I think that an experienced and equipped warrior (mercenary, for example) had no chance against two or more equal opponents in fight. But what if his opponents were three peasants?

I heard a theory that three peasants could overcome a warrior with a little cooperation:

  1. First would grab his legs and drop him on the ground.
  2. Second would grab his weapon hand.
  3. Third would kill him, while incapacitated by the others.

I'm not sure if it's a plausible theory.

Did a warrior have a fair chance to defeat several opponents (less experienced and badly armed) in combat?

References to resources about this topic are appreciated.

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    I'm not sure if it's on topic, but I think that martial arts SE is less appropriate than this site. Please feel free to advise. – CodingFeles Feb 29 '16 at 8:11
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    I'm not sure what historic proof would actually be relevant here. It seems entirely likely that a trained, skilled, properly equiped warrior could defeat multiple less able, less well equiped opponents. However, it also seems entirely possible to contrive any number of plausible circumstances were the opposite could also be true. – KillingTime Feb 29 '16 at 8:32
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    There is a funny story about how a scholar researching medieval history in the Baltic ran across a manuscript letter in which a community asked the Tuetonic knights if they would send a knight to help in their battle against some invaders. The scholar thought this must refer to a "unit" of knights, containing large numbers of them. Later, someone else corrected him: no the town is asking for a SINGLE knight. – Tyler Durden Feb 29 '16 at 15:14
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    Yeah! You, me, and the guy next door will take on the Hexagon champ tomorrow - and when we get out of the hospital we can check if we even disrupted his training schedule. Check this video of 3 Olympian fencing masters defeating 50 opponents: tameshigiri.ca/2014/05/02/on-engaging-multiple-opponents One champion finally is knocked out at 9-3, a second at 6-2. but at 4-1 the final champ remains on the offense and is eliminated by an unlucky hit, and tiring reflexes, at 2-1. – Pieter Geerkens Mar 1 '16 at 12:13
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    Check out also J. Mark Bertrand's post here on "Tactical" Swordmanship, which could equally well serve as a commentary on the Japanese video above. thearma.org/essays/Tactical.htm#.VtWH85X2ZhF – Pieter Geerkens Mar 1 '16 at 12:21

A medieval knight in armor on a horse (with stirrups) was easily the equal of five to ten "peasants with pitchforks."

That's because riding a horse would give the rider a momentum that was a multiple (three, four, five) times that of someone on foot. Basically a knight could "ride down" one peasant, turn around the horse, and repeat the process several times. If there were enough peasants, the horse would run out of wind" before they did, but the required number of peasants was probably closer to ten than to five. As for peasants grabbing the knight's legs or arms, forget about it, if he's on a horse. The peasant who did that would be "dragged" to his death.

Even a knight in armor without a horse, but with a spear or lance was worth several peasants with spears but no armor. The knight could initially kill one or two peasants with little or no damage to himself. Even if they "overran" him, it would take much longer for a peasant to strike a fatal blow against an armored knight, than for the knight to kill an unarmored peasant. The knight could kill "several" before they finally overwhelmed him.

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    Out of curiosity, what would stop the peasants from attacking the horse with their pitchforks rather than the knight? It seems like disabling the horse would significantly reduce the knight's effectiveness and be much easier than pulling a rider off a horse. – terminex9 Mar 1 '16 at 4:34
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    @terminex 1) the speed of the horse (typically 10-12 mph), 2) the length of the rider's lance 3) the peasants' inferior training. It's true that China's Yue Fei managed to have "trained" peasants do what you said, but that is so unusual as to be the stuff of history. It was the exception, not the rule. – Tom Au Mar 1 '16 at 14:47

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