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Author Topic: a Knight vs a Samurai?  (Read 47518 times)
Drifter Bob
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« Reply #135 on: January 22, 2004, 07:30:16 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
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.


I am under no illusions thast the Crusades were any kind of pious religious undertaking.

But lets try to stay in focus amigo.  Yes they were "successful" in many ways.  They were successful in building dozens of huge fortresses which were all destroyed, in putting city after city to the sword and massacring untold civilian populations, in leading hundreds of thousands of Crusaders to their often grisly doom, in radicalizing Islam and uniting the Arabs and Egyptians against the Franj, in smashing the power of Byzantium, in cynically massacring half the population of Southern France in the Albigensian Crusade, and in many other ways, but I'm not talking about whether the Crusades were "successful" in some vast historical sense.  The issue at hand was  whether the Knightly armies, during the Crusades and elsewhere, had tactical and strategicaly sound methods.  This, to remind you, was in the context of a hypothetical conflict between a Knightly versus a Samurai army.

To the latter point, I again submit: Did the Crusaders not repeatedly fall for the feigned retreat?  Did they not, time and time again march out into the desert or even more disastrously the floodplain of the Nile river, in spite of warnings, and to their utter doom?  Did they not repeatedly fail to provide adequate provisions, water, food, and supplies for their armies?  Did they not repeatedly fail to undertake adequate reconnisance, to their doom?  Did they not repeatedly ignore battlefield intelligence, to their doom?  Did they not repeatedly demonstrate a fatal lack of battlefield discipline at the crucial moment?

And for a fact, lets keep in mind after the first Crusade many crusading armies were led by the kings or dukes of their own countries of origin, and were not always the disorganized federations of independent knights you describe.

If you are honestly suggesting that there was a preponderence of battles fought in which the above listed flaws did not bring about doom for the Crusaders, then you will force me to cite specific battles and then you can explain or spin them...?

JR
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John Dillinger
Salamander
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« Reply #136 on: January 22, 2004, 08:05:53 AM »

It did lead to the Ottoman Turks fleecing our Pilgrims of small fortunes for the right to travel to the Holy Land. If our crusading forbears had not been so eager to carve out new kingdoms so far from home in such a brutal manner the support of the population might have been gained...

In regards to the arguement that the crusading nobles were a rag tag bunch if imbeciles and that they were sheer geniuses of the battle field... I say it is entirely possible that during all four(?) crusades we had a mixture of these elements as well as the fact that they were fighting in unfamilair territorries and moving amongst unfamiliar peoples. Also, let us NEVER forget the inevitable clash of egos bound to happen between swelled heads. I am quite sure were many with good common sense on the field, however, they were not in charge of the battle plans. Add in the ridiculous idea of the time that God would protect them and lead them to vistory as he was obviously on thier side and then the countless other factors and we see that the situation becomes quite drastically complex.

By the way, why exactly are we talking about 11-13th C. knights here when the arguement was Knight v. Samurai? The typical Samurai of our envisioning did not exist until the 15-16th C. at the earliest anyway.
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toli
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Posts: 313


« Reply #137 on: January 22, 2004, 08:46:30 AM »

Quote from: Drifter Bob

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.
JR


Smail in Crusading Warfare discusses the subject.  You can argue the subject with him.  Of course there were tactical blunders (Hattin)  but there was also substantial discipline in the face of a harrassing enemy (Arsuff).

Usamah ibn-Manqidh who was around in the 1100's calls them the most cautious of all warriors and gives numerous examples of why.

NT
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NT
Valamir
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« Reply #138 on: January 22, 2004, 09:06:47 AM »

John I think you missed my point ENTIRELY.  

Virtually every "tactical blunder" that you point to ties directly back in to the fact that these were not homogenous armies operating under a central authority.  They were armies by committee.

OF COURSE stupid decisions were made.  They were made for the same reason that political infighting and personal agendas lead to stupid decisions in every endeavor.

My point is that the stupid decisions ARE NOT indicitive of broad incompetance by the knightly armies, but were caused by the political turmoil of the knightly armies.

Further the political turmoil of the knightly armies were not because the knights were undisciplined rabble, but because of the situation that crusades engendered.  

Crusaders were cultureally and geographically diverse volunteers, the vast majority of whom were there for reasons completely indifferent to the Pope's desires.  The problems you site are because they were more interested in pursueing their own agendas then fighting the enemy.   One can look at the most successful campaign leaders and discover that universally the core of their army were drawn from their own personal retinue and retainers, and thus were disciplined soldiers following the orders of their leader.  Only the greater kings of Europe could muster a sizeable force relying primarily on their own men which is why the crusades generally faltered when such men were absent.  But even they could not field the entire army themselves and as soon as they had to go hat in hand to other forces in the area, the whole death spiral of compromise and loss of command and control.

