Why England won the Battle of Trafalgar.

Wooden ships blastin' away at each other sending shards of wood flying in all directions. Why did this happen? Find out!

Zach – Welcome to another episode of Minimum Wage Historian. Today we’ll be discussing the important battle of Trafalgar. The epic sea battle of England versus France and Spain. It has a funny name but it wasn’t a funny battle. With me today I have my co-host, Anna Komemne.
Anna – Always a pleasure to be here.
Zach – And next we have Hua Mulan, legendary woman soldier of ancient China.
Mulan – (Nods with a slight glare.)
Zach – And then we have Charles Martel, military leader of the Franks, known awesomely as “the Hammer.” What do I have to do to get a cool nickname like that?
Martel – You have to save Europe from invasion and destroy all your enemies by the sword.
Zach – Oh, not exactly in my schedule. And then we have Buffalo Calf Road, Cheyenne warrior woman, killer of Custer and has a battle named after her.
Buffalo – Thank you, Zach.
Zach – And then we also have Julius Caesar, dictator of the Roman Republic.
Caesar – I always love discussing empires and great battles.
Buffalo – And conquering people’s homelands and abusing the natives. (scratches chin) Now where have I heard of something like that before?
Zach – And today we have a special guest, Jane Austin. Writer of some of the most widely read books in the English language.

Greetings to you all! I do hope you enjoy your stay. Care for tea?

Jane – My, it is certainly different here than I expected. But it is good to be here. How is your family? They are well I hope.
Zach – They’re doing well.
Jane – Glad to hear it.
Anna – All of us are historians, leaders or warriors. Why is a novelist here?
Zach – For a couple of reasons. First, I’m a novelist and so I gotta throw a shout out. Second, she lived in England during this very time we’ll be discussing. She also had two brothers that were in the navy and eventually reached the rank of admiral. So, she’ll be able to give us a different perspective on this whole battle.
Mulan – Then why isn’t our buddy Napoleon here?
Zach – Do you want him here?
Mulan – Not really.
Zach – Well, he’d be a little too biased and I doubt he’d be able to look at it objectively.
Anna – Are we journalists now?
Zach – No, then we’d just have Napoleon pay us and we’d say whatever he’d want us to say. We’re historians. We’re held to a higher standard.
Buffalo – Darn straight we are.
Martel – Go Team History!
(All make an “H” symbol with their hand and thrust it into the air! Bright light appears and an “H” logo appears above table.)
Mulan – I love doing that.
Zach – Yeah, that was a good one. So, on to the main event. First let’s discuss the countries involved. Let’s start with Spain.
Anna – Spain was still trapped in the Middle Ages. They had a small aristocracy that didn’t lift a finger for work. Work was beneath them. They sat around idle and wasted the money they looted from the New World.
Buffalo – I think I’m going to need a Mountain Dew before I crack someone’s skull.
Jane – Yes, quite backwards they were. They still had two classes, the nobles and scores of helpless peasants. I imagine that that is how the nobles liked it. The enlightenment hadn’t affected them aside from the latest fashions of course. They kept their peasants ignorant, illiterate and impoverished.
Buffalo – But their sailors were great sailors, right? They did discover my homeland after all. And then robbed it and slaughtered the people they found.

I'm tired of this. Why can't Europe...just stay in Europe?

