Location and Timeline
Samurais originated from Japan. It was established by the military government by Minamoto Yoritomo. The samurais were taught to control their feelings and protect the shogun. Even young boys and girls were expected to learn and master archery and fencing. Samurais were resembled as the lord-vassal system of medieval Europe by the 14th century. In the late 15th century, the samurais and the daimyos went into a battle to fight for their land power. After the battle, they were at peace again and the samurais served under the shoguns and they were responsible for keeping the government in balance.
Samurais fought with bows, spears, and swords. Their bows were made out of wood and they measured 8 feet long. Despite the varieties of weapons they used, their swords were stated to be their most prized possession. The swords were flexible and not fragile, but hard enough to be sharp. Samurais carried two types of swords: a long with a curved blade sword to fight, and a shorter sword for cutting heads off. Their swords were passed down through many generations of warrior families; they were given to only the loyal warriors. Samurais keep their swords with them as a sign of their rank.
The samurai armor had many suits of layers and they were protected with heavy armor. The samurai wore a colorful robe called a kimono and baggy trousers under the armor. Shinguards were made out of leather or cloth and they protected the samurai's legs. The samurai's armor was unique because it had many rows of small metal plates that was coated with lacquer and layered with many elaborate silk cords. These materials altogether made the samurai's armor strong and flexible so the samurai could move. Rectangle panels covered the chest and back of the samurai, but metal sleeves protected the arms. It was optional for samurais the wear thigh guards. Shoulder guards and panels provided extra protection for the warrior.
To scare off his opponents, the samurai would put on an iron mask, the mask not only frightened their opponents but they were used for protection for the samurai as well. The samurai would then burn incense in his helmet so that his head would smell sweet when his head was cut off.
The samurai's first way of training was called "The Way of the Horse and the Bow." The samurais would first train to do archery. The young samurais were apprenticed to archery masters and they would teach them mental and physical techniques. They learned archery until they could shoot without thinking. They learned to shoot their enemies while riding on a horse and they practiced to breathe properly. After the samurai finished mastering in archery, they moved on to fencing. They had to learn to force their enemy into making their first move. They also had to learn to keep out of range when fighting and they had to learn how to fight in tight spaces. Lastly, they trained how to fight against one or more enemies. Like archery, he had to fence without thinking. Breaking swords in battle was a common thing for samurais, so , they had to learn using other tool and use them as weapons, like using metal fans or wooden staffs. They also learned martial arts, where samurais often use the enemies strength against him. The samurai had a unique style of battling. Messengers from the opposing sides would set the place and time of the combat. When everyone has gathered at the area, each of the samurais would shout their names, ancestors, heroic deeds, and their reason for fighting at the same time. After this, the two sides would charge and choose an opponent that matched their rank. He would try to knock his opponent off the horse, to the ground, and then slit his throat. After the battle, the winning side would cut the heads off the opponents they had killed. The heads were then cleaned and mounted on boards. The samurai then presented the head the warlord to prove they had really killed their foes. The warlord would then present the samurai with his swords, horses, armor, or land after the ceremony.
To increase a samurais self-control, they learned how to endure pain and not be afraid to die. They went many days without eating, they held stiff postures for hours, and they went bare feet on snow for a long time. Fencing masters would whack samurais with a wooden stick on their head to develop their "sixth-sense." The masters would do this repeatedly when they least expected it. This process helped samurais to be alert at all times.
Training in Literature and WritinG:
In the 17th century, samurais were expected to learn the two important aspects of culture. They wrote in calligraphy by using a brush, a block of ink, and paper or silk. Samurais also wrote poetry. They called the poetry a haiku. A haiku has three lines and 5, 7, and 5 syllables in each sentence. A haiku uses images to suggest and idea or create a mood.
The Tea Ceremony:
The tea ceremony led the spirit to harmony, reverence, and calmness. The ceremony gave the opportunity to form political alliances with other samurais. To start a tea ceremony, a tea master invited guests into a small room. The guests would sit and quietly watch as the tea master made and poured the tea. Then they would have sophisticated discussions as they acknowledged the unique utensils and the tea. Each of the guests took turns bowing to each other and taking three sips of tea. After having to drink the tea, the person would have to take a tissue and clean the rim. The he would pass the bowl to the tea master to serve it to the next person.
