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Author Topic: a Knight vs a Samurai?  (Read 51703 times)
Drifter Bob
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Posts: 166


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« Reply #120 on: January 20, 2004, 07:53:19 PM »

Quote from: Jake Norwood


The Samurai is armed with a tachi (battlefield katana) and armor from the warring states period.



I noticed that in The Seven Samurai, Toshiro Mifune seemed to be armed with a No-Daci, a much longer type of sword.

Quote

 This is huge advantage in a fight, as boxers, wrestlers, etc. can attest. Smaller was once believed better for Judo, but when the Russian sambo wrestlers entered the mix the Japanese readily accepted the idea of wieght classes.


In wrestling, I agree size is a huge advantage.  (One of the very, very few nice things about being as heavy as I am) But in fencing, I think a little guy can easily make up for the couple of inches of reach disadvantage of his size.  Here in New Orleans in fact, our most notorious fencers back in the early 19th century were creoles of Spanish and French descent, who were often very short, some of the very best not even five feet tall.

You can read a bit about that here:

http://www.duellingoaks.com/oaks.html

I know that Americans ("kaintuks" by local perjorative slang) who were often huge men freuqently six feet tall or more, always refused to fence when challenged to a duel and preferred to take their chances with pistols or even squirrel rifles than face a diminuative creole with saber or colichemarde...

JR

JR
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John Dillinger
timfire
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Posts: 756


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« Reply #121 on: January 20, 2004, 10:45:33 PM »

Quote from: Jake Norwood
[1]My money, honestly, is on the Knight, assuming well trained members of each class, circa 1450.

[2]The knight has reach advantages both in build and in weapon (his arm is longer, as is his sword).

[3]Assuming that texts describing national characters are accurate, the samuari is "ready to die," but the knight has no intention of doing so.

[4]I believe, and this is me, that geometry and western science wins out over "ki."

[5]Lastly, history points to the fact that western modes of warfare, which include the knight, were adopted by easterners who saw that they were more effective.


While I generally agree with you, Jake, I have a few quibbles.

[1] First, as much as I love the samurai (I, myself, study both Iaido and Aikido) I would have to agree that the knight would probably "win," though I think the reason would mostly be because of superior armor.

[2] While the taller European would definately have a longer arm, if we're talking 1450's the samurai's weapon would be just as long. In the 1600's the length of swords was regulated to about 27in + the handle. Before that time a standard tachi/katana would easily be up to 36in + handle (another 12-18in), for a total length of 4 - 4.5 ft.

[3] The notion that a samurai was "ready to die" is a misconception, a misconception that illistrates the different mindsets of the west and Japan. It is better to describe the samurai mindset as "victory at any cost." The samurai was more concerned with offense than defense. A samurai would not throw his life away, but if it took his death to destroy his enemy, he would (probably) do it. Personal survival was not neccessarily a requirement for victory, though he would prefer to live.

[4] The notion of ki being an integral component of fighting is a newer concept that was infused into martial arts over the last couple centuries, long after the warring periods of 1450.

[5] I know that guns and solid metal breastplates are examples of this, but other than those I can't really think of many examples of Japan adopting Western tactics until the 1800's. I also think that the situation then was diffferent; Japan had just reopened their borders to a world that had radically advanced technologically, and Japan wanted/needed to catch up. So rather than wait and possibly fall further behind, they hired European military advisers to update their armies.
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #122 on: January 21, 2004, 01:44:31 AM »

For what it's worth, my money is on the Vietnamese Nationalist  (who, in 1450, were busy slaughtering the Chinese by the battalion) and, after that, the Mongol Horseman.  From there, the knight, the samurai, the Chinese Duelist, the Italian Duelist, the Aztec Eagle Knight, and so on in roughly that order.  (Those Aztecs only had obsidian swords, but they trained themselves to stay conscious during severe bloodloss.  How cool is that?)

On a slightly less flip note--

Two notes: one on the Samurai as they are percieved, one on the situation itself.

I think it is perhaps uninformed to say that the Samurai did not, at the proper time and in the proper place, employ techniques that were as scientifically* derived as any western counterparts.  But they did not leave texts, and the historical record is not well kept on exact techniques.  By the time that Samurai texts are written and the Bushido code is developed, the Samurai have existed for centuries as an oligarchical class of landholders and studying their techniques from those books is rather like, well, studying knighthood from Victorian Foil Fencing manuals...

Whatever method the Samurai were originally trained with is lost.  It remains in bits and pieces -- Jujitsu, Iajitsu and Kenjitsu -- but the essence was lost in the four century peace of the Tokugawa period, and what remains has been refined into "arts" akin to modern fencing -- useful for combat, but ultimately not the thing itself.