Martel – Not exactly. The men on their ships weren’t sailors. Most of them were peasants that had been press ganged into the crews.
Caesar – Yes, but the British did that as well.
Jane – They did but there was a difference. Once an Englishman was put on a ship, he became a sailor because he was trained by sailors and learned his part to play. My brothers loved to talk about their profession. To become an officer in His Majesty’s Navy, one had to go through a great deal of training first as a midshipman. As a young midshipman, my brothers had to learn all manner of things such as all the knots, all the jobs, and all the ways to navigate. Only after they learned all manner of important skills for seamanship did they become a lieutenant. The Spanish didn’t have anything like that. Their officers were appointed on whims, as sport and as flights of fancy.
Zach – So, they were stuck in a time warp.
Caesar – And their two social class system didn’t translate well to the workings of a ship. The incompetent officers were aloof and didn’t communicate well with the incompetent and ignorant crew.
Mulan – They were also fatalistic. To them, a glorious and bloody defeat was more admired than a victory. As long as they withheld their honor, they counted it as a victory.
Jane – We English on the other hand, did not have the luxury of defeat. An officer in the English navy could come from any walk of life. There were commoners as officers and those men didn’t have nobility to fall back on. No. Their reputation rode on their ability to command. If they failed, their station in life decreased. If they won victory, then they rose and could even become lords.
Buffalo – So, the English knew what they were doing. What I remember was that the English were very…what do you call it? Patriotic. Yes. They loved England and they loved their individual freedom.
Zach – Right, I guess we’re talking about the English now.
Jane – Unlike Spain, our aristocracy was expected to earn their own money. Many owned farms. I wrote books to help support my family. We were, I suppose you would call them capitalists. We had a free market, low taxes and for that we prospered.
Zach – Sounds nice.
Buffalo – It does sound nice. We were doing quite well until the government decided to “help” us Cheyenne.
Anna – And now for the French. I’m so glad Napoleon isn’t here. We’d never here the end of how mighty and perfect his countrymen are.
Martel – I suppose I’ll speak for the French. We should get Joan D’Arc back here. Her with Napoleon and we could have an all French discussion! Anyway… They were in a very confused time for them. For one, they had many aristocrats from the royal era. These aristocrats played things safe, thought for a long time and were generally incompetent in their elitism and arrogance. Then you had the revolutionaries and they didn’t know who or what they were. The navy had been neglected since before the revolution and when the revolution started, many sailors simply left.

(sighs) How did my Franks become the French? (mumbles something about powdered wigs and snails)

Mulan – Their logistics were in neglect. No matter how good an army is, if the logistics fail, the army fails. The French couldn’t get the lumber and material fast enough to build enough ships, so from the start they were doomed to be outnumbered. Also, the revolution destroyed the sailors individualism and pride, without those a navy falls apart.  If someone said something the government didn’t like, they would be punished.  The political commissars were appointed to each ship to ensure no one spoke out of line.  The Freedom of Speech didn’t exist for them and they felt the effects.  This affected their moral greatly.  Frustration grew.  This caused the land armies to be very destructive and spontaneous, but on a ship this simply doesn’t work. On a ship everything has its place and purpose. It must be orderly. I was a general and I spent more time dealing with issues such as supply than I did on battle strategy or tactics.  If your soldiers or sailors don’t care about what they’re fighting for, they’re doomed to failure.

Mulan telling it how it is. So listen up.

Caesar – A people must know who they are in order to fight. The way these three countries fought was an indication of their society. As Rome lived, so she fought.  France was confused, paranoid and afraid and so that was how they fought.  Spain was fatalistic, backwards and blind.  England was aggressive, self reliant and confident and it showed at Trafalgar.
Anna – Let’s talk about Admiral Nelson now.
Buffalo – He was a short, skinny, ugly, sickly man that was prone to seizures. He also had one arm. He was also one of the most loved leaders the English ever had. To his enemies he was the fiercest opponent they ever faced. He had the ferocity of a warrior.

Sometimes heroes aren't dashing, with long flowing hair and chiseled abs. Sometimes they're ordinary people put in extraordinary circumstances.

