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Sean Quinn




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PostPosted: Sat 22 Jul, 2006 5:27 am    Post subject: Samurai and shield         Reply with quote

I am probaly going over old ground here so please be patient. As far as im aware(and my knowledge in this area is quite limited) the Samurai throughout their history never adopted the shield for defence. They most surely came into contact with enemies using them (The Mongol invasion and the Japanese invasion of Korea) and they always appeared willing to adopt to new ideas and methods of warfare.The Samurai always appeared practical and before the introduction of massed ranks of arquebusiers in the later Sengoku period the shield would have afforded some protection against archery and during melee and yet I have not come across an reference to shields being used.WHY?. This is a question that has come up for me from time to time and I would appeciate any insight into it .
many thanks Sean
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Alex Oster




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PostPosted: Sat 22 Jul, 2006 6:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Something close to the european pavis was used, but their kind of combat and culture just didn't call for the same type of defense. Their armour took European influence to get any kind of solid plate style as it was, but the only thing personal and close to what you're refereing to would be the tessen, or iron/steel war fan. Handy for troop signals and defense. Wink

Though I am sure someone else will chime in to back me up and/or correct me.

The pen is mightier than the sword, especially since it can get past security and be stabbed it into a jugular.
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Steven H




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PostPosted: Sat 22 Jul, 2006 10:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My understanding is that the Samurai considered themselves to horse archers first. As such they're primary weapon was the bow. A bow, being a two-handed weapon, is incompatible with a shield.

However, their armor was significantly assymmetrical, being much heavier/thicker on the left side. In the typical bow firing position their left side would be facing the enemy.

Now as to why their foot troops didn't use hand shields (I've also seen depictions of pavises/mantlets used by ashigaru), my only guess would be that they were also primarily two-handed weapon troops. Either bow (or, later, arquebus) or spear.

Obviously the Greeks demonstrated that the spear and shield were not incompatible, but the Greek city-states army was likely very different from the Japanese infantry in socio-political ways. The Greek soldiers were middle-class freemen providing their own equipment. I suspect (but am not even remotely certain) that the Japanese infantry was more a feudal serf/levy kind of arrangement, wherein they were probably issued gear or the commanders cared less for the lives of individual soldiers. (that last part was a little inflammatory, so if I'm totally off-base please let me know)

-Steven
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Alex Oster




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PostPosted: Sat 22 Jul, 2006 10:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

672CE: Still mainly mentioned as horseback archers, but as things progress the need for a slung Tachi mount or huge Fukigaeshi to deflect arrows became less prevalent. We see more Katana style mounting and less archery as a primary means of social distinction. I'm sure there are many other factors, but the two handed aspect of spear fighting is also well brought up. Consider opposite the ashigaru of the same time and one sees the Naginata still a favored weapon of the male warrior. Food for thought I guess.

Also the early size of pre 1500's Sode might make a good example of why a shield would be redundant...

The pen is mightier than the sword, especially since it can get past security and be stabbed it into a jugular.
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Last edited by Alex Oster on Sat 22 Jul, 2006 3:14 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Matt G




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PostPosted: Sat 22 Jul, 2006 11:09 am    Post subject: addtional info         Reply with quote

Here's a link to a previous thread on the subject:

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=5732&highlight=

"Speak what you think today in words as hard as cannon-balls and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today."

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Sat 22 Jul, 2006 12:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Obviously the Greeks demonstrated that the spear and shield were not incompatible


Of course, but there's always a trade-off. You can get a lot more power by using the spear in two hands. Two-handed staff weapons eventually became more popular than shields in Europe as well.
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Sean Quinn




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PostPosted: Sat 22 Jul, 2006 3:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Many thanks for the replies, and thanks Matt G for the thread(some really good photos) I was near sure this subject would have been raised before but Im new to this group. Thanks again all.
Sean

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Carl Scholer





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PostPosted: Sat 22 Jul, 2006 6:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I like to think of the whole shield/armour issue in terms of weight. If your already wearing a 10lbs cuirass why bother adding a 10lbs shield to your armament when you could simply double the thickness/weight of the cuirass. You see the same thing in Europe during the late middle ages. During the age of plate, with the exception of the pavise, shields become decidedly rarer on the battlefield when before they were ubiquitous items.

My take on it is that in previous centuries and in different places before the introduction of plate armour, the shield provided a defensive niche, that is it provided a rigid defence. Once plate armour is introduced that niche is already filled and the shield becomes redundant. Not a hard and fast rule, but I think it applies pretty well to history.

