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Most of us are familiar with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Leonardo fights with two katana, one in each hand. In every other movie I have ever seen in which katana appear, they are treated as a two-handed weapon.

Does anyone really use two full sized katana at once?

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    This could be an okay question if you dropped the reference to a cartoon....
    – slugster
    Aug 11, 2015 at 5:38
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    My downvote is because your question shows you did no research whatsoever. 'nuff said. Aug 12, 2015 at 12:28
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    I guess part of the question I'd have is, what sort of answer are you looking for? A brief search on the web will find reference to fighting with two swords, nitoken or nitojutsu. Miyamato Musashi wrote of wielding one sword in each hand. To my understanding, this is generally taught with the off-hand having a smaller sword, about 2/3 the size. However, I'm sure that we can find a picture of someone fighting with a katana in each hand if we want. Are you looking for famous cases? Anyone? Does it have to be full-size in each hand? Aug 12, 2015 at 18:05
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    @TheWudangKid It's not as simple a matter as you suggest. Katana are not, and were not, a uniform size (and sword size and shape was largely dependent of the fashion of the age). Ko-, chu-, and o- all exist as linguistic size modifiers for sword size. There is even some weird crossover with references to o-wakizashi (great short sword) and ko-gatana (short long sword). I think the terminology (like in the West) is largely a product of modern attempts at classification. Historically, it was probably just a weapon made to the specifications of someone's personal preference or perceived need.
    – Zen_Hydra
    Jun 6, 2016 at 15:14
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    @TimothyAWiseman Musashi's intent was for a swordsman to train to be ambidextrous in order to wield a katana in one's off-hand if their dominant hand was no longer able. He was all about practicality and using the right tool for the job (and very importantly, de-mystifying the cult of the sword). His Niten Ichi-ryu has techniques for using the katana and wakizashi together (and separately), but not really using two equal length weapons (it would have been gauche two wear two katana in Musashi's lifetime). I'd also argue that two unequal length weapons have advantages over two of equal length.
    – Zen_Hydra
    Jun 6, 2016 at 15:25

7 Answers 7

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There are a few forms in Tenshinsho-den Katori Shinto ryu. I know they exist, but was not able to progress to that level in my local school. Here is a link to a video of the style. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2xmfyZSn80

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  • Meanwhile in Europe, duel wielding two equally-sized weapons was considered showboating. I wonder if that was the case for Japan as well. Hm...
    – PipperChip
    Jun 20 at 19:07
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The book of five rings, written by Miyamoto Musashi around 1645, advocates two-sword fencing style (nitōjutsu): that is, wielding both katana and wakizashi.

He does, however, states that you should use two long swords while training!!

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Yes. Contrary to what the average "expert" on swords and Japanese swordsmanship will tell you online (along with their obligatory mentions to Miyamoto Musashi who everyone obligatorily must mention whenever dual-wielding Japanese swords is discussed even though in his own book he clearly states using two swords is nothing new in Japan and there are many styles predating Musashi's Niten-Ichi Ryu that show katana and wakizashi being used like the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu note: that image is from a Yagyu Shinkage Ryu scroll that dates to about 1601 when Musashi was only 17 and only just starting to get into dueling), it is possible to fence with two full length katana/uchigatana at once and there is historical evidence showing that it was done. Chinese and Korean depictions of Japanese pirates i.e. Wokou(倭寇) clearly depict them using two swords of identical size that don't seem to be any sort of wakizashi/kodachi: enter image description here enter image description here In addition, the Aizu Kage Ryu Densho (dated to the Late Muromachi Period - Azuchi-Momoyama Period) housed in the Tokyo National Museum clearly shows techniques with two full length katana in addition to techniques with two wakizashi/kodachi. enter image description here enter image description here So, yes. Dual wielding katanas is historical and doable and you don't have to be Miyamoto Musashi, Deadpool, or a Ninja Turtle to do it! :P

EDIT: Just to add a bit to the answer, while not strictly "katana" if you mean that word to apply to ONLY Japanese swords, the historical Korean manual Muyedobotongji/무예도보통지/武藝圖譜通志 does show dual wielding a pair of katana-like swords in it. enter image description here