There are elements of the Japanese martial tradition that have survived -- mostly among the rebellious peasant class -- but the sword arts are not among them.

Assuming, then, that the knight and the samurai are meeting on a battlefield somewhere in the Afghani desert (roughly in the middle of Eurasia), the winner will undoubtably be the one who adapts to the strange situation, terrain, and fighting style fastest.  These are, effectively, two aliens meeting each other for the first time.  They have never seen each other's fighting style.  The samurai is not trained against hard metal targets and lance charges, and the knight is not trained against elite swordsmen or mounted archers (I understand that most knights fought with lance and mace, from horseback.)

Given that the knight is simply wearing more metal, and has better equipment (again, more metal), he has a slight advantage.  That said, the Samurai were a highly educated caste, and trained in creative arts, which might give them the slight edge in adapting quickly.

But the real winner is the one who suggest teaming up and conquering China. ;-)

yrs--
--Ben

* By "science" I simply mean "informed process of hypothesis, trial, and error."  As a "hard scientist" I feel reasonably confident in this definition.
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Drifter Bob
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« Reply #123 on: January 21, 2004, 02:32:22 AM »

it's funny how we all went from ridiculing the notion of comparing a knight to a samurai to wholeheartedly enjoying indluging in this 'sordid speculation' ;)

Sometimes it's cool just to admit it's fun to play in the mud and git dirty!

JR
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John Dillinger
Muggins
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« Reply #124 on: January 21, 2004, 05:38:19 AM »

[quote="Drifter Bob]On the other hand, in a field army encounter, depending on the era I would go with the Japanese.  The Western forces would have the advantage of heavy cavalry, but based on what I have read of a typical Knightly army of the Medeival period, the Japanese would probably have vastly superior discipline, much better infantry, and much more effective archers / marksmen (even though the European Heavy Crossbow and Longbow are probably superior weapons on an individual basis, and they may have also had better armor piercing arrowheads).  

I think in general the knigthly armies of the European Medieval period displayed terrible tactical judgement more often than they did decent or even good judgement, which often more than made up for their truely awesome superiority in heavy cavalry over anyone else they faced.

If you put something better balanced together like say a well lead Swiss Infantry army with Halberds and well organized and suppported by at least some knights, then you may have a different story.  The military orders, Teutonic Knights, Hospitalers or Templars might also be better disciplined.

Overall it would also depend a lot on the terrain, much as battles against the mongols, the turks, the saracens and the moors did.  In a more open terrain, I bet the Japanese would win.  If there was more rough ground where the Knights had an opportunity to pin them somewhere, they might have a better chance.  The lack of discipline and in some cases, seemingly sanity, of the Knights, the lack of light cavalry or cavlary archers, the poor quality of the typical infantry and the frequent poor placement and organization of archers (with the exception of the English) would all be big disadvantages for the Western forces.

IMHO

JR[/quote]

I think many of the more recent military historians (Verbrugge comes to mind) have a much higher opinion of Frankish (Western) discipline and organisation than you think. The Crusaders were not a good example of the warfare of the time, being poorly lead and equipped (here you, hold this). Othe battles show a much higher degree of discipline. Similarly, the French knights during the 100 years' war were abnormally badly lead and trained.

But the lack of light cavalry has always been a Western problem, as the lack of horse archers. But if the opposing armour stands ready to fight, instead of skirmishing, there is very little on earth that could have withstood a full Frankish charge on open ground.

James
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Bastoche
Member

Posts: 64


« Reply #125 on: January 21, 2004, 06:52:32 AM »

Quote from: Drifter Bob

I'm glad youre not closing it too, but maybe we could split it up into the three or four different arguments which seem to be taking place here:

1)The role of courage and fear in combat, and could knights conquer it


There are some studies on the effect of fear and panic and/or panicing situation on people (TV report on discovery or something along those lines). Their conclusion is that no matter the situation (they looked at war, earthquake, plane crash, etc) each individual has an instrinsic behavior: 1/3 keep control of their senses and can take quick and good decision on the best course to take to survive. 1/3 just sits there unable to take a decision. The other third randomly does anything as unsensial it can be.

So the first 1/3 is highly likely to survive, the last one may be lucky and second more often than not die on place.

However, the study showed that with the proper training, fear was not a factor anymore. Soldiers, firefighters and policeman for instance are trained to react in certain ways in certain risky situation. With proper training, the chances of survival appeared uncorelated to the ability to manage stress. It was more or less correlated to the ability to understand the teachings about the situation. Of course the "basic" reaction one could call instinct has an influence on the reaction but not as much as learning. At least that's what the study showed.

