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Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Samurai vs. Knights in pitched battle Reply to topic
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Darryl Aoki





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PostPosted: Mon 07 May, 2007 1:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Edelizo O. De Lara wrote:
This is a good mental exercise. And most points are applicable. Here are some of mine:

-Wouldn't the Japanese use halberds (niigata, I think they are called). I mean assuming they weather thru the longbow volley?

-They also had long horse-cutter swords (nodachi....?)



Naginata weren't typically used by samurai, who would've used yari (spears), mounted or afoot. Most of the massed ashigaru formations during the Sengoku period were armed with yari and missile weapons in a manner similar to a pike-and-shot formation. Naginata were used by warrior-monks (sohei), and were also used by the women of a household; there is mention of women drilling with them and serving as sentries at night.

As with anything, there will always be exceptions, of course.
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Boris Bedrosov
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PostPosted: Wed 09 May, 2007 2:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Actually, the question is quite complicated.
1) So, behind the lines of pavise and wooden pikes in the ground the Japanese (samurai and their retainers) would be relativelly well protected. But so would be the Europeans (knights and retainers), if they managed to take good position, especially higher ground.
2) You all are right about the "Euro" army there were NOT such thing, because all of them were different in composition, style of fight, tactics. But lets's say that this army is composed from English archers, mounted knights and foot soldiers.
3) What would the battleplans of each side look like - for the Europeans (MAY BE) some volleys by the English longbows in attempt to disrupt the enemy, mounted charge (this is the moment of which I am most afraid Cry ) and close hand-in-hand combat. But Japanese - would they return arrows from their position (their bow was just a bit weaker than the longbow), or would bushi attack with bows, or would they just make some recconiesance (I'm sure I made mistake, writing this word Laughing Out Loud ) in force, or would they attack repeatively, trying to exhaust the enemy
4) What would the Japanese do during the mounted charge (I always call it "cavalry lance charge"). This is something unknown (or at least, not used) in Japan. So, would thay managed to stand this or not? The wooden pikes are something good, but need time to be placed.
5) Who will feel better in the hand-in-hand combat - the Japanese with their lighter armour (more freedom of movement) or Europeans with their heavier (but more protective)

All these things are quite interesting and actually I'm not sure who will win. In my oppinion, if the Japanese managed to stand the charge and manage to co-ordinate their efforts, they have chance to win.

Boris

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Risto Rautiainen




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PostPosted: Wed 09 May, 2007 2:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Boris Petrov Bedrosov wrote:
the Japanese with their lighter armour (more freedom of movement) or Europeans with their heavier (but more protective)


Hi Boris, do you have information on the weights of japanese armour? I mean I have heard that they are actually not that much lighter in weight than the european armour. But I have never seen hard evidence either way as in actual pieces of armour and their weights.
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PostPosted: Wed 09 May, 2007 7:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Boris Petrov Bedrosov wrote:
All these things are quite interesting and actually I'm not sure who will win. In my oppinion, if the Japanese managed to stand the charge and manage to co-ordinate their efforts, they have chance to win.

Boris


Who would win is not really the most important thing in my opinion: It's much more interesting brainstorming the possible interactions i.e. moves and counter moves for the fun of it. ( possibly learning something along the way. Wink )

( Note there is nothing wrong with the original question of who would win by the way Big Grin But I don't think it's possible to have a single sure answer but I'm still enjoying the multiple theories ).

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 09 May, 2007 10:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Boris Petrov Bedrosov wrote:
1) So, behind the lines of pavise and wooden pikes in the ground the Japanese (samurai and their retainers) would be relativelly well protected. But so would be the Europeans (knights and retainers), if they managed to take good position, especially higher ground.


Wooden pikes? What wooden pikes? I never saw any wooden pikes discussed in this thread. Whatever spears the Japanese had at this time were more likely to have been deployed in light infantry formations than in any sort of phalanx, let alone a pike phalanx. If you want a Japanese phalanx then you should have chosen a 16th-century Japanese army, not a 14th-century one!

