• Wed. Mar 29th, 2023

7 of The Most Skilled Sword Fighters in History


Jan 15, 2023

In addition to maybe the gun, no different weapon has been as closely romanticized because the sword. For millennia, we’ve been utilizing the sword to settle debates, each private quarrels within the type of duels, and nationwide conflicts within the type of wars. However the fact, is using the sword in warfare has been oversold to us. The sword has a excessive talent ceiling, restricted vary, and restricted versatility in a fight setting. A lot of the time, it solely served as a secondary weapon. But one factor stays true: when it comes all the way down to the rule of cool, the sword nonetheless reigns supreme. Historical past is filled with tales of legendary swordsmen who mastered this troublesome martial artwork. Listed below are seven of historical past’s best swordsmen.

1.Minamoto Yoshitsune: The Quintessential Samurai

Because of the recognition of Japanese samurai movies, anime, and western movies like Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Invoice , after we consider grasp swordsmen, we frequently consider samurai. That is for good purpose. A number of the finest swordsmen to have ever lived got here from Japan.

Some of the well-known is Minamoto Yoshitsune , a talented sword fighter and grasp strategist. Yoshitsune was the son of Minamoto Yoshitomo, the chief of the highly effective Minamoto Samurai clan in twelfth century Japan. Whereas Yoshitomo was killed by the rival Taira clan, throughout the Heiji insurrection of 1160, a number of of his sons, together with Yoshitsune had been spared.

From an early age, Yoshitsune was obsessive about studying. He was raised in a monastery and devoured works, resembling Sun Tzu’s legendary Art of War . He was educated within the artwork of sword fight and shortly grew to become proficient. As a younger man, he left the monastery to journey, perfecting his chosen artwork by dueling anybody silly sufficient to problem him.

Certainly one of these males was the legendary warrior monk, Benkei. Benkei was mentioned to be 6 foot 7 inches (200 centimeters) tall, with the attributes of a demon. It’s mentioned he killed 200 folks in each battle he entered. After his defeat by the hands of Yoshitsune, he grew to become the samurai’s right-hand man.

Yoshitsune later grew to become a normal of his clan, and along with his brother, Minamoto Yorimoto, went on to wipe out a lot of the Taira clan and set up Japan’s first shogunate . The 2 brothers later fell out, resulting in Yoshitsune’s betrayal by the hands of his brother.

What occurred after that is unknown. Yoshitsune’s finish is shrouded in legend. Some say he left Japan to reside with a international lover; others say he went on to turn out to be Genghis Khan. A preferred story states he dedicated seppuku, Japanese ritual suicide, whereas his fierce companion, Benkei guarded him. The large is claimed to have stood on a bridge, defending his grasp. He supposedly took out over 300 warriors till he was lastly felled by an arrow. He died standing in what known as the “standing demise of Benkei”.

Battle between legendary sword fighters Yoshitsune and Benkei at Gojo Bridge close to Kyoto, drawing circa 1834 ( Public Domain )

2.Fiore Dei Liberi: The Medieval Fencing Grasp

In fact, Europe has produced its fair proportion of nice sword fighters. Fiore Dei Liberi, the creator of Flower of Battle , is remembered as the most effective swordsmen and fencing masters that medieval Europe ever produced.

Right now, little about Liberi is understood for positive. We all know that he was born round 1350 AD, and was probably born in a small Italian city known as Premariacco. He was the son of an area lord, and his lifetime of relative luxurious meant he had loads of time to apply his fencing, studying beneath lots of the German and Italian masters of the Holy Roman Empire.

After Liberi had been working towards for half a century, he wrote Flower of Battle , one of many oldest surviving fencing manuals in existence. The ebook remains to be extensively studied by trendy fencing practitioners and martial arts aficionados.

Liberi wasn’t only a author, nevertheless. He taught the artwork of fencing to lots of the royal homes in his surrounding space. His repute as one in all sword preventing’s greats comes from his many duels. He’s significantly well-known for the 5 duels he fought in opposition to the perfect fencing masters of the time.

A web page from a fifteenth century copy of Liberi’s famed Flower of Battle. His handbook continues for use by sword fighters even at this time! ( Public Domain )

3.Donald McBane: The Scottish Brute

Some grasp sword fighters lived a religious existence, dedicating themselves utterly to the examine and mastery of their artwork. Others, like Donald McBane, simply cherished a great battle.

