French Knight vs Japanese Samurai

One of the all time great ‘who would win’ debates - knight fights samurai. Who comes out of the fight as the victor?

They meet on a flat field, at noon - sun directly overheadahead. The French knight is a veteran of the middle 14th century, and knows as he faces a foreign pagan he has God on his side as a righteous Christian at arms. The samurai is a veteran of the middle 15th century and knows that his lord has commanded the death of his opponent, and he must fulfil his lord’s wish or die in the effort.

The knight is armoured in a bacinet helm with moveable visor, a fitted jupon jacket, a full cuirass with solid breastplate and plate cuisses armour on his thighs, and shins, with armoured footwear and kneepieces. He has gauntlets for his arms and besagues protecting his armpits. For his weapon, he has only his knightly arming sword, length of 30 inches.

The samurai wears shirt, loincloth and armour robe. Over that he has his lacquered lamellar armour - suneate shin guards, haidate thigh armour, kote sleaves, dō for his chest and back, sode shoulder guards. his mempo facemask and an unadorned kabuto helm. He wields only his razor-sharp soul - the katana sword, length of 28 inches.

Who wins the scrap?

French Knight. All other things being equal, the armor (and if done properly, he should have a shield as well) gives him the edge.

The knight, since he will be on horseback. Why would he fight any other way?

Samurai were also accomplished horsemen - although the bout is on foot, neither have their mounts. The knight wields his arming sword two-handed - or keeping is shield-arm free to grapple.

Samurai, easily. His kit weighs a lot less and his sword is lighter and more flexible.

The sword would probably not be appreciably lighter. A one-handed arming sword would weigh a few pounds, possibly even a little less less than a comparable katana, depending on the construction.

Even if it were lighter kit, that is not in any way advantage as this trial is designed. A katana is not designed to penetrate armor, while a mid-14th century arming sword would be ( to a limited extent ), probably with a triangular blade with a raised spine to make for a stiffer thrusting weapon. Meanwhile a samurai wanting to hack at an armored knight would be a lot better off grabbing a spear or an axe. A katana would be better at draw-cuts, but against an armored knight that is just not going to cut it ( so to speak :wink: ).

The samurai, because he will be on horseback and have his bow. Why would he fight any other way?

Too late for the edit…

Something like this.

I think you will find that a properly trained samurai can thrust just fine with a katana. Japanese Katana VS European Longsword - Samurai sword VS Knight Broadsword - YouTube

Shouldn’t the knight be carrying a shield too?

The knight surrenders.

I went with the Knight winning, but its close. In reality, skill and chance would be major factors … in a reiterated set of trials though, the knight’s armour would give him the edge, so to speak. :wink:

The thing is, in spite of all the mythological hype the samurai gets, he’s still just a little guy in a bamboo suit fighting plate armor.

Samurai because he’s a hundred years younger than the knight.

Nah, I give it to the knight for much better protection.

The samurai considers himself already dead. Against an opponent who is already dead, there is no victory.

I had this conversation with Mississippienne a while back. Being the historian she is, I believe her take was that the French knight would win. Aside from his equipment being superior, he would have been in much better athletic shape.

Why would the knight be in better shape?

He would be physically larger in build, probably, and if he’s used to carrying all that armor, he would have bulkier muscles.

On the other hand, the samurai would probably be in better aerobic condition, and could last longer in a battle, both due to that conditioning and to his lighter armor.

I think I would put my money on the Samurai. Faster moving around, he can avoid getting hit at all by the knight (cumbered by all that heavy armor), and can fine-tune his sword strikes to find any possible vulnerable area (there must be at least a few). Eventually blood loss will take its toll on the knight, while the Samurai is still dancing around. Or else the knight will lose too much water from sweat and collapse from dehydration.

The knight will win, easily. Full plate armour and, most importantly, the knight’s greater reach will win the day. While katana can thrust, they’re optimized for cutting, which wouldn’t work so well against a full plate suit.

I’d also contend that a full plate suit is easier to move in than a set of o-yoroi

Umm, no. Japanese armour wasn’t made of bamboo, where on earth did you get that idea?

Cite? For the kit weighing “a lot less”, the other thing’s already been covered.

The Samurai were generally offensive in that they didn’t seem to go to great lengths to protect from sword cuts. Where were the shields. The knight would have better armour although cumbersome it would probably hold off a katana well enough and most European type swords from the middle ages would make quick work of a samurais lacquered armour.