No, anime swordsmanship stuff is bull….

10 Jan

After watching some anime stuff with my friends, I just couldn’t stand listening to all the Japanese swordsmanship bull that gets spewed….Allow me to let of some medieval European steam…All this “well I use (insert obscure important sounding fighting style here)!” and “This sword has special powers!” crap is driving me nuts. People are absolutely crazy for samurai stuff. This brings up the age old geek debate “Which is better? A knight or a Samurai?” Let me preface this by saying that this debate is fundamentally absurd; a knight of the 15th century would never run into a Samurai of the 14th. And then there is the fact that in hand to hand combat, it’s not the weapons or the armor, it’s the skill of the fighter.

That noted, assume in some nonexistent plane a knight at the peak of medieval weapon and armor development (right before gunpowder made them obsolete) meet at samurai at their peak, and that they were both equally good fighters. Contrary to what many of my Japanese obsessed friends think, the knight would totally kick the Samurai’s ass.

Look at the equipment. The knight, in full plate armor, would be covered head to toe in steel, with chainmaile covering any gaps, and then an arming doublet of some kind under it. The samurai would have on his bamboo and cloth armor with little bits of metal here and there. Bamboo and cloth…. Many people who have no experience with plate armor try to make the claim “well, the knight is slower and can’t move as well as the samurai.” Bullshit. You can move very well in full plate. I KNOW. And yes, if you get pushed over you can hop right back up. (Well, maybe not some of my older living history friends ~_^)

As for the swords, the longsword is far superior to the katana. The knight has a better striking range than the samurai, and the big advantage of TWO edges to the sword. The katana only has one edge. With the two edges, the knight has a whole range of cuts he can preform that the samurai cannot. After a swing in one direction, to cut back the same way, the samurai must rotate his sword around and swing again, the knight can just cut straight back, no rotating required.

The katana also doesn’t have a substantial guard (the cross piece where the blade meets the hilt). There is almost nothing to keep the knight’s sword from sliding down the blade onto the samurai’s hands. The knight however has a nice big guard which he can use to catch and block the samurai’s cuts. The samurai also doesn’t have a pommel with witch to utilize the back of the sword, the knight does, which means he can whip the sword around and bash the samurai in the face if they closed.

The katana also has no chance of cutting through the knight’s armor. I don’t care how sharp it is, in real life it can’t cut through steel. The thrusting point is also inferior to that of a longsword’s, which could easily pierce through bamboo and cloth. Again, this whole debate is absurd however since the two developed in different cultures and the samurai’s weapons were not designed to come up against something like a knight in full plate.

Furthermore, it drives me nuts how they practically worship the sword. It’s a piece of steel. Hunks of atoms assembled (assembled masterfully albeit) , and there is nothing “magical” about it. There is also no magical ancient spirit that protects the fighters or enhances their attacks. (WWII proved that)  It just drives me nuts how my friends just gobbled down this BS. Maybe they are just better at suspending disbelief….

12 Responses to “No, anime swordsmanship stuff is bull….”

  1. Adam August 19, 2009 at 1:46 am #

    I would like to say that you really shouldnt critisize a martial art when you haven’t learned about it. People have been mastering kenjutsu for centuries before the knights also the samurai know how to use multiple weapons like a naginata and usually carry maybe 4 different weapons amd more minor weapons. The tsuba (as you say, the gaurd is mostly deflect the sword incase of a mistake) the armor of a samurai actually catches swords and uses a scale pattern of metal over most of the armor. If a samurai would meet a knight they would just burn the ground around the knight and cook them. The reason i say that is because it was used against knights before in a previous war. Im sorry im so defensive about this but im very serious about my martial art (like you with your armor)

  2. Adam August 19, 2009 at 2:01 am #

    Oh yeah also my sensei loves this weapon, its a long metal club with spikes that it’s capable of crushing armor although i have to admit i like plate armor but it’s real hard trying to smith things like that currrntly im stuck on making a kite shield my freind has a furnace and anvils.
    Good luck with your hobby/passion

