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It is evident that Yoshitsune had a genius for offensive warfare...and although Yoshitsune had no knowledge of naval warfare he had the advantage of an acute strategic insight and a quick eye for tactical chances.
— A History of Japan to 1334 by George Samson

Minamoto no Yoshitsune, born Ushiwakamaru, was a general of the Minamoto clan during the late Heian and early Kamakura periods, including the Genpei War from 1180-1185, and is considered to be one of the greatest warriors of the period, as well as the older brother of Minamoto no Yoritomo, the first shogun of the Kamakura shogunate.

At age 15, Yoshitsune proved himself an expert swordsman when he defeated a notorious bandit leader in single combat, and would go on defeated the legendary warrior monk, Benkei, in a duel, and Benkei, who survived the fight, pledged himself to his service. When the Emperor Takakura abdicated in 1180, Taira no Kiyomori, the leader of the Taira clan, the Minamoto's long-time rivals, placed his grandson Antoku on the throne. This led to Prince Mochihito calling the Minamoto clan to war against the Taira. During the insuing Genpei War, Yoshitsune prove a skilled tactician in a string of victories against both the Taira and the his cousin and rival Minamoto no Yoshinaka, who attempted to seize power for himself during the chaos of the war. During his victories, Yoshitsune made skilled use of deception and used changes in the tactical situation and even the battlefield (such as the tides at the naval Battle of Dan-no-ura.

Yoshinaka was killed at the Battle of Koromo River in 1189 by a much larger force of soldiers under his brother Yoritomo, who order the assassination of Yoshitsune, among others who as a he saw them as a threat to his seizing power as shogun.

Battle vs. Saladin (by SPARTAN 119)[]

The dry grass of a gently rolling plain was pushed down by the footfalls of hundreds of men and horse coming from two direction. To the left was the army of Saladin's Arabs, while on the right was a force of Japanese samurai under Minamoto no Yoshitsune.

For a moment, time seemed to stand still as both armies faced each other, about 200 meters apart. Then, Minamoto gave a shout and dramatically thrust his tachi foward, towards the unknown enemy. At once, the archers in his army drew back their yumi and released a swarm of arrows.

The large Japanese arrows, over a meter in length, rained down on the Arabian army. Those that had shields covered themselves, while the rest attempted to keep their unarmored faces as covered as possible.

A few of the arrows hit their mark, going through areas not covered by mail, causing soldiers to fall to their knees and clutch the impact point of the arrow in pain. Some of the narrower arrowheads ran between the rings of the chainmail. A hand full even went directly through the unexposed face, running through the head and instantly killing the target.

Most of the arrows, however, impacted the chain hauberks or steel helmets of the Arabian soldiers and bounced off harmlessly.

The Arabian army stood firm, as Saladin ordered his archers to return fire. A second cloud of wood and steel flew through the air, shorter arrows, but with a faster initial velocity. While many still bounced off the samurai's armor, a few more wounded or killed their targets than on the Arabian side.

With a great shout, Minamoto no Yoshitsune thrust his sword forward a second time, ordering his forces to charge. A thunder filled the air as countless feet of man and horse pounded the ground, charging forth with furious war cries towards Saladin's men.

The sultan, however, ordered his infantry to form ranks and hold their spears, similar to shorter versions of the cavalry lances, upwards in a spear wall, as the archers fired a second volley, raining arrows down on the charging samurai, cutting down men and horse left and right.

Minamoto himself led the charge, swinging down his sword, as other samurai fired their yumis or swing their blades at Saladin's defenders, colliding with the ranks. Steel drove through flesh on both sides. It was a desperate melee with no clear winner, with neither side giving a single inch.

Then, from the flanks of Minamoto's forces, a thunder of hooves drowned out even the clash of steel. On each side of the samurai forces, Arabian light cavalry, rode the flanks, horse archer firing a swarm of arrows into the backs of samurai.

Lances and arrowheads ran through flesh, cutting down men left and right as the Arabian cavalry completely cut off the the enemy rear. Minamoto was surrounded. As his soldiers fell one by one, Minamoto no Yoshitsune led one last desperate charge, the warrior monk Benkei by his side.

Minamoto's tachi and Benkei's naginata cleaved through several Arabian cavalry. Those that were not killed instantly fell the ground and were trampled in the great mass of men and horses.

Minamoto, Benkei, and a few dozen other samurai broke through the encircling forces, making a final charge straight for Saladin. The rest of their forces were separated, disorganized and outnumbered, and yet unlike the Crusaders, not one surrendered, choosing instead to die where they stood.