Caesar – And the humility of Cincinnatus. Cincinnatus was a Roman general who had retired to his farm. When the Republic was in danger he came out of retirement, took dictator powers, won the war and then went right back to his farm. He was an example of Roman humility and civic duty. Nelson had this as well. He thought he was destined to be a hero and fought for his love of England. That is very Roman of him. Humble but violent.
Buffalo – I like him. He doesn’t care what others thought. He fought for what he believed in regardless of the consequences.
Jane – I heard my brothers speak of him as if he were a legend. It was a sad day when we heard that he passed on. It was a great because we had won such a victory over the French, but sad because we lost a beloved hero. He was a man who loved his country and was put in a position to save his country.
Buffalo – Save? How?
Jane – I remember that time well. People were tense. We knew Bonny…sorry, Napoleon was planning an invasion of England. We had used our fleet to blockade France but he snuck ships past our blockade whenever he could so he could amass them in the Caribbean and move in to secure the invasion route to England. This was no idle threat.
Zach – And now we come to the reason for the battle. Napoleon wanted to knock England out of the war by invading and destroying their ship yards, supplies and finances. Nelson was ordered to not let that happen. This battle was to save England from totalitarianism. The stakes were high.
Caesar – When the French and Spanish fleet saw the English fleet, they already thought in their hearts that they were dead. With that sort of fatalism, it is hard to win any battle. They outnumbered the English but knew they were out manned.
Jane – The English were better sailors and everyone knew it. A French crew could fire their cannon once every three minutes while a mediocre English crew could fire it every ninety seconds, a good crew twice as fast as that.
Martel – When the fleets met each other, the French did so in a messy, haphazard manner and the English saw this. They saw holes in their lines and this is deadly for any battle. I taught my Frankish soldiers this and drilled it into them again and again.
Caesar – The battle was won before it ever began.

I seem to recall something about "I came, I saw, I conquered." Hmm... I wonder.

Mulan – Discipline, pride, zeal and logistics. The outcome was predetermined.
Anna – The English had fought several sea battles in their recent history and always came out on top, usually a five to one casualty rate. At the recent Battle of the Nile where the English destroyed a French navy, it was overwhelming, but then the French had been confident or at least not in the throws of despair. It’s a pattern. The English kept winning and everyone else kept loosing. At Trafalgar, the ratio would be more like ten to one.
Buffalo – Okay, here’s my question. I understand that the English were better sailors, but they had the same ships, right? No country’s ships were better than the other and their cannons and guns were the same. I mean, the biggest, most dangerous ship in the battle was the “Santa Trinidad,” a Spanish ship! I can see a big victory like this when there’s a difference in tactics or technology, but does seamanship really play that big of a part?

Ships of the line were the battleships of their day. They were immensly expensive and took years to make. They were some of the most complex and refined engines of war ever. Centureis of refinement led to these and took hundreds of men to run.

Mulan – Aggressiveness. The English were out to destroy the enemy while the French and Spanish sat there just hoping to survive. The mind set plays a big difference.
Martel – Like that song, “Eye of the Tiger.”
Buffalo – That song you were listening to earlier? No, I was thinking more “Be Aggressive” by Faith No More.
Anna – You’re both wrong, it’s “Shoot to Thrill” by AC-DC.
Mulan – I think Anna’s right on this one.
(all nod in agreement)

Of course I'm right. That's the outcome of noble and good breeding. I was born in the "Purple Chamber" of course!

Jane – Well, oh dear…um….this “aggressiveness” comes from our society. At home we receive only what we earn. If we wish to succeed in life, we have to fight for it and struggle hard for it. We are given nothing. So, we English are used to seeing our goal and going after it with every shred of zeal we have.
Caesar – Yes, this English determination came from their free market, democratic, capitalist society. You would not think that such things would make a difference in a battle, but it does. Very much so.
Mulan – Before the battle Nelson gave his men orders. I have a paper here that has a quote….where is it? Ah, here it is.
“Something must be left to chance; nothing is sure in a Sea Fight beyond all others. Shot will carry away the masts and yards of friends as well as foes…Captains are to look to their particular Line as their rallying point. But, in case signals can neither be seen or perfectly understood, no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of an enemy.”
This goes to show that he gave the captains free reign to do as they saw fit. They weren’t tightly controlled like the French and Spanish. In the French navy, the captains weren’t told the over all strategy, only the small part they had to play.
Anna – There is also another order he gave to his captains, a final one before the battle started. “England expects that every man will do his duty.” He even flew this on his flags as a message to every ship.

There's "Flag-ese" for that order. Okay, I made that up. It's not called flag-ese.

Mulan – And in the end, the French and Spanish fleet lost 22 ships and the English lost none.

Victory!! Nothing tastes sweeter!