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  • Very nice details. Great pictures.
    – LemmyX
    Oct 10, 2020 at 2:20
  • Did they really go into battle sans any form of lower body garment, like that first picture implies?
    – nick012000
    Jan 11 at 9:22
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    @nick012000 Possibly, but it's a bit complicated. Very poor ashigaru are sometimes depicted as not wearing much leg armor in Japanese artwork, and the Wokou being a bunch of pirates would similarly not be as well equipped as a fully supplied samurai. With that said, I've personally never seen ashigaru depicted butt naked like in this depiction of the Wokou before in Japanese artwork. It could be that the pirates in question were just THAT poor, or it could very well be the Chinese artists taking artistic liberties to characterize these "dwarf pirates" as "barbaric" and "uncivilized."
    – JZBai
    Jun 18 at 23:16
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    @nick012000 Just adding some pictures here to qualify the statement I made before of ashigaru being poorly armored in the leg area: i.pinimg.com/originals/18/24/d9/… krigetkommer.weebly.com/uploads/5/3/7/4/53742873/… historum.com/…
    – JZBai
    Jun 18 at 23:22
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This would be within the realms of possibility. I would not rule out the existence of some kata for this, because there are hundreds of Japanese sword schools. But, it is unlikely.

To understand why, you need to know what a katana is. It is not a general term for a Japanese sword. It is not a weapon designed for the battlefield. A katana was one of the swords carried as a marker of social privilege (and responsibility) by the members of the Military Government. The other was the wakizashi.

They form a pair, because the katana is a long sword for two hands which is not suitable for all occasions. Indoors for example.

So, there are some techniques for dual wielding katana and wakizashi. But not very many. Situations where it might be useful include corridors and when surrounded.

But since people did not carry two long swords, there is no reason for there to be techniques for fighting with two long swords.

History aside, there are also mechanical problems. If you really want to use both hands, it would be far better two use two one-handed swords.

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  • Meanwhile in Europe, dual wielding (of equal sized weapons) was practiced as SHOWBOATING! (Sarcasm) The Japanese are obviously too humble and reserved to ever do such a thing. (/sarcasm) This answer could be improved by going into what mechanical issues there are.
    – PipperChip
    Jun 20 at 19:03
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Dual wielding of equal weapons is relatively rare in warfare historically. Wielding a smaller secondary weapon is much more common (e.g. rapier + parrying dagger, katana + wakizashi, tomahawk + longknife). However, there are a few cases (though all of these are 'small' weapons, none the size of katanas):

  • Dual sai (Okinawan martial arts)
  • Dual butterfly swords / dual hook swords (Chinese martial arts)
  • Dual siccae / dual gladius (dimachaerus)
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  • Also dual kama, tongfa and tanbo. Sep 25, 2019 at 19:19
  • Great point about parrying daggers—my understanding is that they were highly effective back in the day. Chinese practice also has a tradition of dual straight swords, although, in my experience, while there are a number of techniques that can only be applied with 2 swords, the formal forms are much less rich than single sword. (Sometimes I practice single sword forms with a second sword for fun & research.) My teacher also liked to practice long sword, and double handed sword one-handed, with a light weapon with different balance in the off hand, just for the sheer difficulty.
    – DukeZhou
    Oct 27, 2020 at 0:29
  • I am late to the party here, but IMHO shields are weapons and therefore one dual wields with them. Feel free to disagree, but it's held in the hand and can be active in defense and offense. (Under this view, armor is strictly worn and is more passive.)
    – PipperChip
    Jun 20 at 18:56
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As Sean said, nito ryu teach the way to fight with a katana and a wakizashi, but in real fight, on a ground battle, a samurai could use those technique with a second full sized katana. I practised it and i don't remember any technique which wouldn't work with two katana. There is some Kenjutsu Dojo that are able to teach it if you wanna try it

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  • Do you mean ground battle as in on foot (as opposed to horseback), or as in grappling? Sep 9, 2015 at 11:52
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    Excuse my bad english I meant huge battle between two armies, a samurai surrounded by many ennemies could grab a additional sword from a fallen foe to defend himself
    – Erchos
    Sep 9, 2015 at 12:31
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Leonardo actually uses 2 ninja swords. A ninja sword is NOT a Katana. In this case yes, dual wielding ninja swords is fine. Otherwise dual wielding 2 katanas almost never happened and still does not with modern people training traditional arts/combat. Dual wielding a katana and a smaller weapon like others have mentioned was and is the common scenario for katana use…Again though Leonardo originally used and is suppose to use Ninja Swords. Often and confusingly people think that type or sword is a nick name for a Katana which is incorrect. Two very different types of swords/weapons.

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  • It would be better if you explained the difference between a "ninja sword" and a katana.
    – mattm
    Jan 7 at 23:11
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    What is a "ninja sword" supposed to be in the first place? There are many proper Japanese mames for sword classes shorter than the 1 1/2 hand katana, and none of them contains anything alluding to the modern myth ninja trope. Also, please note that the other answers present some kind of source to back their assertions up. Jan 8 at 21:40
  • This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker. - From Review Jan 11 at 19:34

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