Minamoto's few dozen men beared down on Saladin's entourage, the Muslim leader charged forward, blades in hand, as the sultan himself drew his saif and charged forward with his elite guard.

A swarm of arrows from Saladin's horse archers struck the charging samurai. All but a few of them fell to the ground. As evident that it was that all was lost, Minamoto still made his final charge. As the first Arab lancers met the last survivors, Benkei raised his naginata, still fighting even as he was pierced by multiple arrows, and unhorsed when his mount was struck right between the eyes.

Benkei's naginata cut down first one, then two of the lancers, the second having his head severed completely. Meanwhile, Minamoto evaded and incoming lance swung his tachi, slicing the throat of an Arab cavalryman. He then charge straight at Saladin, who parried with his saif just in time.

Turning around, both leaders charged again as the Arab horsemen finally overcame Benkei, at a loss of five of their own. Minamoto swung his blade again, striking the chain mail of Saladin's hauberk, but not piercing it. The sultan, however, ran his sword forward, punching through with the momentum of his horse.

Minamoto coughed up blood as he fell from his horse, bleeding out on the already blood-stained ground.

As his forces overcame the last of the enemy, Saladin raised his sword in victory.

WINNER: Saladin

Expert's Opinion[]

While Minamoto was a great commander, and one of the greatest tacticians of Japanese history, his conflicts were limited to fighting other samurai, while Saladin fought a greater variety of foes, including both Europeans and other Arabs. That, along with the superior metallurgy of the Arabian weapons, including the legendarily strong Damascus steel, gave Saladin the victory.

To see the original battle, weapons, and votes, click here.

Battle vs. Robert the Bruce (by Grand Admiral Harmon)[]

This warrior won a Battle of the Month Award


The ship swayed underneath his feet as he first looked out upon the island before him. His beard had grown a bit bushier during their voyage, and the long months had given his skin a leathery feel to it. He stood tall and proud on the ship, the effects of the sea no longer making him queasy. It had been long months since he had left his beloved Scotland, but he had done so as a hero. The Pope had granted him divine authority over Scotland, nearly a third of all the island of Britain. Let the English dogs rail against him. Edward the Second was no Edward Longshanks, who had been a true warrior, brutal and cunning.

"You see, Sensei?" the little fellow said, pointing emphatically towards the island approaching them. "This is Japan. Very long. Home."

Robert scanned the rolling mountains of the island that rose to dominate the skies. He had seen mountains before, but none nearly as long and continuous as what he saw before them. He scanned the long coastline and seeing no natural barriers, turned to see the small fleet that was following close by.

"Yes," he finally said. "Japan. You are sure that this Minamoto lad will not be waiting in ambush for us? You are sure that your people will be ready to follow us and join our ranks?"

"Yes, yes, Sensei," he replied, bobbing his head up and down. Robert figured that Sensei was a title, but had never cared enough to ask for specifics. Minamoto No Yoshitune thinks he is secure in his power. He pays little attention to the peasants. Not that he needs to, we are not his equals...."

"The English thought the same of the Scots," Robert cut him off. "First William Wallace dealt them cruel and savage blows. Even though they won against him, he killed enough of them and fought long enough that when my time came, the true warrior had died and his impotent son had taken the throne. There were still battles to fight, but we broke them, and showed we were worthy of the respect of even the Pope."

"The Pope?" the Japanese man said, mulling the word over. "Oh yes, your main holy man. I do not know why you all put such stock in him. We respect the Gods yes, but we let honor guide us."

Robert shrugged. "We make our own honor with the blades in our hands. There is 500 good Scots here to help you win your freedom."

"Let us hope it shall be enough," the Japanese man said. "Minamoto commands thousands."

Robert snorted. "I've broken thousands with dozens before," he said confidently. "This shall prove no more difficult."

Minamoto lay on the ground of his castle, the blade of grass tickling his ears slightly. Banzai trees surrounded him on every side, full summer and gentle breezes whispering around the sacred grove. He had felt it was necessary to have the holy grove in middle of his castle. It was a reminder to him that the Gods needed to be at the center of their lives.

His mind journeyed to various areas. Long lost memories. Memories of blood and loss. Deaths untold. Slavery and servitude. Redemption and freedom.

He had gone from serving as a lowly servant to the enemies of his clan to being the greatest military mind in all of Japan. Even the Emperor was not nearly as skillful as he, may the Gods forgive his blasphemous boasts.

