Samurai Vs Knight – The Ultimate Sword Fight

japanese samurai vs european knight

Samurai Vs Knight – The Ultimate Sword Fight

Swordplay has always been the quintessence of Martial Arts. Despite thousands of years of tradition, across every continent, the most superior of these remains a topic of much deliberation…

Who would win in the ultimate showdown between a Japanese Samurai and a medieval Knight?
We all know this can be a pretty impassioned topic. There are blogs, entire websites, and countless youtube videos devoted to the concept of comparing fighting styles between Samurais and Knights, and the opinion of who would win in a sword fight.

We can envision it, the ultimate showdown… A 15th century Japanese Samurai vs a 15th Century heavy plated knight.
There’s no question that Medieval Europe shared many similarities with medieval Japan. And while this can be a help in our comparison, there were also many differences. Those who fought for their countries and swore loyalty to their kings were known as Knights in Europe, and as the mighty Samurai, which means servant, in Japan. Both types of soldiers fought in different ways, trained with different weapons and styles, and brought their own strengths and weaknesses to the battlefield. When we compare them in modern times, both have dedicated and loyal fans, which is why the topic of who would win in a sword fight between a Samurai and a Knight draws such passion.
Let’s look at some of the similarities and differences.

European Knight Vs. Japanese Samurai

knight vs samurai detail

anatomy of a european knight in full armor

anatomy of a japanese samurai in full armor

First we’ll take a look at the European Knight in Full Armor.
– their whole body was very well protected by their metal armour
– because of their armour it was easy to identify certain knights from certain places
– a knight used many strong, large weapons and they also used a shield
– mostly riding on horseback knights did have a general size advantage
– because of the huge amount of armour worn a knight was physicaly hard to beat

– underclothes made of linen had to be worn to prevent chafing from the metal armour
– was heavy as it was made from alot of metal
– moving in their armour was very limited and difficult
– because of the large protection of the helmet it limited vision and breathing ability
– there were many different components to the armour

Now let’s take a look at the Japanese Samurai in full battle armor.

– was light, as it was mostly from bamboo, with small parts made of cloth and metal
– because it was so light it made movement easy
– good for hand to hand combat, particulary for samurai’s precise and quick movements
– samurai’s could fight both on horse and on foot fairly easily
– extreemly skilled in hand to hand combat and a range of other fighting skills

– had less protection for the body, made them slightly more vulnerable
– there were many different componts of their armour
– samurai’s did have weaker weapons than those of a knight’s
– they fought mainly on foot and when faced with a knight on a horse were overpowered
– most of their weapons like arrows would not be able to penetrate a knight’s armour

Comparing A Knights Sword To A Samurai Sword

There’s a great article on the Katana Vs. The Rapier listed here:

However, we’d much rather like to compare the Samurai blade to that of a knight’s sword.
You can watch these two great videos:

1) Japanese Katana Vs. European Broadsword:

Many Experts agree that the Katana is the finest cutting blade second only to a modern
Although this clip is biased towards the Katana’s abilities, it does show just how fast and effortless the Katana cuts and can follow up with another strike even though the wielder doesn’t appear to be the most skilled.

2) The ultimate KATANA vs LONGSWORD analysis

Every video I have watched that tries to compare the Japanese Katana to Medieval European Longsword miss the most significant thing to consider. This time, lets do it right!

3) Japanese Katana VS European Longsword – Samurai sword VS Knight Broadsword

Watch this great documentary on Japanese Swordsmithing and European Swordsmithing.

How were Samurai Swords Made?

Japanese Swordsmithing is a beautiful, world renowned process that made some of the most amazing swords in the history of the world. This labour-intensive bladesmithing process was developed in Japan for forging the highest quality swords, including katana, wakizashi, tantō, yari, naginata, nagamaki, tachi, uchigatana, nodachi, ōdachi, kodachi, and ya (arrow).

Japanese blades came in many different profiles, blade thicknesses, and varying amounts of grind. Wakizashi and tantō were not simply scaled-down katana; they were often forged without ridge (hira-zukuri) or other such forms which were very rare on katana.

