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Boris Bedrosov
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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 7:26 am    Post subject: Samurai vs. Knights in pitched battle         Reply with quote

Friends!

Actually, I'm not sure if this topic has been already discussed here.
Few days ago I had argued with a friend of mine who would win the battle between samurai and knights. Our argument was about a clash between two equal in numbers armies (let's say - 10 000 man strong each of them) from same historical period - let's say the second half of 14th c.
So, the question is follows: in equil other circumstances (terrain, weather, exc.), who, in your opinion, would be victorious at the end? Please, feel free to tell what do you think, considering tactics used, typical weapons, quality of arms and armours, even the different structure of the societies, if you want.

Thanks in advance and Good Luck
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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 8:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This has been discussed before here and on related forums:
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...rai+knight
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...rai+knight
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...rai+knight
http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?t...rai+knight

the list could go on...

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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 8:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yet Boris asked specifically about two armies, instead of two individuals, which makes this thread stand out a bit among all the usual "knight vs. samurai" stuff.

It does not make pronostics easier though Worried It would depend heavily on the generals on both sides, I guess (just as it is often said that the best fighter would win no matter what weapon he carries). It could be that the Japanese army was more specialised, more adapted to the specific Japanese setting, whereas the european army (in as much as you could find any notion of a "typical" european army...) was more polyvalent.

Maybe heavy cavalry in a rice plantation is not the best idea Wink

In other words, even if the terrain does not clearly favour one side, the overall nature of the terrain could be more familiar to one side. Choosing a "standard" terrain would be difficult... Such a thing is in fact rare in nature Happy

Just some thoughts,

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Jonathan Hopkins




PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 8:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Vincent Le Chevalier wrote:
Yet Boris asked specifically about two armies, instead of two individuals, which makes this thread stand out a bit among all the usual "knight vs. samurai" stuff.


Oops, should have read the whole post!
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 8:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This should be a little different than the one-on-one discussions we usually see. Happy

The first question would be which European army of the second half of the 14th century?

The English were a battle-hardened and pretty efficient force, but numbering 10,000 might have been a stretch. They also would have tried hard to find terrain that suited their style of combat, terrain that would have been as unequal (favoring them) as possible. Of course, since this is more of a fantasy encounter, perhaps that doesn't matter.

And then: which part of the latter 14th century?

Take the French. They were not always well-disciplined and well-led. They were also probably a little demoralized at times after their defeats at Sluys, Crecy, Poitiers, etc. They clung to the mounted charge for a while, but had begun to employ more people on foot between Crecy and Poitiers. Right around 1350, they might have been at their low point. Later, things might have been different.

And there are other armies who might have been better or worse at certain situations.

When in the 14th century would help decide the mix of mail to plate in that century of transitioning armour. And consequently, how popular sharply pointed swords were.

I suppose we'd need a more defined set of parameters to try to discuss apples to apples.

P.S. - I edited the title of this topic to try to convey that this is a little different than the one man vs. one man discussions we've seen in the past.

Happy

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Sam Barris




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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 8:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is a good article. It doesn't really address your question, but does a great job of addressing the difficulties inherent in answering your question. Big Grin

http://www.thearma.org/essays/knightvs.htm

Pax,
Sam Barris

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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 9:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My money would be on the 14th-century Euro army. They had superior armor and weapons designed to deal with full plate. And (late) 14th-century European armor has better coverage than Japanese armor, which would reduce the effectivness of horse archers to some degree.
Another advantage of the Euro armies at this time were fighting using coordinated combined arms tactics. The Samurai at this time (pre-sengoku jidai) were still essentially figthing as an army of individuals fighting in a mass of one on one fights.
Ultimately though, luck and the skill of the generals would be the real deciding factors, so the battle could go to either side. I'd still prefer the European to win, since I feel the Samurai have an undeserved overhyped reputation...

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James Barker




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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 9:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Such a silly topic. Both cultures developed arms and armor for how people fought in their area and putting them against one another would hardly be fair. Knights of the high middle ages used stronger weapons, had heavier armor, and had better advances in gun powder than the Japanese at the time.
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 9:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Such a silly topic. Both cultures developed arms and armor for how people fought in their area and putting them against one another would hardly be fair. Knights of the high middle ages used stronger weapons, had heavier armor, and had better advances in gun powder than the Japanese at the time.

