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I have not read the books.

In one of the episodes of season 2 of the TV series two guards are discussing who among Ser Loras, Ser Jaime and The Mountain is the better fighter. One of them claims Ser Loras to be the best, To which the other one replies "He's been stabbing Renly Baratheon for years but he's not dead!" - or something on that line - to which both of them burst out laughing.

In a separate scene (probably different episode) where Brienne of Tarth is introduced in the series she defeats Ser Loras in a melee which takes place in front of their king Renly Baratheon, as a result of which he makes her a member of his Kingsguard.

From the above two scenes I feel that Brienne is better than Ser Loras and probably Ser Jaime too.

Is it true? How is it shown in the books?

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    What's the point of mentioning Loras? Brienne obviously defeated him, so she's better. What does that have to do with Jaime? – LevenTrek Sep 12 '18 at 5:05
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    @LevenTrek one of the guards said Loras was better than Jaime. Was he right? – NoOne Sep 12 '18 at 5:25
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    Personally I'd say no. Loras was demolished by The Mountain, and I think Jaime could have taken The Mountain with no trouble. But that probably deserves it's own question... – LevenTrek Sep 12 '18 at 5:27
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    The best way to answer this would be to quote Brienne’s POV during her fight with a weakened Jamie (exhausted and chained). She makes it clear he’s very dangerous even in his weakened state. I’ll try and find the quotes if no answers first – Liath Sep 12 '18 at 5:59
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+50

No Brienne is not a better fighter than Jaime Lannister.

Brienne and Jaime fought each other while she was escorting him to King's Landing. Jaime at that point was handcuffed and starved for weeks yet he put up hell of a fight.

But Personally Jaime came to realise she was much stronger than him, while Brienne reached the conclusion that in a fair fight, Nobody stood a chance against the Young Lion.

This is how it went from Jaime's POV:

As the blade slid from the scabbard, he was already pivoting, bringing the sword around and up in a swift deadly arc. Steel met steel with a ringing, bone-jarring clang. Somehow Brienne had gotten her own blade out in time. Jaime laughed. “Very good, wench.”

“Give me the sword, Kingslayer.”

“Oh, I will.” He sprang to his feet and drove at her, the longsword alive in his hands. Brienne jumped back, parrying, but he followed, pressing the attack. No sooner did she turn one cut than the next was upon her. The swords kissed and sprang apart and kissed again. Jaime’s blood was singing. This was what he was meant for; he never felt so alive as when he was fighting, with death balanced on every stroke. And with my wrists chained together, the wench may even give me a contest for a time. His chains forced him to use a two-handed grip, though of course the weight and reach were less than if the blade had been a true two-handed greatsword, but what did it matter? His cousin’s sword was long enough to write an end to this Brienne of Tarth.

High, low, overhand, he rained down steel upon her. Left, right, backslash, swinging so hard that sparks flew when the swords came together, upswing, sideslash, overhand, always attacking, moving into her, step and slide, strike and step, step and strike, hacking, slashing, faster, faster, faster...

... until, breathless, he stepped back and let the point of the sword fall to the ground, giving her a moment of respite. “Not half bad,” he acknowledged. “For a wench.”

She took a slow deep breath, her eyes watching him warily. “I would not hurt you, Kingslayer.”

“As if you could.” He whirled the blade back up above his head and flew at her again, chains rattling.

Jaime could not have said how long he pressed the attack. It might have been minutes or it might have been hours; time slept when swords woke. He drove her away from his cousin’s corpse, drove her across the road, drove her into the trees. She stumbled once on a root she never saw, and for a moment he thought she was done, but she went to one knee instead of falling, and never lost a beat. Her sword leapt up to block a downcut that would have opened her from shoulder to groin, and then she cut at him, again and again, fighting her way back to her feet stroke by stroke.

The dance went on. He pinned her against an oak, cursed as she slipped away, followed her through a shallow brook half-choked with fallen leaves. Steel rang, steel sang, steel screamed and sparked and scraped, and the woman started grunting like a sow at every crash, yet somehow he could not reach her. It was as if she had an iron cage around her that stopped every blow.

“Not bad at all,” he said when he paused for a second to catch his breath, circling to her right. “For a wench?”

“For a squire, say. A green one.” He laughed a ragged, breathless laugh. “Come on, come on, my sweetling, the music’s still playing. Might I have this dance, my lady?”

Grunting, she came at him, blade whirling, and suddenly it was Jaime struggling to keep steel from skin. One of her slashes raked across his brow, and blood ran down into his right eye. The Others take her, and Riverrun as well! His skills had gone to rust and rot in that bloody dungeon, and the chains were no great help either. His eye closed, his shoulders were going numb from the jarring they’d taken, and his wrists ached from the weight of chains, manacles, and sword. His longsword grew heavier with every blow, and Jaime knew he was not swinging it as quickly as he’d done earlier, nor raising it as high.

