European Knight vs Asian Samurai

Who's going to win ?

  • European Knight

    Votes: 26 47.3%
  • Asian Samurai

    Votes: 29 52.7%

  • Total voters

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1st Lieutenant
Feb 6, 2005
Its time for something other than airplanes:

This is a much debated match-up, with essentially the same amount of people voting for each to emerge the victor, there being lots of biased opinions out there from people using the equipment of both combatants.

So who do think would emerge victorious in a clash between these two ancient icon's ?

The European Knight:

The Asian Sumarai:
European Knight=well armored=heavier....
Samurai=not as well armored=lighter....
European Knight's sword=heavy with a good punch, double edged....
Samurai's sword=light and single edged....
Depends on who's got the most stamina to fight on I guess. Both probably need to get in a lucky strike.

I think that they both give up after a while, call a truth and head down to local waterhole for a few pints....
I'd say the European Knight, only because of the amount of armour he's wearing. If the armour was even, then definetley the Samurai, hands down. That Samurai sword can do some damage
I haven't yet decided, they're both awesome warriors, however I'd like to dispell the myth's some of you guys have brought forth;

1: Contrary to popular belief medieval armour wasn't at all heavy, not even full plated armour, most were light and they were all very flexible providing no restriction to movement at all, allowing complete agility in combat. A full plate medieval armor suit typically weighed no-more than 35 - 40 pounds.

2: The Katana was no light sword, it was infact quite heavy for its size, the two-handed European Great-sword weighing less than 4 pounds more than the Katana. The European single or 1½ handed sword being lighter than both. And despite what many people believe the swords were of equal quality, the Katana was however meant for cutting and slicing while the European sword was meant for striking, cutting and thrusting - the real difference being that the European sword can take more abuse as they were meant for striking against armour, on the other hand the Katana's very hard and sharp edge would be damaged upon impact with the european plate armour.

3. Medieval European Martial-arts were everybit as evolved as that of the Japanese Samurai, however it focused much less on the mental part and more on the physical.

So considering that the European knight is wearing full body armour and can carry either a Great-sword or a single to 1½ handed sword coupled with a shield, and his sword is lighter and has two edges which means he can do more swift and complex moves, and he's just as agile - I must admit I'm starting to lean toward the European knight...

Of interest is also the fact that original medieval european armour has been measured to have been made for individuals of 6ft in height with a small waist and broad shoulders, while on the other hand Japanese Samurai suits are measured to be made for individuals of 5.5ft in height with rather broad waists. This indicates that the average European knight was a big guy compared to the average Samurai, which besides having an effect on the fear-factor (Although I seriously doubt the fanatical Samurai let much scare them) also affects the strength factor which nonetheless is of some importance.
Finally here's some very informative stuff I really recommend reading, written by an expert on the subject of swords and swordfighting John Clements:

"The Samurai's Sword

In major battles among each warrior, a suit of armor was typically worn and a sword wielded in one or two-hands. For the knight, the primary weapons had always been the long lance and the sword, and to a lesser degree the polaxe, dagger, and mace. The sword was always the foundational weapon of a Knight's fencing training. For the samurai however, the sword was but one of three major weapons along with the bow and arrow and the yari (thrusting spear). We should consider that, despite their later acquired reputation for swordsmanship, the samurai's primary weapon was, in fact, not the sword. The sword really did not even become a premier weapon of samurai culture and reach its cult status until the mid to late 17th century when the civil warring period ended. It is something of a myth that every individual Japanese samurai was himself an expert swordsman (no more true than every wild West cowboy was an expert gunfighter). After all, the expression so associated with bushido is "the Way of the horse and bow", not "the Way of the sword." Besides, unlike knightly chivalric tales and combat accounts, the majority of single combats between samurai described in feudal Japanese literature took place with daggers not swords. But for sake of discussion, let us assume such for both fighters in this imaginary case.