So in a fight, you have two basic types of people. Untrained and trained people. The first third of the untrained people could stand a chance in a fight against a poorly trained person belonging in any category. But all trained people has a better chance to survive a stressful situation. The more you are trained, the less stress (fear) is a factor.

Quote

2)Were the Fecthtbuchs 'Scientific'


The question is about what is "scientific". The fetchbuchs are scientific in the sense that what it says comes from 1) a systematic/well-thought of/logical approach to combat and 2) from conclusion based on experience on the field. It's not as systematic or well controled as a physics experiment, but the results were not random.

Quote

3)Is there a genuine Western Martial Arts tradition?


Sure, look at occident's armies. Not, it's not melee fighting anymore. But soldiers trains in shooting, flying planes, riding warboats, shooting missiles, etc. It's all martial arts. Not as cool as jujutsu, but a martial arts nonetheless. And slipping off topic. Unfortunatly, we've deleted previous martial arts from our teachings. So I guess the answer would be "yes and no".

Quote

4) Could a knight beat a Samurai


With a "could" anything "could" happen ;) One might beat the other if some factor or another favors him ;)

Quote

5) Assuming WMA exists, is ARMA a valid organization for teaching it?


I guess it's only a matter of opinion. Mine is "yes as long as you don't take it all as The Truth".

Quote

But I'm all for the chaos of this thread, I find it very interesting and informative too...


Me too :D
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Sebastien
tauman
Member

Posts: 65


« Reply #126 on: January 21, 2004, 07:10:47 AM »

Quote from: Drifter Bob

1)The role of courage and fear in combat, and could knights conquer it

I think it's really not so much 'courage' as controlling one's fear. Knights and samurai were being homo-sapiens who trained for war--I think that on average one would have as much chance as the other.

Quote from: Drifter Bob

2)Were the Fecthtbuchs 'Scientific'

I can't speak for all of them (as I haven't read all of them), but some of the Italian Rapier manuals certainly were. While I wouldn't call them "science-books," certain sections are absolutely scientific in the treatment of the theory and its application, reading not so much a books about fencing as books about the principles and use of geomoetry and physics.

Quote from: Drifter Bob

3)Is there a genuine Western Martial Arts tradition?

Yes. Based on the various manuals--not merely their existence, but how they relate to one another--and also based upon other non-martial historical texts, I think the evidence is very strong.

Quote from: Drifter Bob

4) Could a knight beat a Samurai

Yes, and the other way around, too. The point, to me, is that the samurai didn't have some exclusive body of martial knowledge unknown to the knight. Both were warriors that were (ideally) systematically trained in the arts of fighting and war.

Quote from: Drifter Bob

5) Assuming WMA exists, is ARMA a valid organization for teaching it?

Yes--although it is better for some weapons or schools than it is for others.

Steve Reich
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toli
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Posts: 313


« Reply #127 on: January 21, 2004, 09:08:55 AM »

Quote from: Muggins

I think many of the more recent military historians (Verbrugge comes to mind) have a much higher opinion of Frankish (Western) discipline and organisation than you think. The Crusaders were not a good example of the warfare of the time, being poorly lead and equipped (here you, hold this). James


RE Frankish reclessness on the crusades.  I've been reading the autobiography of a Arab-Syrinian 'gentleman' named Usamah al-Mu..something or other.  He calls the Frankish knights the most cautious of all people and give several examples of what he means.  More recent treatemnts also have a higher opinion of crusader discipline than past ones.  THere were obvious tactical blunders, but in other cases they were highly disciplined when given the competent leadership (Richard I)....NT
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NT
Salamander
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Posts: 450


« Reply #128 on: January 21, 2004, 02:50:34 PM »

Quote from: toli

So what you are saying is that I was right all along....


*sigh* I guess we'll have to disagree to agree... :)
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"Don't fight your opponent's sword, fight your opponent. For as you fight my sword, I shall fight you. My sword shall be nicked, your body shall be peirced through and I shall have a new sword".
Salamander
Member

Posts: 450


« Reply #129 on: January 21, 2004, 03:27:18 PM »

Quote from: Drifter Bob

I'm glad youre not closing it too, but maybe we could split it up into the three or four different arguments which seem to be taking place here:


Quote

1)The role of courage and fear in combat, and could knights conquer it


I believe that the knight, samurai or anybody else trained to operate in battlefield conditions could learn to conquer it. When I joined the Army, I was a milk fed farmboy. I would avoid conflict at school becaue it was the Christian thing to do. After I was finished Infantry School I could stare down the ugliest and go toe to toe with the nastiest. I didn't always win, but I always got better. When I finished Selections I never had to put hands on another person needlessly again. The individuals in question just knew there was something fouler than orcs in the deep places of the earth. The last job I did in The Queen's service involved prodigious amounts of gunplay and explosive ordinance. Not one of my men nor I would hide or take cover unless it was an operational neccessity.