As far as their fortresses being destroyed...several lasted for hundred years or more before being pushed out.  That's long enough for grandkids and great grandkids to have enjoyed the fruits of their labor.  Success.  

As for your tangental comments as to the side effects of their efforts...<shrug> in a day in age where the primary expectation of a patriarch was to provide for the future of his own family, why would they care what was done to people they didn't even have distant kinship ties to.
Its only relatively recently in human history where the importance of family blood ties has been all but erased in the West that we've expanded our empathy to encompass strangers.  For most of history, strangers lives were less valuable than livestock.  I firmly believe in judgeing the morality of people by the standards of their own time.  Not ours.

As for the relevance to the discussion on Samurai, its absolutely relevant in the interest of refuting claims that suggest that knightly armies were a bunch of undisciplined bumbling morons.  They were not.

John, your facts about the mistakes that were made are well taken.  But the conclusion you draw from them are way off base.
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Crusader
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« Reply #139 on: January 22, 2004, 09:49:19 AM »

...and medieval Islam was oh-so-organized and disciplined in comparison to medieval Europe.  I'd always heard that the main reason the Crusaders initially steamrolled the Muslims was because of the constant political infighting between Islamic rulers.  Muslim states seem to have been darn good at fragmenting into dozens of smaller, mutually antagonistic states, leaving them ripe for conquest.  Only when faced by the threat of the Frankish invasion did they put aside their differences, and even then not for long enough to drive the Franks out until two hundred years passed.

Go for it Drifter Bob:  Just how many times *did* Crusader armies fall for the feigned retreat?  Or charge at inopportune moments?  I think you should read the Memoirs of Usamah ibn Munkidh.  It's obvious that the Muslims had a very high opinion of the Frankish approach to war indeed, and saw them as a serious threat.

As someone else poited out, this thread had initally focused on the 15th and 16th centuries, not on the era of the crusades.  I think Europe and her armies had made massive strides forward in matters military since the fall of Acre.  Forget not that the 15th century witnessed the fall of Muslim Spain and two triumphs of the Knights of Rhodes over vastly numerically superior Turkish beseiging armies.  In the latter half of the century, a Burgundian author even drew up a plan for conquering the Turks and their horse-archers, one that might very well have worked, too.  In the wake of the re-emergence of the infantryman as a winner of battles and the chastening of the knights as they were made to fight on foot, and perform other functions not originally characteristic of the chivalry, Europe had largely overcome her problems of discipline and organization that had plagued her earlier armies.  I propose that Charles the Bold's Compagnies D'Ordonnance, circa 1473, after the re-organization of the Ordinance of St. Maximin de Treves, would have absolutely stomped any other force that any other culture in the world could have thrown at it, including the vaunted yet backward Japanese.  Surely no other culture anywhere else in the world (except maybe the Swiss...) understood combined arms to such a degree at that point in history.
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toli
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Posts: 313


« Reply #140 on: January 22, 2004, 10:05:19 AM »

[quote="Crusader I propose that Charles the Bold's Compagnies D'Ordonnance, circa 1473, after the re-organization of the Ordinance of St. Maximin de Treves, would have absolutely stomped any other force that any other culture in the world could have thrown at it, including the vaunted yet backward Japanese.  Surely no other culture anywhere else in the world (except maybe the Swiss...) understood combined arms to such a degree at that point in history.[/quote]

Well, of course, the Swiss stomped him...
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NT
Drifter Bob
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« Reply #141 on: January 22, 2004, 11:12:05 AM »

Quote from: toli
[quote="Crusader I propose that Charles the Bold's Compagnies D'Ordonnance, circa 1473, after the re-organization of the Ordinance of St. Maximin de Treves, would have absolutely stomped any other force that any other culture in the world could have thrown at it, including the vaunted yet backward Japanese.  Surely no other culture anywhere else in the world (except maybe the Swiss...) understood combined arms to such a degree at that point in history.


Well, of course, the Swiss stomped him...[/quote]

And how!

JR
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John Dillinger
Drifter Bob
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« Reply #142 on: January 22, 2004, 11:21:32 AM »

I'll grant that by the 16th century, European armies were quite formidable and effective.  But by that time you aren't really talking about "knightly armies", you are talking about sophisticated combined arms organizations in which the knights were but one component, because they had at last been taught the value of effectively trained infantry (by the Swiss) and marksmen (by the English and the Swiss) and they also had artillery, arquebuses, sophisticated siege equipment, and etc.

