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‘What’s Under the Armor’
The Deadliest Warrior: Viking Versus Samurai

My first impression is that the Samurai descendent is a feminine twit and the two Viking “experts” are goons from a biker gang. But the Samurai performer is a fine athlete. As far as historical information the Samurai twit is well-versed and the two Viking goons are not. Norse culture did have a strong farming component and their addiction to grains contributed to the failure of the Greenland Colony.

The armor study here was interesting. One thing that is missing is the fact that the Viking and Samurai kit weighed the same but the Viking was much bigger, which would translate into him preserving more of his unarmored speed compared to the Samurai. Interestingly, the Viking mail is better against the Samurai weapons then against the weapons they faced historically and the Samurai helmet is better against an axe than the Viking helmets.

Te best weapon against the Viking mail is going to be the Japanese war club—if you have a big man wielding it. Speaking of which, Native America war clubs seemed to perform well against European armor, but eastern Woodland Indians sized like Polynesians and were bigger than the Europeans. One aspect that is not addressed is the fact that the Samurai depicted is armed in the 17th Century fashion, and should really be matched against the knight or pirate, as the Viking was a Dark Age warrior from the 900s. Up until the Mongol invasions of the 1200s, Japanese swords were prone to break in combat and were not the weapon of myth developed to perfection at the end of the Age of the Daimyo. However, part of the charm with this series is the matching of different tech levels: in this case iron versus steel.

I am very glad that the fine fighter who handled the Japanese hand weapons did the naganata justice. In Cleary’s translations he uses the term halberd. Indeed, the halberd was the deadliest weapon on the European battlefield and owes some of its evolution to the potency of the Norse bearded axe in the post Viking period, formidably wielded by the Varangian Guard until 1204. The fact that the long sword was given the edge over the naganata was a choice made on pure damage with no tactical sense whatsoever. This is a repeating theme in this serious, damage over tactics, which I think derives from the testing equipment orientation of the show and the near impossibility of actual combat simulations. So, the greatest weakness of the show is related to its purpose and should be forgiven and put into context.

The missile weapons portion of this show was the best. The Viking spear throwing was fun, but the Japanese archery was excellent. The Samurai twit came through as a master archer and backed up his very unsamurai boasting.

The Viking shield demonstration was poor. Blocking a leg shot with the shield was stupid and would result in a feint to decapitation. Legs were defended by moving the limb back and then coming down with the shield on the sword hand, then counter attacking over the shield. The Viking shield construction would make thing easy for the katana slash to the elbow and stab over into the neck, but only if the Samurai fought with the blade in one hand, which Musashi recommended. Of course, the Japanese kanabo war club was ideal for dealing with shields. However, there was no shield in Japanese culture, so we cannot expect the best immediate solutions from them. Also, the club was not a standard kit item, and at 30 pounds, being wielded by a 135 pound warrior, it’s not practical. That said, this was the worst shield use demo I have seen.

The Samurai should be a heavy favorite in this scenario.

Honestly, if we are fielding a human all star team to fight against alien gladiators, what we want is a Viking with a great sword, trained by a samurai coach…


Ages: iron versus steel

Twerps, Goons and Meatshields: The Basics of Full Contact Stick-Fighting

Add Comment
Bruno DiasNovember 15, 2016 6:30 PM UTC

My personal takes on this episode:

1)I always thought that the weapon pairings they did we're a bit weird, to say the least. They should have made Katana vs One-Handed Axe and Shield for Short Range, Naginata vs for Spear Mid Range, Bow vs Bow for Long Range and Kanabo vs Great Axe for Special Weapons.

2)By the way, the long range weapon for the Viking should have been de Bow. Vikings did throw spears in battle, but not spears that size. Also, just because once, in one of the Sagas, one Viking Hero throwed two spears at the same time, doesn't mean that ALL the Vikings warriors throwed two spears at the same time all the time.

3)I love the chain mail test. It's a real punch in the face in all the idiots that believe in the "Magical Power of the Legendary Katana"

4)I believe the shield could have tanke a greater role in this fight, sould the "experts" knew how to use it (like, for exemple, the Spartan experts)

5)In the end, i think the result is correct. The Viking might have the strenght and power advantage, but the samurai is better trained and have better quality weapons.