Anna – But they lost something very important. In the battle, the English flagship, “Victory” was in the thick of the battle and Nelson was mortally wounded. He was taken below decks where he lingered on for a while but eventually died.
Zach – If you want to read more about the battle itself, then there are plenty of sources.
Caesar – I would have been proud to have Nelson in my Legions.
Mulan – A man, put in the right place at the right time. Though I think Napoleon wouldn’t agree to that.
Jane – Yes, we mourned Nelson as a country, but he did save England from tyranny. We were able to keep our dynamic, bold and individualist society…until we threw it away in favor of what England is now.

Zach – So, England was saved from invasion.  The tactics, traditions, pride and system of flag communication would last almost unchanged until WWI.  In the sea battle of Jutland, where Dreadnaught fought Dreadnaught, the English still quoted “England expects” and used flags to talk to each other.  Go to London and you can see Trafalgar square.

Caesar – We’re finished.  I’m going to order Chinese.  Anyone else in?

(Mulan glares at him.)

Joan of Arc’s lesson on Medieval weapons

(Camera shows a table with swords, axes, clubs and maces lined up on it. Joan of Arc, wearing plate armor, comes out and stands behind the table. She looks at the camera with serious expression on her face. Addresses audience with a French accent.)
Joan – Welcome to Minimum Wage Historian. I am the maid, Joan from Domremy. Zach is busy…(looks off camera and then shakes her head.) I will not lie. Sorry, God forbids it. Zach can’t be here today because he is writing a silly fantasy novel. Today I will be going over the weapons used in Europe during your so called Middle Ages. In particular I will be discussing the weapons used during the Hundred Years War. But first we shall start with a prayer. (folds hands and begins praying. Fifteen minutes later…)
Amen. Now we shall commence with a hymn…(looks off camera again.)
What? What do you mean, ‘no hymn?’ Of course we will sing….What?…..Very well then! Have it your way, heathen! I hope God forgives you. Apparently we do not have “time” for a hymn. (Mumbles something about Godless heathens.)

The first weapon we will look at today is also my favorite, the long sword or bastard sword or hand-and-a-half sword.

This was the standard issue for knights all over Christendom. It is distinctive from swords outside of Europe for its distinctive cross shape. (raises sword up and kisses the hilt) It is called the bastard sword because it is in between a two- handed sword and a one handed. (she grips sword with one hand.) It can be used one handed and this is how it was used while mounted or with a shield. However, if you’re knocked of your horse or loose your shield there is enough space to use a second hand. It is long enough and balanced so a knight can easily wield it while on a horse. The blade is straight and double edged and can be used for hacking, slashing or stabbing. Also, the pommel, the end of the handle, is great for bashing heads. Knights were not barbaric thugs that smashed and hacked. There was quite a lot of training to go along with being a knight and each trainer had a slightly different style. The Germans used different styles than the Italians or the filthy English for example. I used mine without a shield and relied on my armor and God’s protection. When I wasn’t carrying my banner I would hold the sword’s handle in one hand, and hold the blade with the other. In that way I had much more control and I can attack with either end in any direction. Another way to use it, if you have good gloves or gauntlets, is to use the long sword as a club or hammer. The pommel and cross guard are great for hitting English with.

The next weapon is the often overlooked Halberd.

part spear, part axe, all awesome.

This was a weapon used by foot soldiers and man-at-arms…why are you laughing…I don’t get it…what’s a She-Ra? I will ignore those silly people. A halberd is a pole arm with an axe head, a long spike and either a spike on the back or a hook to latch onto mounted knights and pull them down. It is a defensive and offensive weapon for unmounted soldiers. The Swiss used them to go after the mounted Nobility in the Burgundian War. As fire arms became more common on the battlefield, the halberd was eventually replaced by the pike but some units continued to use them, including the Swiss Guard of the Vatican. (genuflects and gets back up) There are other weapons similar to a halberd such as a glaive.

a pole arm with a long blade at the end, similar to a Japanese Naganita or a Chinese guan doa.

No! Not that glaive!

A bardiche or “poll axe.” The blade is offset of the pole for the gunners to rest their guns on as they fire, a kind of mono-pod that helped with stability and aiming. The Polish loved them.

A wicked weapon that was favorite of the Poles and the Russians.

