Both groups have been pretty romanticized at this point in time and I think many, myself included, probably believe a lot of the fantasies that people have created around these two groups. So lets cut the BS and get down to reality. Assuming equal ignorance about the other and similar time periods, maybe around the 1500’s, and correcting for skill (no wizened knight of the crusades against a 15 year old new samurai), if a knight in full plate armor, sword, and shield ran into a samurai with katana and their weird-looking armor in the middle of a grassy field, who would win in a fight?
What I do know about knights and samurais, or what I think I know, is that plate armor and chainmail were effective against slashing attacks, but were later rendered a lot more obsolete against longbows and cannons. And I believe the samurai plate armor were not made of hard metals to allow maximum movement, but rather light metals and/or wood and strung together like mini-blinds. Also, knights tend to go for more of the heavier weapons and armor to defend against other knights, whereas samurais fought quicker but less armored. In such a fight, the joints and other weaknesses of the knights plate armor would be easy pickings for the poking from a katana. I’m totally not sure how accurate this information is, so I’m hoping someone can clear it up for me
I don’t know much of how knights fought, but I do know a little about how Samurai fought. It seems to me a knight would be outmatched by a Samurai. They took great pride in the use of bow and arrow. Possibly rendering individual combat one on one null and void. The bowman fielded by armies might render a large number of opponents non combatants, still individual combat would take place. The samurai depended only on themselves to kill oponents with bow and arrow. They chose armor that was light and still allowed them to move freeley. They steel they used was unique to each, the knight a crushing broad sword, the samurai, a sleek weapon of a smaller mass, but perhaps more effective in close quarter combat. I would be lying if I said I knew what either of these weapons behaved like in combat. I will say I have handled both, but battle is battle. Something I will never know with a sword. In close quarter combat I would prefer the katana. The shape, the weight, the ease of movement leads me to believe the katana is the swifter and smoother weapon.I would not dare to compare the ethics of either knight or samurai, as warriors they possesed different ethics but in a way similar creeds. They both fought with honor, perhaps some more than others, as it is with all men.
Without knowing many facts about any of the two; and going by just the pictures in my head, and all I would go with the knight.
I think that the knights armor + the chainmail would prevent the kitana from doing damage. Since both would be skilled than the knight would be strong and quick enough to get his shield up in time. One good shot from the knight would do WAY too much damage to poor samurai and it would be a one-two-three shot.
Then again, just my opinion. But this is a GREAT thing to think about
I think the European Knight, outfitted cap-a-pie, with shield, is all over the Samurai. And I think it is the armor that makes the difference. Absolute skill-wise, I think the Samurai might have the edge, but not enough to overcome the armor differential.
The above is complete speculation. I welcome the truly knowledgeable’s contributions, and look forward to reading them.
First thing to keep in mind is that the knight studied martial arts his whole life, the same as the samurai. European knights were not unskilled lummoxes flailing about.
Second thing to keep in mind is that the knight was able to move about quite freely in his armor. He was at no moblity disadvantage.
So what this really comes down to is which fighter’s fanboys wank harder.
Victory goes to the samurai.
If it helped, European longswords weighed about 2-3 pounds, and were about 35 inches long with a 6 inch hilt. Katana were about about 3 pounds, and about 24-29 inches long, so our hypothetical knight has the advantage of length.
The 15th century Italians invented a hardened full-plate armour that could take a armour-piercing (bodkin point) longbow arrow at point-blank range. I’d be surprised if any hand weapon, Katana or Broadsword could actually cut through that. You’d need a smashing weapon to do impact damage, preferably at a joint or other weak spot. Which is why the favourite knightly weapon at this time wasn’t the sword and shield, it was the poleaxe.
Here’s the thing: Later Samurai armour was designed to withstand short-range arquebus projectiles, as was later European plate armour.
Plate Armour covers more of the user’s body, as far as I’m aware, and more importantly, European iron and steel were of higher quality than Japanese iron and steel at the time (at least from what I’ve read).
Personally, I’d give victory to the Knight by two Falls, to a Submission.
