Why did the Samurai get the reputation as individual fighters who lacked formations and strategy?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Trailboss49, Dec 3, 2019.

  1. Trailboss49 Member

    Jun 30, 2019
    I saw a question on Yahoo Answers a few days back asking why the Samurai always get stereotyped as being individual warriors who are master swordsmen but lack basic warfare stuff such as how to hold a wall of pikes or how to do hit-run tactics on horse and later with riflemen infantry, and so many other basic tenets we associate with the Romans and other organized military superpowers. The poster was complaining that people have the image of Samurai being master swordsmen who can individually cut down a gang of mooks but lacked the training to do something as basic as building obstacles to stop enemy cavalry and such.

    I wish I can find the post but it seems to have disappear from Yahoo Answers.

    But I recognized everything he wrote. Whenever you see debates about Samurai vs Spartans, or comparing Japanese warfare with say the Roman empire, the common comment that comes up is that "Romans would lose to Samurai because Romans only fought in shield walls while Samurai were experts at dueling" or "an army of Zulus would slaughter Samurais because Samurais were too reliant on disorganized fighting like barbarians while Zulus were skilled at square formations and disciplined maneuvers and outflanking the enemy!"

    Basically not just on the internet but i notice in real life too many people seem to have the impression Samurai were all master swordsmen and Japanese warfare was a serious of disorganized solo combat where people fought like barbarians outside of organized square blocks in the manner how Bravehart portrays battle.

    Why did this stigma come? I mean not just Samurai cinema but even martial arts movies show Japanese armies using stuff like trenches for poorly train rifle men to sit in and battle from or using ships to attack an enemy fortress that has an unprotected opening because the river is the assumed barricade. Even anime shows Japanese militia holding pikes in a wall formation and duelists like Musashi ordering Mongol tactics such as shoot with a bow and than follow up with an organized cavalry charge!

    So I am wonder why the general public esp internet debaters on "warriors vs warriors" topics (esp knights vs Samurai and Romans vs Samurai) think that all the Samurai was ever good at was disorganized civilian fighting such as dueling and that all Japanese warfare was about is sword vs sword? Japanese media westerners often point out as proof the Samurai were the best swordsmen often shows Japanese feudal warfare executing stuff like the Napoleonic square formation of riflemen or using cavalry charges followed by a feign retreat followed by a sudden turn and counter attack similar to the Normans at Hastings!

    What caused this reputation of "individual warriors" and "lack of formation and military tactics, strategy compared to the Spartans and Romans" to be cemented in the eyes of the general public towards the Samurai?
    Chris Triangle likes this.
  2. EnvarKadri Well-Known Member

    Jun 9, 2018
    IIRC that particular image of the samurai is a product of the long peace period in japan in were the only action most samurai saw was ceremonial duels. That's why most "samurai fights" in fiction look more like duels than actual battles. Unless we are talking about japanese media set before the Edo period, in which case you would probably see samurais fully armored, mounted and with a spear directing troop movement to storm a castle or something.