She is stronger than I am. The realization chilled him. Robert had been stronger than him, to be sure. The White Bull Gerold Hightower as well, in his heyday, and Ser Arthur Dayne. Amongst the living, Greatjon Umber was stronger, Strongboar of Crakehall most likely, both Cleganes for a certainty. The Mountain's strength was like nothing human. It did not matter. With speed and skill, Jaime could beat them all. But this was a woman. A huge cow of a woman, to be sure, but even so . . . by rights, she should be the one wearing down.

Instead she forced him back into the brook again, shouting, “Yield! Throw down the sword!”

A slick stone turned under Jaime’s foot. As he felt himself falling, he twisted the mischance into a diving lunge. His point scraped past her parry and bit into her upper thigh. A red flower blossomed, and Jaime had an instant to savor the sight of her blood before his knee slammed into a rock. The pain was blinding. Brienne splashed into him and kicked away his sword. “YIELD!”

Jaime drove his shoulder into her legs, bringing her down on top of him. They rolled, kicking and punching until finally she was sitting astride him. He managed to jerk her dagger from its sheath, but before he could plunge it into her belly she caught his wrist and slammed his hands back on a rock so hard he thought she’d wrenched an arm from its socket. Her other hand spread across his face. “Yield!” She shoved his head down, held it under, pulled it up. “Yield!” Jaime spit water into her face. A shove, a splash, and he was under again, kicking uselessly, fighting to breathe. Up again. “Yield, or I’ll drown you!”
ASOS - Jaime III

So this is how it happened for Jaime. He began with utmost derision for Brienne and thought he could have beaten her even if he was chained at hands and starved. Brienne's fighting skills made him realise she was a good fighter for a woman. The dance kept moving and he then admitted that she was good enough for a squire. It was just before the end that he realised that she was stronger than him. Although I think he was actually so rattled to be bested by her that he forgot to really consider how much at a disadvantage was he. In an equal fight, as Brienne herself assessed, He would have killed her. Another curious thing to note is how Jaime appears to be in denial by the end, he believed it was not Brienne's skills but rather her strength and that his skills had gone to rust while imprisoned, that was making him lose. Holding off a Swordsman as skilled as Jaime, even at a disadvantage, requires a certain level of skill.

Brienne had (While noting the crucial factors that Jaime was weakened and handcuffed, severely limiting his moves) good reflexes, as Jaime noted happily in the beginning. She brought out her own sword and deflected Jaime's surprise attack just in time. She also had good defensive skills. She skilfully parried each and every attack Jaime launched in the beginning when Jaime was not tired. Nor did she lack for the resolve to keep fighting. Jaime's attack forced her to her knees yet she made her fall a renewed attack. Jaime pinned her against the trees and yet she escaped the deathblow. After that, it was her on the offensive and Jaime on the defensive. This was after all, how she was taught to fight.

Ser Goodwin had taught her to fight cautiously, to conserve her strength while letting her foes spend theirs in furious attacks. "Men will always underestimate you," he said, "and their pride will make them want to vanquish you quickly, lest it be said that a woman tried them sorely." She had learned the truth of that once she went into the world. Even Jaime Lannister had come at her that way, in the woods by Maidenpool. If the gods were good, the Mad Mouse would make the same mistake. He may be a seasoned knight, she thought, but he is no Jaime Lannister
AFFC: Brienne II

She seems to be holding back a bit as she said she didn't want to hurt Jaime but that couldn't have possibly lasted for long given the ferocity of Jaime's attack. It could be a mixture of both her training and her oath that caused her to remain on the defensive for most part until she saw Jaime was completely exhausted.

Jaime came to give her the respect she deserved by the time they reached King's Landing.

Ser Loras edged around him. "Are you a craven as well as a killer, Brienne? Is that why you ran, with his blood on your hands? Draw your sword, woman!"

"Best hope she doesn't." Jaime blocked his path again. "Or it's like to be your corpse we carry out. The wench is as strong as Gregor Clegane, though not so pretty."
ASOS - Jaime VII

Brienne's own thoughts on the fight went like this:

Brienne remembered her fight with Jaime Lannister in the woods. It had been all that she could do to keep his blade at bay. He was weak from his imprisonment, and chained at the wrists. No knight in the Seven Kingdoms could have stood against him at his full strength, with no chains to hamper him. Jaime had done many wicked things, but the man could fight! His maiming had been monstrously cruel. It was one thing to slay a lion, another to hack his paw off and leave him broken and bewildered.
AFFC - Brienne I

Brienne was better than most knights of Westeros but Jaime Lannister was not most Knights. He was one of those exceptional natural swordsmen who come about in a century or so. Ser Barristan Selmy thought so about Jaime and that says something.

