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One-Armed Warrior

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Still armed, still dangerous.
"What mastery of the blade, even with just one arm!"
Kabbu about Astotheles, Bug Fables

There are many ways to highlight the skill of a character. One effective way is to make them a Handicapped Badass, giving them a disadvantage that would hinder said skill in anyone else, but not these characters; the character is too badass to let it slow them down. A common way to do this is to make a fighter lose an arm but keep on fighting.

Even with weapons only meant to be used with one hand, the other arm can be important for things such as balancing, guarding, and, of course, holding things. For someone with one arm, being a master with it anyway, swords being a popular choice, can show their dedication and, often, experience — they had to have lost that arm somehow, after all.

To make things even more difficult for them, the missing arm is often their dominant arm. One can only imagine how they would have been able to fight with both... though it may have even been not as well since a common variation is for the incident that took the character's arm to serve as a wake-up call to train to the point they're at now.

Cosmetically, they'll usually cover their missing arm with something, with a Badass Cape being an especially popular choice.

Compare Hook Hand and Artificial Limbs, where characters are still missing appendages but are still able to use them to a limited capacity. Also compare Blind Weaponmaster, which involves another disability barely affecting one's fighting proficiency. Also compare Ironically Disabled Artist, for when the pen is mightier than the sword.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Briefly the case in Berserk: During the Eclipse, Guts is being held down by Apostles and Forced to Watch Griffith rape Casca, one of them holding his face so hard it pops his eye. He grabs a sword and cuts his arm off to get to Griffith, though he fails to do any damage. Fortunately he gets an artificial arm soon afterwards, but is still capable of kicking ass without it.
  • Bleach: Yamamoto is the captain-commander of the Gotei 13, and as such is one of the most powerful shinigami in the series. After losing his arm to Aizen, he refuses to have it restored despite there being a White Mage within reach, and we see most of his fighting after that happens. Just before finishing Yamamoto off in the final arc, Yhwach mocks him for it, stating that the fact Yamamoto refused to restore his arm out of pride and Honor Before Reason is proof that he's lost the ruthless, thuggish nature of his past and therefore lacked the edge needed to win.
  • In Dragon Ball Z: The History of Trunks, Future Gohan Downplays it in that it's only the case for a relatively short time. Midway through the special, he loses one of his arms against the Androids and continues to train Trunks afterwards, before ultimately going after them again alone. He puts up a valiant fight and is still fully capable of holding his own for a while, but as we already knew going in, it ultimately wasn't enough. In video games such as Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 that draw attacks from moments in the series, he doesn't use the arm he lost in most of his attack animations despite his model still having it due to this being his most memorable fight.
  • Fairy Tail: Acnologia is the Dragon King who earned that title by slaughtering all competitors to the throne, and initially seems like an unstoppable juggernaut. At the end of the Tartaros Arc, however, Acnologia loses an arm to the final attack of Natsu's dragon father Igneel, who in turn gets his side ripped away before blown up by the dragon's Breath Weapon. Despite the missing arm, Acnologia's prowess is barely diminished and he goes on to keep scoring easy victories, to the point the Final Battle against the remaining seven Dragon Slayers has him still kicking ass without much effort. Ultimately, it takes outside interference to paralyze him long enough for Natsu's Combined Energy Attack to charge up and strike, plus him instinctively trying to block with his missing arm at the last second to his own panic for the blow to actually connect.