Donald McBane is believed to have been born in Inverness in Scotland in 1664. Right now, he’s remembered as one in all Europe’s finest sword fighters, nevertheless it wasn’t all the time so. In actual fact, for a grasp swordsman, he received off to a fairly tough begin. McBane’s early navy historical past includes a whole lot of fleeing from battles, particularly throughout clan conflicts. His profession as a sword fighter didn’t begin till he received right into a heated argument with one in all his senior officers throughout the 9 Years’ Struggle. The altercation taught him that if he was going to outlive military life, he wanted to show himself to battle.

McBane had a sizzling mood and his preventing type mirrored this. It was highly effective and assertive, forcing his enemy into submission. His most well-known transfer, “The Boar’s Thrust,” concerned dropping to at least one knee and thrusting his sword upwards in a strong uppercut blow.

After making a reputation for himself as a fencer, McBane moved to Eire, the place he opened his fencing college and solidified his college’s repute by beating the masters of 4 rival colleges. Amazingly, McBane’s college wasn’t only a place for studying sword preventing; it additionally served as a brothel!

McBane claimed to have received over 100 duels (which can be barely exaggerated). He carried on preventing nicely into his sixties, regardless of having collected a powerful assortment of accidents throughout his navy profession. Later in life, he wrote his autobiography and fencing handbook, The Skilled Sword-Man’s Companion .

Portrait of Donald McBane, a Scottish fencing master, from Donald McBane's The Expert Swordsman's Companion, 1728. (Public Domain)

Portrait of Donald McBane, a Scottish fencing grasp, from Donald McBane’s The Skilled Swordsman’s Companion, 1728. ( Public Domain )

4.Joseph Bologne: The Gentleman Duelist

Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, was the precise reverse of a person like McBane. McBane was a brute who was additionally a grasp, whereas Bologne was a gentleman who was additionally a fencer. Often called one in all 18th century Europe’s finest sword fighters, Bologne was born on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.

The island was beneath French rule throughout that point, and Bologne was the combined race, illegitimate son of a plantation proprietor and his African slave. In contrast to the youngsters of many such unions, Bologne lived a privileged life. He was despatched to France, the place he acquired a gentleman’s schooling. He quickly proved himself to be an adept violin participant and composer.

Nonetheless, his ardour was fencing. He was educated by a famend fencing grasp, and by his teenagers he was already a talented sword fighter. He started to make a reputation for himself after completely thrashing a fellow grasp who had made a racist comment about Bologne’s ancestry.  This led to Bologne competing in lots of matches attended by European royalty. He quickly grew to become one in all Europe’s most well-known duelists.

Bologne was not only a celeb duelist, nevertheless. He was a navy man too. Through the French Revolution , he commanded an all-black legion of fighters for the Republic. His legion was dubbed the St. George Legion in honor of Bologne’s reputation and talent.

Sadly, this was nonetheless 18th century Europe. Whereas Bologne consistently confirmed he might higher his friends, he was repeatedly the sufferer of racism, together with two failed assassination makes an attempt. He ultimately stepped again from fencing and at this time is most well-known as a musician and composer. Certainly one of his best achievements was changing into director of the Live performance des Amateurs, one in all France’s most revered orchestras.

Fencing Match between gentleman sword fighter St.-Georges and ‘La chevalière d’Éon’ at Carlton Home on April 9, 1787, by Abbé Alexandre-Auguste Robineau ( Public Domain )

5.Tsukahara Bokuden: The Wandering Swordsman

A staple of Japanese tales is that of the “wandering swordsmen,” nice samurai duelists who would depart dwelling at an early age, devoted to proving themselves by dueling different nice warriors. Tsukahara is the archetypal wandering sword fighter.

Born round 1488, Bokuden left dwelling on the age of 17, keen to check his expertise in opposition to different sword fighters and warriors. Over the subsequent few years, he received quite a few high-profile duels with reside blades, fairly than wood coaching swords. Over time his fame grew and he attracted a big entourage, ultimately culminating in his personal college.

It’s mentioned that Bokuden by no means misplaced a duel, and in the midst of dozens of duels and navy engagements killed not less than 200 males. It mentioned, nevertheless, that as he aged, Bokuden’s want to show himself lessened and he grew to become more and more pacifist. The philosophy of his teachings, which was at odds along with his contemporaries, was to not assault till absolutely the final second potential.