Even as he contemplated these things, a dark shadow fell over him. Annoyed, he glanced up at his second, a worthy and honorable samurai. Not matter how honorable he was, surely he didn't need to intrude on the Masters personal moments? The Japanese man, with drooping mustache bowed nearly in half to him, even though he was still towering over the relaxed Samurai warlord. He held that pose, minute after slow minute passing by.

"What is it?" Minamoto finally asked.

"Scouts have reported ships landing on the coast nearly ten leagues from here, sensei," the samurai replied.

"It better not be the Odo Clan," Minamoto grunted, "I've beaten them many times and will do so gladly again."

"We know not who they are."

"What do you mean by that? Surely there are clan banners to distinguish them."

The samurai shook his head. "We know not these being but they are not of Japan. Their skin is pale and their armor and devices are strange to behold. They carry no banners but their shields have images painted on them we have not seen before."

Minamoto finally sat up. So, foreign devils had come to his lands had they? Did they think the Samurai were blind? Who were they to challenge them who followed Boshido? How many men had he killed himself in personal combat? And they thought to challenge him?

"Call the Samurai and warriors to gather and we shall meet this new enemy," Minamoto commanded. "We shall see their worth."

The river babbled closely by the edge of the camp as Robert moved through it, among the warriors that had come with him. Months had passed on the seas, and men were having trouble readjusting to the solid earth. He saw men swooning and clutching poles or laying on the ground, muttering curses as the world swayed. As much as he hated it, he had to give his men at least a full day to gather their senses again. Few if any of them would really be any use if they were to go into battle right now.

“Are you sure that there will be others that will join us for this fight?” Robert asked the small Japanese man. “I do not want my men to attack without assistance.”

The little man bobbed his head up and down as he always did. The man avoided looking Robert in the eyes at all times. “Yes, yes. There are rebels all over these lands that will flock to you. But they won’t come out of hiding until you are close enough. They refuse to allow the Samurai to find them. They are cruel senseis.”

Robert looked at the small man. He saw the eyes, the fear that was in them. There had been reservation in them back in Scotland, when he had first told the great Bruce about the horrible Samurai that exacted much from the people and the evils of them. Yet there had been hope in the eyes of the small man when they had been in Edinburgh Castle. Yet here, the longer and further inland they had gone, the more anxious he appeared.

“Yagami,” Robert said, addressing him by his name, “There is much fear in you.”

He stiffened slightly, a slight reddening of his cheeks. Yagami Light, that was his name, he seemed to draw himself up, his eyes flashing at the implication.

“I am Japanese,” he said, with a hint of anger and pride in his voice. “We do not fear.”

Robert snorted. “Let us be honest with each other,” he countered. “Ever since we landed you have become more and more fretful. There is no shame in admitting fear. It is unmanly not to admit there is an issue.”

“It is not fear but hatred I feel for Minamoto,” Yagami replied angrily, his voice becoming more and more angry. “He sat on the side of the road and sliced off the head of my brother as he walked by with his wife and children. He then beheaded the children and took my brother’s wife as concubine. His explanation to me when I demanded satisfaction? ‘My sword needed to be tested for it’s sharpness’. He cares not for his subjects but his own amusement. I would kill him myself, sensei. But I am no great warrior.”

Robert listened to him, interested in this story. The little man had never told him of the true nature of his anger towards the man who claimed lordship over him. It reminded him of the English laws that gave lords the right to bed all maidens on their wedding night to “bless” the marriage. All Scots knew it was lawful rape, and was one of the many grievances they had brought with them when fighting for their freedom.

“Do not worry,” Robert laid a hand on his shoulder. “We will show these Samurai who really controls your lives. You and you alone.”

Next day, Robert rode on his horse, along with a small contingent of warriors. The rest of his army trailed behind him, moving on foot through the docile landscape. A small grove of trees were before him, small trees with bent trunks and triangular heads. Even as they approached, a small group stepped out of the trees.

“Halt!” Robert held up his hand and the host of warriors behind him came to a halt.

“By the Mother and Son,” his second, Sir James Douglas said, looking at the bedraggled group of men coming to them. “Let us hope these vagabonds aren’t our army of rebels.”

Yagami began conversing with them in their own language and Robert eyed them. There was nine of them, wearing clothes that were no more then rags. Their tunics hung down to their knees, their tunics and pants torn in many locations. Pitch-forks, knives and clubs seemed to be the singular types of weapons, although one carried a long bow with arrows. The bow was nearly as long as an English longbow, but it seemed very flimsy compared to it.

“These men are willing to join us,” Yagami finally said and the group of rebels muttered among themselves as they walked back to join the main army. Robert heard the Scots complaining among themselves and could only imagine they had similar complaints as James did.

