Retrospective Look at Zoro’s Journey as a Swordsman
Zoro’s journey to become World’s Strongest Swordsman starts with Baratie and his fight with Mihawk. Well, in reality it starts way earlier than that, ever since Zoro was a little child, but when it really starts in the eyes of the readers is with his defeat by the hands of Mihawk. This arc dwells deep into Zoro’s past as we learn of the reason he wishes to become the strongest swordsman. We get his flashback with Kuina, learning what the driving force behind his goal is, ending it all with an absolute defeat. Zoro learns just how far from achieving his dream he is and swears to never lose again.
To truly reach your goal you must first be humbled and this is when his quest for the title truly began.
First big step he makes is in his fight with Mr.1. In in, Zoro learns one of the most important lessons a swordsman must learn – an ability to cut whatever one wishes to cut and not cut whatever one wishes not to a.k.a. he learns to cut steel. There is a debate if this ability is Haki or not, considering he wasn’t able to cut Enel I’d say it’s not, but in the end it doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, it’s an important part of swordsmanship. Later during Skypiea he learns to use it at will in his fight with Ohm.
During Enies Lobby Zoro showcases his now iconic technique, with which he manifests 2 extra sets of arms and 2 heads. Ashura, to this day is still unexplained ability but Kaku’s response to it might give us a clue that it is Haki related as he mentions Willpower.
In Thriller Bark, Zoro gets to fight and defeat the corpse of the legendary Samurai Ryuma and earn the powerful black blade Shusui from him. Considering there is a high chance Ryuma is Zoro’s ancestor, one might ask if this encounter was fated to happen and it finishes off Zoro’s pre time-skip achievements. The next time we see him, he would have spent 2 years training under the World’s Strongest Swordsman himself.
After time-skip, Zoro has a completely different atmosphere around him. A combination of confidence and arrogance oozes out of him and he immediately shows us why he is this way when he easily defeats number 1 swordsman of Fishman Island. Throughout the post time-skip, Zoro is not really challenged by anyone and shows no signs of improvement. In his fight with Pica he showcases “Armament Hardening” for the first time and shows us a glimpse of his training with Mihawk. This moment is played as a rather triumphant one and shows Zoro being able to coat all of his swords as something to be proud off.