History's hit show Forged in Fire pits sword-forging hobbyists against one another as they compete to create the ultimate historically-inspired weapon from scratch.
But however well a sword has been forged, it's often the warrior who has brandished it who has taken it to legendary status. Here’s some of history’s most celebrated sword fighters.
Fiore dei Liberi
Fiore was a 14th century knight and fencing master in Friuli, in modern-day Italy, who created one of the earliest known martial arts manuals. Titled Flower of Battle, it is one of the oldest surviving fencing manuals and details both his successful fencing matches and his advice for replicating the moves. It's so influential that many fencing schools across the world still teach his techniques.
Born around 1585, Sasaki Kojiro is one of Japan’s most celebrated swordsmen. Hailing from Fukui Prefecture, he went by the fighting name of Ganryu and founded a sword-fighting school of the same name. He became a master of the Japanese sword kodachi and was also highly skilled with the katana and tessen. Gaining notoriety across Japan for being undefeated, he finally met his match when he duelled fellow sword fighting legend Miyamoto Musashi. Surprised by Musashi’s skill, he was stabbed in the ribs by him, puncturing his lungs and ultimately killing him. He was 27 years old.
Musashi, Sasaki’s vanquisher, was an expert in double-bladed swordsmanship and died undefeated after a recorded 60 successful duels. Living to the ripe old age of 60, in his lifetime he founded the swordsmanship style of Niten-ryu and also published The Book of Five Rings. This book details swordsmanship strategy, fighting tactics and the psychological philosophy behind it all. It is still studied today and many modern swordsmen base their craft on his teachings.
Not all famous swordsmen hail from the 15th and 16th centuries. American fencer Ralph Faulkner was born in 1891. Despite finding fame as an actor, he hurt his knee on set in 1921, and during rehabilitation discovered a love for fencing and found it physically therapeutic. Before long he was competing professionally as a fencer and even took part in the 1928 and 1932 Olympic Games. After the Olympics, he became a fencing master, starring in major Hollywood movies and training some of the biggest actors of the time in the art. Living to an impressive 95 years of age, Faulkner is still remembered as the greatest fencer Hollywood has ever seen.
John (known as Jack) Churchill was a British Army officer who fought throughout World War II. He was nicknamed John 'Mad Jack' Churchill for insisting on going into battle armed with a longbow, bagpipes and a Scottish broadsword. He claimed his weapon of choice was essential, famously saying: “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed”. Jack served in France, Norway, Italy and Yugoslavia and was even captured by the Nazis in 1945 while playing “Will Ye No Come Back Again?” on his bagpipes. And there must have been at least a grain of sense to his eccentricities, as he not only survived this capture and the war but lived to be 89 years old.
Forged on Fire is on Thursdays at 9pm on History BT channel 327/379.