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Subject: Medieval Knights vs Feudal Samurais? rss

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Paulo Augusto
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In some generic game (doesn't really matter, i think), which should be the greatest fighting unit between these 2?

#1 - The glorious Knight. The noblemans followers of the codes of chivalry, encased in full and shiny metal platings, charging into battle on their powerfull and armoured horses and with lovely standards, wearing huge spears, huge long swords, broad swords and battle maces.

#2 - The glorious Samurai. The cult members of japanese society, masters os poetry and followers of Bushido, the warrior's code. Trained mentally and phisically from very young ages to have no fear, to desire glorious death in battle, to be absolute masters of the Bow, the amazing Katana and the Wakizashi (Daisho), and many other weapons, charging into battle in lesser but still very decent pieces of armour.
 
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Oliver Kiley
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I'd put my money on the Samurai. The swords are a lot sharper.
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Chris L.
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I'd say samurai just because they would be able to move around a lot easier.
 
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David Sevier
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It's not really an even fight. They were both very good at fighting, but both were good at fighting the people they fought. Kind of circular, but true.

I'd bet on the knight, simply because a late period knight in full plate took very specialized weapons to hurt. A katana, no matter how sharp, just wouldn't do the trick. No slashing weapon would. It took a heavy piercing or smashing blow to hurt those knights. Hence the development of war hammers, heavy crossbows, and eventually bullets.

Keep in mind that knights generally focused on slaughtering a bunch of ill trained and ill equipped peasants. That's what the swords were for (as well as status symbols)
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Tim M-L
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The knights. By the time samurai were practicing poetry and esoteric combat theories, they were out of practice at actual fighting.
 
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Simon Tan
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Mephansteras wrote:
It's not really an even fight. They were both very good at fighting, but both were good at fighting the people they fought. Kind of circular, but true.

I'd bet on the knight, simply because a late period knight in full plate took very specialized weapons to hurt. A katana, no matter how sharp, just wouldn't do the trick. No slashing weapon would. It took a heavy piercing or smashing blow to hurt those knights. Hence the development of war hammers, heavy crossbows, and eventually bullets.

Keep in mind that knights generally focused on slaughtering a bunch of ill trained and ill equipped peasants. That's what the swords were for (as well as status symbols)


I have to disagree about the efficacy of plate armor. The Battles of Agincourt and Hattin demonstrated that longbows (Agincourt) and composite bows (Hattin) can still penetrate the armor enough to defeat a knight. Crossbows would also do the trick, and they don't have to be the heavy arbalests to do it.

On the flip side, the Japanese developed their own counters to heavier armor and horse battles after two attempts from Mongols to invade. Among them are the naginata, similar to a halberd, and the zanbato, literally "horse-slaying sword".

With that aside, I would probably design the samurai as a high-attack, medium-defense unit with some range capability (they do train in archery), while the knight would be a high-defense, medium attack.
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Andy Day

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Ah, the age old conflict. My money’s on the knight and his vastly superior armor. You could watch the Deadliest Warrior Episode that pits the Samurai against the Viking. They simply couldn’t cut chain armor. Well, plate would be harder still to cut. That said, Deadliest Warrior is cr@p.

There are examples of great battles being decided by longbows and other armor-piercing weapons, such as the previous poster’s citing of Agincourt. Byzantine cataphracts had their super maces that did a good job of it too. But there are many, many more examples of battles being won by the team with thicker armor. This is why thick armor was in vogue for thousands of years.
 
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Chris
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In terms of martial training received, knights and samurai were on a par. In terms of other training, knights and samurai were on a par.

Your explanation of both seems to favour the samurai. Some sort of myth has arisen about the supremacy of mystical Japanese martial arts, possibly because the prevalence of medieval European sword training lessened with the advent of the firearm. Huge tracts of learning became all but extinct. If preserved at all it was mostly in medieval texts which are difficult to interpret as physical training is poorly translated into writing and illustration and a manual is largely incomprehensible without already having practised the rest of the forms the manual explains or expands upon. Possibly due to closed borders and fewer firearms and laws restricting weapons Japanese hand to hand combat weapons remained viable much later than in Europe.