Quote:
2) You all are right about the "Euro" army there were NOT such thing, because all of them were different in composition, style of fight, tactics. But lets's say that this army is composed from English archers, mounted knights and foot soldiers.
3) What would the battleplans of each side look like - for the Europeans (MAY BE) some volleys by the English longbows in attempt to disrupt the enemy, mounted charge (this is the moment of which I am most afraid Cry ) and close hand-in-hand combat. But Japanese - would they return arrows from their position (their bow was just a bit weaker than the longbow), or would bushi attack with bows, or would they just make some recconiesance (I'm sure I made mistake, writing this word Laughing Out Loud ) in force, or would they attack repeatively, trying to exhaust the enemy


Random speculation alert!

I suspect the English would have been more likely to adopt a battle plan that involves flanking movements. This is because Japanese horsemen were generally not supposed to go far beyond the support of their foot retainers, so their marching speed would have been curtailed by the retainers' ability to keep up. The European horsemen, however, were not so constrained and would have been more capable of doing independent maneuvers on the wings. In fact, the English won the battle of Poitiers within this timeframe (1356) by one such mounted charge to the French flank and rear.

Of course, a brilliant general like Yoshitsune might have been willing to break with custom and brigade his horsemen away from the foot for a lighting strike into the enemy rear--like he did at Ichinotani--but he lived two centuries before the timeframe of your discussion. I've said before that Japanese generals in the late 14th century were either not very imaginative or were saddled with inefficient troops that rendered impossible all but the simplest plans (or both). So the Japanese would probably have either chosen to defend or to launch a simple frontal assault.

The factors involved are too numerous to decide on a definite battle plan, but I suppose both armies would have fielded most of their men on foot and attempted to disorganize the enemy with arrow volleys in preparation for one massive charge. The English, though, might have sent a small but significant party of horsemen to try and take the Japanese in the rear in the middle of the frontal slugging match.

Without this flanking movement, the hand-to-hand fighting between the two lines on foot would probably have ground down to a bloody stalemate. Or perhaps not; practically the whole of the Englishmen's numbers (including the longbowmen) would have been willing to engage in hand-to-hand combat whereas many of the Japanese retainers in the pavise-protected archery lines would most likely have shirked from it, so the Japanese would have been at some numerical disadvantage in this respect.


Quote:
4) What would the Japanese do during the mounted charge (I always call it "cavalry lance charge"). This is something unknown (or at least, not used) in Japan. So, would thay managed to stand this or not? The wooden pikes are something good, but need time to be placed.


Now, what mounted charge? It seems like the general paradigm of English warfare in this period relied more on dismounted than mounted fighting. They would have been even more eager to dismount most of their force once they had seen the Japanese line of pavises.

If anything, the Japanese would have been more likely to attack on horseback than the English. This wouldn't have been a traditional cavalry charge, though, but more like a massive surge forward by both the mounted samurai and the foot retainers moving together, loosing arrows all the while. If they did so, the English would probably have stopped them and cut them down--not because the Japanese way of war was inherently inferior, but simply because late 14th-century Japanese armies were some of the least well-motivated and least disciplined Japanese armies ever and they would have broken at the slightest sign of misfortune.

Any English mounted charge would most likely have been mounted against the Japanese flank after the engagement began. If they ever managed to get here then it's too late for the Japanese to do anything about them.


Quote:
5) Who will feel better in the hand-in-hand combat - the Japanese with their lighter armour (more freedom of movement) or Europeans with their heavier (but more protective)


Come on everyone, please stop this nonsense about Japanese armor being "lighter" and less protective. Not all English men-at-arms had full plate harnesses, and not all Englishmen were men-at-arms. In fact, the men-at-arms would have been outnumbered at least three to one by the more lightly-armored longbowmen. The same was the case with the Japanese; there were always far more retainers than samurai, and these retainers were inevitably more lightly equipped than their masters. Armor would not have been that decisive in the hand-to-hand combat since the difference between the two armies would have been rather marginal. Rather, the deciding factor would be either the English numerical superiority (since they could throw practically all of their troops vs. only part of the Japanese) and/or the arrival of the English mounted contingent upon the Japanese flank (if they were ever sent out at all).


Quote:
All these things are quite interesting and actually I'm not sure who will win. In my oppinion, if the Japanese managed to stand the charge and manage to co-ordinate their efforts, they have chance to win.


