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Slayer versus Killer
The Deadliest Warrior: Pirate versus Knight

This is one of the most plausible historical matchups in the series. Armored knights were last used in the mid-1600s and the age of piracy basically spanned from 1670-1730.

In the introduction a dark-haired man is shown twirling dagger by opening his hand—he’s dead. Get him the hell out of my unit! Weapon fighters with real, full-contact experience do not open the hand to rotate a blade.

The size of the night is off. Instead of 5’ 11” 180 he should be 5’ 8” 160. The medieval diet, even for the lower aristocracy, was poorer than the diet enjoyed by the Vikings or the ancient warrior classes. Yes, the super rich ate well at flush banquets, but your workaday knight ate grain, peas, turnips and some venison and pork on feast days and fish on fast days. Indeed, the English longbowmen were larger and stronger than the French knights because they ate fresher food and put in more training, by contrast to the French peasant who simply starved.

Likewise the size of the pirate is too big. Most of these guys were discharged sailors who had been kidnapped as boys from malnourished conditions, fed a horrible low-protein, low-vitamin diet in the navy and were then cast off to starve at the end of such nice conflicts as “The War of Jenkin’s Ear.” We should go 5’ 7” 145 for the pirate, who had likely also suffered malaria and was a total alcoholic.

By the time piracy was coming into being knights mostly slogged it out on foot at siege breaches or charged in a wedge, sometimes getting mowed down by a single cannonball, up to 27 at a blast, such as at the battle of Ravenna. Any meeting of the two would have taken place in a port, so the horse probably shouldn’t have been included. Note that the armor of later knights was built up and proofed largely to withstand the wheellock pistol used by light cavalry of the time.

Despite the crusading image of the night put forward here, through most of his existence he was a land pirate and had little morality over outlaws, only social sanction. Montross was leading Highlanders out of Scotland during the pirate period who were actually armed in the fashion of William Wallace’s men and who did well against British redcoats in battles of battalion size. Keeping in mind that Black Beard—no doubt a giant dude—was finally cut down by a Scottish claymore on the Carolina Coast, both of these warriors bring weapons that would be familiar to the other, leaving no gaping tactical hole.

I am one of the few humans who have fought against a morning star as a lightly armed fighter and I must say that the weapon is very difficult to deal with because defensive beats tend to catch the chain or the haft and the ball keeps coming. I’ve been KO’d a few times with a version made with a haft, chain and wiffleballs filled with pennies. This is a high energy output weapon but very dicey to face. As a thraex [cutlass and small shield] my record was about 40% wins 60% defeats. I would not want to go against it without a shield. With a small shield and cutlass bridging the two weapons in a roof block is ideal against chain weapons. The demonstration of the morning star was done two handed, yet it was tactically best fitted for one handed use because of the need to cover with the shield between strokes.

Again, this lab orientation takes place in a tactical vacuum.

“Anything inside the radius of the morning star is a kill shot,” is a patently false statement. I found that rushing in and taking a hit with the chain and some wrap around with the ball bruising my ribs—in this case breaking—put me in throat slashing eye-stabbing rang. Once the flail man is in a bind, he’s screwed unless he has a shield and this demo was done without a shield. In reality, fighting with chain weapons means timing and counter-timing the lethal terminus of various arcs. Getting into chain range is a win for the man facing the flail.

This weapon has been discussed in this episode in a total knowledge vacuum. We did find that finesse was a very important part of successful flail use. Our best flail man was Chuck Goetz. The video we have involves Damien Kestle who was an expert with the chain but inexperienced with the pole flail and too small besides. Search Cory Bracken’s Modern Fighter YouTube channel for some chain and flail fighting video and you can see the tactical vulnerability of using a flail with two hands.

The knight experts here do not even count the shield as a weapon! They must have Asian-based martial arts or Shakespearean Stage sword-play backgrounds.

I so wanted the pirates to win this just based on knightly tactical ignorance!

The weapon the pirate really has to worry about is the halberd, which was still in use by guard units and some sergeants at the beginning of the pirate period.

The agility of armored knights is nicely demonstrated in this scenario and the “expert” wearing the armor does not seem very encumbered. However, his shield discipline is poor not even properly conceptualizing it as a weapon of offense.

The grenade demonstration lacks the pressure patches used in later episodes. It is of interest that grenadiers were larger men who threw grenades in the early 1700s, but by the late 1700s were usually armed like regular musket-bearing infantry and serving as special guard corps for use as shock commitment troops later in a battle. So at some point in the 1700s the grenade was largely retired due to reliability issues, relegated to close siege use and not returned to regular use until the modern era. [1] The grenade was in use during the period of knightly domination in France during the 100 years war, when artillery was a huge factor in the management of the armored knight during sieges.