Not only that, but the Japanese had developed a very insulated style of warfare. For the most part their tactics were designed to combat a force of similar composition. European armies (atleast if viewed as a generic "european" army, as opposed to a specific nationality) generally had more experience fighting foreign armies.
Still, luck and leadership will be the real deciding factors however...

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Matt Doernhoefer




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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 10:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree there would be a lot of skill and craftiness in generalship, I think a lot of it would have to do with composition. It seemed to me that European armies towards the 14th C. are starting to move from the peasant levies to the more professional soldier. Not to mention the use of battle-hardened mercenary companies. The Japanese did not have such luxury as to have a large number of available sellswords. They were much more reliant on peasants given farm implements than combat-hardened troops. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure Japanese shock troops would be a force to be reckoned with, but at the same time, European heavy cav is just as fearsome.
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 10:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Were the samurai still predominantly horse archers in the 14th century? I can't seem to recall, and most of my samurai books are in the garage.

If so, the European heavy cavalry would have a hard time dealing with them. However, they would be able to decimate the Japanese peasant levies, and Japanese horse archers did wear heavy armor, so it's a tough call.

There are so many factors...such as who had bigger, stronger and faster horses? If the Europeans, they could ride down the horse arhers, if the Japanese, the European heavy cavalry wouldn't have a prayer of catching them, unless they managed to outmaneuever and trap them. And would the samurai horse archers even try to run away? Or would they fire their bows to soften up the Europeans while they charged?

If I had to bet, I'd be on the Europeans, because they had better armor and better swords (pole arms were about the same, I think). When I say better swords, I mean better to deal with the other's armor...the katana is too short, too sharp and not pointy enough to be halfsworded against transitional armor, and of course, it cannot cut through it no matter how many bad movies you've seen. Happy

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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 10:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think it comes down to a question of geography more than anything else. Where is the fight taking place? This has major strategic, tactical, and logistical implications. Projecting force is fairly easy with modern equipment, but getting armies from Japan and Europe on the same field for a fight is still no mean feat.
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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 11:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Edelson wrote:
Were the samurai still predominantly horse archers in the 14th century? I can't seem to recall, and most of my samurai books are in the garage.

If so, the European heavy cavalry would have a hard time dealing with them. However, they would be able to decimate the Japanese peasant levies, and Japanese horse archers did wear heavy armor, so it's a tough call.

There are so many factors...such as who had bigger, stronger and faster horses? If the Europeans, they could ride down the horse arhers, if the Japanese, the European heavy cavalry wouldn't have a prayer of catching them, unless they managed to outmaneuever and trap them. And would the samurai horse archers even try to run away? Or would they fire their bows to soften up the Europeans while they charged?

If I had to bet, I'd be on the Europeans, because they had better armor and better swords (pole arms were about the same, I think). When I say better swords, I mean better to deal with the other's armor...the katana is too short, too sharp and not pointy enough to be halfsworded against transitional armor, and of course, it cannot cut through it no matter how many bad movies you've seen. Happy


The samurai were mounted archers, but I do not think they maintained the steppe fighting traditions of high mobility, feigned retreat, the "parthian shot" while fleeing, etc. I am not saying these things were non-existent in Japan, but that they were not part of the ingrained fighting habits of the warriors. So, this would have not been a major tactical issue, I think.
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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 11:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Felix Wang wrote:
The samurai were mounted archers, but I do not think they maintained the steppe fighting traditions of high mobility, feigned retreat, the "parthian shot" while fleeing, etc. I am not saying these things were non-existent in Japan, but that they were not part of the ingrained fighting habits of the warriors. So, this would have not been a major tactical issue, I think.


Yep, I think it boils down to this. Would they have (or been able to, due to terrain etc.) used hit and run tactics. First shooting the knight's horses and then running over them with their horses. (Though here I like to think about the unmounted english men at arms, using their lances as pikes). If no hit and run, it goes to the knights, I'd say.
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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 1:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Edelson wrote:
There are so many factors...such as who had bigger, stronger and faster horses? If the Europeans, they could ride down the horse arhers, if the Japanese, the European heavy cavalry wouldn't have a prayer of catching them, unless they managed to outmaneuever and trap them. And would the samurai horse archers even try to run away? Or would they fire their bows to soften up the Europeans while they charged?