As a sword, the Japanese katana is unmatched in its sharpness and cutting power. Furthermore, it is particularly good at cutting against metal (–but no, it only cuts through other swords in movies and video games!). However, Medieval plate armor is well known for its resistance to cutting, and cutting at a moving target hidden by a shield or a greatsword is not easy. While the edge of a katana is very strong with a sharp cutting bevel, it is a thick wedge shape and still has to move aside material as it cuts. Though this is devastating on a draw slice against flesh and bone, it is much less effective against armors. Realizing this, several styles of Japanese swordsmanship devised specific techniques not to cut at armor, but to stab and thrust at the gaps and joints of it just as the Europeans did against their own plate armor. The primary technique for fighting nearly any kind of armor with most any kind of sword is not to cut but to thrust at the gaps and joints.

Except for major interaction in Korea and encounters against the Mongols, the katana developed in comparative isolation and is not quite the "ultimate sword" some of its ardent admirers occasionally build it up as. The katana's exceptionally hard edge was prone to chipping and needed frequent re-polishing and its blade could break or bend the same as any other sword might (...and no, they won't slice through cars or chop into concrete pillars either). It was not designed to take a great deal of abuse, and is not as resilient in flexibility nor intended to directly oppose soft or hard armors as some forms of Medieval swords had to be.

The katana's design was not set in stone. It was changed and altered over the centuries like any other sword, being slowly improved or adapted to the different needs and tastes of their users in terms of cross section, curvature, and length. In the 13th century for instance, their points had to be redesigned because they were prone to snapping against the metal reinforced "studded" leather armor (essentially equivalent to European brigandine or armor) of the Mongols and Chinese. By the 18th century their blades, no longer used earnestly against armor, tended to be made longer, lighter, and thinner for classroom practicing.

True, the Japanese feudal warrior did have their own form of greatsword in the long no dachi blades, these however were employed specifically by lower ranking foot-soldiers against horses (and presumably, on occasion against pikes). So, we cannot draw an equivalency between these and Medieval greatswords used in knightly fencing arts or to the true two-handers of 16th century European battlefields.

Over all the katana was a very well-rounded design: excellent at cutting and slicing, yet good at thrusting, and suitable for armored or unarmored fighting on foot or horseback, either one or two-handed. It was a carefully crafted and beautiful weapon reflecting generations of artistry and fearsome necessity, but it was still only a sword –a man-made tool of well-tempered and expertly polished metal. Though the details of manufacture differed, they were made by the same fundamental scientific processes of heating and hand-working metal by shaping and grinding as were other fine swords around the world throughout history. Regardless of how they are designed or constructed, all swords have the same goals and perform the same functions: that of guarding against attacks while delivering their own lethal blows.
"The Knight's Swords

Having equipped our samurai, we must turn to the sword to be used by our knightly combatant. It must be understood there was such a great diversity of knightly swords and armor types. European swords were, in a sense, always specialized rather than generalized designs: there were ones for foot combat, ones for horseback, single and double-hand ones, straight and curved ones, ones for armored and for unarmored fighting, ones for tournaments, ones for civilian duelling, ones ideal just for thrusting or for cutting only, and ones only for training.

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.

Although the Medieval sword and shield combination was fairly common, longer blades useable in two hands were in widespread use from about 1250 to roughly 1600 in Europe. When we talk about Medieval European longswords or war-swords (or even greatswords), we are not dealing with a single uniform style. There were wide, flat blades with parallel edges well suited to powerful cuts. Later, swords specifically designed for facing heavier armor had narrower, much more rigid blades of diamond or hexagonal cross-sections that tapered to hard, sharp points. They were used to whack and bash at armor before stabbing and thrusting into joints and gaps. They were also employed as short spears and even warhammers, yet were still capable of cutting at more lightly armored opponents.

The difference between these two European blade forms is significant and once more underscores the distinction between the manner of using a katana and a straight Medieval European sword. The tapering blade form has a different center of balance and is often a lighter blade. Its point of percussion is located farther down the blade and its fine point is capable of making quick, accurate, and strong thrusts. The wider style can make a somewhat greater variety of strikes and delivers more effective cuts overall. But the later is more agile and easier to guard and parry with. It can also more easily employ its versatile hilt in binding, trapping, and striking. Its proper techniques and style of use is rarely depicted with any accuracy in movies and staged performances. Almost never is the proper historical usage shown with its tighter movements, various thrusts, and infighting with the hilt.

