Monday, August 19, 2013

Question Everything? Who was history's deadliest warriors?

Originally published on
Question Everything? Who was history's deadliest warrior?

                  Most martial artist, and many males in general, love to talk about the warriors of the past.  We each have our favorites.  Whether from a line of ancestry, though study, or some other form of sympathy there are historical warriors or groups of warriors we champion.  And there are many to choose from.  Many people like to think of themselves as descendent from Celtic warriors, or imagine themselves as modern day samurai.  We like to have some connection to the warriors of the past.  It is one of the draws of martial arts, this connection to the past.  Unfortunately these warriors we argue for are separated from each other by time and distance.  The arguments are largely academic fervor.  Until Now.
Spike' Deadliest Warriors logo
                  Spike TV is going through its second season of its original show Deadliest Warriors.  It attempts to do for the ancient warrior argument what No Holds Barred competition did for martial arts.  Whereas NHB competition showed which martial theories worked best (under semi realistic conditions)  Deadliest Warrior pits warriors from various eras of history against each other.  It’s time to put up or shut up.  The show also has modern warriors; Green Berets, Spetsnaz, Pirates, and other post gunpowder combatants, for this article I’m going to concentrate on the ancient warriors.  The show attempts to use modern technology-speed guns, pressure sensors, and the like- to add evidence to the arguments.  Each warrior is allowed to pick from his arsenal four or five weapons, and the show’s scientist compare between similarly matched weapons.  Short range versus short range, long range versus long range and so on.  The show also, for purposes of competition, tries to pair similar levels of technology, or similar themes to combat.  For example, no cave man versus armored knights.  At the end of the show, they use the data and a computer simulation to come up with a victor.  One warrior or warrior culture is deemed deadliest (or deadlier as the case may be.)
                  However.  The show really only concentrates on the technology.  The show could be titled “Deadliest weapons.”   It leaves a lot out of the equation.  Terrain, motivation, tactics and other conditions are necessary when considering battles.  For example, the show had one episode in season 1, Spartan vs. Ninja.  They tested the weapons of both sides accurately, and plugged them into their computer simulation to come to the conclusion that, if they met on a battle field, the Spartan was deadlier 2/3 of the time.  Sure, I’ll buy that, if fact I’d say the Spartan was probably a better battlefield soldier/warrior than the Ninja more than their simulation calculated.  But when would a Ninja be on the battle field?  Ninja attacked in your sleep, or more accurately were information getters and assassins.  You know, spies.  If he magically met a Spartan on the road, he would observe them, and then report back to the general.  He would have no problem with a tactical 
Samurai from season 1
                  The most recent episode was the Celts vs. Persian Immortals.  They had a one on one meeting, in an open field.  This actually favored one warrior over the other.  The Celts were more like Guerrilla troops, attacking from the forests.  Because the battle took place in an open field, the Persian’s bow was extremely useful and deadlier.  If they were both in the forest, the Celts shorter ranged weapons, like the sling, would have been more appropriate.  Or as another example, let’s see how a heavily armored warrior, like a Viking or a Samurai would do in the heat and jungle type terrain the Aztecs dealt with.  Also, continuing on with the sling, some weapons, that aren’t deadly aren’t useless.  An opponent struck in the head with a stone, and stunned for a second, would allow the Celt to close the gap and attack with the other weapons in their arsenal. 
                  Now all this being said, there are two aspects of the show that I find useful for the martial artist in us all.  One is the exposure of other warrior cultures.  I love to learn how different cultures, with different materials, different warrior needs, and even different warrior ethos have common threads.  Watching the show, I end up seeing more similarities than differences.  India’s Rajput warriors were defending their homeland from invading armies, like the Celts and Germanic tribes against the Roman armies.  The second aspect I find interesting and useful is the ability to see how powerful these weapons actually were.  Today, most traditional martial arts systems have some weapons training in them.  I personally train in Japanese swordsmanship.  I’ve cut tatami mats, which are supposed to represent human body parts, but I always wonder how equivalent they are.  All the weapons they test on Deadliest Warrior show the extreme damage that can occur.  How easy it is to cause severe damage or near instant death.  I think it allows us to respect the warriors who came before us just a little bit more.  Knowing that these were the weapons they trained with and against.

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