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Silent Sushi
The Deadliest Warrior: Spartan versus Ninja

The one thing these two warrior types had in common was a reputation for silence in combat. Indeed the Spartan was not called a Spartan [Rope-maker] but a Lacedaemonian or Man of the Silent Land. [4]

The Spartan expert with the weapons is a badass and understands the use of the panoply and the purpose of the hoplomachia dance drill. His commander, the U.S. Special Forces asshole, does an excellent job of exaggerating Persian casualties along ancient Greek lines, when he takes the figure of 10-20,000 Persian casualties from the three day battle and inflates it to 100 to 200,000 Persian dead.

This is an interesting matchup, because socially, the Spartans had under their thumb a slave population that outnumbered them by at least 10 to 1. These were known as the Helots, the enslaved remnants of various tribes, most notably the Messenians. So the Spartans actually did wage an internal war of terror against a population that had good guerilla fighters, just not as well-trained or well-equipped as the fully evolved Ninja of the Sengoku Edo. [1]

Ironically, the helots were primarily armed with hand sickles like the Ninja kama and with the heavy throwing darts that they took into war beside their Spartan masters as peltast [2] support troops. The heavy throwing dart of the peltast is replaced in this scenario by the athletic javelin which was only used in war by horseman of the period, especially among the Persians. A hundred years before Thermopyle there was a hoplite casting javelin that was thrown underhanded by a primitive version of the hoplite fighting in loose order. The weapon is out of place in this scenario. A Spartan would have never used it.

Really the best part of this series is the computer kid, who cringes in disgust at effective weapons.

The spear versus the crushed glass is just suicide for the Ninja against a spear. In fact, I am suspicious of the value of most of the Ninja arsenal against samurai. When Takeda Shingen finally sought to rid himself of the Daimyo of Echigo who championed the emperor against the would be Shogun, he did resort to a Ninja, who waited in shit beneath an outhouse from three days until the constipated lord of Echigo finally had to relieve himself and then thrust upward through the crap hole and dastardly killed the warrior. If the Nina were so formidable, why hide in shit for three days.

Through the middle of this episode we get into the entire force versus skill brawn versus brains, and forget that the Spartans fought intelligently, using feigned retreats, night raids and wore almost no clothing. Although armor and weapons are weighed for this scenario, the heavy clothing of the Ninja and nakedness of the Spartan are not considered in rating agility. What is more, look at the very artistic flourishes of the ninja expert and the very economical and just as athletic moves of the bearded Spartan. Even with 2,000 years of technical evolution the Ninja does not have a chance, because he’s basically a flimflam man against the best soldier the ancient world produced. As you grow sick of hearing the Ninja practitioners talk and talk and talks and talk, and the Special Forces Spartan advocate run his mouth, note what the bad ass is doing, mastering the gear set that has been given to him in silence. This is the reason why Asian martial arts have been so embraced by the American mind, because they are all talk and show and fit elegantly into our bullshit celebrity ethos.

This episode comes down to the myth that the Ninjas defeated the Samurai and ruled Japan from the shadows against the act that the Spartans dominated one of the most competitive battlefields in human history for over 100 years. For all of the Ninja flash look at the lack of foot movement. The swordsman shows no tactical mobility. The martial artist moves his hands a lot but show little combat mobility, a major fault of kicking styles. No look at how the Spartan fighter moves, actually travelling and cutting angles and changing levels. He moves like the Ninjas talk.

The Spartan did not use a Xiphos, which means reaper in ancient Hellenic, but a Xiphodon, a smaller version, which is the blade shown. A Xiphos was weighted near the end and the length and balance would hamper the Spartans close style.

The demonstration of the Aspis, the Spartan bronze shield was awesome, introducing a weapon that is dismissed in Japan, not even conceptualized and therefore placing a martial factor in the equation for which the Ninja has no answer. A dozen times Ninja agility is mentioned, but the only agility demonstrated in the lab was by the Spartan. Most impressive of all of the weapons on The Deadliest Warrior so far, the bronze-faced Aspis, is the most mobile, the most powerful and the most protective of the weapons available for hand-to-hand combat. Not how the bowl shaped interior of the shield rested on the fighter’s shoulder, that the wrist does not have to take impact, that the rim is always in punching orientation and that the face of the shield is rarely flat on but angled for deflection and not exposing the face behind which the forearm was strapped. I can tell you from fighting with this kind of shield, that if the shieldman blocks a heavy overhand axe blow with the rim portion in front of the hand grip, that the shield can flex and sprain the wrist I its strap.

The enemy of this shield was the axe and also the roman pilum, [3] which was designed to penetrate the shield when it was thrown and then bend, making the shield unuseable.