Knights were first squires, raised since childhood in a martial tradition. Both pursued arts outside that of direct combat, such as hunting, reading, court etiquette. I'm sure both would have regarded the other as uncouth.

There is the patently false myth that samurai were unafraid of death or anything else and the similarly false myth that samurai were masters of the sword. Some were good, some were mediocre. Competency is common, mastery is rare.

That you mention katana and wakizashi as daito and shoto says you mean later samurai, say the 17th century or after, else you would have mentioned tachi and some other companion sword. Plating indicates that you mean later period knights. This means the eras of the two warrior callses aren't entirely contemporary but we'll pretend.

You can't edge parry with a katana for fear of damaging the edge. It's fragile, it's going to chip on the plate, it's not going to penetrate. The European sword tended to be much more robust. (There's a famous story that Richard met with Saladin and they compared their weapons. Richard chopped an anvil in two. Saladin threw a piece of fine silk in the air and let it gently fall upon his blade where it cut neatly in two and, upon examination, was seen to have no frayed edges.) The broadsword and the Viking sword fell out of favour and the arming sword eventually developed a pointier tip or became heavier. Cutting and slashing doesn't work well but thrusting or bludgeoning are effective against plate. If using a longsword versus a katana the knight has greater reach as the katana is typically shorter.

Mail protected the other areas and the chisel tip of a katana is not well suited to piercing. This of course presupposes the katana is going to get past the shield which a knight wields, when he isn't using a longsword, and hit one of the lesser armoured spots. Knights were trained to use them as offensive weapons. Some were designed as offensive weapons with spikes and hooks. Samurai were not used to them but knights would face enemies without shields.

Knights carried daggers and samurai might have had tanto. Both of these may have been much better suited for piercing mail, certainly a knight needed a weapon that could penetrate another knight's armour.

A European harness was not as cumbersome as some imagine. If you've worn one yourself, or if you've seen men in armour move, you'll know that. While the plate weighs a lot, the European man is also larger and thus presumably stronger too. Japanese armour isn't exactly light either. The suits are armour are likely to be similarly cumbersome, that is, both afford great freedom of movement.

In the later periods, which the presence of a wakizashi indicates it must be, means that Japanese armour is not at its heaviest. A longsword is going to do severe bludgeoning damage to a samurai if it hits. Japanese armour did not incorporate mail. It was designed to be resistant to an edged weapon. A thrusting weapon was likely to penetrate if it could hit.

When held by the blade, which modern historians now believe was a widely used technique, the crossguard of a European sword was able to easily dent plate armour. Presumably a blow to the head could stun an armoured opponent enabling the used of a dagger or baselard or the tip of the sword.

Samurai were trained in the use of the yari, which was as long as a knight's lance. Bear in mind that a lance used in battle had to be used one handed so it needed to be balanced or counterbalanced, meaning its reach was less than a yari of the same length. Also, it was much heavier than a footman's spear to withstand the impact of charging and it needn't have an edge like a yari generally did so it was really only of use from horseback.

The naginata and whichever European polearm was in favour at the time would both have been useful due to the greater power as well as reach. Bearing in mind that cutting through steel plate was not viable for a sword like blade but piercing was with a enough momentum and/or a properly pointed weapon. A naginata may have provided this opportunity in a way a katana would not. European polearms often had spikes for this purpose. The impact of swing would have been dangerous regardless of penetration.

The ability of a bow to penetrate plate armour is still disputed. Yes, a quarrel or arrow could possibly penetrate but how well is not well documented. Many modern test results as well as historical writings show that a man in plate (probably with a doublet underneath) is going to know an arrow has hit him but if his armour is somewhat below average or better a wound is unlikely. While the longbow is credited as the secret to the victory at Agincourt, most of those people weren't knights and couldn't afford plate so relying on that as evidence of an arrow's ability to penetrate armour is unwise. Bear in mind that if the samurai is going to use a bow he's not going to wear gauntlets. Armoured gauntlets are not something you can slip on and off while your enemy charges you down.

I haven't commented upon the horses used by each as I don't know enough. Given that warhorses in Europe were often barded that seems to favour their survivability. Differences in breeding might make things like speed and endurance comparable despite the extra weight.

