Would a Japanese samurai defeat a Medieval European knight? That’s a question John Clements attempts to answer in his essay titled “The Medieval European Knight vs.
The Feudal Japanese Samurai?”
In this “amusing historical diversion”, Clements uses over 7,000 words to explain the key elements of an encounter between the two warriors. While I recommend you read the essay, here’s my 300-word summary for those of you that grew up with MTV.
We’ll imagine that these warriors are both highly trained and experienced in the fighting skills of their age. Both fighters will have similar strength, speed, stamina, age, health and courage. They are meeting on the battle field in a fight to the death 😯
The Armor and Shields
It has been said that while Europeans designed their armor to defeat swords, the Japanese designed their swords to defeat armor. Curiously, each warrior was highly skilled in using their respective armor-piercing daggers.
And while we know the katana was a powerful sword, Clements says, “thinking it could simply cleave through a stout Medieval shield is absurd.”
The rounded Japanese katana was made for cutting and slicing. It could be used one or two-handed, on foot or on horseback, with or without armor. The Medieval sword was well-made, light and agile, capable of delivering dismembering cuts or cleaving deep into body cavities.
Those who think the Medieval sword and shield was and is just a “wham-bam, whack-whack” fight are as greatly misinformed as those who imagine the katana was handled in some mysterious and secret manner and can cut through anything as if it were a light-saber.
Me and the missus in disguise. The knight image (before I paint shop pro’d it) came courtesy of KnightForHire.
So what can we really know?
Each warrior used weapons, armor and techniques necessary to overcome the enemies of their day and age. Therefore, we can’t say that either the knight or the samurai were universally greater under all conditions and against all opponents.
In the end though, my own answer to the question of who would win is that it is unanswerable…but would be an awesome experiment.
Yes, it would! So who cares that it’s an unanswerable question, who do you think would win?If you have a comment, find me on Twitter at @longcountdown. I'd love to hear from you!