I'm afraid not. In this context the English would have won. I'll repeat once again that by picking the late 14th century you're pitting some of the best medieval English armies against some of the worst armies that medieval Japan could offer. The armies simply do not stand on an equal basis. Yoshitsune's late 12th-century army would have stood more than a fair chance against King John or even King Richard; Oda Nobunaga, Uesugi Kenshin, or Takeda Shingen would have rolled over their English contemporaries with their 16th-century armies; but even Ashikaga Takauji or Kusunoki Masashige would have had little chance of trumping Edward III, the Black Prince, or John Hawkwood. Perhaps the one English general they could have beaten was John of Gaunt, and I'm not sure about that since I'm not certain that he was sufficiently inert to offset the advantage gained from the better overall command and control in his army.
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PostPosted: Wed 09 May, 2007 11:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Oda Nobunaga, Uesugi Kenshin, or Takeda Shingen would have rolled over their English contemporaries with their 16th-century armies;

Hardly, while the English was one of the less advance armies of the 16th Century and was in a poor shape in that particular period it would certainly have been more than simply a speed bump for the often grossly overhyped Japanese armies. None of whom in realtiy possesed the kind of firepower & strikign power that the armies of 16th Century Europe brought to the field.
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PostPosted: Wed 09 May, 2007 1:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:

Come on everyone, please stop this nonsense about Japanese armor being "lighter" and less protective. Not all English men-at-arms had full plate harnesses, and not all Englishmen were men-at-arms.


While it is true that not all europeans had full plate armour, I do believe that the european armour generally offered better coverage considering hand to hand combat. If I have my facts straight, the japanese armour lacks some protection in the joints and really never had any proper protection in the armpits which were almost always protected my riveted mail in european armour. And these are the spots different fighting techniques were already targeting in the european martial tradition. Against arrows this would make no difference at all of course. And I'm not sure this makes any difference in formation combat either.

Lighter in protection, I do think. Lighter in weight, can anyone tell us some facts?
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PostPosted: Wed 09 May, 2007 9:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Wooden pikes? What wooden pikes? I never saw any wooden pikes discussed in this thread. Whatever spears the Japanese had at this time were more likely to have been deployed in light infantry formations than in any sort of phalanx, let alone a pike phalanx. If you want a Japanese phalanx then you should have chosen a 16th-century Japanese army, not a 14th-century one!


Quote: Boris Petrov Bedrosov
Quote:
So, behind the lines of pavise and wooden pikes in the ground the Japanese


Oh, this may be a language barrier thing as I think that Boris may have called pikes would be field fortifications made up of portable fences that would look like tall picket fences. Similar in principle to the sharpened stakes English archers would use to slow down or discourage charging cavalry.

Not pikes in the sense of a phalanx. Wink Big Grin

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 10 May, 2007 1:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Risto Rautiainen wrote:
And I'm not sure this makes any difference in formation combat either.


That's precisely my point. I don't care about the man-to-man, piece-for-piece comparisons. We're talking about a battlefield and that, by definition, means massed combat where such factors wouldn't have been very important unless the imbalance in armor is truly great (such as in the case of fully-armored Spanish conquistadors taking over the Philippines.)

Daniel Staberg wrote:
Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Oda Nobunaga, Uesugi Kenshin, or Takeda Shingen would have rolled over their English contemporaries with their 16th-century armies;

Hardly, while the English was one of the less advance armies of the 16th Century and was in a poor shape in that particular period it would certainly have been more than simply a speed bump for the often grossly overhyped Japanese armies. None of whom in realtiy possesed the kind of firepower & strikign power that the armies of 16th Century Europe brought to the field.


It depends on how we interpret the sources. And while I'm prepared to concede the point regarding the Takeda and Uesugi armies, Oda Nobunaga's army in the later stages of his career would have considerably outnumbered most English forces it might expect to face--and we know that quantity is a quality in itself. I agree that the effectiveness of 16th-century Japanese armies have been generally overhyped but we shouldn't go too far and entirely disregard their fighting capabilities. Tokugawa's army, for example, seems to have had a standard of training and discipline comparable to that of European contemporaries, though granted this means he was head and shoulders above most of his adversaries. What he lacked was sheer numbers--and his overlord Oda had this.