Another halberd type weapon is the lochaber axe, a Scottish weapon…by the way, the Scotts were a great help in our wars against the English. They dislike the English as much as us French!  The lochaber axe was made by the Scottish to counteract English cavalry because they didn’t really have cavalry of their own. It has a little hook on the back they got from their own shepard’s nooks and used it to pull vile Englishmen off of their horses.

Scotts weren't fond of being told what to do.

Next up is the war hammer

No! Not that war hammer! Why is Zach's staff giving me such a hard time? I'm starting to think they may be Englishmen.

Yes!! This war hammer! The kind for bashing!

There’s also the billhook, but I’ll let you look up that one on your own.
The war hammer is…well…a hammer. It came in two varieties, long handled, like a halberd for taking down mounted foes, and a short one for close combat. The reason the war hammer came about was due to plate armor. Let me side track here a little bit and talk about plate armor. Look at the armor I am wearing. (beats breast plate ) It is full plate and there are many incorrect ideas about plate armor that I have seen in your silly movies. For one, a person can get back up when knocked down. Quite easily actually. The suit of armor is tailored to the individual and the weight is distributed evenly along the body, unlike chain mail which hangs on the shoulders. It actually allows a good deal of freedom of movement.

(runs around the training ground swinging her sword.  Comes back to table slightly winded.)

Now, here’s the good part. Not much can penetrate plate armor. Arrows from bows cannot. Swords cannot. Not even heavy battle axes. no, at best you will dent the armor. There are only two ways.  One, you can get in close with a dagger and try to get in a gap such as the neck, armpit or groin. The other option, and far less likely to get killed, is to bash them. This is what a war hammer is for. You dent the armor and crush the bones beneath. Hit the helmet and ring his head like a bell. Also, this is what maces are good for. Same theory. If you go at knight if full plate armor, be prepared for a lethal challenge. It is the most dangerous foe you can face on a battlefield.
Next up is the flail.

Flail, a former farmer's tool.

Morning star, NOT a farmer's tool.

The flail was a farmer’s tool and was often used in peasant uprisings all across Europe. In Japan, the flail became what you call the nunchaku, or “nunchucks.” A flail was easy to make and devastating when it hit, but it was hard to use and impossible to use in a tight formation. Aside from hitting power, it could also flail around the enemy’s shield and still hit them. The other version is called a “morning star” or “ball and chain.” I will ignore’s Zach’s crew. No, I don’t know why they’re laughing. the morning star is difficult to use, but very powerful. Not a weapon for the timid.
Next weapon is the battle axe.

Favorite of Minotaurs, Dwarves and bad guys.

There were all kinds of battle axes: two handed, one handed, double bladed, short, long and even thrown. The Franks, my blessed ancestors, were famous for their throwing axes, the Francisca. Vikings loved axes.
Next up is a Belgian (back then, Flanders) weapon, no, not an FS2000, but a “Godendag,” which means “Good Day!”

"So simple, a peasant can make it!"

Another Belgian weapon, though not so simple as the Gotendag.

The Godendag is a weapon the Flemish peasants made to go up against our French armored knights. The name, “good day” possibly comes from when the Flemish rebelled, they went around saying “Good day,” to people and if they responded with a French accent, they would get killed. The Godendag is basically a cross between a club and a spear. It’s thicker at the end to club people and it has a long spike. They would use the spike to defend against cavalry charges or to attack mounted knights and then club them when they got their enemy on the ground. Simple to make, simple to use and very dangerous.
And lastly, we have my favorite weapons, the “Culverin” and “bombard.” These are black powder weapons, one is hand held, the other is mounted on wheels. Culverins were basically small cannons with a wooden pole.

Didn't know Joan used guns? She was actually famous for her talents in black powder weapons and how quickly she learned them. She was the Magpul of her day. Dynamic art of the culverin!

At the siege of Calais, I used bombards, most of them captured, to drive the English out of the city. They were noisy things that made a lot of smoke, but they were effective against castle and town walls! Guns and cannons showed up fairly early in the Middle Ages, since the 1300′s. Often their use is ignored, but they often played a major part in the battles.
I hope you learned something today. I enjoyed being here and I enjoy teaching about how to kill Engli…how to use weapons responsibly.

