Was there ever an equivilant to the Jedi Knights?

Now, I know the Jedi exist only in the works of the Star Wars Universe (and Kevin Smith movies), but I was wondering if there was ever a historical equivilant to them. Basically a religious/academic order of highly trained warriors and wisemen who served as peacekeepers. Was this pretty much what the Medieval knights of Europe did (or were supposed to, depending on the knight)?

Since this is a question of largely historical focus rather than sci-fi focus, I don’t think it’s a Salon topic.

The closest analogy to Jedi Knights would most likely be Shaolin Monks.

European knights had some unwritten code of conduct (which is glorified in romantically tainted films and novels) of helping the weak etcetera, but whether they actually obeyed that in practice is a wholly different issue - many “noble” knights lived a rather liberal lifestyle; the decline of chivalric virtues inspired Cervantes to write Don Quixote. Most of all, the knights were not an order, nor any organization similar to that; they were mounted warriors who had vowed loyalty to their feudal lord for whom they fought when he needed them, and of course they fought each other in wars.

Some knights organized themselves into military orders, the most mysterious of them being the Knights Templar, founded during the crusades to protect Christian pilgrims in Palestine; another order with very similar objectives which still exists today is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. But despite all the good things they did, those organizations also pursued their own interests.

Lucas might have been thinking of the traditional idealistic notion of European knights, but the reality was different.

Medieval knights were more the King’s military than an order unto themselves that ran around doing good. Certainly there was a chivalric code they were supposed to adhere to and many did (e.g. Knights Templar, Teutonic Knights seemed to try to pay more attention to this) but many knights signed up for less noble reasons such as financial gain/military conquest. Also, calling the Knights Templar (for instance) as a force for good is hugely dependant on your perspective. I doubt the Muslims saw them as good guys when they came down to rumble during the Crusades.

Seems like Lucas’s Jedi Knights draw inspiration varied sources. To name but a few of the possible sources: from Buddhist monks like the (fictional?) Shaolin , from the samurai or feudal Japan, and perhaps a smidge from European knights of the Middle Ages.

Taken individually, any of the three would fall short in a direct comparison of their role in real-life society versus the role of the Jedi Knights in Lucas’s “Star Wars” society. For instance, the Shaolin would presumably be wise and religious, but they wouldn’t be patrolling the countryside for an opportunity to wail on evildoers. My impression is that the landed samurai, quite frankly, were somewhat malevolent … and didn’t necessarily work to keep peace for the greater good (just for their own). I’m not sure if European knights were as hard on the peasants as samurai seem to have been (code of chivalry and all), but I’m also not sure if they were necessarily the sages/protectors of their communties, either.

This is not a bad little question you’ve thrown out.

The Jedi weren’t going around looking for butt to kick either. Remember the line “We are peace keepers not an army”?
From this site on the history of the Shaolin:

That is closer to what we see in Star Wars than the medieval knights, IMO. I don’t doubt that there is more than one source for the SW Jedi, but given the whole thing, I think that Shaolin and Samurai are more likely explaniations than anything European.

I would say the Samurai are also a good possibility. I find a lot of reference to Japanese culture in Star Wars. The entire jedi philosophy, including the lightsaber training in A New Hope, appears very Zen to me. Obi, as in Obi One, is a belt for a kimono. The traditional Jedi garbs appear like Gis with robes over them. Especially in episodes one and two, it seems to get really bluntly Japanese0 with Natalie Portman’s outfits, et cetera.

The only significant differences to me appear to be that the Samurai were a clear ruling class and the Samurai owned land. Whereas the jedi seem to reject any notion that they are rulers and they don’t seem to own land or be concerned with the owndership of land.

The Shaolin monks seem to be a very good fit as well.

Obi is a belt for any traditional clothing. “Black belt” (as in judo) is “kuro-obi”.

The word “Jedi” itself is based on the Japanese term “Jidai-Geki” - it literally means “period theatre” but usually means Samurai movie.

IIRC, Lucas has acknowledged that Kurosawa’s “Hidden Fortress” was a major influence on Star Wars. Given that, I’d say the samurai/monk roots are the most likely.

Considering Lucas roughly lifted some of the plot and characters for the first Star Wars movie (Episode IV) from Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress , I imagine he primarily had samurai in mind & took off from there.