One legendary story tells of how sooner or later as an previous man Bokuden was confronted by an conceited younger fighter who wished to duel him. Bokuden agreed and rowed the person out to an island the place they might duel. Because the younger man stepped out of the boat, Bokuden merely rowed away, leaving the conceited younger samurai stranded and instructing him an vital lesson.

A legend tells the story of how the sword fighter Bokuden’s philosophy led him to avoid fighting when possible. (Public Domain)

A legend tells the story of how the sword fighter Bokuden’s philosophy led him to keep away from preventing when potential. ( Public Domain )

6.Julie d’Aubigny: The Girl Duelist

Not all nice sword fighters had been males. One of many causes people adopted using weapons was that they are usually equalizers when there’s a disparity in bodily energy. The sword, for instance, depends not solely on brute energy, but in addition talent.

Julie d’Aubigny was born in France throughout the seventeenth century, the daughter of a nobleman within the courtroom of King Louis XIV . She was no shrinking violet and from a younger age grew to become a star, well-known for her energetic character, wonderful singing voice, and cruel talent with a sword.

Julie was married off at a younger age however fled the loveless marriage in her teen years. In an act of teenage insurrection, she ran away from dwelling and started an affair with a fencing grasp. He taught her his artwork and she or he was quickly making a dwelling by staging duels and sword-fighting exhibitions in taverns.

She was not solely a natural-born sword fighter. Round this time, she additionally found that regardless of having no coaching, she was a gifted singer. She grew to become a well-known contralto opera singer. In between duels, she carried out beneath the stage identify Mademoiselle de Maupin .

D’Aubigny relished being a insurgent. In a single well-known duel, she simply bettered a grasp who had initially challenged her pondering she was a person. Her most well-known incident, nevertheless, occurred in 1695. She was attending a masked ball when she determined to scandalize the friends by kissing a younger lady on the mouth, in view of everybody. Three potential suitors had been outraged and insisted on dueling d’Aubigny in an try and defend the younger “sufferer’s” honor. D’Aubigny simply bested all three.

Surprisingly, d’Aubigny retired from each her singing and sword-fighting profession in her early thirties. She joined a convent and stayed there till she died in 1707.

A contemporary sketch of French duelist and opera singer Julie d'Aubigny, Mademoiselle de Maupin, circa 1700 (Public Domain)

A recent sketch of French duelist and opera singer Julie d’Aubigny, Mademoiselle de Maupin, circa 1700 ( Public Domain )

7.Jack Churchill: Machine Weapons and Broadswords

Right now, exterior of video video games, sword preventing is a relic of the previous in warfare, practiced solely by expert martial artists and hobbyists. So it’d shock readers to be taught of Jack Churchill, an eccentric British officer who took his sword into the bloody battles of World Struggle II.

All through his stint as a British officer throughout World Struggle II, Jack Churchill refused to hold a gun, as a substitute choosing a Scottish broadsword, a longbow, and a set of bagpipes. His allies referred to him as Mad Jack and his motto was, “Any officer who goes into motion with out his sword is badly dressed.”

Churchill could not have measured as much as another entries on this record in pure sword-fighting talent, however the truth he survived machine gun fireplace and tanks whereas wielding a sword is definitely a testomony to some stage of talent. He additionally racked up the final recorded wartime kill with a longbow, taking out a German soldier with an arrow in a French village in 1940. His talent with a bow is of some file, having represented Nice Britain on the World Archery Championships in 1939.

“Mad Jack” Churchill (far right) leads a training exercise, sword in hand, from a Eureka boat in Inveraray, circa 1940 (Public Domain)

“Mad Jack” Churchill (far proper) leads a coaching train, sword in hand, from a Eureka boat in Inveraray, circa 1940 ( Public Domain )


Our fascination with nice sword fighters hasn’t lessened, even because the weapon has fallen out of favor throughout warfare. The sword stays a well-liked mainstay of fantasy novels, tv, movies, video video games, and animation. However sadly, the martial artwork hooked up to the weapon not receives the respect it deserves.

The most typical type of sword preventing at this time is fencing, which, for a lot of, has a prohibitively excessive barrier to entry in price. HEMA ( Historical European Martial Arts ) can also be fairly standard but in addition comparatively area of interest. Different martial arts resembling karate, jiu-jitsu, and MMA are way more standard. If we don’t put extra effort into defending the sword preventing arts, then sooner or later we danger shedding them to historical past altogether.

Prime picture: Sword fighters had been extremely expert warriors, however these seven are legendary. Supply: adimas / Adobe Inventory

By Robbie Mitchell

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