  3. Adam August 19, 2009 at 2:02 am #

    Anime is bull it’s so true

  4. austin October 22, 2009 at 10:47 pm #

    while knights were able to move rather well, they were still hindered by the weight and the fact that plate armor doesn’t bend with the body like a samurai’s armor would. the samurai has lighter armor that moves with them. and the katana…really? it’s the most superior sword there is. the steel is folded several hundred times, giving it durability, the curve to it gives is ultimate cutting power and, unlike the long sword, it is very like and easier to manuever. you are an ignorant person. and don’t get me wrong, knights are badass, i love that entire period of europe, but…

  5. godlesspaladin October 22, 2009 at 11:55 pm #

    I’m an ignorant person? First off, I own a suit of armor, real shit, not plastic and light gauge crap, and so do all my friends, many of them have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on their armor, having it made for them by some of the best people around, so I know exactly what your maneuverability is in armor, and it’s great.

    Secondly “the katana is the most superior sword there is” is a matter of pure personal taste. Real western swords, and I mean real, not all the stuff you buy on ebay, or at the mall, or some little website, are also very hard to make and are works of art within themselves.

    The longsword is very easy to manuver, and very fast too. It weighs only slightly more than a katana, and has an entire extra edge to cut with, doubling the possible attacks. Also, that lovely Katana might be great at cutting through cloth and other crappy armor, but it can’t pierce worth a damn, not like western swords.

    Sure it might have great cutting power (western swords do too) but if you come up against anything like steel, you’re out of luck. This whole debate is rather stupid actually. The western stuff evolved in response to other western stuff, the eastern stuff evolved to meet the needs of the eastern combat environment. It just irks the hell out of me when people worship eastern stuff like it’s the be all and end all of everything.

  6. Jim December 13, 2009 at 8:03 pm #

    My personal opinion: The kinght would win. hands down.

    The Katana was designed do be more of a slashing weapon than stabbing or piercing. The process of heating, folding, and pounding the raw metal was to remove impurities (carbon, mostly. This is called “fold forging”). This was Generally done only 10 times, not a hundred as stated up there. Since the carbon was removed, the blade is at first considerably weak. The Real durability comes from High-carbon steel that is “folded” over the more brittle core. Even still, its a pretty thin sheet of metal.

    Now, a Long sword is Open forged; They heat the metal and pound it until It looks like a sword. Meaning it spend less time heated and thus less carbon is removed, making it already a pretty durable blade. It is also designed for piercing/thrusting attacks. i.e They made it to be able to pierce metal.

    Samurai’s Armor was woven of cloth with strips of bamboo either entwines to sewn onto it. Sometime where were rivets or bits of scale mail woven into it as well. Its was also loose fitting, so their opponent’s slashes might get tangles or even loose the sword altogether.

    Each piece of Knight armor was pounded from a single piece of steel or iron using the open forge technique, making it tough, durable, and with as little weakness as possible. As the OP states, it is not that heavy and has plenty of maneuverability.

    So lets line it up:

    ::Knight::
    Though, single-sheet steel body armor
    2 edged longsword designed for thrusting through metal

    ::Samurai::
    Cloth and bamboo armor with bits of metal here and there
    single edged Katana designed for slashing through opponents cloth armor.

    Taking all ^^^ into consideration, its pretty safe to saw the Knight comes out on top.

  7. Vic December 19, 2009 at 6:06 am #

    Just my two cents,

    Yes comparing knights and Samurai is the same as apples and oranges. Samurai were not all at the same social level as knights. The lower end may indeed have only been able to afford bamboo, raw hide, cloth, paper etc.. The Samurai that were the social equals of knights did have iron/steel armor. This mainly comprised of iron lamellar, brigandine style in certain areas and Japanese pattern chain mail in others. Most of what is seen today are parade suits, and hells ya I’ll take bamboo and cloth over iron any day for parade purposes. I hope to never again wear a chain shirt on a hot July day.