The Ninja is dog-meat.

Ages: Bronze & Iron versus Steel

1. Age of War

2. One who “pelts” the enemy with slings, darts and javelins from behind a pelte [a light shield reminiscent of those used by the Apache, Comanche and Sioux of the America West.

3. A heavy socket javelin as long as a spear

4. The Spartan and his homeland are the source of our term laconic.

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

Add Comment
Sam J.November 17, 2016 12:48 PM UTC*.html

As for Alcibiades. He was trained in Sparta for a time and I believe he had a Spartan Women to raise him as a nanny.

He was also a psychopath who talked the Athenians into attacking Syracuse. This was of course a huge disaster which brought about the downfall of Athens.

Here's what Plutarch said about him. Classic psychopath.*.html

"...He had, as they say, one power which transcended all others, and proved an implement of his chase for men: that of assimilating and adapting himself to the pursuits and lives of others, thereby assuming more violent changes than the chameleon. That animal, however, as it is said, is utterly unable to assume one colour, namely, white; but Alcibiades could associate with good and bad alike, and found naught that he could not imitate and practice. 5 In Sparta, he was all for bodily training, simplicity of life, and severity of countenance; in Ionia, for p65 luxurious ease and pleasure; in Thrace, for drinking deep; in Thessaly, for riding hard; and when he was thrown with Tissaphernes the satrap, he outdid even Persian magnificence in his pomp and lavishness. It was not that he could so easily pass entirely from one manner of man to another, nor that he actually underwent in every case a change in his real character; but when he saw that his natural manners were likely to be annoying to his associates, he was quick to assume any counterfeit exterior which might in each case be suitable for them..."
responds:November 18, 2016 7:51 AM UTC

Thanks for the extensive contribution here, Sam.

Sam, there is no doubt that Spartan society was perverse, by most cultural standards and remarkable in certain aspects. However, it did produce the best fighting men of the age. What it did not produce was good overall or civil leadership. whenever the Spartans got away from Hellas and campaigned in distant regions they went crazy, acting a lot like Japanese war criminals did during WWII.

For a balanced look at Sparta see, Thukydides and for a biased pro-Spartan view read Xenophon.

Xenophon and, as you point out, other elite Athenians like Alcibiades, became cultural "Laconians" out of admiration for Spartan martial prowess and because their own society faced a moral and masculine crises well-expressed by Alcibiades Sicilian adventure, the disaster in Egypt and the killing of Socrates. In many ways Athens is more analogous to America than Rome and during the internal Hellenic strife of the late 5th century B.C. Athenian men looked upon Sparta in much the same way that American men have looked upon Russia during the Obama presidency, as a place for real men ruled by a real man. Late Classical Athens faced a crisis in morality, masculinity and identity.
WellRead EdNovember 17, 2016 1:57 AM UTC

Apples and Oranges. Ninjas were spies and assassins. They were skilled in a variety of weapons and covert tactics, but they weren't soldiers. Plus, somewhere in the dark recesses of memory, I recall reading that no self-respecting Ninja would run around in black pajamas; their missions required them to blend in, so they dressed in the fashion of the local people. The stereotypical Ninja costume is actually derived from Japanese plays in which the person dressed in that costume represented evil.
responds:November 17, 2016 9:49 AM UTC

Fascinating detail, that is, WellRead Ed. Thank you.
Jeremy BenthamNovember 16, 2016 6:10 PM UTC

"When someone remarked on the stunning fearlessness with which Spartan warriors faced death, the Athenian general Alcibiades said that they weren’t really doing anything strange, since death was relief from the miseries imposed on them by their military laws." - Plutarch
BNovember 16, 2016 4:54 PM UTC

Why is a shield with a pilum sticking out of it unusable?
responds:November 17, 2016 9:45 AM UTC

Excellent question, B.

The soft iron shaft of the missile would bend under the weight of the boxy socket shaft, the entire thing being seven feet long, dragging down the shield [already 9-20 pounds] and making it unwieldy, as it added more than weight, but leverage, with the weightiest part of the pilum being the iron butt spike. The head was barbed so that it could not be extracted easily. In a tetsudo formation this shield would still be usable, however, the hoplights relied on the ability to angulate their shields like fans and the Roman Legionare, who was also vulnerable to this when he fought his own, was usually an open order fighter with three yards of coverage.
Bruno DiasNovember 16, 2016 4:52 PM UTC

Great analysis James. Don't have anything more to add.

This is one one my favorite episodes of this show. It's good to have someone that actualy knows what he's talking about, like the Spartan Special Forces guy.