With all of the nobility talk on behalf of the knights these guys then arm him with the crossbow. What did French knights think of crossbowmen, who were largely Italian mercenaries?

During the battle of Crecy, the leader of the French vanguard ordered his knights to trample their own Genoese crossbowmen who had been covering their advance against the English longbowmen! The Pope, who had final moral authority over all Christian knights, outlawed the goddamned thing! The knight representative even admitted this.

Richard the Lionhearted was killed by a dastardly crossbowmen.

Finally, for the first time an expert on this show—the pony-tailed pirate guy—actually admits that one of his weapons is not perfect. The flintlock pistol was usually carried in braces, with Black Beard supposedly having six of them. Note that the armor of later knights was built up and proofed largely to withstand the wheelock pistol used by light cavalry of the time.

In defense of the robber knights, the discounting of blunderbuss misfires was truly reprehensible.

According to archeological evidence out of England the halberd was a devastating killing weapon, even against armored opponents. It was a giant can opener. Soto’s personal guard, 1539-43, was a company of 60 halberd men. The Swiss were the best known halberd fighters and earned their place as the Vatican Guard largely based on a stand they made defending a beleaguered Pope and it was this weapon, not the pike, that counted the most in that urban battle.

As far as the swords, the swinging pig cut was nice touch. I do think that the pirate experts showed better tactical usage in their practice.

One thing that should have been used in this series was a tactical governor. The swordsman should have been made to use strikes that could be delivered with one hand and while moving. Except for the larger European and Chinese swords, fighting two handed with a blade put a warrior at an extreme tactical disadvantage.

I do think shield and sword against cutlass and boarding axe would be an interesting match favoring the knight. The boarding axe should have been used against the neck as a pass-slash as the offensive weapon, with the cutlass as the defensive weapon. For the knight he would want to shield high against the boarding axe and fit the pirate for a peg leg with his sword, which was not a “broad” sword as stated by the “experts’ but an “arming” sword.

Culturally this is a great matchup, though it should have been pirate versus musketeer. Pirates were unionized, mixed race, heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual, occasionally female, democratic and unionized!

Knights actually thought they had a divine right to do what the pirate was hated for doing and still get into heaven. Morally, this is the best matchup of the series, kind of like a presidential election.


Add Comment
Jeremy BenthamNovember 18, 2016 7:50 PM UTC

James you bring up a good point about nutrition. Since we enjoy such an abundance and variety of food in 21st Century America, we tend to take this condition for granted. Even poor people in our society enjoy steak on a regular basis, not to mention such exotic treats as shrimp, crabs, chocolate, sugar, citrus fruit and banana's. However "food insecurity", better known as "starvation", was the lot of most people in the world for most of the history of humanity. The availability of protein and vitamin rich food (or lack thereof) can make a dramatic difference in the size, strength and general health of the population. For example archeological evidence tells us the people who lived in England circa 1000 A.D. enjoyed a protein rich diet, as they were as tall as the people who live there today. Whereas people who lived in England 500 years later where about six inches shorter on average. In modern times we see the same disparity in size between the people living in the two Koreas. The people living in South Korea today are on average a head taller than the people who live in North Korea. It's also telling to note that in the modern English language, which is an amalgamation of French and Anglo-Saxon, our words for different meats (beef, pork, mutton, pullet) comes to us from the French, the Normans, the conquerors of England, whereas our modern English words for the corresponding farm animals the meats come from (cow, pig, sheep, chicken) come to us from the Anglo-Saxon, from the conquered people.
Bruno DiasNovember 17, 2016 7:17 PM UTC

Great analysis, Mr. laFond.

I never actually thought about the diet and stuff like that while watching this show.
responds:November 18, 2016 7:40 AM UTC

A lot of the success of warriors like the American Indian, Polynesian and Bantu had to do with diet. A great example was the Anglo-Zulu War in which the Zulu warrior was 6 foot, the British officer 5, 11" and the British infantryman 5' 7" as he was drawn from poorly nourished urban populations.

The history of Europe was largely of herding/hunting people conquering farming people and then reserving meat eating rights largely for the aristocratic warrior class. In Mesoamerica the Aztecs reserved cannibalism for the warrior class. Who had access to meat in their diet was a huge factor in the age of muscle-powered weapons.

An exception and the basis for a counter to this theory was the Roman Legionare who abhorred a meat diet. However, his job was primarily one of long-duration technical application, marching 18 miles on roads he built, building a fort at the end of the day, and being able to fight in the morning.