  8. James March 8, 2010 at 10:16 am #

    This post is the most narrowminded post I think I’ve ever read. You’re comparing tools of the trade over the abilities each warrior has to be able to take in information and react appropriately with those tools to take advantage of that information. I’m sorry but a knight will have his sight and hearing hindered (with the examples you’ve provided) and that will put him at a disadvantage in a fight with someone able to see and hear with little trouble.

  9. Tsavo May 29, 2010 at 10:29 pm #

    I have to say that im disappointed by both sides on this. Firstly, samurai armor was mostly made of leather that had been soaked in laquer. Now, as an SCA participant, I have had a chance to examine boiled and waxed leather, and the stuff, especially the waxed, will take incredible amounts of abuse. the other kind I have also seen is leather hardened with wood glue or an equivalent. As an active participant in the SCA, I have seen both work tremendously. Now, glue and laquer are quite similar, so when used on 1/8th to 1/4 inch cow hide like the japanese so commonly did, you have an incredibly tough, weatherable plate of armor. Granted that leather can be cut more easily than plate, but it would hold several hits before failing. However this leads me to my next point that many Japanese armors were also made of steel, chain, or a composit covering almost the entire body. Also take into account that their armor was usually made up of laced plates, which would make it somewhat weaker to an angled thrust, but excelent to a straight on cut. with all of this in mind, then, let us look briefly at some of the chief weapons of the Knight. The fought with the sword, sometimes with a shield or buckler, various polearms or a mace. Their swords were almost always 2 edged, which gave them a much easier back-stroke. They also had a nice point for piercing. However, as period manuals and common sense have shown us, hitting a metal plate with the edge of your sword won’t do much, or be good for it. Hence styles of combat evolved that entailed grasping the handle by the crossguard and the blade itself 2/3rds to 3/4ths up the length. the point was to wrestle another fully armored fighter to a point where the tip of the blade could be thrust inth an opening in the plates, such as the armpit, covered only in mail, under the bevor, or in through the faceplate. Such a style of tottally armored combet would work just the same against the samurai. The polearm was used to the same effect, with an improved piercing spike on the end and considerably more force behind the percussive cut. The same still applies, the thrust being most effective, but with the possibility of a blunt force trauma injury. As the shield and buckler came into play, they would have been used to defend long enough to grapple, and for blunt trauma when the opportunity arose. The mace would havebeen used to smash whatever was in its way, leading to blunt trauma. What we can take from this:
    the samurai would be very well defended against most cuts, but would be somewhat suceptible to blunt trauma and stabbing.
    Onward! The Knights armor was made up of very well designed plates. It was heavy, but with practice not particularly uncomfortable though worth noting. It was also much more mobile than you would expect, allowing almost tottal freedom of movement. It was made up of solid plates, which wern’t particularly susceptile to stabbing of slashing. The chinks were also normally covered up with a suit of mail. However, mail can be punctured. the Samurai’s weapons Were primarily the tachi, katana, wakizashi, tanto, and various polearms. The tachi, katana, Wakizashi, and tanto were esentially the same weapon of different lengths. the tachi was approximately 50 inches or so tip to tip, the katana about 40-45, the wakizashi 20- 25 and the tanto 10-15. They were all produced the same way, with a claying, heating and cooling process which caused martensite crystals to form on the edge of the weapon so it could be razor sharpened. These weapons were made to cut skin and bone like butter, and could take off an unarmored limb or cut you in half quite easily. the polearms, chiefly the Naginata and Yari were both pieces of good steel which had the same heating process as the other weapons, the only differences being that the naginata was curved and one edged. As the swords, they were made to be devistating to unarmored flesh and bone. This poses a problem for the samurai, as the knight is completely armored, making there weaponry somewhat less effective against the Knight. They also didnt have as well developed piercing points as the european weapons did. This combined with the fact that Japanese weaponry would chip due to the brittleness, if incredible sharpness, of the cutting edge. Essentially, the Knights armor was more cumbersome, but the samurai’s armor was more likely to allow an injury. Having compared them, It would in my mind still come down to which warrior was more proficient at his craft. Looking at western and Eastern martial arts, they both teach a similar set of punches, kicks, grapples and joint locks. Though each is customized somewhat to the region in terms of weapon use(i.e. European vs. Japanese) It would seem they are both for the most part equal. Also to be taken into consideration is that both were avid archers. The japanese armor was still more suceptible to being pierced, It would seem they would both be effective against armor. As I see it then, there is no ture victor, as there are to many variables. But as i have heard from this forum and other sources, they never met in battle, and now they never will, so whats the point of arguing about it?