The problem with comparing 16th century Samurai with 16th Century knigths is that the Samurai had not adopted the same technology, they were more like the 13th century knights.

And to be clear, yes I do think the knights of that era were simultaneously almsot totally incompotent at the tactical demands of warfare while being extremely proficient individual and small-group fighters.  This is because they were still at that point basically fighting in an almost ritualised manner which their position within a feudal society allowed.   In it's own way it was like the cattle raiding and border feuding of the ancient Celts and Germanic tribes who were their forefathers.

It wasn't until they had faced all kinds of different enemies from the horse archers of the saracens, to the mongols, the archers of Wales, and the effective commoner clan / militia armies of Switzerland, Flanders, and Scotland, that they were forced to learn enough lessons to begin learning the lessons about total war, to fight like the Romans.  Since then when they have been able to strike that all important balance between barbaric vigor and 'civlilized' organizational methods and technology, they have proven mighty indeed.

JR
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John Dillinger
Drifter Bob
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« Reply #143 on: January 22, 2004, 11:25:54 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
John I think you missed my point ENTIRELY.  
.

My point is that the stupid decisions ARE NOT indicitive of broad incompetance by the knightly armies, but were caused by the political turmoil of the knightly armies.

.

The problems you site are because they were more interested in pursueing their own agendas then fighting the enemy.  

.


The references to Charles the Bold made me think of this, but the Swiss Cantons fought without unified central leadership.

They were often led by committee.

They had fairly severe cultural differences, and definately had divergent agendas in many cases, and yet they won battle after battle after battle against the knightly armies of the Hapsburgs and the Burgundians.  

JR
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John Dillinger
contracycle
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« Reply #144 on: January 22, 2004, 11:49:58 AM »

If it is conceded that the Western knights were fragmented at the campaign level, then I suggest it is implicitlky conceded that they were fragmented at the battle level too.  The very personal nature of allegiance and the co-ambitions of social equals means that the concession of command to a particular leader arises from political process or sufferance.  I suggest its quite easy to see the western knights as ill-disciplined, becuase you simply cannot guarantee that one of the war-bands that comprises the body as a whole will not take it upon itself to achieve its own goals.

Stepping back a second, this conversation seems to be polarising again after a brief period of sanity.

To say that the Western knight had a much more personal interest and approach is NOT to say that they are an unorganised rabble.  Thats egregious extension.  To opine that the Crusaders were less disciplined than the Islamic armies is not to say that they had no discipline.  To extend this argument as if it some slight directed at the Crusaders or Western armies in general is to play the man and not the ball.

I point out for example, that even at Arsuf, which I agree is one of the better examples of Crusader disipline, that discipline still failed and and the charge that initiated the battle was a violation of orders, IIRC, but Richard capitalised on this event.  As late as the civil war, the Royalist cavaliers charge under Prince Rupert is often accused of being irresponsible glory-seeking that played a major role in losing the war.  I would also agree that the Burgundian Ordnance was very organised, and very forward-thinking, but it was also outright unlucky and lost nearly every battle it fought.  The lesson was largely missed, I think, and burgundy itself, only a collection of personal loyalties, disapeared.

I accept and agree that the Crusaders were fragmented; I disagree somewhat that this is unrepresentative.  Feudalism was inherently fractured, the entire hundred years war is driven by the geographical seperation of various fiefdoms.  And consequently, the men who made up the armies were also fragmented in their cultures and allegiances.  The very mechanism by which these armies are mustered works against them operating as a unnified whole.  And lets not forget, this can have up-sides: it means they were also prone to using their own initiative, which can be a real virtue on the field.  An army that exercises initiative can be very unpredictable; you seldom guard against the illogical and the suicidal.

Hence I say again: this argument does NOT claim they were "incompetent bumbling morons"; it does not criticise their COMPETENCE on the field.  But I think it is relevant to whether or not they had a real tradition of the martial arts or "just" a group of experienced, self-taught, highly-skilled, well equipped *individuals*.  The motto of the english crown is "Dieu et mon droit" - "God and my right".  There is no "we" here.

I suggest the particuler aspect of the patricarchal  family and morality supports this readiung of the record.  Again, allegiance is local, immediate - it does not fight for the greater good, it fights for ITS good.  The Franks are, after all, of the same stock as the German barbarians who believed greatly in individual freedom and personal loyalty rather than over-wheening political structures.

