Myth of the “Ultimate Warrior”

Hey there every peoples!

Ok, it’s time for another rant. But I swear that this is the last one for a while. It’s that recently there’s been a bunch of stuff rubbing me the wrong way. It looks like things have settled down, so after this we will return to your regularly schedule program.

Last week History Channel aired a two hour program called “Samurai” in which one guy traveled to Japan to “find the ultimate warrior”. Now if you’re a warrior junkie like me you have surely heard people refer to samurai as the “ultimate warriors”. This program was no different. It talked about samurai here and there but mostly it sounded like a dry biography of Miomoto Musashi interspersed with Kill Bill style animations. Then at the end the host declared Musashi the “ultimate warrior”. Needless to say it was an easily forgettable program.

I find the notion of an “ultimate warrior” asinine. And what’s more, the warriors often declared to be the greatest always come from Japan (samurai and ninja). If the notion of an “ultimate warrior” wasn’t laughable enough, I find it even more so when the warrior crowned with such a title is a warrior from an isolationist island nation who mostly fought themselves and few outside cultures.

When it comes to warriors, they must be viewed in their context. Warriors are specific and unique to their time and place. Sure it’s easy to think of many as inferior when compared to other cultures, but look at them in their proper setting. Take the Maori (the native people of New Zealand) for example. In the Deadliest Warrior forums (the show’s premise is outlandish, but I like watching them use the weapons and it’s also fun to watch all the idiots this show attracts) people were really harsh towards the Maori because he lost to a Shaolin Monk wielding steel weapons, compared to the Maoris’ wood, stone, and bone weapons. In fact, many were calling the Maori the worst warrior of the season’s line up. Again, he may seem inferior compared to the knight or the Spartan, but look at where he comes from. His weapons and fighting style were ideal for where he lived, where he fought other Maori. He had to make due with what he had and he made it work. In my opinion the Maori had some of the coolest weapons of the season!

Now if context is vital to gauging a warrior’s true prowess, why are samurai (and to an equal extent ninjas) regarded as the greatest? The simple answer is: I have no freaking idea. I have attempted to read and watch stuff on samurai in order to find out why people put them up on pedestals and time and time again I can’t see why. All I hear is senseless fawning over how great they are. They don’t sound like the”ultimate warrior” to me. For one reason, look at who they fought. Samurai fought mostly other samurai and ninjas; how can you be the “ultimate warrior” when you only fight your own people. Sure samurai fought against Mongols and Koreans, but how much does that demonstrate their battle prowess? Not very much, it turns out. When the Mongols launched their first invasion of Japan, the samurai got their asses handed to them. Before the Mongols invaded, samurai combat was all about personal glory and consisted of a series of duals. So when the Mongols showed up, the samurai expected to have a bunch of one-on-one fights. But this kind of fighting was unknown to the Mongols and they crushed the samurai. But then the samurai got lucky when the Mongols ships were smashed by a typhoon.

If samurai were truly the “ultimate warrior” they would have been able to fight back the invaders. But they didn’t. They were saved by a nasty storm. That’s because Japanese warriors spent most of their history fighting each other. The “ultimate warrior” would be expected to defeat a whole range of different warriors. But that almost never happened. Why? It is because warriors can only fight those around them. They can only fight those who they mean to attack or are trying to fight off. This often led to greatly different warriors clashing head to head and they were either defeated or learned how to fight back. But the truth is that there are too many different kinds of warriors across history, each with their own unique weapons, armor and fighting styles, to decide which one is the “ultimate warrior”. This is why I simple shook my head and laughed when the host of “Samurai” called Musashi the “ultimate warrior”. Musashi, to the extent of my knowledge, fought in only one major battle, and then spent the rest of his life as a duelist. Sure, he never lost and only once fought to a draw, but he was fighting other duelists. How does that make him the “ultimate warrior”? It doesn’t. To be the “ultimate warrior” he would have to have fought and defeated just about every other warrior out there. And we all know that never could have happed because of gaps in time, geography, and technology.

So as you can see, the idea of the “ultimate warrior” is a hollow and foolish concept. There seems to be no rational criteria for judging the “ultimate warrior” because it means taking the warriors out of their context. Take them out of their time and place and all bets are off. You’re in murky waters then. Unlike most other people I’ve encountered, I find all warriors fascinating and honorable. They fought and died all the same and saying “well this warrior would win against that warrior” doesn’t change that. Looking down on a weapon you think is inferior doesn’t change the fact that people still died at its point. Each warrior lived, fought, and died for their reasons with whatever materials were at hand. To call one “the ultimate warrior” over all others in an insult to every other warrior who fought bravely in the face of death.

If you’ve made it this far then thanks for sticking with me. This will be the last of my irrelevant ramblings for now. So here’s what’s coming up next: a trip into the desert to visit an ice age lake plus a look at a far flung dinosaur.

Till next time!

2 thoughts on “Myth of the “Ultimate Warrior”

  1. I actually enjoyed this rant. I also get annoyed at such a concept. As a Viking enthusiast, I hate all the Viking bashing that occured after their “Deadliest Warrior” episode. People were saying how much better the samurai were. This is ludicrous. For one thing, the Vikings actually fought and conquered other peoples, not just fighting among themselves. Also, the Vikings were not stupid brutes as portrayed in the show. They were skilled warriors who used tactics. An army of samurai would not stand a chance against a Viking shield wall.

    • They filmed the shows in advanced. So i wonder this: did they purposely make the Viking a bumbling incompetent moron so that the samurai would win? I mean, after watching the ninja and yakuza lose to the Spartan and Mafia, did they make the samurai win to appease the japanophiles? Not like is worked though. But yes, the vikings were quite underrated. Not only did they conquer various people, but they became the elite guard of the Byzantine emperor, found the new world before Columbus, and set up extensive trade routes and markets (after all, what good is all that plunder if you don’t have a place to sell it). I probably would like samurai and ninjas if they weren’t so over-hyped. I blame anime for that!

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