Japanese horses were quite small in comparison to the European horses of the time. Much more like war ponies... Laughing Out Loud

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Darryl Aoki





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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 2:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Felix Wang wrote:

The samurai were mounted archers, but I do not think they maintained the steppe fighting traditions of high mobility, feigned retreat, the "parthian shot" while fleeing, etc. I am not saying these things were non-existent in Japan, but that they were not part of the ingrained fighting habits of the warriors. So, this would have not been a major tactical issue, I think.


I do recall seeing an account of one of Nobunaga's engagements with the sohei warrior monks where Nobunaga's mounted troops did harry a sohei army with arrows then retreat when the sohei, who did not have ranged weapons of their own, sortied to engage the archers. This was repeated until the sohei were exhausted, at which point lancers and infantry attacked.

This may admittedly have warranted comment for its unusualness, but it does prove that the Japanese were aware of and could use such tactics.
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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 2:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One could add the " learning curve " as a factor: Do we put the Europeans and the Japanese on the field with zero knowledge of each others capabilities or do we give the generals on each side a full briefing of the others capabilities, usual tactics and a little time to think and maybe prepare their troops ?

The Japanese had serious difficulties dealing with the Mongols but did adapt and learn to a degree as well as having some luck when the Kamikaze storm destroyed the Mongol fleet. ( if memory serves ).

Also, Japanese troops with some experience fighting Koreans would be less " insular " in their adaptability to different weapons and tactics.

Now, to be honest all this sort of thing can only be guesswork and no sure answer could come from one battle even if we could have a real battle to observe. A series of battles might give us a statistical answer.

Now, a computer model or realistically thought out " game " might in the near future make a lot of these fantasy speculations closer to being observable.

I actually enjoy this kind of speculation until people start taking it much to seriously and start getting mad at each other !
We can still learn something or just have fun bouncing ideas around ! If history had been different and Europeans had interacted with the Japanese in the 14th century we would be discussing and arguing about real battles and the subject wouldn't be ridiculous. Wink Laughing Out Loud

Oh, and a battle is one thing but a century of warfare would mean that each side would adapt, be destroyed, stalemated or conquered. ( And many other outcomes to numerous for me to think of right now ).

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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 4:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anothing thing to consider is that battles were almost always won because of superior tactics and/or strategy. Armies that were clear underdogs often emerge as the victors.

Both European armies and Japanese armies in the 14th century were forces to be reckoned with. Even if we can definitely say that one was more capable than another, it doesn't mean that one would win.

The only way to get a clear answer would be to stage a battle between two completely disparate forces, such as a modern army against a WWII army. Other than that, it would be easier to compare small groups from each army, such as mounted knights vs. mounted samurai, say 100 of each, on an open field on a nice sunny day.

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Jack Yang




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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 5:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

if we are talking about two armies, then both sides should be properly armed and armored, right?
if we made this a fair and square battle, like if you made a virtual simulation of the battle, then I think the knights would win, because their armor rocks, and because the samurais didn't use shields.

now, how come everyone keeps asking questions about knights vs samurais? if you asked something like knights vs NINJAS, that would be more interesting =D
(NINJAS will pwn)
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PostPosted: Fri 04 May, 2007 7:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
now, how come everyone keeps asking questions about knights vs samurais? if you asked something like knights vs NINJAS, that would be more interesting =D
(NINJAS will pwn)

Sorry to derail the thread, but that is patently ridiculous. Ninja (if they even existed!!!) were likely not warriors. If they existed at all, they were spies and assasins. Far more CIA than special forces to use a modern analogy. If a ninja had to fight toe to toe, he had ALREADY lost. They would have specialized in infiltration and psychological warfare, not fighting. The idea that you would have had an army of ninja, or even a group of ninja is completely absurd.
The idea of the super martial artist ninja who could out fight a samurai in a toe to toe fight is very much a hollywood invention. The only way a ninja could out fight a samurai would be through dirty tricks like poisoning before the fight or glass and sand in the eye....
...This is ridiculous. Sorry for the sidetrack. I just get really irked by the hollywood idea of the super ninja. It blows my mind how hollywood has created this legend of a super warrior from what were very likely (if they existed at all) spies who probably never touched a blade, and simply posed as cooks and maids to spy on conversations, and if they did touch a blade it was to slit your throat as your slept. How someone could think that the ninja, who had spent their life learning poisonous herbs, acting, infiltration craft, makeup, ettiquete etc.. could hope to stand toe to toe with someone who had spent the same amount of time learning to fight is beyond me.

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