Similarities between Knights and Samurai: Codes, Training, and Faith

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Feudal Foundations: The Parallel Structures and Codes of European Knights and Japanese Samurai

Knight and Samurai, two different warriors of medieval lore, share many common traits. Not only do they both dress in elaborate armor, but also their philosophies and codes of honor are deeply similar. Both knights and samurais focus and care about courage, loyalty, justice, respect, and self-discipline while adhering to a strict code of conduct. These similarities extend to even their weapons of choice; knights used swords and lances, while samurais relied on katana blades and bows.

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Their similarities were seen in government, military tactics, and partial religious beliefs, proving that these two types of warriors are more similar than different, having much more in common than initially meets the eye.

Feudalism was a very important part of world history throughout ancient times. Europe developed feudalism because of the downfall of their nation, just like Japan. Weirdly enough, Japan began feudalism without getting any ideas from Europe because they were deeply isolated from the rest of the world. Feudalism is a very important system in which Lords gave land and food to Warriors in exchange for protection. Oftentimes, both Japanese and European warriors had a hereditary relationship with their Lords, meaning that the feudalist bond would last for generations between lord and warrior families. While Europe had to swear an oath to stick to one lord, Japan had no legal bindings, making all of the feudalism they participated in voluntary (Document B). Japan and Europe both had a very similar social order when it came to feudalism. For example, at the bottom were merchants and peasants, then there were artisans/tradespeople and artists/merchants. Following that were the warriors, Samurais, and knights. Then, there were Daimyos and lesser lords. At the top were technically Emperors and Popes, but while Shoguns and kings were one step lower, they often argued with the Emperors and popes as to who was more powerful. (Document A)

From Training to Tenets: A Major Difference Between Japanese Samurai and European Knights

Both Samurais and Knights began their training early in life. Young boys learning to be samurais did training like poetry and spiritual discipline, Kendo, and they learned the moral code of samurais, Zen Buddhism. Young Knights learned skills like riding ponies and sword fighting. However, they were often sent away to serve the father of a relative in order to learn how to serve a lord in the future. A Japanese trainee was inducted into the samurai class at the early age of 14, participating in a ceremony called a Genpuku. A European page became a squire at the age of 14 but did not become an official knight until they were 21 (Document C). The code of Bushido was an important part of being a samurai. It was a code of respect that included being loyal to his master and devoting himself to duty. The Code of Chivalry was a code of rules and honor that applied to the knights of Europe. The code of chivalry was written first in 1470, approximately 200 years earlier than the code of Bushido was invented. These two codes required the warriors to serve their masters and have loyalty, morality, ethics, and bravery. The biggest difference between the two codes is that in the code of Bushido, loyalty is the most important aspect. In the code of chivalry, loyalty is equally important as everything else (Document E).

Armor and Faith: The Distinctive Material and Spiritual Worlds of Samurai and Knights

Another military difference that the two warriors had was their armor. The main purpose of both armors was to protect warriors, but they were built very differently. The samurai’s armor was mostly focused on efficiency. They wore iron lacquered scales that were tied together by silk or leather. They had a helmet that was meant to scare away and intimidate their enemies. They had one open arm that was used to easily draw their bows. Knights, on the other hand, had armor that was made out of pure steel. There were many plates on the Knight’s body, making it very hard to move. It was protective but heavy. Knights were not able to use projectiles because of their weight. (Document D)

Both warriors had a close connection to religion, but the two religions they supported were very different. Document F shows a collection of samurai poems referring to death compared to a knight’s poem about death. The main idea of the samurai’s poem is that samurais are born to die. It explains that the samurais live to serve, and simply when their time comes, they perish with no consequences and restart the cycle of life. This ‘cycle’ is called reincarnation, which is a part of Buddhism, a religion followed by samurais that often focus on the world around you instead of yourself. The samurai’s poems differ from the Knight’s poems for a number of reasons. Knights follow the Christian church, which has a strong belief in heaven and hell. Christianity focuses on making sure that you get into heaven as opposed to hell with having the least amount of sins possible. When a knight dies, they are afraid for what’s coming next because they don’t want to face the consequences of potentially getting into hell. They pray to the lord and ask for forgiveness for all the sins that they may have committed.


  1. Smith, J. (2020). The feudal system in Europe and Japan. University Press.
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Similarities Between Knights and Samurai: Codes, Training, and Faith. (2023, Aug 16). Retrieved from