The reach factor also cannot be overlooked. Although a skilled fighter can effectively use a short blade against a long blade or vice versa, and although neither longswords nor katanas had standardized lengths, overall the katana in general is significantly shorter than European two-handed swords and great-swords. A longer two-edged weapon does have advantages -especially if used by a taller man against a smaller with a shorter single-edge weapon. Surprisingly though, the weights between the two weapons are actually very similar and vary within the same degrees.

Surprisingly, the longsword or greatsword is arguably a more complex weapon that the katana. Though there were single-edge versions, it generally has two edges that can be used, as well as a versatile crossguard and pommel permitting a variety of specialized techniques. Another element to consider is that European swords could be used in "half-sword" techniques where the second hand literally grips around the blade itself to wield the weapon in bashing, deflecting, binding, and trapping in all manner of ways that virtually make it a pole-axe or short spear. This was especially effective in fighting against plate armor. We must ponder would this be unusual for the samurai or just very similar to fighting with a short staff? Either way, with its especially sharp edge, a katana is not employed quite like this.

Knightly blades could be excellent swords, but are often denigrated merely as crude hunks of iron while samurai swords are venerated and exalted sometimes to the point of absurdity by collectors and enthusiasts (something the Japanese themselves do not discourage). Bad films and poorly trained martial artists reinforce this myth. The bottom line is that Medieval swords were indeed well-made, light, agile fighting weapons equally capable of delivering dismembering cuts or cleaving deep into body cavities. They were far from the clumsy, heavy things they're often portrayed as in popular media and far, far more than a mere "club with edges." Interestingly, the weight of katanas compared to longswords is very close with each on average being less than 4 pounds."
"The Swordsmanship

It can be difficult for those not familiar with the nature of a Medieval longsword or greatsword to understand its true manner of use, since the general public as well as martial artists of Asian styles are far more familiar with the katana's style. So, if instead of a shield and sword we match a knight with a longsword or greatsword against the katana armed samurai this could make a significant difference. But, we must not fall into the mistake of judging the Medieval longsword in terms of what we know about classical Japanese fencing. It is a mistake to think the straight, double-edged Medieval sword with cruciform-hilt is handled like a curved katana.

While there are certainly similarities and universal commonalties between the two styles of swordsmanship (such as in stances and cuts), there are also significant and fundamental differences. They each make the same basic seven or eight cuts and can thrust. But as a curved blade with an especially keen edge, the katana is superior in the potential use of quick, short slices. Yet, as a long, straight blade tapering to a keen point, the longsword is a better thruster. Additionally, its dual edges, enabled by a graspable pommel, allow it to attack along more lines than just eight standard cuts. Having two edges to work with can quickly permit back-edge and reverse cuts. This permits a far larger number of strikes from different angles. These back edge cuts make up a significant portion of how the straight longsword was wielded and have seldom been appreciated or correctly demonstrated.

The katana is wielded in a quick-flowing manner with a torque of the grip as well as a push of the hips. Pulling a curved blade in this way makes it slice as it shears. The footwork is more linear with short quick hopping (even shuffling) steps. In contrast to the slicing slash of a curved, single-edged, Japanese blade, Medieval swords were made for hacking, shearing cuts delivered primarily from the elbow and shoulder and employing wide passing steps. The actions are larger with more fast whirling actions as the two edges are employed, the pommel alone gripped, or the hands changed to different positions on the hilt (such as placement of the thumb on the flat of the blade or upon the lip of the cross). As a straight blade it strikes more with a point-of-percussion on the first 6-8 inches of blade down from the point as opposed to the curved katana which uses more of just the first few inches. If we bring into the equation the Medieval bastard-sword with compound-hilt of side-rings and bar-guards as well as the waisted or half-grip handle using various methods of holding, this could also be a significant factor. Such hilts allow for a variety of significant one or two-hand gripping options and gives superior tip control for thrusting and edge alignment.