  • Endeavor from My Hero Academia after losing an arm in the Paranormal Liberation War. He still puts up a good fight against All For One and joins his son Shoto and the other heroes in trying to deal with his oldest son Toya, who became the mass murderer Dabi and who wants him dead.
  • One Piece: "Red-Haired" Shanks is a notorious pirate and a skilled swordsman whose duels with the resident best swordsman in the world Dracule "Hawk Eyes" Mihawk were said to have shaken the Grand Line. Even after losing his left arm (heavily implied to be his dominant hand) saving Luffy, he is still recognized as one of the Emperors Of The Sea and able to cross blades with Whitebeard with the impact of their clash splitting the sky.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Avenging Eagle have the villain Master Xi-hong's legion of bodyguards and expert fighters, the last two being the Gold and Silver Giants - two Giant Mooks, each having one arm, who fights with gold and silver shields with bladed corners.
  • The Blade (1995) is an unofficial remake of One-Armed Swordsman, made by a different studio where the hero Ding-On is forced to hack off his arm caught in a Bear Trap to avoid getting killed by bandits. He recovers and gradually becomes a one-armed sword-fighter.
  • The Crimson Charm, from Shaw Brothers, the same studios behind One Armed Swordsman, have a one-armed swordswoman heroine. She loses an arm when a ruthless marauder clan wipes out her family and killed her father, and after a Training Montage returns minus an appendage but still capable of kicking ass.
  • The Golden Sword has a Terrible Trio of assassins who calls themselves "The Three Cripples", handicapped murderers who can still kick ass with their weapons. The eldest have one eye, the middle have half a face, the youngest have one arm.
  • In One-Armed Boxer (and its sequel Master of the Flying Guillotine), Tien Lung is the Sole Survivor of an attack by the Hook Gang, and he didn't get out unscathed, losing his arm and very nearly his life. Despite not even using a weapon, he puts himself through Training from Hell and becomes a One-Man Army.
  • The One-Armed Swordsman series, as the name implies, follows swordsmen that lost their arm in different ways on their quests for revenge.
  • The Taiwanese film, One Armed Swordswoman, is a Foreign Remake of One Armed Swordsman, where the titular heroine must sever an arm after being hit by a poisoned dart or lose her life. She was assumed to be dead from the poison by her enemies but later returns seeking revenge.
  • Swordsman starring Donnie Yen has Yen's character, Liu Jin-xi, being confronted by his former clan of assassins. The only way he can leave the clan is by severing his own arm, which he did, but he's still a capable fighter when his former mentor arrives to detain him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: In "Birthday", Wesley's counterpart in the Skipverse lost an arm to a demon a few years prior, but that hasn't stopped him from being an accomplished fencer.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Former Bajoran resistance fighter Furel lost his left arm fighting against the Cardassian occupation during a mission to rescue some of his comrades. Even after the loss of his arm, he continued fighting the Cardassians. Having offered his life to the Prophets in return for the rescue being successful, Furel declined an offer by a Federation doctor to be given a replacement arm, feeling to do so would be dishonoring his earlier offer to the Prophets.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Members of warbands in Mordheim can roll up a missing limb if taken down during a battle but can continue to fight. They take some stat penalties and can no longer use two-handed weaponry for obvious reasons but if they've already leveled up a lot they could still be worth keeping around.