While there are many note-worthy Japanese swords to talk about, we want to focus specifically on the sword used by Samurai – The Katana.
Watch This Video: How a Katana is Made – Hand Forging a Japanese Samurai Sword

Samurai Swordmaking:

Forging A Katana:

Historically, katana (刀) were one of the most prized, traditionally made Japanese swords. In Feudal Japan, the Katana was the sword of choice by the samurai, the emperor’s personal servant knights. The katana is characterized by its distinctive appearance involving a curved, single-edged blade with a circular or squared guard and long grip to accommodate two hands.
It is renowned for the intricate process that made it such a vicious weapon. Western historians have said that katana were among the finest cutting weapons in world military history.

Katana had special regulations involved in their making.
They had to be 23.9inches long or longer.
Katanas were forged from a specialized process that involved layering the steel many times over which added to their incredible strength. Katana are traditionally made from a specialized Japanese steel called tamahagane. This process of layering the steel in a samurai sword over and over and over again helped to remove impurities and even out the carbon content of the steel. The age of the steel also played a role in the ability to remove impurities, with older steel having a higher oxygen concentration and being more easily stretched and rid of impurities during hammering. This then resulting in a stronger blade.
When making a Katana, the wordsmith began with a block of varied steel. Through the process, the smith would begin folding and welding pieces of the steel several times over to work out most of the differences in the steel.
These steels are then rolled and folded on top of each other many times to create millions of layers on top of each other. Think of this process as being similar to kneading dough by flipping it over onto itself over and over again to homogenize it. This process removes impurities and evens out the carbon content throughout the steel. It is by this process that the quality of steel is improved and perfected.
Once the steel is folded and hammered enough so that its impurities are burned off and that its carbon content is homogenized, the different steels are hammer forged and drawn out into a single billet.
Once at this stage, when the steel was evened out and merged together, the block is only slightly curved or may have no curve at all. But this is when the sword really begins to take shape. The katana’s gentle curvature is attained by a process of differential hardening or differential quenching. In this process the smith coats the blade with several layers of a wet clay. Each sword maker had their own unique concoction. This process is called tsuchioki. The smith coats the edge of the blade with a thin layer compared to the rest of the sword, and once the sword is heated it is quenched in water or sometimes oil.
The coating of clay will then cause only the blade’s edge to be hardened and also causes the blade to curve due to the difference in densities of the steel created at this point. This process of heating and cooling tempers the steel in a very precise and specific way that gives the samurai sword it’s advantage. It also creates the distinct line down the sides of the blade called the hamon. Each hamon and each smith’s style of hamon is distinct.
The Katana is famous because it was known to be both exceptionally sharp as well as being exceptionally tough. While the Europeans were still making swords from single blocks of steel, the Japanese swordsmiths had figured out how to layer and alloy steel. This was a technological breakthrough that gave the katana it’s advantage.

tamahagane the making of a japanese samurai katana sword

forging a katana samurai sword

forging a katana samurai sword

forging a katana samurai sword

forging a katana samurai sword

forging a katana samurai sword hammering process

forging a katana samurai sword finished sword bend

forging a katana samurai sword finished sword bend

forging a katana samurai sword finished sword

It has been said that the samurai’s sword was his soul. Perhaps this deep attachment had something to do with the perfect melding of form and function found in the katana, as the famous curved sword is known in Japan. Invented a millennium ago, the katana remains a marvel of aesthetic beauty and skillful engineering. While most bladed weapons over the centuries were designed to either pierce or slash, the katana’s two different types of steel gave it optimum qualities for both, making it a highly versatile weapon in battle. Below, follow the steps that a master Japanese swordsmith takes today to craft what is arguably the most legendary of swords.—Rima Chaddha and Audrey Resutek

From a great article here:
The Medieval European Knight vs. The Feudal Japanese Samurai?
By J. Clements
ARMA Director