So essentially the Samurai didn't need shields for a rigid defence because they were already invested in obtaining this defence from their armour.
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Jack Yang




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PostPosted: Sat 28 Apr, 2007 5:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

the japanese did use sheilds, though it's probalbly to protect them while shooting and not in close combat
these items are displayed in the tokyo national musem, and date from 400-600 AD:

http://www.stevequayle.com/Giants/Artist.rend....alone.jpg
http://www.stevequayle.com/Giants/Artist.rend....armor.jpg

I personally think the reason why the japanese would reject a shield is either because they would've consider it cowardly or because they couldnt make a shield that would protect them and at same time be easily moveable (we asians are short, and the japanese more so than the rest of the asians, LOL). small sheilds would've done little to protect against the heavy two handed weapons that the japanese loves to use.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 29 Apr, 2007 4:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Simply speaking, the samurai (although I'm still more comfortable calling them bushi did not use shields for reasons already stated before in this thread--at first they fought as horse archers and had the o-sode shoulder pieces to rely on. Later, when they fought on foot more frequently than before, their armor was considered sufficient to ward off most blows. But some of their retainers certainly used large pavises (called tate--check the other thread if wou want to see pictures of it) to protect their more lightly-armored archers--a tactical formation that persisted right down into the Sengoku Jidai until firearms rendered it largely obsolete.

However, earlier Japanese armies--especially before the 10th century--often had massed foot formations with substantial shields, copied from Korean and Tang Chinese models. These formations seemed to have fallen out of favor as Imperial authority grew weaker and the Japanese military landscape began to be dominated by local magnates who relied on mounted troops to establish and maintain their hold over their lands.
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Justin Pasternak




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PostPosted: Sun 29 Apr, 2007 9:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From the book, "Early Samurai 200 - 1500 A.D."its says that Samurai used small portable hand-held shields from as early as the 3rd century A.D. to about the late 6th century A.D.

Not all of the Samurai shields were tall and/or heavy like that of a European "Pavise".

The two illustration's show samurai from the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. armed with Shields. Cool
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 29 Apr, 2007 10:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Carl Scholer wrote:
My take on it is that in previous centuries and in different places before the introduction of plate armour, the shield provided a defensive niche, that is it provided a rigid defence. Once plate armour is introduced that niche is already filled and the shield becomes redundant. Not a hard and fast rule, but I think it applies pretty well to history.


I like this idea very much: Maille gives very good cut and piercing protection but even with good padding underneath only moderate protection from blunt trauma damage. The shield would give this blunt trauma protection and supplement the maille. Later plate frees up both hands for handling weapons and also does the work of a shield to a degree.

In any case a good theory. Cool

Also when twohanded weapons are favoured the shield become a hindrance. Idea Question

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Ben C.





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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 8:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jack Yang wrote:
we asians are short, and the japanese more so than the rest of the asians, LOL


This is completely off topic but Japan has one of the tallest average heights among Asian countries, being roughly on par with China, Taiwan and Mongolia and with only Korea having a noticeably higher average (2cm difference from memory). The average heights in South East Asian countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, etc) are actually considerably lower than those of Japan or China.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 8:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Justin Pasternak wrote:
From the book, "Early Samurai 200 - 1500 A.D."its says that Samurai used small portable hand-held shields from as early as the 3rd century A.D. to about the late 6th century A.D.

Not all of the Samurai shields were tall and/or heavy like that of a European "Pavise".

The two illustration's show samurai from the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. armed with Shields. Cool


Were these samurai? I suppose not. Japanese warriors, yes, but it'd take a huge stretch of imagination to say that they're "samurai," which is a concept that can only be properly said to start growing in the 9th century or so and didn't reach its maturity until the establishment of the Taira and Minamoto governments in the 11th century.


Ben Condon wrote:
Jack Yang wrote:
we asians are short, and the japanese more so than the rest of the asians, LOL


This is completely off topic but Japan has one of the tallest average heights among Asian countries, being roughly on par with China, Taiwan and Mongolia and with only Korea having a noticeably higher average (2cm difference from memory). The average heights in South East Asian countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, etc) are actually considerably lower than those of Japan or China.


This hasn't always been the case, though. The average height of the Japanese people has been rising dramatically since their industrialization and particularly after WW2. I'm not sure how they would have compared to other Asians before this.

(But yes, Indonesians are short. I'm quite short myself. Wink )
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Justin Pasternak




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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2007 9:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sorry about that, I should have explained myself more clearly.

These "japanese warriors" in the illustrations, were the forerunners of the future japanese military class.

The first true samurai warriors didn't appear until the foundation of the Kamakura Shogunate in 1192 A.D. by Minamoto no Yoritomo. Happy
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2007 9:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And I made a typo myself--wrote "11th century" when it should have been "12th century."

As for when the "samurai" appeared, they were in existence way before the Gempei War. What the Taira regime and the Kamakura bakufu created were samurai governments, not the samurai class as such.

(And I recall something about "samurai" being originally a title of military officials of 6th rank and above in the Tang-based imperial court hierarchy, which certainly went far before the Gempei War.)
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Ross Tippin




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PostPosted: Wed 02 May, 2007 7:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben Condon wrote:
Jack Yang wrote:
we asians are short, and the japanese more so than the rest of the asians, LOL


This is completely off topic but Japan has one of the tallest average heights among Asian countries, being roughly on par with China, Taiwan and Mongolia and with only Korea having a noticeably higher average (2cm difference from memory). The average heights in South East Asian countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, etc) are actually considerably lower than those of Japan or China.