    Video Games 
  • AFK Arena: Thane lost his right arm in a duel against Brutus, the strongest of the battle-hungry Maulers. Immediately after, he lost his best friend Baden, who gave his life to stop Brutus from finishing the wounded Thane off. Before his arm was severed, he was talented but arrogant; the tragedy, and the Survivor's Guilt that came with it, made him devote himself to training more seriously in order to protect the ones he loves, developing a fighting style specializing in getting in a lot of slashes at speeds where he appears to be teleporting. In the present day, he is an equal to Brutus, who now considers him a Worthy Opponent. All of this was even before Thane and Brutus both gained a Super Mode, Thane now having the power of wind to make his strikes even faster.
  • Batman: Arkham Series: The Abramovici Twins were conjoined at one arm, but separated into two men with one arm each. The Joker turned them into Mr. Hammer and Sickle, giving them weapons suited to their Russian heritage.
  • Bug Fables: Astotheles, the leader of the bandit tribe in the Lost Sands, is a cricket who wields a sewing needle like a rapier, and despite his left arm having been destroyed protecting his men from the giant Dune Scorpion, is one of the most difficult opponents that the party faces. He's fast enough to get in several strikes in one turn and slashes items out of the party's hands if they try to use any — even breaking out of status effects to ensure this.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy X: Auron is an expert swordsman who keeps his off-hand inside his haori as if in a sling at all times (though he does use two-handed swings in some animations). This carries over to his appearance in Kingdom Hearts II. It's an Ambiguous Situation, however, whether his arm was actually damaged in during his confrontation with Yunalesca or if he keeps it voluntarily bound out of the intense shame he bears, as the latter is something that ronin — a strong motif in his character — actually did.
    • Final Fantasy XIV: Raubahn gets his left arm cut off by Ilberd during the events of the Bloody Banquet. While he loses his ability to dual-wield his twin swords, Tizona, he remains a formidable combatant despite having to adjust his fighting style to compensate. He's the most powerful foe the Warrior of Light faces during the Grand Melee and continually fights on the frontlines of every major conflict. He is also essential in the battle against the Blasphemy Charlet alongside the Warrior and Fordola. He's also a member of the party that fights its way through the Tower of Babil to defeat the Blasphemy that was formerly Nerva yae Galvus in Endwalker.
    • Final Fantasy XV: The final boss of the "Gladiolus" Downloadable Content episode is an incarnation of recurring enemy Gilgamesh. This version had his left arm hacked off by Cor Leonis, and still defeated him afterward. Though he's able to create a second arm for himself via magic, he doesn't do so until pushed to his limits after an already-brutal fight.
  • Baiken from the Guilty Gear series is a Japanese woman who lost both an eye and one of her arms as a child when sentient weapons called "Gears" attacked her home. This hasn't prevented her from becoming a skilled swordswoman who prefers to fight using a katana in battle, however.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords: Downplayed with Kreia, who loses her left hand to Darth Sion. Unlike most of the many, many examples of characters losing hands in the Star Wars franchise, she never replaces it, and her left arm remains limp under her robe. She remains a ruthless mentor and an even more ruthless fighter regardless. At the end of the game, when you face her as Darth Traya, she loses her other hand and proceeds to fight with three telekinetic lightsabers.
  • As with its tabletop origin characters in Mordheim: City of the Damned can lose an arm and keep on fighting, possibly quite effectively if they've leveled up a lot.
  • Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew: Toya is a zombie ninja pirate with only one arm who wields a sword in battle.
  • Star Wars Jedi: Survivor: The boss at the end of Koboh's first visit, a Jedi Knight from the High Republic named Dagan Gera, was left to heal in a bacta tank due to injuries sustained before the start of the game, and they are missing an arm when they do battle with Cal.
  • Super House Of Dead Ninjas: The One-Armed Ninja managed to traverse the Ziggurat of Infinum reach Abarghus. He is only stopped by Abarghus possessing him and later forcing him to fight his own daughter Nintai, thus having him serve as the penultimate boss before Abarghus.
  • Valheim: Draugr Elites are Elite Mooks far deadlier than regular draugr despite having only one arm. It does prevent them from being ranged attackers, fortunately.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles: Dunban was the previous wielder of the Monado now held by Shulk; "previous" because his body was unable to handle its power. The arm he once held it with is now completely paralyzed and always hidden under a cape, with a different, mundane sword in his other as he continues to aid Shulk on his quest.

    Real Life 
  • Izzy Ezagui, a sharpshooter and now-decorated squad commander in the Israeli Defense Force, lost his arm to a mortar. He knew immediately that he wanted to return to combat, even if he had trouble convincing the IDF that he was capable of handling it, and among other things, learned to use the pain of his injury to his advantage and give himself an adrenaline boost. His marksmanship actually improved following what happened.
  • Gabriel George is a Paralympic archer who accurately fires a bow with his teeth and remaining arm, after having lost the other in a motorcycle accident.
  • MMA fighter Nick Newell was born without his left arm, but he's had a very productive career with plenty of victories. The only real difficulty it's caused him, according to him, was finding willing opponents in his early career; people who thought they would win thought they'd be beating up someone at a disadvantage, and people who thought they would lose didn't want to lose to someone handicapped.
    "I'm not just going to be a good fighter for someone with one hand. I'm not shooting for mediocrity or to prove that people with handicaps can do things because that's already been proven. I compete to (be) one of the best in the world."