In a sword fight with full armor, I vote for the knight. The way in which a katana is designed and used would be nearly useless against European plate. Japanese armor from what I understand was designed somewhat like a cross between a modern ballistic vest and wooden miniblinds… works great in Japan I’m sure, but I think a good thrust would cut through it like butter.
If they’re each allowed to choose their weapons, the samurai would probably win.
Skill: I would say equally matched. The Samurai was an actual martial artist. So he wasn’t doing spin kicks and flipping around like Jackie Chan. The arts he studied were practical and covered grappling (strikes, disarms, locks, throws/take downs and some ground work) and the weapons of the samurai: the spear, the bow and the sword. But the same is true of the knight. European martial arts of the period were highly advanced, refined and effective and covered the same grappling as well as the Knights weapons (the sword, the spear, the pole arm, the lance, etc) in an equally practical and effective method. So tie.
Equipment: This is where I believe the knight has the upper hand UNLESS we disregard the OP’s stated requirement of having both of these guys equipped as best they could be at the time. That best equipment would be thus: For the Samurai a spear and a short composite bow as well as the side arm in the form of a Dai-to. For the knight that would be a suit of articulated plate armor, a spear or pole arm (a lance if on horseback) and his side arm, the longsword. At this time in history the shield would have long fallen out of favor as armor technology had improved considerably. Instead the two-handed sword (the longsword) was preferred as it provided versatility and greater point control.
Armor: Advantage Knight. The articulated plate of the early 16th and late 15th century was impervious to most of the weapons of the time. Only a spear or polearm, the point of a longsword or stout dagger could pose any serious threat and then, only in the “openings”: the palms of the hand, the soles of the feat, the visor and the articulations. It also afforded superior mobility to the Japanese style metal armor of the time. Superior protections + superior mobility = win. This fact was not lost on Samurai, who in the 17th century would spend a lot of money purchasing European armor for themselves.
Weaponry: Advantage Knight (depending on the scenario). I’m assuming a duel like scenario with the two opponents starting close to each other and with melee weapons. A scenario where the Samurai is allowed to harass with his arrows could go a different way, though he would have to be darn lucky to actually take down the knight in such a manner, he might be able to exhaust him. But that’s not what the OP had in mind, I don’t think.
The spears would have been similar in make and ability. Here the two are pretty equal. The only difference might be in the stature of the two opponents. The European knight would likely be taller and have a longer range. This is not good for the Samurai.
The Swords are similar to each other, however, the longsword possess longer reach and weighs about the same or less, it is also the more versatile weapon. It’s ability to be wielded at the “half-sword” (like a spear) makes it ideal for targeting vulnerable areas with the force of the point, and allows it’s use as a lever to help in any grappling that might evolve. The Katana is going to have a hard time overcoming the Knights formidable defenses.
Now, strip them both of their armor and give them their sword and spears and you have a more equally matched duo. I’d still give the Knight the upper hand though, mostly because of his likely larger size, and the more versatile longsword with it’s longer reach over the Katana.
If the samurai’s katana gets around the shield it still has to deal with the plate armor. I imagine it would be about as effective as keying a parked car, unless the samurai able to dismember the knight by attacking the joints - which is still damn difficult considering the knight is trying to kill him.
The knight’s sword would not likely cut through the samurai’s armor in a slash - but it could very well damage tissue and break bones - especially if he ditches the shield and goes with a two-handed sword. The knight’s killing stroke would likely be a thrust, I think.
I don’t think the samurai’s impressive archery skills come into play much considering, knight’s are used to taking volleys of arrows, he has a shield, and this is a one on one match where the knight could constantly advance behind his shield.
Like many of the other posters, I would like to reiterate that medieval knights were highly trained athletes and warriors, and were far from being stumbling dunces. Just as the skill of the samurai has been overstated, the skills of knights have often been underrated (perhaps it is the appeal of the exotic that elevates the samurai in the eyes of many?). A knight would’ve been in training since he was six or seven. Their armor was not heavy; plate armor made of tempered steel weighed about 45 pounds, and chainmail would’ve added about another few pounds. These men did NOT need to be linched onto their horses – and in fact, many of them could do handstands in full armor, or vault into the saddle, and other such feats.
From The Medieval Soldier (1994) by Gerry Embleton and John Howe: