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Longsword vs Katana: Finding the Superior Sword

Written By: Abigail Cambal
Updated: March 15, 2024
Edited by: Juliana Cummings

NO AI USED This Article has been written and edited by our team with no help of the AI

The longsword and katana are some of the most popular blades around the world. Each of them comes with a different design, structure, purpose and both have done their jobs successfully well leaving an everlasting impact on warfare.

The longsword is Europe’s most iconic blade, still trained in martial arts today. It was linked with the European knight and his duels as well as strong plate armor.

The katana is the famous weapon used by the legendary samurai. Excelling in slashing attacks and used in various ceremonial uses made it a cultural symbol of Japan.

In this article, we will go over their combat and design differences and find the better dueling weapon. We shall go over their evolution in history as well as their impact on the world today.

Longsword - Comparison
Katana - Comparison
13/14th century CE – Europe
14/15th century CE – Japan
Warfare, Slashing, Thrusting, Self-Defense, Martial Arts
Warfare, Slashing, Self Defense, Martial Arts, Ceremonial
47 to 57 inches (120 to 145 cm)
33.4 – 43 inches (85 – 110 cm)
2.6 to 3.3 lbs (1.2 to 1.5 kg)
2 to 2.9 lbs (0.9 to 1.3 kg)
Blade Type
Double-Edge, Straight
Single-Edge, Curved
Two-Handed, Straight Crossguard
Two-Handed, Rounded Guard
High-Carbon Steel
Tamahagane Steel

Design and Size Differences

Longsword vs Katana Characteristics
Major differences between Longswords (left) and Katanas (right)

Both these sword groups are constructed out of high-carbon steel, a material that can be sharpened and has the right level of flexibility and durability to be used as a durable weapon. The katana’s high carbon material is known as tamahagane steel produced from iron sand.


Longsword vs Katana Blade Differences
The blade differences between a straight longsword and a katana with a curved blade

The European longsword has a straight double-edged design that can vary. As researched by Ewart Oakeshott, one of Europe’s prime western sword researchers who has developed a medieval sword typology, the longsword can come with a shape for chopping with more broad dimensions to a design for slashing and thrusting.

The katana has a single edge with a soft curvature. Throughout its length, it can come with a groove to lower its weight. 

The tip can be used for thrusting due to its design, and its blade profile can also vary whether made for war, or for testing its razor sharpness in tameshigiri, cutting practice. It has a hamon blade pattern made during the clay-tempering process.

A longsword with a broader blade design is not called a “broadsword”. Broadsword is a unique type of blade that existed after the longsword and had a basket-style hilt.


Longsword vs Katana Hilt Differences 1
The differences in handle, guard, and pommel between Longsword and Katana

Longswords come with an opened two-handed hilt sometimes with a ridge in the middle. The lower end ends with a big pommel holding the full tang and the upper part is a large straight or narrowed crossguard. 

Katana’s hilt is iconic made both for a very firm grip and allows for artistic motifs too. Its guard is rounded and small surrounded by blade collars. The pommel is a wrap tied with the handle’s material which can be made of rayskin covered with silk, cotton, or leather. The entire hilt is held together by a simple bamboo peg.


Longsword vs Katana Scabbard and Carrying
Carrying a Longsword (left) and carrying a Katana (right) – Credits: myfitandfearless

The longsword is carried in a straight wooden scabbard wrapped with leather. It is carried on the left side hanging off a belt. The blade usually needs to be tilted forward so that it doesn’t scrape the ground.

The Japanese katana has a wooden scabbard that can be wrapped with rattan or lacquered. It is carried inside a large belt called obi with its sharpened edge pointed at the sky. This allows for quicker undrawing and easier carrying.

Katana Combat and Fighting Techniques

Tameshigiri (cut practice) with a Japanese Katana – Credits: blademan_b

The katana is a Japanese longsword due to its size. It is a two-handed weapon that has its slashing attacks as well as a very compact size making it usable as a primary weapon or an ideal self-defense tool easily carried.


  • Ideal for Slashing, Chopping, Slicing: The katana’s curvature makes it more natural when it comes to slashing its target, easier to enter and exit it with one swooping motion.
  • Blade Edge Alignment: The katana has various blade shapes, all designed for easy alignment meaning the sharp edge can enter the target easier
  • Softer Curvature and Thrusts: the softer curvature doesn’t limit its capabilities in thrusting. Its kissaki (tip) can be used to penetrate light armor and for stabs, sometimes even navigated with a hand
  • Compact Size: The katana, being average in size and used with both hands, offers great precision in strikes, making it perfect for fighting in close quarters.
  • Easy Carriage: The katana is carried tucked inside a large belt and worn effortlessly, its curvature doesn’t scrape the ground and can be carried with another sword called a daisho 
  • Unsheathing Strike: Being carried with the edge pointed up to the sky and closer to the user’s hand allows for smooth unsheathing and quick battle readiness


  • Reach: The katana is much shorter than the longsword while weighing nearly the same, making its reach disadvantage very important
  • Single-Edged Blade: The katana’s single edge may be sharper due to edge tapering but limits attack and defense options, making moves more predictable.
  • Less Protection: The tsuba (handguard) is rounded and very small, offering less protection to deal with incoming strikes
  • Dealing with Armor: Having a curved edge with a fairly broad blade design makes it harder to find gaps in armor, especially if it is facing European plate armor

Longsword Combat and Fighting Techniques

Achieving perfect blade edge alignment with a straight Longsword – Credits: Robinswords

The longsword is a double-edged blade and its core is versatility in attacks. This can be observed from some of the earliest German swordsmanship treatises by Johannes Liechtenauer, a German fencing master who greatly influenced European medieval fencing, where both the blade, the hilt, and the pommel can be used for fighting. 


