Two swords: Better than one?

While going through my archive of weapon pics, I came across a couple of sets of fighting sword pairs:

Black Mamba Twin Fighting Swords

Black Mamba Fighting Swords
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Now I like this set for a couple of reasons. First, both swords are black. (Always a plus in my book) Second, they are both designed in the style of one of my favorite kinds of swords, Ninjaken! Not to mention that they have some nice looking grips, which is a rarity in this particular kind of design. Last, but certainly not least, there are two of them. And two is always better than one! Amirite? Well… No. Not always.

While I like the idea of practicing with dual weapons, one of the things I found interesting is the misconception that dual weapons are generally better than single ones, and having two weapons makes one twice the one man army they were before… The reality? Bah humbug.

Now I will readily admit to having little experience with wielding double ninjaken like these. I have studied the use of dual wushu swords, however that style differs greatly from the one that would be used for ninjaken, and even more so for dual unequal length (strong hand/weak hand) swords styles.

Viper Twin Fighting Swords

Viper Twin sword set
[view full size]

However I think the truth of the matter is that, while two swords should theoretically give you is the ability to double your offensive ability, it is already hard enough to learn to properly use a single sword. Attempting to replicate the offensive philosophy of a single sword, with two, actually presents a level is difficult that is orders of magnitude greater than that of a single sword. Let alone trying to apply that for swords of unequal length.

In fact, I’d think that the offensive ability of swordsman used to wielding a single sword, who now attempts to use two swords, might even be negatively affected. Of course experience is a relative thing, but all else being equal, I think that in practice, for all but the most well trained double swordsman, having two swords would not present any kind of advantage whatsoever…

And seriously, thats a real bummer…

9 Responses to “Two swords: Better than one?”

  1. 1 LoneWolf23k
    March 2, 2008 at 8:30 am

    Actually, the advantage in fighting with dual weapons comes from using one weapon for defense, and the other for offense. Generally, in two-sword fighting, you’d use the smaller weapon to feint and parry the opponent’s blade, while attacking with the longer weapon. And for this, weapons of uneven length are actually more advantageous then weapons of equal length. Use the longer (and heavier) weapon in your weapon hand, and the smaller (and lighter) weapon in your off-hand.

    A clear exemple of this are fencing movies where a swordsman fights with both a sword and a main-gauche, using the smaller weapon for defense while attacking with the larger weapon. The Nito Ryu (“Two swords School”) school of Kenjutsu, founded by Musashi Miyamoto, is another exemple, although it emphasized attacking with both blades at once or using them alternately to rain down blows.

  2. March 2, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Good points LoneWolf. For attack/parry combinations like the Rapier/Main-Gauche, I can easily see the advantage of dual weapons, however with those particular combinations, the off hand blade is usually smaller and much faster than the strong hand blade. The difference between the parrying blade and the attacking blade is quite significant. You are essentially fighting with a sword and a small, fast dagger, as opposed to two swords.

    Wouldn’t the dynamics be different for swords that are much closer in length, like the ones above? With only a marginal difference in length, say a foot or so, I’d think your weak hand sword would still not be small or light enough to give you the speed advantage that makes for strong parrying. This would make it more advantageous to resort to single sword parrying techniques, as they would be just as fast to execute, and would give you the added advantage of a speedy riposte, as your strong hand would already be in position to counter attack.

    From that perspective, It would seem that the best use of the off hand sword would be to rely on an alternating dual sword attack, where both swords would perform alternating attacks, parries and ripostes in quick succession, which is what I would imagine a double sword style like the Niten Ichi Ryu would employ. (edit: I guess not, I just looked it up, and Nito Ryu uses a short and long sword for parry and attack) But such a style would not be as easy to master as the single sword style, hence my contention that for the average swordsman, dual swords may not be an advantage at all…

    But then again my understanding of the difficulties is based on single Katana and dual Chinese broadsword styles, so my logic could be flawed…

  3. 3 ladyofspiders
    March 3, 2008 at 1:04 am

    Those are a cool pair of swords. And I just have to say, that of course the most imporant thing is, you look twice as cool fighting with dual swords *wink*

  4. March 3, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    LOL Yeah, of course you are right. You gotta look good in a sword fight. It’s really not worth it otherwise. And even if you get killed, you would still go down with style… ROFL 😀

  5. March 27, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    I have a set of these, they were about $15 at a local gun show. No idea if they have any kind of pedigree, but they were able to beat the shit out of a log in my back yard, so the ones that I have are well constructed at least 🙂

    It helps that all they are (in my case) is a single piece of metal that’s been wrapped with cloth for a handle…

  6. March 27, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Yeah, actually these ones and the Timber Wolf style battle ready swords are OK from a swinging at water bottles in the back yard perspective. They are very strong full tang designs with simple wrapped handles, I have a couple of those, just not this particular design.

    But they are certainly not the best quality blades out there… they are just good for messing around with. The cheap quality cutters cost upwards of $200. The good quality hand made dealios start around $400 and just go up from there… Srsly, I don’t think I could bring myself to cut anything with a $400 sword LOL… 🙂

  7. 7 Niccolo
    April 28, 2008 at 6:03 am

    Mrr. The black mambas (Damn, I am so proud they had a reasonably original name!) look actually quite suited to two-weapon fighting… the off-hand weapon appears to have a blade that’s about a foot or so long, and the on-hand (excuse the bad terminology, it’s late here) weapon a bit longer. Both weapons being reasonably short like that means they’re both actually reasonably fast already.

    Two weapons of equal length are reasonably dodgy, since the blades can have a tendency to tangle up with one another. Quite a feet for four feet of perfectly straight steel, but they manage it somehow. That’s why the dual-style fencers use a defensive weapon that’s shorter – so their attacking weapon doesn’t bounce off it and do funny things.

    The defensive thing’s length really is a matter of what trade-off you want. Longer blade means bigger shield, but more chance of tangling and slightly slower. A shorter blade is faster, less tangling… but also a much smaller shield to block with, meaning you need to pay more attention to what your off hand is doing.

    On that note, I want. I want bad.

  8. April 29, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    I think there is actually a lot more to the length than that. If you go with two swords of the same length, all else being equal, you effectively eliminate whatever speed advantage you have over your opponent in parrying. In which case the off hand sword is actually better utilized as a secondary attack weapon, rather than a parrying weapon.

    If the off hand blade is short, then it becomes faster, and it then makes sense to use if for fast parrying, and setting up for attacks with the strong hand… And then you have all sorts of variations in between both styles… I think it is actually all quite a tricky affair…

  9. 9 dheyder
    March 18, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    For the record, I own these blades. When used, I tend to parry and strike with the smaller blade to recieve the most effective results. The longer blade is great for a frontal attack while the shorter of the two is used for a lower strike at the rib cage or legs of an opponent. When I am on the defensive I tend to use the smaller blade as a parrying weapon, by sliding the attacking blade downward and thrusting it toward my opponent after parrying.

    If faced with the odd opponent that uses a two-handed blade or extreme broadsword, a blocking method using both swords is necessary, if I am not able to dodge the attack. In an average confrontation though, the larger blade is used as a primary offensive weapon, while the smaller blade is used for both.

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