Now we will end this session with a prayer, some hymns and mass.
(camera fades out as she kneels to pray.)

Tomoe Gozen

A Japanese, butt-kicking beauty that liked to take heads as trophies.

(curtain pulls up and shows Zach sitting behind a desk and Anna Komemne sitting on a brown chair two chairs away from Zach. There’s a live studio audience.)
Zach – Thank you all for being here. With me as always is my co-host, Anna Komemne, famous Byzantine historian and today we have a special guest.
Anna- Aren’t all our guests special? I mean, that is why we have them here.
Zach – Yes, but this one is even more special-er. Today we have a woman who fought and survived the Genpei War in the late 12th century. She was concubine to the warlord, Minamoto no Yoshinaka. I welcome to our studio, TOMOE GOZEN!!
(audience claps)
(A Japanese woman wearing full samurai armor walks onto stage. She sits down on an ugly chair beside Zach’s desk.)
Zach – Thank you for coming. I’m so glad you can make it.
Tomoe – (bows slightly) It is honor to be here.
Zach – So, tell me Tomoe, doesn’t your name, “Gozen” mean something?
Tomoe – Yes, it is title of honor. As concubine and general of my late husband’s army, I had much importance.
Zach – Wow. That is impressive. Was it common for women to learn to fight?
Tomoe – Learn to fight, yes, go out to war and lead troops, no. Many noble women learned Naginata, a long curved spear. Sometimes they call it “Woman’s spear,” but many used it, even Sohei Monks. Women kept spear above doorways of houses to protect home when men gone away.

Awesome and very effective against mounted enemies or while mounted. Similar to a European Halbred.

Zach – I see a lot of pictures show you with a naginata.
Tomoe – Yes, but I didn’t use one. I use large two handed sword, like a Nodachi.

It's not the size of the sword that counts....okay, maybe it is.

Zach – I wonder why that is. The “Tale of Heike” clearly says you carried a big freaking sword. Here, let me read what it says about you.
“Tomoe was especially beautiful, with white skin, long hair, and charming features. She was also a remarkably strong archer, and as a swordswoman she was a warrior worth a thousand, ready to confront a demon or a god, mounted or on foot. She handled unbroken horses with superb skill; she rode unscathed down perilous descents. Whenever a battle was imminent, Yoshinaka sent her out as his first captain, equipped with strong armor, an oversized sword, and a mighty bow; and she performed more deeds of valor than any of his other warriors.”
Anna – Sounds like most people just follow the tradition of women using the naginata instead of actually reading. Typical. I bet the artists were men.
Tomoe – I don’t know. Maybe they like naginata better?
Zach – So, you were a samurai, right?
Anna – What kind of question was that? Look at her. She looks like a friggin’ samurai. Did I just say “friggin’?” I’ve been hanging out with you too long.
Tomoe – Actually, it’s pretty good question. For most of history, Samurai no called Samurai. They called “Bushi” which means “warrior.” At first, bushi just military soldiers. But they slowly gained power over time. They became a noble class. By time I was born, I was born into Samurai class.
Zach – Also, the Genpei war in which you fought in was responsible for the Samurai gaining permanent power over the government. After the war you guys made the emperor a figure head for over six hundred years until the Meiji Restoration.
Tomoe – Yes, the war was fought by clans trying to take over government. The Taira and Minamoto clans. Minamoto was weakened by rebellion so Taira started war, but ended up loosing. Serves them right.
Zach – So, did you guys have the code of Bushido? (notice the word “Bushi” in there? “Do” = way “Bushi”= warrior. Bushido = way of the warrior.)
Tomoe – No, Bushido did not come until much later. Until time of Tokugawa I think. We had honor, but not systematized like code of Bushido. Our code of honor had more to do with taking heads as trophies.
Anna – Sounds barbaric.
Zach – Well, going back to the Tale of Heike, it tells about you taking someone’s head. I’ll read it for you.
Tomoe – Good, I don’t read English.
Zach – “Reluctant to flee, Tomoe rode with the others until she could resist no longer. Then she pulled up. “Ah! If only I could find a worthy foe! I would fight a last battle for his Lordship to watch!” She thought.
As she sat there, thirty riders came into view, led by Onda no Hachiro Moroshige, a man renowned in Musashi Provence for his great strength. Tomoe galloped into their midst, rode up along side Moroshige, seized him in a powerful grip, pulled him down against the pommel of her saddle, held him motionless, twisted his head off and threw it away. “
Anna – Goodness!
Tomoe – (laughs) I didn’t actually twist head off. I cut it off.
Anna – That does make a bit more sense.
Tomoe – They like to exaggerate.
Zach – But still, you pulled the guy down and cut off his head. Exaggerated or not, that’s still pretty awesome.
Tomoe – Also, the weapon we used was not sword, yes we use sword, but it a back up weapon. Last resort. We use mostly bow and staff. I was exception because I like sword.
Zach – You were a lot of exceptions apparently.
Anna – So, how were you treated as a leader, being a woman?
Tomoe – Well, the Taira clan would never have allowed me to be an officer. They are…how do you say, elitist? They snobbish. They spend too much time writing poetry and letters. Our Genji clan was much more…rustic and simple.
Zach – Can you tell us a story from the war? Something interesting?
Tomoe – Well, I was in disguise at the Battle of Uji Bridge, a Sohei monk named Tajima defended a bridge against the Taira clan. He stood on bridge with his mighty Naginata and the Taira clan shot arrows at him. He used his naginata to cut arrows out of sky. They kept shooting at him but he kept knocking arrows out of sky. He earned the nickname, the “Arrow Cutter.”