I'm very firmly siding with the European knight. Armour and ability to defeat armour are both in the knight's favour. The only advantage the samurai has is the use of a bow. But all this, while based on fact, comes down to nothing but opinion when making the call.

Edits 1&2: Left out a negative, then put it in the wrong place so had to edit the edit.
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Oliver Kiley
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Chris C wrote:
In terms of martial training received, knights and samurai were on a par. In terms of other training, knights and samurai were on a par.


Okay, but who get's more style points? Afterall, Style is the Goal
 
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Nate K
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I agree with Chris C that the European knight would have better armor and a superior ability to penetrate or bludgeon through that armor. Unmounted, I would have to give the edge to the knight.

But both European knights and Asian samurai often fought mounted, and I think that would be a more interesting contest.

Knights used horses as weapons as much as transportation--their large warhorses could trample unarmored enemies, or help deliver fatal blows from a lance or sword.

Samurai used smaller, lighter, and faster horses to give them a tactical edge on the battlefield. They also trained to be able to use their bows while mounted and moving. (Which is insane, by the way. If I was riding a horse at speed, I would be holding on with both hands, not aiming an arror at a moving target.)

If the samurai and knights were all mounted, the samurai might be able to use their slightly greater speed and mobility in combination with their significantly greater range to harry and harrass the knights, wound the knights' warhorses, and generally wear down the European force until the warhorses are worn out. At that point, you get mounted samurai versus knights on foot. The samurai could then use their midrange weapons to skewer and hack the dismounted knights.

I'm not saying that mounted samurai would definitely win against an equal force of mounted knights. But I do think their speed and range would give them an edge in that battle.
 
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True Blue Jon
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Set it up in Heroscape and find out!
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Paulo Augusto
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For my game, a civilization game, the time in history isn't really important. What matters is if both iconic warriors were similar in the science tree: advanced steel handling to make advanced weapons and armour, and advanced knowledge and experience of melee warfare. Therefore, i think it is perfectly acceptable, in this situation, to consider the most advanced Knight vs the most advanced Samurai, even if peak of the samurais occured later because of the decline of the Knights vs the firearms.

Also, i i'm looking for some reality in the comparison but, since it is a game, an important aspect (maybe the most important) is the cultural mithical «knowledge» of both warrior casts, even if wrong. Especially considering that a comparison relies on too random elements.

Any considered fight between them 2 would be extremely random. In an ocasional encounter and fight, both would probably not be wearing armour, since it takes lots of time to put on and was only putted on before battles or jousts. A single arrow could end it quickly. Or would they be fighting a prepared fight? If they were fighting a traditional joust with lances, there wouldn't even be a contest. Being an expected fight, would the Samurai have had the time to study and practice fighting against shields? The individual quality of the warriors participating would probably range from the statesman nobleman that affords an Armour and good weapons (who mostly eats, drinks wine or sake, spends time on courtsmanship and takes care of it's estate) to proper soldiers who train frequently who probably cannot afford great armours.

Thanks for the replies. I'm hesitating on the Knights having better defense than the Samurais but i'm more inclined on both of them being the very top most unit available. Both of them have huge style and great reputation.
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Chris
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PauloAugusto wrote:
I'm hesitating on the Knights having better defense than the Samurais but i'm more inclined on both of them being the very top most unit available. Both of them have huge style and great reputation.


No need to hesitate. Japanese lords who had received pieces or suits of European plate as gifts did not hesitate to wear them in battle. They afforded superior protection and the Japanese knew that.

In a less cogent argument:
"Knights are cool. They don't wash since being clean makes you sick so they use lots of deodorant to hide their stench which is what real men do even today instead of showering and that way chicks can smell the pheromones--and I don't care if pheromones haven't been proven to have any effect on humans or even exist. But the samurai are sissies who sleep on a wooden pillow so that they won't mess up their girly hair styles. Throw a little dirt on a samurai and he'll run away to take a bath and write a poem about it, and not a manly poem like Beowulf with dragons and arms getting ripped off either. It'll be about cherry blossoms--the tree kind, not the cool kind. Knight wins. You know it's true."
 
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