  10. Puddingpie November 17, 2010 at 1:41 am #

    Huh. Apparently a lot of samurai armor has iron plates bound together lamellar style, and connected by chain mail segments. I didn’t know that until like fifteen minutes ago. I think the most interesting thing from my fifteen minutes of super-farby Googling from zero knowledge is that there are as many types of “samurai” armor from a myriad of time periods and qualities as there are of “knight” armor. I’m sure that there could be many hypothetical cases of a variation of “knight” armor that is inferior to the purpose to “samurai” armor. If I ever consistently get anything from history, it’s that nothing is ever as univariate and generic as Hollywood would lead me to believe.

    I don’t claim to know these things outside of armchair interest, but the Royal Armouries rocks:

    I do think the knight vs samurai thing is a silly argument anyway.

    I would pay to see a movie where a knight and a samurai dramatically ride towards each other in slow-motion… and pull out matchlocks.

    *cue whatever passes in Japan for tumbleweeds*

    Or the knight and the samurai are locked in cinematic mortal combat, and the knight’s ten-year-old page jumps out from off-camera and brains him with a rock.

    Or the samurai pushes the knight into a shallow stream and sits on his chest until he drowns.

    Or.. someone gets unhorsed, and is trampled to death.

    End of movie.

    SuperFarb, away!!!

  11. godlesspaladin November 17, 2010 at 3:42 am #

    Hey Pudding, yeah, you’re right, what qualifies as a knight’s armor does change drastically over the course of 600-700 years, just as I’m sure a samurai’s armor evolved as well. This post was meant to be light hearted. I don’t seriously paint either groups in such a wide and stereotypical brush. If I remember correctly, I wrote this post because a couple housemates of mine were watching some anime show and started going on and on about stuff they know absolutely nothing about. (Something they did often) This post was originally directed at them and not meant to be taken seriously. (One of them worships all things Japanese and has that view of “Asia is the land of mysterious warrior honor” that you mentioned earlier…

    It’s a ridiculous argument, but he was trying to argue with me about a knight at the peak of their technological development vs a samurai at their peak. Those two groups developed in completely different parts of the world, with difference cultures, different resources, and different warfare conditions. (But that didn’t stop him)

  12. colby March 15, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    In case no one knew this a samurais armor was not cloth and bamboo, it was interwoven sheets of steel. And i can also say that there is quit a difference in weight between a longsword and a katana, a true katana that is, plus it is made for slicing but if anyone here knows anything about fighting with a katana then they should know that there are forms of thrusting with the blade. The blade of a katana is as sharp as a razor because the folding taechnique creates a smooth finish, if youve seen a blade under extreme magnification there are tiny micro fractures that keep it from becoming very sharp, the folding limits the micro fractures. they use the same process to create razors. have you ever seen how sharp a barbers strait razor is? the manueverability of a samurais armor is tremendous, yet still thick. i know that knights armor was manuverable too but some of the strongest knight armors had to be worn on horse back, foot knights wore lamell armor.but either way theres not much that armor can do for a warrior because its never gonna be totally impenatrable unless it was like a suit made of kevlar=) fun fact:samurai wore chain maile too so the armors are practically the same they were just for different fighting techniques.

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