“I hope not all the rebels are this poor of stock,” James grumbled and Gilbert Hay, one of Robert’s most trusted men agreed.

“Aye, let us hope that we don’t meet more like this,” Gilbert agreed emphatically.

Robert glanced sideways and caught the crestfallen look on the Japanese man in their midst. “Come now,” Robert said to the others, glaring at them, “Did not we appear worse when the English looked first upon us? They said to themselves, ‘Well lads, we got nothing to worry about these farmers’. Yet we beat them with weapons little better than this. Let us not give them less credit then we gave ourselves and we faced longer odds!”

The men muttered their agreement of his statement but Robert glanced at Yagami. The little fellow seemed to sit a little straighter despite himself and Robert smiled inwardly. They needed these men to think they could move mountains. He had no idea how well-armed or trained these samurai were. He needed confidence. The worst enemy against the unknown was belittlement and lack of confidence.

They rode for a couple of more hours, gathering new rebels in growing numbers. Soon, there was over a hundred of them, bringing up their total strength to over six hundred. They approached a rise of hills that seemed to flank them on either side but lead them towards a low running creek. They continued onwards, seeing a village in the distance. They had not approached the river when someone in the column shouted.


Highlanders: WhiteWhiteWhiteWhiteWhite

Samurai: GreenGreenGreenGreenGreen

Yells rose from either side of them and Robert turned to look. Heavily armored warriors on horse surrounded them on either side. Men with bows stood at the edge and others with long spears. They were surrounded and many of the heavily armored warriors rode to cut off the creek before them.

“Form schiltrons!” Robert bellowed and he rode around the edge of his men, as they ran about, forming great circles of steel. Men with arming swords stood in the center as pikes and Lochaber axes made walls of impenetrable steel. Down the slopes came the charging samurai, whooping and hollering as they came, spear men and arrows falling as well.

“Minamoto!” Yagami shouted, and Robert turned to look at him. “He is there with his great warriors. Kill him and the Samurai will become disorganized and easy to defeat.”

Robert looked and saw a gaily clad warrior with long curved golden horns on his helmet sat with banner floating behind on his horse. There was four of them that flanked him and the man was watching, not interfering, but leading from an area not too far to the rear but not too close either.

“Come on!” he shouted, “Gilbert, James, Neil Campbell and Thomas to me!”

The last was his younger brother but they at once rode to his side. The clash of arms could already be heard and the screams or the dying were already filling the air.

“See those five lordling over there?” Robert asked, extending his now famous battle-axe. “Kill them and this battle will be ours! Dismount and let’s have at them!”

The Samurai and their allies seemed more focused on the main bodies of the Scots who at a backwards glance were holding firm, already growing piles of dead horses and Japanese were growing in walls around the schiltrons. Dismounting, they left their horses and drawing weapons charged forward, running across the fifty yards seventy yards that separated the two groups.

Minamoto saw them, and dismounted, his warriors following suit. Thomas was an archer and fitting his arrow to his yew longbow, he drew it back. The first warrior down had a bow himself and he as well was drawing the string. Twang. The Japanese man fell with a new branch sticking out just below his eye. Green

They ran to each other, four Japanese now against five Scots. Thomas kept firing his arrows, one of the Samurai staggering as it made contact with his shoulder. Yet he still had drawn sword in his hand, and he twirled it as they came into range.

With an explosion of steel and armor, the two groups collided. Robert focused on Minamoto, who had a curved sword in one hand and a dagger in the other. Robert had his battle axe ready to strike, holding it up before him. They circled each other as the others clashed. One of the samurai screamed as he slashed downwards with his tatchi, and Gilbert cried out as the blade bounced off his chainmail sleeve. His fist went out, connecting with the smaller samurai’s chin. As his head popped back, the claymore in Gilbert’s hand slide through the other man’s lamellar armor. Green

Thomas was fitting another arrow when a samurai a head shorter then he ran up, twirling a long naginata over his head. “Don’t think you’ll kill me!” Thomas said, aiming the bow and letting loose. But he was too slow. The blade of the naginata connected with the bow and the arrow went wide, plunging into the ground. Thomas had no time to recover as the spear went spiraling around and he screamed as the blade crossed his face, cutting from the side of one eyes and slashing to the other. He spun and fell, screaming as blood poured from his face. His cries were cut short as uttering a battle cry, the naginata cut downward, connecting with his chainmai coif, crushing the skull beneath it.White

“Thomas!” Neil Campbell shouted, jumping forward with his lochaber axe.