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2)Were the Fecthtbuchs 'Scientific'


Here I seem to part ways with many people... I beleive the Fechtbuchs were textbooks for the science of fence. The teachers provide the students with the art.

Quote

3)Is there a genuine Western Martial Arts tradition?


If we define a martial art as a systematic application of method and technique to cause harm to your foe, then yes... in giant playing card spades. The stuff I have learned in a year on how to use a sword is quite frighteneing. Also, all of the hand to hand and grappling/throws are eerily similar to what I learned in Advanced Hand to Hand.

Quote

4) Could a knight beat a Samurai


It really depends upon the people involved. The training tells, but the will wins.

Quote

5) Assuming WMA exists, is ARMA a valid organization for teaching it?


First of all... ARMA does not teach WMA or "Kunst dei Fechten" as I have heard the phrase turned. They teach people how to research it and learn it. Then they all get together and compare notes and argue about the signifigance of x or y and work out the best available solution. Association for Renaissance Martial Arts does a school mean.

As for Western Martial Arts existing, I firmly believe they do. You have no idea the number of things I was taught to do with a knife or my hands only to see them mirored in Ringeck's or Talhoffer's or Ott the Jew's work... When I asked the Hand to Hand instructors where they got this stuff from they would just say "That's how my instructors taught me".

[edited because I can't seem to spell "solution"]
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"Don't fight your opponent's sword, fight your opponent. For as you fight my sword, I shall fight you. My sword shall be nicked, your body shall be peirced through and I shall have a new sword".
Drifter Bob
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« Reply #130 on: January 21, 2004, 04:59:43 PM »

Quote from: toli

RE Frankish reclessness on the crusades.  I've been reading the autobiography of a Arab-Syrinian 'gentleman' named Usamah al-Mu..something or other.  He calls the Frankish knights the most cautious of all people and give several examples of what he means.  More recent treatemnts also have a higher opinion of crusader discipline than past ones.  THere were obvious tactical blunders, but in other cases they were highly disciplined when given the competent leadership (Richard I)....NT


Oh boy, this is going to open a another whole new can of worms, but...

OK, not only were knightly armies secretly much better than we thought, they even did well in the crusades?  I have run across this kind of thing in a lot of forums for re-encators and WMA people, and I find it extremely disturbing.  A lot of the Roman re-enactors have gotten to the point now that they will tell you that Roman Legionaires were chivalrous fighters for justice, spreading peace and civilization across the land...

This is a very dangerous idea.  If we are going to learn anything from history we have to anylize it soberly, and not try to figure out which side we identify with and try to make them seem like the good guys or that they were less screwed up than they really were.

Look, you can interpret it or spin it any way you want.  I have read dozens of books on the battles in the middle ages, including some of the most detailed technical analysis available, and nowhere have I read about this overlookedtactical genius.  To the contrary.

Yes there were some victories, yes there were a few amazingly effective leaders.  But the majority of the time, the story was the same.  Lunacy, recklessness, poor planning, poor preparation.

You talk about the Crusades?  How many times did Crusader armies fall for feigned retreats, to their doom, again and again and again?  How many times did Crusader armies, including under Richard, march out into the Nile river delta at the worst possible time of the year?  How many times did they go into battle with inadequate supplies, without even considering the need for water?  How many times were they defeated by poor battlield intelligence (or even more often, by ignoring or failing to heed intelligence they did get?)

And lets not forget the propensity for the mighty knight to flee from the battlefield, attack out of turn, or do just about anything else they could think of irregardless of the effect it would have on the overall battle.

They did of course get much more organised as the middle ages gave way to the Renaissance, and eventually European armies became truly formidable, but in the medieval period, it was their iron mail armor, their weapons like the heavy lance, sword, and heavy crossbow, and their heavy warhorses that saved their asses in spite of incredibly tactical and strategic blunders.  You could even argue that those advantages made it harder for them to learn the tactical lessons.

lets try to 'keep it real' though folks, we aren't on one side or another.  I doubt too many people here are actually descended from knights anyway even if you do have European ancestry.  More likely to be the distant relative of some highly oppressed peasants!