We get this comparison account of European Swordmaking:
“A knight’s arming sword was typically a one-handed weapon originally (but not always) intended specifically for use with a shield. Their blades are wide and fairly thin and rigid, with chisel-like edges intentionally designed for cutting through maile armor and deep into flesh and bone with a quick, forceful blow. They were light, agile, and stiff, yet very flexible to withstand the trauma of use. They too varied with time from the wider, flatter kinds to those rigid, tapering, sharply pointed and well suited for stabbing both plate and laminated armors. The later wide-based and acutely pointed style of bastard sword was superb at thrusting. So, even though Japanese armor for the most part was made up of the same quality steel as went into their weapons, European blades would likely not encounter anything especially difficult with it that they didn’t already face.”

So who would win in a Knight vs Samurai duel?

Knight Vs. Samurai:

Few things were as imposing on the battlefield as a fully armored medieval knight. A 14th century knight’s armor was composed of tough tight-knit chainmail complimented with layers of hardened steel plate armor. This combination provided the knight protection against a variety of weapons. Quilted garments such as a Gambeson were worn underneath a knights armor to further absorb heavy blows a knight might take. Usually, a metal skullcap called a cervelliere was worn under a padded steel helmet for added protection. Together, this combination of armor made the knight a walking medieval tank. Think of this, some suits of medieval armor could weight as much as 55lbs. The advantage to this scenario, however, is that the weight was evenly spread throughout the body and thus the weight of medieval armor rarely compromised a knights movement or agility.

Samurai were fearsome warriors with skill in a variety of warfare weapons and tactics, including hand to hand compbat. Similar to a European knight, Samurai, while mounted on horseback, would wear full heavy armor called O-yoroi. However, this type of heavy armor was impractical for infantry combat and the lighter Do-maru was worn for such situations instead. These were examples of Japanese lamellar armor, comprised of hundreds or even thousands of individual leather and iron scales laced together into strips. Drapes of Kusari, similar to European Chainmail, was used to cover the most vulnerable parts of a samurai’s armor, and a Mempo, or facemask completed the set by providing protection to the face. Additionally, a garment called the Horo also was worn for protection against arrows and other projectiles from the sides and rear.

Both the Samurai and the Knight have great protection and versatility in the armor they wore.

For six centuries the medieval knight dominated the battlefield and had an immense impact on the western world and its warfare.
The armored, mounted warrior, born in Middle Ages, revolutionized warfare and became the foundation of the new political structure known as feudalism. The Church put the medieval knight to the ultimate test-the First Crusade of 1095. The Church, which Christianized almost all of the knights, gave them a very high status in society, one that was sought after even by kings and princes. In the end, the legendary knights of the Middle Ages were lost in a world in which there was gunpowder, muskets, cannons, national states and so on.

No soldier or warrior has ever been around as long as the knight. They fought on the battlefields in Europe for over six to eight hundred years. Slowly, the knight rose his social status from that of the peasant to nobility. They were supposed to follow a code of honor and rules for a knight known as chivalry, which was actually not very well followed.

Likewise, the Japan gave rise to the Samurai around the 12th Century A.D. and they remained a dominant fighting force in Japa until the mid 1800s. Throughout the centuries dominated by many different shoguns (military leaders) and daimyos (ruling families), the samurai evolved from servants to military rulers. This was very similar to how the medieval knight rose in status. However, the samurai weren’t one single group of fighter-there were many different ranks and jobs, where a complex system of subclasses existed. At the top were wealthy chieftains, while at the other end of the scale were poor samurai barely made a living. In between the two levels, here were many different social levels with different lifestyles, privileges and responsibilities.

This is a fun question to ask who would win in a battle between a knight and a samurai.

Samurai vs. Fencing Sparring Swordfight. The Exchange- Smashbox Studios:

An experiment and discovery in swordplay between a Japanese Samurai Kendo Master and a Collegiate European Fencing Champion.

european knight vs japanese samurai swordfight

samurai fighting pose

knight vs samurai who would win

samurai family

samurai japanese archer

fighting samurai

fighting samurai pose

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