Nobody is denying the western knights were effective.  I don't even think anyone is denying that their opponents recognised that effectiveness - we would not be talking about them if they had NOT conquored all those territories.  Nobody is saying they were  a rag tag bunch of imbeciles.
--
If we push on to the fifteenth century or so, I agree that this society is much more centralised, much more organised and developed, and carries much greater legitimacy for a central authority.  And I agree, that it is here that we see the development of a systematic treatment of the marital arts.  But I also suspect that it is so rapidly eclipsed by gunpowder that the effort is largely still-born.

I don't think theres a systematic structure of martial knowledge evident in the west.  In the castle the small knightly family was largely independant of greater structure.  I'm not even that sure that going to a school or a teacher to learn combat skills would even appeal to knights; surely you learned your trade from your father as a blacksmith or a cooper did, and their very survival qualified them to teach.  I donlt think there is much of a lost *tradition* to be rediscovered, although I do think there are lost skills that can be rediscovered (well, at least to an extent short of homicide).
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contracycle
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« Reply #145 on: January 22, 2004, 12:27:02 PM »

Hey Drifter Bob, I PM'd you about the cards thing.
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Drifter Bob
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« Reply #146 on: January 22, 2004, 01:57:56 PM »

Quote from: contracycle

I don't think theres a systematic structure of martial knowledge evident in the west.  In the castle the small knightly family was largely independant of greater structure.  I'm not even that sure that going to a school or a teacher to learn combat skills would even appeal to knights; surely you learned your trade from your father as a blacksmith or a cooper did, and their very survival qualified them to teach.  I donlt think there is much of a lost *tradition* to be rediscovered, although I do think there are lost skills that can be rediscovered (well, at least to an extent short of homicide).


In your argument you are confusing warfare, in the larger sense, with a martial arts tradition of personal and small group combat.  By assuming that there was no martial arts tradition in Europe you seem to be rather willfully ignoring an immense amount of evidence to the contrary.  Not just the fechtbuchs (some of which went back well into the medieval period, like I33) and all the supporting written evidence, but how do you explain the scores of martial arts traditions which survived into the 19th century and even until this very day, all across Europe?

jR
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John Dillinger
Drifter Bob
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« Reply #147 on: January 22, 2004, 01:58:31 PM »

Quote from: contracycle
Hey Drifter Bob, I PM'd you about the cards thing.


Thanks I'll check that and get back to you.

JR
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John Dillinger
Jake Norwood
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« Reply #148 on: January 22, 2004, 02:07:36 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


Um, I'm waiting for someone to give some kind of historical account. We know that knights rode into battle. What more is there that we're missing?

Quote
2)Were the Fecthtbuchs 'Scientific'


Or, rather, since they called themselves scientific, so is their own definition of science acceptable?

Quote
3)Is there a genuine Western Martial Arts tradition?


The evidence of this is so overwhelming as to be beyond discussion.

Quote
4) Could a knight beat a Samurai


That is probably the most appropriate argument in this thread, and one I want to see grow, I suppose.

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


Honestly, I don't think this question has much place here. The ARMA is a valid organization on any account that I can think of, though it's not always popular with much of the rest of the community. If it's not, why not? All I see here is "ho, hum, I don't like the ARMA" or "they're all about edge-vs-flat" or whatever...which is really "I don't agree with John Clements," since the ARMA is several hundred people more than JC, and we don't all agree with him. As Salamander wrote, the ARMA is an organization of students gathering together to share rescources and to learn.


Lastly, someone wrote that the knight's sword in the 1400's was under 30 inches. The assumption was a knight in full plate with a weapon that was standard issue for someone in so much armor--a warsword, be in a greatsword (4'6") or a long sword (4'). These were extremely common battlefield and duelling weapons, and make up the overwhelming majority of texts from the 1400s in many nations.

Jake
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Drifter Bob
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« Reply #149 on: January 22, 2004, 03:48:03 PM »

Quote
, I don't think this question has much place here. The ARMA is a valid organization on any account that I can think of, though it's not always popular with much of the rest of the community.


Just want to point out, I wasn't raising that issue myself, I was just trying to sum up what seemed to be the threads of discussion going on.  

Personally, while I don't agree with ARMA on every matter, as you know I work with them and I believe they are one of the most serious and dedicated WMA groups around.  I think it is a shame that the WMA community has been so fractured, but I don't blame that entirely on ARMA by any means.

JR
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John Dillinger
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