Katana vs. rapier

Two swordsmen: One, an expert with the katana. The other, an expert with the rapier. They square off with their weapons. Who kills whom?

If armored, the katana. If not, the rapier.

The rapier has a longer effective range, thru use of the lunge. The katana was mostly a slashing weapon. Therefore the advantage is with the rapier.


No armor.

And the thrusting attack vs. the slashing attack is what I was looking for.

What about this? The katana user dodges the thrust, and slashes the rapier user before the latter can recover?

If that happens, the rapier user most likely dies. One-on-one duels with the katana were rarely long, drawn out back and forth affairs that make good movies - they were more an issue of first one to strike wins.

I was trying to find a story I half remembered about sport épéeists winning an early 20th century tournament against sport kendo competitiors and ran across this article: Katana vs. Rapier: Another Fantasy Worth Considering. I don’t know who the author is, but he makes good points on both sides.

The closest thing to a consensus on this question is that the rapier thrust hits, and then the fencer gets sliced. They both die.

Sure, it could turn out a lot of ways. On average, though, the longer range lunge gives a margin of safety that is to that weapon’s advantage.

Plus, a stabbing wound penetrates deeper and is more likely to hit a vital organ. Slashing is more likely to cause bleeding, which takes a while to be fatal.

There’s a reason that fencing evolved the way it did in Europe. Kenjutsu, which evolved in the much more isolated Japan, did not.

Point beats edge, more often than not. Slashing isn’t worthless - you need to be able to cut to the forearm and neck particularly - but for unarmored combat, where you can’t let his point glance off your breastplate or helmet, thrusting is the way to go.


The coup de deux veuves, or something - “the stroke of two widows”.

Thanks for the article, pravnik.


It can be a little easier to defend against a slash than a thrust. I believe that’s why punches to the head are not allowed at TKD tournaments, but you can kick someone in the head. It’s easier to protect yourself.

Something swinging at you like, a baseball bat, and you can block it without needing to move out of the way of be all that accurate. Something pointy poking you, like a spear, is harder to judge (from a hand-eye coordination perspective) andyou have to sweep it out of the way and probably move out of the way too.

Ask you co-worker to try to hit you on the head with a broom handle, then ask him to poke your eye out with it. You’ll see (well, except for the blinded in one eye part).

Years ago my fencing instructor took part in an exhibition bout with a kendo instructor. The epee won. Longer reach + faster strike.

I should add: that’s very much an “if,” though. Range and quickness is what gives the straight sword its advantage, so if the katana gets past the point and inside the range before the rapier user has time to recover, that would be Very Bad.

My pleasure.

Nice article, pravnik.

Heck, I should have lied and said I wrote it. :slight_smile:

“so if the katana gets past the point and inside the range before the rapier user has time to recover, that would be Very Bad.”

You could say that about a knife vs a gun too though - generally if you need to ‘get inside the range’ you’re not starting from a good place.

I used to do the medieval shtick way back when, and a rapier type weapon vs a slashing sword was not fun. Parrying with a slashing weapon was easily avoided and then you got stuck. Experts might be different but I know who Id put my money on.


The article is by John Clements ARMA lead scholar. I used to be in ARMA for a while. The man is very opinionated and very knowledgeable.

The real answer is that the more skilled combatant wins. But the rapier has the advantage here. It’s why it was developed as a weapon of personal self-defense outside of the battlefield. It’s range and speed would make it challenging for the person wielding the Daito to close in without essentially skewering himself. Challenging, but certainly not impossible, this is where skill comes in.

But yeah, all things being equal, or not knowing anything about the two opponents I’d put money on the rapier.

Add armor to the mix and the Daito now holds the advantage as the more versatile weapon.

Yes, I agree - that’s what I meant by “very much an if.”

(Knife v. holstered handgun does present its own set of problems, though. ;))

I dont think we’re having to worry about being charged with murder in this scenario. Or holsters for that matter.

Edit; Actually that does raise the point about starting from a scabbard, given Iaido.


Ok found an example online. Glancing at it, I don’t see any problems with technique. Footwork is a bit lacking though, IMHO, but still a great example.


That’s a longsword however, not a Katana. Thei weigh about the same, but the Katana would be shorter.

Eh, I wanted to link to this video:


But both work. Jeebus, that second video has some crappy music. Hit the mute button.

I liked those videos. They gave me some idea of how the weapons stackup against each other. I would imagine the katana wouldn’t be exactly like the longsword, but seeing how fast and agile the longsword could be made me think the two would be somewhat similar.

Katana is much faster than the longsword. In one of the videos, the longsword hits the rapier and then strikes the opponent. I think that would be the standard katana move - strike the rapier or the wrist and then the slicing blow across the neck/down the body.

If long and piercing always wins, why didn’t samurai fight with spears instead of swords? (I mean, I’m sure they used spears fairly often, but it they weren’t their definitive weapons).