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Oh, this may be a language barrier thing as I think that Boris may have called pikes would be field fortifications made up of portable fences that would look like tall picket fences. Similar in principle to the sharpened stakes English archers would use to slow down or discourage charging cavalry.

Not pikes in the sense of a phalanx. Wink Big Grin


Hmm. That would have meant either spikes or a palisade. And the only evidence I can recall from that is Oda Nobunaga's field fortifications in the 16th-century battle where he defeated the suicidal assault of an outnumbered Takeda army. Definitely out of context for a discussion about 14th-century conflicts...
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PostPosted: Thu 10 May, 2007 2:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Oh, this may be a language barrier thing as I think that Boris may have called pikes would be field fortifications made up of portable fences that would look like tall picket fences. Similar in principle to the sharpened stakes English archers would use to slow down or discourage charging cavalry.

Not pikes in the sense of a phalanx. Wink Big Grin


Hmm. That would have meant either spikes or a palisade. And the only evidence I can recall from that is Oda Nobunaga's field fortifications in the 16th-century battle where he defeated the suicidal assault of an outnumbered Takeda army. Definitely out of context for a discussion about 14th-century conflicts...


Yes very possible as I think I remember these spike/palisades from a film by Arika Kurosawa showing a set piece battle I believe. ( Usually films as a source would be of low credibility but with this film I think they made a great effort to be historically accurate ). I think I remember seeing the Japanese musketeers shooting from behind the shelter of the the widely spaced spikes: Looked like a wooden stockade where the vertical stakes alternated with open spaces as opposed to a solid wall.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akira_Kurosawa
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kagemusha
or it could be this film Ran
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ran_%28film%29

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Darryl Aoki





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PostPosted: Thu 10 May, 2007 9:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Oh, this may be a language barrier thing as I think that Boris may have called pikes would be field fortifications made up of portable fences that would look like tall picket fences. Similar in principle to the sharpened stakes English archers would use to slow down or discourage charging cavalry.

Not pikes in the sense of a phalanx. Wink Big Grin


Hmm. That would have meant either spikes or a palisade. And the only evidence I can recall from that is Oda Nobunaga's field fortifications in the 16th-century battle where he defeated the suicidal assault of an outnumbered Takeda army. Definitely out of context for a discussion about 14th-century conflicts...


Yes very possible as I think I remember these spike/palisades from a film by Arika Kurosawa showing a set piece battle I believe. ( Usually films as a source would be of low credibility but with this film I think they made a great effort to be historically accurate ). I think I remember seeing the Japanese musketeers shooting from behind the shelter of the the widely spaced spikes: Looked like a wooden stockade where the vertical stakes alternated with open spaces as opposed to a solid wall.


Most likely Kagemusha, which actually culminates in the battle of Nagashino, though Ran also features an army of mixed cavalry and foot flattening itself in several futile charges against arquebusiers. While Kurosawa took a few artistic liberties (notably the rate of fire of an arquebus), both films are quite watchable.
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PostPosted: Thu 10 May, 2007 7:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:

or it could be this film Ran

Ran's the King Lear inspired film, right? How credible is a film based on a European play?
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PostPosted: Thu 10 May, 2007 8:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J.W. Owen wrote:
Jean Thibodeau wrote:

or it could be this film Ran

Ran's the King Lear inspired film, right? How credible is a film based on a European play?


The script may be based on King lear but the costumes and art direction can still be credible. The arms armour and field fortifications as well as the tactics can still be true to history even if the plot line is fictional.

I have more faith in the accuracy of a film by Kurosawa than I would with a typical Hollywood production.

Obviously other sources confirming these field fortifications as being used and looking like the ones in the film would be better.

Also period ? Might be a 16th century thing only or might have been used earlier or later ?

But since this is a related but a side issue maybe we should go back to the original main Topic ?