The samurai was already lashing out at James Douglas, who was already fighting the Samurai with the wounded shoulder. James was forced into the defensive, his claymore parrying blows from two Samurai. Neil went for the naginata wielding one and swinging it back, plunged it straight forward. The other one was swinging it in an arch over his head and Neil had bend forward to not get clobbered. It weakened the blow slightly and threw off his aim slightly, but the tip went slashing into the man’s calf, slashing through it.

As he let out a cry, James plunged his claymore into the man’s chest. The samurai fell screaming, dropping the spear and clutching hold of the blade. He screamed as his hands also were cut in the backwards pull. Green

Neil was already moving, lifting his long axe to bring it down on the wounded samurai. Yet he was already dancing out of reach, raising his sword and slashing as hard as he could at James Douglass. His blade connected with the chainmail, and while it did not penetrate, several links broke and the Scot let go with that had the claymore, grunting in pain as the skin was torn by the links. Douglas’ Lochaber missed the Samurai and plunged into the ground. James threw himself at the Samurai, raising his forearm and slamming into the chest of the other man. The weight of the blow sent him backwards and tripping, he fell backwards over the still stuck lochaber.

Gilbert Hay had joined the fight and raising his claymore, plunged downwards. The tricky, slippery fellow dodged to the right, and the blade plunged into the ground, sinking a full two feet in. A dagger suddenly was in the man’s hand and he stabbed outwards, the blade plunging into the leg. Gilbert roared in pain and punched downwards, his hand connecting with the man’s helmet and doing more damage to himself then the Samurai, whose head bobbed with the impact but no worse for wear. Yet it was enough. The lochaber swung down and cut clear to the spine. The Samurai cried out as blood spurted from his mouth.Green

“Your warriors are strong but lack discipline,” Minamoto was saying, although Robert could not have understood his words. “Their armor alone saves them. They are no real warriors.”

He lashed out with the tatchi, keeping the tanto close, incase this great white brute thought he could attack him with his battle axe. Robert parried the sword aside and spun around, letting his arm extend for the killing blow. The weight of the axe gave it speed and Minamoto ducked. Not far enough though, as the shaft of the axe caught his helmet’s horns and pulled him sideways. He managed to keep his feet but slashed with his knife. He felt the blade skid across the chainmail sleeve.

Minamoto allowed himself to stumble out of reach of the axe and stand again, poising the tatchi before him, blade level with his eyes and tanto held before him, arm pulled back with elbow up near the flap of his helmet. Robert had faced many great English and Norman warriors in his day, but he had to admit, that this was a very skilled warrior. If he was not careful, this little Jap would get him where he was exposed.

Robert bent himself down, axe held before him. He feinted and the samurai slashed outwards with his sword. Robert jumped back, and Minamoto jumped forward as he slashed. He stabbed with the dagger but Robert caught his hand and held it up, his higher reach pulling the Samurai off his feet by a few inches. With a sharp clench and twist, he felt the bone snap in the wrist.

“You have no honor!” Minamoto shouted, slamming his forehead right on Robert’s nose. The Scot felt the nose break and at the same time the point of the tatchi slammed into the side of his chainmail. Robert tossed him backwards, the blood of his nose flowing into his beard and mouth. The chainmail had not broken but he felt himself bruising already from the impact.

The samurai wasted no time. Even with wrist broken, he let loose a flurry of blows, driving back Robert. Robert had never felt such ferocity before and he gave way, carrying what he could and letting his armor take what he couldn’t, which was quite a few. He waited….and waited….and waited. The Samurai raised his tatchi in the air and slashed downwards.

"You and your devils have no honor! Boshido has nothing to bring your people to heaven. All you and your men can do is hope the Gods will not make you suffer too much!"

That was his moment!

"I have no idea what you are saying," Robert spun sideways and coming up behind Minamoto, raised his axe with both hands and struck downwards. The helmet shattered and leather, hair, skull and brains went flying outwards."But you talk to much."Green

Minamoto fell to the ground and raising his great battle axe, Robert the Bruce roared. “Buaidh no Bas!” he shouted and with his surviving friends, rushed back to the battle that was already coming apart as the Japanese despaired at Minamoto’s death.

Expert's Opinion[]

According to the experts, despite the better training and warriors, Minamoto simply could not bring in weapons and armor that could match the Scots. Robert the Bruce had better armor that could deflect the slash oriented weapons of the samurai and weapons that could penetrate the Japanese armor with ease.

To see the original battle, weapons, and votes, click here.