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History's Greatest Sword Fighters

Forged in Fire’s contestants might claim to be some of America’s top bladesmiths, respected the world over for their ability to carve lethal weapons out of effectively any materials they can get their hands on.

But let’s face it: their ability to handle metal is nothing compared to the abilities of some of those who have come before them: history’s greatest sword fighters.

Like the following, for example:

Sasaki Kojiro

The problem about warriors that lived in the 16th century is that much of what is reported about them is now subject to mythology. Despite that, what is known about the Japanese warrior Sasaki Kojirō is that he was one of the greatest swordsmen ever known and was considered a master of his craft. His signature move (the swallow cut) is said to have been so fast, it could cut down a bird mid-flight. Despite this, Kojiro was bested in a duel with Miyamoto Musahi (the most famous in Japan’s history) and was killed. Although seeing as Musahi also made this list, this doesn’t really diminish from his reputation as one of the greatest warriors ever. 

Fiore dei Liberi

Proving that not all of the most skilled swordsmen are Japanese, Fiore dei Liberi was an Italian knight and fencing master in the 14th century. As he penned a complete martial arts manual (‘Flower of the Battle’), his reputation as one of history’s greatest swordsmen remains pretty much unchallenged.

Sigmund Ringeck

Very little is actually known about Ringeck, a German fencing master from the 14th or 15th century, except for the fact that he was one of the greatest and most distinguished fencing masters of his time, which is good enough for us.

Johannes Liechtenauer

Another German fencing master born around the 14th century, Liechtenauer is acknowledged to have been a master of fencing. Many have written of him as he travelled across the world in an attempt to master the art of swordsmanship, although as there’s no direct record of his life, much of the finer details are subject to mystery and debate.

Miyamoto Musashi

The long-standing rival of Sasaki Kojiro. Musahi is also revered as one of Japan’s legendary swordsmen, known for surviving 60 duels undefeated, thanks to his unique two-sword technique that he created and honed himself. The legendary swordsman died in his 60s, his sword in his hand. You can still learn from the master as towards the end of his life, he wrote a book, the Book of Five Rings, describing philosophy, tactics and strategy.

Ralph Faulkner

Not just a skilled fencer— revered as one of America’s finest thanks to his 50 plus hours of training a week— and an Olympic athlete, but also an actor. The American Ralph Faulkner (AKA The Boss) is known not only for his way with a sword, but for his career as a professional film fencing master. Or in other words, a sword fight choreographer, which might go down on another list as one of the coolest job’s out there.