  • Reach Advantage: The longsword has a massive reach advantage over the katana with it being around 8 inches (20 cm) longer in some cases while having the exact same weight in some cases
  • Thrusting, Slashing, Slicing: Longswords, with their straight blades, excel in stabbing and thrusting thanks to the direct line behind the tip. Their slim, tapered edges also make them effective for slashing with deep cutting power.
  • Versatility in Strikes: The pommel can be used for brute bashing attacks, the blade for strangling, the tip for thrusting, the edges for slashing, the long handguard for disarming
  • Great Against Armored Opponents: This two-handed sword can be used as a dagger for stabbing in a technique called half-swording which is great for finding gaps in heavy plate armor
  • Duels, Formations, or Cavalry: A bigger longsword suits daily self-defense and dueling. A shorter one, similar to a katana’s size, works well with a shield, in formations, and on horseback.
  • Protection: The large crossguard protects the swordsman’s hands significantly well while aiding and not actually limiting its attacks and defenses
  • Durability: Coming with two sets of edges means that when one gets damaged and well-used it can be switched to the other, making the sword more durable


  • Close Quarters: The longsword’s longer size will make it a burden if it comes to fighting in close quarters areas with 4 walls around, it will be harder to unsheathe as well as limited in techniques
  • Harder to Carry: Coming with a longer size means that the pommel needs to be tilted forward when sheathed so that it doesn’t scrape the ground or hit a person around it

History of Development and Warfare

The longsword and katana, despite being obviously different in design, can be used with very similar attacks and defenses while bringing uniqueness to combat. This has been tested by Seki Sensei, a master in Japanese kenjutsu and instructor of 7 different katana fighting methods who has tried out the longsword on several occasions.

  • Longsword – Late Middle Ages (13th/14th century CE)
  • Katana – Muromachi Period (14th/15th century CE)


The Use of the Longsword in Battle and War
The longsword used in dueling (left) and warfare (right) dealing with armor – Credits: Kunst des Fechtens

The European longsword, evolving from Viking and arming swords, became a staple in medieval Europe. Its design adapted to counter the rise of 14th-century plate armor, becoming narrower and more tapered for effective stabbing and slashing. 

Knights wielded these swords without shields, showcasing their skill in martial arts and swordsmanship in battles like the Hundred Years War. However, with the rise of firearms, the longsword’s popularity waned, giving way to shorter, more agile weapons like the rapier.


The Use of the Katana in Combat and War
The Katana used for daily close-quarters self-defense (left) and the battlefield (right) – Credits: tupikov

The Japanese katana, evolving from the curved tachi and uchigatana, first appeared alongside sasuga daggers carried with their edge pointed up. With a curve softer than that of a slashing cavalry curved saber, the katana sword was better suited for infantry, a role that grew after the 13th-century Mongol Invasion.

Used mainly by samurai during the Sengoku Jidai period of frequent battles, the katana served as a backup weapon. It became more prominent in the Edo Period (1603), when Japan, at peace and isolated, ceased using firearms, making the katana a symbol for self-defense, ceremonial uses, and art until the 19th century.

Cultural Significance and Modern Perceptions

Modern Misconceptions of the Katana and Longsword
Modern representation of Miyamoto Musashi, a famous Japanese samurai who taught the bushido warrior code and swords – Credits: Simandan

The katana, a beloved Japanese sword, gained fame during the Edo Period through folktales and legends, becoming a cultural symbol in Japan. Misconceptions about it being the best sword or having magical powers stem from 80s ninja movies and anime.

The European longsword, popular during the Renaissance was short-lived and didn’t leave an impact as the katana due to the evolution of warfare including guns. It is often misrepresented in media as heavy and slow, despite its historical use in rapidly evolving European martial arts.

The katana and longsword can still be trained today. The katana is frequent in martial arts such as Iaido or Kendo, while the longsword is studied in HEMA (historical European martial arts).

Conclusion & Duel Winner (Katana vs Longsword)

Longsword vs Katana Duel Winner
The simple yet versatile and deadly European Longsword – Credits: Bayerisches National Museum

The biggest difference between a katana and a longsword is that the longsword is way more versatile in combat. The katana can be better at cutting due to its blade edge alignment but this doesn’t make it superior or stronger. 

The versatility, reach advantage with the same weight, same speed but a bigger arsenal of attacks and defenses, make the longsword the better weapon at sword fighting.

Sources Cited
  1. Kanzan Sato (1983). The Japanese Sword: A Comprehensive Guide (Japanese arts Library). Japan: Kodansha International
  2. Anthony J. Bryant and Angus McBride (1994) Samurai 1550–1600
  3. Stephen Turnbull (2011) Katana: The Samurai Sword
  4. Neil Grant (2020) The Medieval Longsword
  5. Lindholm, David; Svard, P. (2003) Sigmund Ringneck’s Knightly Art of the Longsword. Boulder, Colorado
  6. Cvet, David M. (February 2002). “Study of the Destructive Capabilities of the European Longswordhttps://ejmas.com/jwma/articles/2002/jwmaart_cvet_0102.htm
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