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PostPosted: Fri 11 May, 2007 1:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd also trust something made by Kurosawa, especially since Kagemusha was dealing with the Battle of Nagashino and the Oda forces in the battle did use such obstacles to slow down the advance of the Takeda forces. Nagashino was a 16th-century battle, often regarded as the battle that established the superiority of firearms in Japan--although in fact there were not yet that many firearms in Oda's 30,000-man army. The most likely cause of the Takeda defeat is even simpler. Just think about 10,000 men assaulting an enemy force three times as large and protected by a maze of field fortifications? Firearms or no firearms, it was plain suicide.

As for its use in the 14th century, we can't definitely rule it out. However, the only battle I remember from this period--the one where Ashikaga Takauji subdued the forces of Kusunoki Masashige and the Emperor Go-Toba--does not seem to have featured this kind of field fortification. There might have been a couple other battles in the century, though, and they might have featured these stakes and palisades; but in the absence of concrete evidence I think it'd be safer to assume that the 14th-century Japanese wouldn't have used it if they met the English. If anything, the English would have been the ones using pits and stakes to cover the wings and flanks of their force against the possibility of mounted attacks.

Going off-topic a little, the most important thing about these obstacles was not their mere presence. They wouldn't stop an enemy all on their own; instead, they were meant to slow down the enemy so that they would spend more time in a place exposed to the missiles of the defenders. In short, "an obstacle not covered by fire is not an obstacle." So even if either side had obstacles but their men wouldn't defend them then thse obstacles would have been worth nothing.
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PostPosted: Fri 11 May, 2007 1:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Going off-topic a little, the most important thing about these obstacles was not their mere presence. They wouldn't stop an enemy all on their own; instead, they were meant to slow down the enemy so that they would spend more time in a place exposed to the missiles of the defenders. In short, "an obstacle not covered by fire is not an obstacle." So even if either side had obstacles but their men wouldn't defend them then these obstacles would have been worth nothing.


I agree completely that the purpose is to slow down an attack in a way to give the defenders much more time to shoot and reload and the open structures slow down an attacking infantry force but permits the missile armed defenders to shoot through the the obstacle.

I guess another missile armed force could just shoot back right through such an open structure: The English archers could just come up to range and shoot through ! Although the use of pavise by either or both sides would slow down the rate of mutual destruction. The obstacle would put the side deciding to just charge with hand weapons out of frustration back into a state of disadvantage. Well, the possibilities are endless ! Oh, making these defences into a maze would be evil. Evil

Also, even an " impregnable " castle is useless if the walls are not manned or ridiculously undermanned.

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PostPosted: Fri 11 May, 2007 4:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is not quite the knightly era, but I know there were several documented clashes between Japanese ronin fighting for Waco pirates and various European naval warriors in the 16th century, mostly in the Phillipines.

I wonder if there were Samurai involved in these incidents...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lin_Feng

Sounds like it would make for a good movie. Philipines in the 16th century must have been a fascinating place.

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PostPosted: Fri 11 May, 2007 8:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Medieval European Knight vs.The Feudal Japanese Samurai?
By J. Clements
ARMA Director

http://www.thearma.org/essays/knightvs.htm
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PostPosted: Fri 11 May, 2007 8:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Victor Crowne wrote:
The Medieval European Knight vs.The Feudal Japanese Samurai?
By J. Clements
ARMA Director

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


This article was already suggested earlier in the thread. Happy Plus, this thread is not about single combat but how two armies would fare against each other.

Happy

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Victor Crowne





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PostPosted: Sat 12 May, 2007 6:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
Victor Crowne wrote:
The Medieval European Knight vs.The Feudal Japanese Samurai?
By J. Clements
ARMA Director

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


This article was already suggested earlier in the thread. Happy Plus, this thread is not about single combat but how two armies would fare against each other.


ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the most uptight message board in the history of messages, boards and tights.
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PostPosted: Sat 12 May, 2007 7:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Victor Crowne wrote:
ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the most uptight message board in the history of messages, boards and tights.


Victor,
Welcome to the impending loss of your posting privileges. I don't think pointing out that:

1) your post had absolutely no new information
2) that you obviously hadn't read what this thread was about

constitute being uptight. It's doing my job, and I happened to do it without the sarcasm you displayed. Your job is to follow our rules, which you have not done.

Happy

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