JR
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John Dillinger
Salamander
Member

Posts: 450


« Reply #131 on: January 21, 2004, 07:15:31 PM »

Quote from: Drifter Bob


lets try to 'keep it real' though folks, we aren't on one side or another.  I doubt too many people here are actually descended from knights anyway even if you do have European ancestry.  More likely to be the distant relative of some highly oppressed peasants!

JR


*Waving hand*
Oooh! Ooh!
Descended from Duchy of Leeds and by Marriage around 1520-something a good bit of Freiburg.
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"Don't fight your opponent's sword, fight your opponent. For as you fight my sword, I shall fight you. My sword shall be nicked, your body shall be peirced through and I shall have a new sword".
Drifter Bob
Member

Posts: 166


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« Reply #132 on: January 21, 2004, 07:48:09 PM »

Quote from: Salamander
Quote from: Drifter Bob


lets try to 'keep it real' though folks, we aren't on one side or another.  I doubt too many people here are actually descended from knights anyway even if you do have European ancestry.  More likely to be the distant relative of some highly oppressed peasants!

JR


*Waving hand*
Oooh! Ooh!
Descended from Duchy of Leeds and by Marriage around 1520-something a good bit of Freiburg.


Ok youre excused then.  Take off your shackles and step up to the sweetmeats tray.  Now the rest of you!  Back to your plows!

JR
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John Dillinger
Muggins
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« Reply #133 on: January 22, 2004, 04:43:05 AM »

I agree with Drifter Bob that it is mildly difficult to put too heavy a good spin on the Crusading armies. The armies were too cosmopolitan, with little central organisation, and each commander in the battle thought he knew best. Coupled with an unreliable supply train and a fanaticism of note, this meant that very little by way of good soldiering on a large scale occurred. A lot of the hesitation seen from the Crusader leaders can hinge upon the lack of control they felt they had over their forces.

However, there is a large body of evidence that says well organised, well led armies of the period were tactically and strategically sound. This can be seen in the actions of small, homogenous armies in the Crusades. Provided the leader was accepted as the leader by all, constant warplay and a innovative bent made Frankish armies formidable. It is only later, under the idiocy of chivalry and the absolute disregard for infantry, that we see major tactial mistakes made.

James
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Valamir
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Posts: 5574


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« Reply #134 on: January 22, 2004, 05:14:10 AM »

This discussion of "the crusades" is so vague as to be pretty useless.  There is a BIG difference between the organization and discipline of a crusading soldier on campaign, and the strategic organization and internal politicking of competeing Crusader lords.

One has to understand that the Crusading army was not a homogenous force united to defeat heathens.  It was a mish mash of small groups who were most often seperated from their traditional vows of loyalty (their liege being home or being in some other remote part of the region) and who thus found themselves in the service of others greater than themselves.  In many ways the structure of the Crusading army was a throw back to an earlier period where warrior would gather in the hall of whatever lord was strong enough to command them and generous enough to reward them for their service.  The primary goal of these men was wealth, plunder, and ideally setting up independent states for themselves.

Most of the crusades took place during a period where the line between the greater nobility (lords) and the lesser nobility (knights) were increasing.  The rules for inheritence and grants from the kings were becoming more regimented and the potential for upward mobility of knights to higher titles was sharply declined.  The days when a Norman adventurer could carve out a kingdom by attacking someone and claiming it were in the past and now war in Europe was a matter of kings and great nobles.  Only in Spain and Palestine could a knight or lesser lord through determination and strength of arms earn title and holdings by conquering land from the saracens.

That's what they were after land and titles.  Obtaining these was more important than defeating Moslems.  What appears to be a disorganized, incompetant mess by people who think the Crusades were about religion in fact was a carefully orchestrated (and generally brutal and messy) game between the Crusaders themselves over the real reason they were there.  Land.  

In this they were very successful.  Several of the Crusader States (and the smaller vassals to them) lasted for generations.  Claiming a title and passing it to ones heirs was the purpose and that purpose was served.  In fact, the reason the Crusaders fell on Byzantium was just more of the same.  Lots of profitable land to claim from a weak opponent who wasn't Catholic without needing to trek through the desert.

Most people don't realize that the City of Athens was conquered as part of the Crusades and was held by western lords for 250 years until taken by the Ottomans in the middle of the 15th century.

This is not revisionist history at all Bob.  But the assumption that these men were reckless or stupid or didn't know their own profession is patently absurd.  Their methods may look chaotic, but make much more sense taken in the context of what their true goals were.  And in the pursuit of those goals the Crusades were VERY VERY successful.
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