Some of them had been training for the fighting pits when Daenerys Targaryen took Meereen and freed them from their chains. Those had had a good acquaintance with sword and spear and battle-axe even before Ser Barristan got hold of them. A few might well be ready. The boy from the Basilisk Isles, for a start. Tumco Lho. Black as maester's ink he was, but fast and strong, the best natural swordsman Selmy had seen since Jaime Lannister.
ADWD - The Kingbreaker

In the show however, they made it look like as if Brienne was simply holding back to keep her oath and easily defeated Jaime whereas it was a very close thing in the books. Jaime fell when a slick stone got in the way, turned it into a lunge, drew her blood but then was disarmed by Brienne. That didn't stop the fight either, Jaime brought Brienne down with her and they had a fist-to-fist fight and Jaime almost drove her own dagger into her, which is when she finally overpowered him and the Brave Companions caught up with them.

As to how did that specific encounter between Brienne and Loras turned out in the books, this is how it went (The Blue Knight in the excerpt is Brienne):

The blue knight let his broken shield drop to the ground to free his left arm, and then the Knight of Flowers was on him. The weight of his steel seemed to hardly diminish the grace and quickness with which Ser Loras moved, his rainbow cloak swirling about him.

The white horse and the black one wheeled like lovers at a harvest dance, the riders throwing steel in place of kisses. Longaxe flashed and morningstar whirled. Both weapons were blunted, yet still they raised an awful clangor. Shieldless, the blue knight was getting much the worse of it. Ser Loras rained down blows on his head and shoulders, to shouts of “Highgarden!” from the throng. The other gave answer with his morningstar, but whenever the ball came crashing in, Ser Loras interposed his battered green shield, emblazoned with three golden roses. When the longaxe caught the blue knight’s hand on the backswing and sent the morningstar flying from his grasp, the crowd screamed like a rutting beast. The Knight of Flowers raised his axe for the final blow.

The blue knight charged into it. The stallions slammed together, the blunted axehead smashed against the scarred blue breastplate... but somehow the blue knight had the haft locked between steel-gauntleted fingers. He wrenched it from Ser Loras’s hand, and suddenly the two were grappling mount-to-mount, and an instant later they were falling. As their horses pulled apart, they crashed to the ground with bone-jarring force. Loras Tyrell, on the bottom, took the brunt of the impact. The blue knight pulled a long dirk free and flicked open Tyrell’s visor. The roar of the crowd was too loud for Catelyn to hear what Ser Loras said, but she saw the word form on his split, bloody lips. Yield.
ACOK - Catelyn II

Renly did raise Brienne to the Kingsguard when she requested that honour as her prize. Some Tyrell men however claimed that Brienne's pulled a vile trick in pulling Loras down from his horse like that and it was no proper unhorsing.

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    I think this scene would be very helpful in backing up your answer. – TheLethalCarrot Sep 12 '18 at 8:48
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    The quotes you provide suggests not precisely that Jaime has concluded that Brienne is better with a sword (maybe she isn't or maybe she is) but that she's physically stronger. – Adamant Sep 12 '18 at 9:31
  • @Adamant Re-reading it, You are correct. Jaime didn't actually admit she was more skilful than him, just that she was stronger. Brienne did best him (Regardless to the disadvantages which Jaime initially believed might make it more of a contest), So I suppose that is my own take from it rather than Jaime's admission, as you say. I'll sort it out, thanks – Aegon Sep 12 '18 at 9:35
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    I'm not sure this scene counts very much for a "skill vs skill" matchup. Brienne of Tarth is fighting to subdue a person whom she has sworn to get to a different location; Jaime's objective is to kill, and escape. There's no possible way to speculate on Brienne's skill because there's no commentary on when she could have won the fight, but didn't because it would cause injury/be lethal etc. Jaime's admission of her "strength" is more a commentary on his arrogance/pride than anything else. – DariM Sep 12 '18 at 21:18
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    @DavidS I have added the previously omitted parts of the passage which provide more info on Brienne's offensive. Please review that. Do drop a comment if you would like to discuss it further. There is no explicit mention where Brienne decides she might have to kill, she however does take the offensive and manages to draw blood after Jaime's taunting when she aimed a blow at his head which only managed to cut his brow. – Aegon Sep 13 '18 at 9:50

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