Japan also has one of the highest living standards/best nutritional levels in East Asia. Historically, however, the Japanese have had a very low protein diet and WERE relatively short compared with other NE Asians (the Chinese used to contemptuously refer to them as "island dwarfs"). Japanese soldiers in WWII were only 158cm on average and throughout the Middle Ages the average height for a man was 157-160cm. Today, thanks to better nutrition, sanitation and medical care the average young Japanese man is around 171-172cm and the upward trend appears to have stopped in the 1980s (presumably because nutrition can't get any better). For comparision, young S. Korean men are around 173-174cm. The Chinese young men from Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan average around 171cm. In the PRC, average heights, and living standards, are lower (around 169cm), but among urban, middle class high school graduates and college students (who presumably are receiving adequate nutrition, unlike there countrymen in the rural areas, many of whom are still basically living the life of medieval peasants, average heights in the South, in places like Shanhai, are around 171cm (same as the mostly Southern Chinese derived populations of Hong Kong and Singapore), and in the North in places like Beijing, the average height is a little greater (around 174-5 cm). Also note that in the early 20th Century, N. Chinese were around 168cm and about 7 to 9 cm taller than their Southern countrymen (who at the time had a much lower protein consumption). The gap has now reduced to only 3-4 cm.
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Tom Taggart





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PostPosted: Wed 02 May, 2007 10:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well it seems fairly safe to say that they did used shields but I wonder why they stoped so early in their devolopment compaired to the rest of the world. The Japaneese stoped useing sheilds around 600 AD while Europe was useing them well up until the 1500s. It is well thought that the Japaneese kept their swords hone to a razors edge but given the armor that they were faceing, would this be effective? The armor was made of a ridged material that would resist cuts, so much like the plate of Europe. Both cultures had varients of the same weapon in most ways. The Glaive of Europe to the Nagi Nata, Spear to Spear, 2 handed blade ect.

Did they perhaps find a way to make the sheild uneffective against a particular style? Is it perhaps the design of the Sword? In short, how would a Samurai compair to a European Knight?
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 03 May, 2007 6:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tom Taggart wrote:
Well it seems fairly safe to say that they did used shields but I wonder why they stoped so early in their devolopment compaired to the rest of the world. The Japaneese stoped useing sheilds around 600 AD while Europe was useing them well up until the 1500s.


No, they didn't. The main factor in most Japanese battlefields was archery, and this was borne out by the extensive use of the tate mantlets for protecting their ordinary archer formations down until the 16th century. The mounted warriors didn't use shields because they had to use bows, which didn't fit very well with a shield sticking in the way, and also because they could rely on their armor and the mobility of their horses (not to mention the cannon-fodder support provided by their retainers!) to allay the effects of the enemy's archery.

The hand shields were predominantly used by infantry levies based on Chinese and Korean models. I've mentioned before that social changes led to the decline of these levies, and this decline meant that their equipment also went out of fashion. Note that the heavy horse-archers that we'd later know as the samurai never used them extensively. We can't say that they "abandoned" these shields if they never carried them in the first place!


Quote:
It is well thought that the Japaneese kept their swords hone to a razors edge but given the armor that they were faceing, would this be effective?


The answer to this is also "no." The role of the sword in Japanese warfare has been over-hyped by Tokugawa and modern literature on it. The Japanese tactical scene before the arrival of firearms was dominated by archery and that's it. The o-yoroi armor was primarily built to facilitate archery and to resist the effect of arrows, not to allow deft swordmanship or to protect against sword cuts. So the question of sword effectiveness is largely irrelevant to them because the sword was not the primary weapon of Japanese warriors at any level of their military hierarchy.

Moreover, I don't think the bushi were all that obsessed about the sharpness of their swords before the Tokugawa peace came and gave them the time to worry about it!


Quote:
Did they perhaps find a way to make the sheild uneffective against a particular style?


Once again, no. The shield went out of fashion because the formations meant to use it were swept away by social changes. And the samurai never used shields so they never dropped them either.


Quote:
Is it perhaps the design of the Sword? In short, how would a Samurai compair to a European Knight?


I'm afraid this comparison is a bit fruitless, since the two types of warriors were built to fit very different military milieux. And then, which samurai are you comparing with which men-at-arms? Arms, armor, and tactics underwent fairly dramatic development both in Japan and in Europe during the existence of these warrior classes, so there's no way to make a fruitful comparison except if you make it more specific, such as by comparing a Norman milites in the reign of William the Conqueror against one of the bushi under the command of Minamoto no Yoshitsune. Even when you've tried making this comparison I doubt it will amount to much since I actually think the biggest difference between the military technology of the two cultures was in fortification and siegecraft!
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Felix Wang




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PostPosted: Thu 03 May, 2007 2:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Among the infantry types, those who were not using bows tended to use polearms which are best handled with two hands, such as the naginata and the long pike. In these cases. a shield of any size would be a major hinderance.
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