The most iconic battle in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is, by far, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn versus Darth Maul. When Obi-Wan finally managed to slice Maul in half and cast him into the depths of Naboo, he became the first known Jedi to have killed a Sith in a millennium. Maul seemingly gained the upper hand several times throughout their duel, yet he and Obi-Wan may not actually have been as evenly matched as viewers thought. It seemed like Obi-Wan managed to defeat Darth Maul against all odds, but the characters’ timelines suggest Obi-Wan had the upper hand from the start.
Qui-Gon’s defeat by Maul is likely why many believed Maul to be the better duelist. Qui-Gon had years more experience than his apprentice, yet fell for Maul’s dirty tricks in the midst of their duel, with his death seemingly foretelling Obi-Wan’s impending demise. Furthermore, Palpatine carefully trained Maul as a Jedi assassin; he had been waiting for his duel against Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon for years. But Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon never expected to see a Sith Lord in their lifetimes, much less be forced to fight to the death against one.
Obi-Wan Was Actually More Experienced Than Maul In Episode I
Based on Obi-Wan and Darth Maul’s timelines, Obi-Wan actually had several more years of experience than Maul. While Darth Maul had trained under Palpatine for eight years before The Phantom Menace, Obi-Wan had been Qui-Gon’s apprentice for nearly 12 years. What’s more, Obi-Wan also had valuable experience growing up in the Jedi Temple before he was a Padawan, whereas Maul came from the Nightsisters on Dathomir. The difference in their power level is apparent from the beginning of their battle. As soon as the ray shield deactivates, Obi-Wan’s first move is to go for Maul’s double-bladed lightsaber, as he knows it gives Maul an advantage over him.
It’s worth noting Obi-Wan wasn’t necessarily trained to kill Sith, since the Jedi Council believed they were extinct. Dueling with a lightsaber was mostly done with fellow Jedi to keep the ancient and noble art form alive, which means Obi-Wan rarely had the opportunity to clash against opponents with lightsabers on the field. Meanwhile, Maul had an advantage since he’d honed his skills from the beginning for the specific purpose of killing Jedi. Nevertheless, it clearly wasn’t enough to outweigh the extra four years of training Obi-Wan had over Maul.
Obi-Wan Kenobi Was More Powerful Than Darth Maul
Although Obi-Wan was caught off guard by a Force push from Maul, he was clearly more than a match for the Sith apprentice. In fact, Maul trying to throw Obi-Wan into Naboo’s melting pit shows he himself wasn’t confident in his ability to best Kenobi with a lightsaber. After losing his second blade, Maul realizes Obi-Wan’s dueling prowess. Rather than attempt to cut him down, Maul tries to kill Obi-Wan using fall damage. As if to insult Maul’s skill further, Obi-Wan defeats him in The Phantom Menace by using his own plan against him, and with an extra lightsaber slice for good measure.