Arrow Cutter in action!

Zach – Wow. That guy was pretty studly. Also, not very peaceful for a Buddhist monk.
Tomoe – Sohei monks were not pacifists. They were like Germany’s Tuetonic Knights or Knights Templar. Warrior monks.
Zach – So, tell me about this armor your wearing. It’s a bit bulkier than I’m used to seeing.
Tomoe – This is called O-yoroi, or Great Armor. It is symbol of status. It is big and heavy. Lesser Bushi or Samurai used the lighter Do-maru armor and the foot soldiers used simple, lighter versions of Do-maru.

A blinged up O-yoroi set of armor.

Zach- Why did they eventually get rid of the O-yoroi?
Tomoe – O-yoroi was used mostly for being on horse. When Samurai begin to fight on foot, they switch to lighter armor.
Anna – I notice that your armor is made from many small metal plates sewn together. This is what we Romans call “lamellar.”
Tomoe – Yes, is similar in function, but not in appearance.
Zach – After the Genpei war, history sort of looses track of you. Most think you retired to a monastery.
Tomoe – Eventually, yes. But after battle, I wandered Japan. I found a young girl who is annoying and we had many adventures. It seemed almost once a week we come to town where they need help and we solve their problems.
Zach – Like certain TV shows…never mind.
Tomoe – What?
Zach – Nothing. In the TV show, Riverworld, which is awesome, we see a depiction of you wearing home made bamboo armor and wielding two swords.
Tomoe – I never use two swords. That style was developed by Miyamoto Musashi, many hundreds years later. I mostly use bow but sometimes my no-dachi.
Zach – So, the times you lived in, samurai were pretty different than what we mostly see in movies.
Tomoe – Yes, correct, but I did watch 13 Assassins. I love movie. Lots of fighting. Most samurai movies come from time after unification of Japan, after warring states period when Samurai spend as much time writing poems and arranging flowers as fighting. Instead of flower arranging, we presented severed heads to our lords.
Anna – I imagine that was a festive time for all the children.
Tomoe – Yes! My niece loved it.
Anna- (shakes head.)
Zach – Well, that’s all we have time for today. If you have questions, leave a comment and I promise that Tomoe will answer them.
Tomoe – I would love to.
Anna – What’s up for next time, Zach?
Zach – I think our next guest will be Joan D’Arc and I believe she has some weapon demonstrations for us.
Anna – Friggin’ awesome.

Zach – As we depart, I must add that Tomoe Gozen is still revered in Japan today.

This was taken at a festival in Japan.