Training in spiritual strength:
The two types of Buddhism the samurais practiced was Amida and Zen Buddhism. Amida Buddhists believed that all people could reach paradise. Amida taught people to rely on the mercy of Amida Buddha to reach paradise. Zen Buddhism taught self-reliance and achieving enlightenment through meditation. Most samurais preferred Zen Buddhism because of its emphasis on effort and discipline.
The Bushido Code
The Bushido Code was the way a samurai lived. It taught them to be honest, fair, and fearless when faced to death. Samurais had to value loyalty and personal honor more than their lives. Samurais had to be loyal to his lord and even die for him. If one failed to obey the code, they had to seppuku, a ritual suicide. Samurais committed suicide if his lord died, did a shameful deed, or he insulted a person of a higher rank.
In the 12th century, a samurai's wife helped manage the house and they could promote the family's interests. Women didn't fight much as men did, but they were expected to be as brave and loyal as them.
The 17th Century:
By the 17th century, women were given less rights. They were expected to obey their fathers when young, when married, their husbands, and when old, their sons. Even girls didn't have the right to choose who she wanted to marry, instead her family arranged everything to better position their rank and wealth. They had to look after their children and their husbands. Even when their husbands died, they had to kill themselves.
Steps to Becoming a Knight
At the age of 7, the boy would leave his home and went to live with his lord at a castle. His job as a page was to spend his time with ladies. They taught the boys how to sing, dance, compose music, and play the harp. By doing this, the boys were taught to respect the ladies with dignity.
After 7 years, the boy becomes a squire. He would spend most of his timed with a knight who was his lord. He trained by polishing his lord's armor, sword, shield, and lance. He also got to take care of his lord's horse. The squire was expected to learn Chivalry, the rules of Heraldry, horsemanship, and learned how to fight with weapons and skills they learned. They helped dress their lord in his armor, followed him in battle, and look after if he was wounded. The boy had to be loyal to his church and lord, fair, just, and protect the helpless. They had to perform the acts of gallantry. Courtesy and kindness were mandatory towards women.
After all the requirements were met, a ceremony was held to celebrate the becoming of a knight. After the ceremony, it was official that they had become a knight.
1. Battle Axe: It was used as a close contact weapon. The weapon is less precise than a sword, but it was cheap and required less of a skill.
2. Mace: This weapon was also a close contact, but they were used for knights who rode horses. The Mace was cheap but very forceful. If a knight struck with a tough swing, it could batter their opponent's armor.
3. The Longbow: This 6-7 feet long bow could shoot arrows with strong tension by a draw of a hand.
4. Jousting Lance: A long, spear-like weapon designed for the use for horseback.
5. The Throwing Axe: It used by foot soldiers and often by knights. Using the right momentum, speed, and force, the axe was swung at the enemy.
6. The Billhook: This weapon was also used by foot soldiers. This once farming tool originated as a cross between a broad curved knife.
The Code of Chivalry
The code of Chivalry consisted of bravery, courtesy, and honor. To women, gallantry was shown. The code was an honor and it was very important in the medieval society. It was developed between the 11th and 12th century. The code included brave acts in battle. Chivalry also meant being kind to women and the poor.
Comparing and Contrasting Knights and Samurais
Both knights and samurais are expected to show loyalty and obligation. They both had rulers who rose to power as military chiefs. However, in Europe, William the Conqueror ruled as king while in Japan, the shogun ruled under the name of emperor. But types of lords built castles and held estates that were run by peasants. Both warriors rode horses, fought, owned land, and wore armor. They both had a code they had to respect, but the samurai's code of Bushido was more strict than the knight's code of Chivalry. In the social system of Japan, samurais were ranked 4 out of 7 classes, the emperor, shogun, daimyos, samurai, peasants, artisans, and lastly the merchants. On the other hand, in the social system of Europe, knights were ranked 5 out of 7, the pope, king, lords, lesser lords, knights, artisans, and the serfs.