When contrasting these two styles of sword we should probably also keep in mind a number of points. We classify each as longswords because both were blade weapons designed for the same purpose, killing. It is from this fact that they even have any similarities we can compare. Differences between them are result of the particularities of their functions and the ways they accomplish their goals. We should also keep in mind that Japanese swords and sword-arts reflect a living tradition, and one with a long standing interest group in the West promoting its study. While in contrast, our Medieval heritage has for decades had virtually nothing but Hollywood fantasy and role-players misrepresenting it.

From this, it can be seen that a direct comparison of a European sword to a Japanese one is not possible. They are "apples and oranges", so to speak. They're both fruit, both delicious, but you can do different, though very similar, things with each."
A reproduction of an original 13th century Teutonic knights great helm:
I've heard (and I'm guessing that this is a Hollywood myth) that Katanas, when made properly, can have a piece of silk dropped on the blade, and slice clean through it.

I say thats pretty much impossible with the weight of the silk alone. The Katana is incredibly sharp though, a great deal sharper than the average european sword- wether or not this is an advantage is debatable.
A miniature figure of the German knight Maximilian's armoured suit:
The samurai with his speed and training, as well as his finer tuned sword and expert bow and arrow, would make short work out of the knight...

Hands down agree with you Dan. Knight has a horse.....Samurai shoots him with his bow......Longbow pentrates his armor with ease.

In hand to hand the Samurai is so quick and light on his feet.....the knight will get tired quickly and the Samurai finishes with ease not to mention the knights vison is hindered compared to the Samurai.

This has been well covered guys in Midevil books and history shows and shows on Midevil times. Knights lose every time.

Not to mention if you have trained in hand to hand combat you know how important stamia and mobility is, without either you are done for. I know, if you want to know more about hand to hand fighting check out my link in my sig.
The main plus for the Samuri is the Bow. My son knows what he is talking about re Archery and in a number of ways the Samuri Bow is as good as the Longbow, lacking some penetration, plus can be fired accurately from a moving horse.

Sorens postings (which I found excellent) indicate that on foot it could be a close run thing. So with the bow, the Samuri has a significant advantage.
Soren - why don't you think 40 pounds or so is heavy? I have found your numbers to be slightly below most averages of plate armor. Plate armor, combined with the chain is going to offer good defense against the sam sword.

Les - you mentioned the samurai's training, but European Knights were professional warriors, it's not as though they were the same as men-at-arms.

There's the samurai's bow, but in reality that wouldn't make all too much of a difference because knights would likely have the support of archers (preferably the English longbowman!) The fight needs to be placed in context. With that said, in a hypothetical one-on-one melee, I believe the Knight would cut the samurai down like grass.

Hunter - experiments have shown that penetration of late medieval plate armor by the english lonbow was only moderately effective at extremely close range. This is largely believed due to "the english longbowmen mowing down the french knighthood at agincourt." There's much evidence that it didn't happen that way... it's a good debate though, what do you think?

Desert FOx - I wouldn't say hands down samurai would win with equal armor. That would entail a totally different type of melee that he was not trained for - and he's still get bowled over!
Medieval Knights typically fought either from horse on the ground in groups. Knights were notoriously vulnerable to rear attacks if caught alone, were slow, and subject to fairly quick fatigue with full plate armour.

The Samurai meanwhile, in a one on one fight could either as Les noted make use of their great bows of which plate was high vulnerable, or enter a swordfight of stamina which the Knight would surely lose to a skilled Samurai.

Samurai hands down.
Medieval Knights typically fought either from horse on the ground in groups. Knights were notoriously vulnerable to rear attacks if caught alone, were slow, and subject to fairly quick fatigue with full plate armour.

The Samurai meanwhile, in a one on one fight could either as Les noted make use of their great bows of which plate was high vulnerable, or enter a swordfight of stamina which the Knight would surely lose to a skilled Samurai.

Samurai hands down.

What evidence do you have that plate armor was vulnerable? I think that the bow is moot, for the reason stated above... the fictitious account would have to be in context. Most European armies had separate ranks as archers, which is a different approach.

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