths, but many were 8 feet to pike length. Some had long points for slashing, but many had short, triangular cross sectioned points for penetrating armor with a thrust. Having observed yari and naginata practitioners and being a sword practitioner, one thing that I see consistantly is a nearly fanatical emphasis on pinpoint precision in the use of the weapons. In our kendo practice, to deliver a good thrust, we are required to put the tip of the sword only on an area of the throat about 3" x 2" against a moving opponent who is also trying to whack you. One of the ideas behind this is to train to find those weak points in an opponent's armor and exploit it.

                        Now, I certainly respect the training and protective qualities of that go into a high-ranking noble knight, but I don't think that the advantage is as great as one would think.
                        TTFN

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by americansamurai View Post
                          I think you have to be quite specific as to what era of samurai v knight you are comparing, also if you are comparing 1 to 1 combat or an army against an army.

                          On 1 to 1 combat I think there is no doubt that the best made armor and weapons of any era knight would defeat the best made armor and weapons from any era of a samurai....the knight just had much heavier and complete coverage on the armor and heavier weapons then a samurai had available.

                          If you would compare fully equipped historical armies against each other then in many cases the samurai would have had a much larger force of men then a historical army of a knight, a larger force would compensate for differences in armor and or weapons. From what I have read the samurai could field a much larger force of fully armed men then knights could depending on the era.

                          How you word a comparison makes a big difference.

                          If you were to compare a samurai with no armor and a weapon of choice against a knight with no armor and a weapon of choice I think they would be quite equal and it would be up to individual skills then.
                          One thing that I would put in a samurai army's favor for a mass battle situation is command and control. I'm drawing from memory, but other than the Byzantines, I don't recall Western European armies having as intricate, highly controlled formations until the Tercio or the Swiss Pike Block. I could be wrong and perhaps someone can enlighten me. Generally, it seems that they lined up in three Battles for simpler command and control. According to Fighting Techniques of the Medieval World, Western European armies also fell a little short of the Byzantines and Islamic armies in preparation of the battlespace.

                          One thing that I seem to be coming across consistantly is finding instances in which less armored opponents overcoming more heavily armored opponents in all parts of the globe. So, based on that, I would have to disagree that armor is the primary arbiter of victory even though it does impart certain advantages.
                          TTFN

                          Comment


                          • I don't mean to convey the impression that a suit of plate is inpenatrable or that the limited field of vision is not a handicap. Obviously there are weaker points that are only covered with chain such as armpit and groin and the unprotected vision slit. A solid strike to any of these areas with a weapon optimized for thrusting would penetrate and a samurai with a lifetime of skill would easily have the ability to target and hit these areas.

                            For purposes of this hypothetical battle, I'm assuming each warrior brings the best gear to the table that he had available over the relevant historical period. If that is the case, I have a difficult time believing an edged weapon would penetrate a well made helmet. I surely don't dispute that the bones exist that you cite, nor do I say that the true experts hypothesis on what may have occurred is incorrect, but those experts can't provide a detailed picture of what occurred at the time. Had the knights been previously injured and were on their knees stunned while they were battered multiple times? Had the knights helm been battered off by a battering weapon such as a mace first? In this instance, I lend more weight to comtemporary tests of historically accurate weapons and armor. Those tests indicate that under battle conditions edged weapons just aren't getting through plate. It's the reason that when knights fought similarly armored foes they used mainly blunt force weapons such as maces or pole arms with battering capabilities and thrusting capabilities as well.

                            I agree that if the samurai brought an effective thrusting weapon to the table that would greatly increase his odds for success. Also, the better armor he can bring to the table, the more even the odds and the more that skill would decide the contest.

                            At no point during this discussion have I meant to convey the impression that I'm doubting the samurai's skill as a warrior. I mainly think that due to the availability or more sources of quality steel and an environment that allowed for more comprehensive armor, the traditional knight had a large advantage over the samurai.

                            Originally posted by Kendoka Girl View Post
                            I would have to disagree that armor is the primary arbiter of victory in such a battle. I looked back over some of my material about the Wars of the Roses and the later Scottish wars and a common theme about full plate armor was overheating and lack of visibility. At Tewkesbury, knights wearing armet helms had great difficulty on foot over broken terrain due to poor downward visibility restricting sight of the ground around the feet. At Towton, a gravesite uncovered a great number of skeletons with edged weapon damage around the head, indicating that swords either penetrated the helm or the soldier removed their helmet during the battle even though it was cold. The positioning of the wounds indicated that the soldier was fighting and not fleeing. Even the sallet helm had gaps in which weapons could be thrust into. According to what I read about the battles, many knights either raised their visors or removed their helms entirely, creating a vulnerability.

                            Everything that I've read does indicate that good plate armor was not all that heavy, was well fitted, and had good weight distribution as well as being designed to deflect blows. There is some evidence though that good thrusting weapons could penetrate it or be more easily thrust through the weaker points. Of course, it wouldn't be easy when your opponent is trying to do the same.

                            My counterargument is that Momoyama era armor was not dramatically less protective than a knight's plate armor although it cannot be denied that plate was better. Okegawa do or hotoke do armor was constructed of metal bands, riveted into a solid breastplate or even a single, smooth metal plate forged of a single sheet of metal. Made in the tachi-do style, they also had good weight distribution. The best quality steel came from Dutch imports or the Shiso region. A quality steel do would contain 5.7 kg of metal about 2mm thick. According to one Osprey source, a full suit of armor might weigh 18-30 lbs.

                            Additionally, samurai also wielded a variety of polearms, many designed to act like a bill hook. Yari came in many lengths, but many were 8 feet to pike length. Some had long points for slashing, but many had short, triangular cross sectioned points for penetrating armor with a thrust. Having observed yari and naginata practitioners and being a sword practitioner, one thing that I see consistantly is a nearly fanatical emphasis on pinpoint precision in the use of the weapons. In our kendo practice, to deliver a good thrust, we are required to put the tip of the sword only on an area of the throat about 3" x 2" against a moving opponent who is also trying to whack you. One of the ideas behind this is to train to find those weak points in an opponent's armor and exploit it.

                            Now, I certainly respect the training and protective qualities of that go into a high-ranking noble knight, but I don't think that the advantage is as great as one would think.

                            Comment


                            • The knight is better in a melee, but the samurai has ranged weapons and superior maneuverability. And the worst thing for a samurai to do is run away.

                              Comment


                              • Originally posted by Kendoka Girl View Post
                                I would say that the knight had the greater variety of weaponry, from maces, to hammers, to axes, poleaxes, halberds, swords, lances, etc. The kusarigama would be an excellent weapon to use against a heavily armored opponent though. The samurai did have their varieties of axes, maces, and glaives, but the axes and maces were uncommon.
                                Not true Kedoka. Actually contrary to popular belief the Samurai had a WHOLE VARIETY OF WEAPONS aside from bows and Katanas. The Samurais were just as varied as the knights were. Some used blunt hard maces,others used the Japanese equivalent of hard Sledgehammer other used hard farming tools, and others even used gun rifles as their primary weapons.

                                The samurai is pretty a EUROPEAN Knight except the Japanese equivalent.

                                As to who would win this thread, give me a Gunpowder Samurai and he will kill any knight no matter how great his armor of combat skills are!

                                Comment

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