martial arts that use a double-edged sword

What are some martial arts that use a double-edged sword?

Throughout history, martial arts that utilize weapons have fascinated people across many cultures. The grace, skill, and danger involved in wielding these weapons capture the imagination. Of all the weaponry, the double-edged sword stands out as one of the most iconic. Its symmetrical blade hints at the balance between offense and defense needed to properly wield it.

Several martial arts integrate the double-edged sword into their teachings and practice. While cultural preferences and availabilities have meant some weapons are more popular in some regions, double-edged swords can be found in multiple disciplines across Europe and Asia.

European Double-Edged Swords

In European martial culture, double-edged swords were commonplace for centuries. As metallurgy and sword construction advanced, so too did the integration of these swords into martial practice.

Longsword Fencing

Longsword fencing refers to European martial arts focused on larger double-edged swords, properly called longswords. These swords generally have a blade between 28 and 48 inches with a hilt allowing room for two hands.

Longsword techniques blended cutting, thrusting, and bludgeoning movements. The versatility of strikes coupled with defensive maneuvers like parries and dodges exemplified skilled longsword fencing. Practitioners needed competency with both edges of the blade to transition fluidly between lateral and contralateral attacks and blocks.

Masters of the longsword needed to balance aggressive assaults with strategic defense. Their skills were developed through instruction in fencing schools as well as firsthand experience in duels and battles.

Saber Fencing

Saber fencing represents fighting styles focused on using sabers. These double-edged swords had lighter, curved blades ranging from around 30 to 40 inches. The lighter weight and curve of the saber facilitated speed and agility.

Saber tactics concentrated on thrusting and slashing attacks. Complex handwork exploiting the saber’s curved shape lets practitioners rapidly change grips to vary striking angles. This kind of dexterity defined excellence in saber fencing.

Like longsword fighting, saber fencing was formalized and propagated through fencing schools. It was also a vital skill for cavalry units across several European militaries. Both settings provided contexts for saber fencing to evolve through real combat experience.

Renaissance Martial Arts

The Renaissance era between the 14th and 17th centuries witnessed significant developments in European swordplay. It was during this time that fencing began to transition from a combat-focused practice to an art form. Treatises written by fencing masters emerged as a way to codify techniques and guiding principles.

Nevertheless, the Renaissance marked the pinnacle of functional European double-edged sword martial arts before the predominance of firearms. Longsword and saber skills were refined to integrate concepts like footwork, timing, distance, and balance.

Martial arts from the Renaissance truly synthesized the lethal pragmatism of medieval sword fighting with the burgeoning sophistication of early modern fencing. The technique was balanced with a theoretical examination of first principles in a way that preceded sports fencing.

Asian Double-Edged Swords

In Asia, double-edged straight swords also found extensive use. Chinese, Indian, Korean, and Japanese swordsmiths all produced various forms, each with regional styles and intended uses. Correspondingly, diverse martial arts across Asia applied double-edged sword methods that are still practiced today.

Jian Swordplay

In China, straight double-edged swords were known as jian. These swords averaged around 30 inches long, with narrow blades optimized for thrusting. Though often associated with nobility, the jian’s versatility as a close-quarters weapon made it suitable for infantry as well.

Jian tactics highlighted the precision targeting of vital areas. The fundamentals focused on the coordination of movement, grip changes, and footwork to set up piercing attacks. Defensive techniques were similarly elegant – using agile evasions and parries instead of relying on armor.

Jian skills continue to be cultivated through Chinese martial arts like taijiquan and wushu. The integration of jian forms using wooden swords builds essential techniques linked to China’s historical battlefield arts.

Kendo and Kenjutsu

In Japan, the katana is undoubtedly the most iconic sword. However, straight double-edged swords were also used by ancient samurai and retain importance in modern martial arts.

Kenjutsu refers to traditional Japanese swordsmanship focused on shinken – live steel blades. The principles of kenjutsu were founded on direct combat experience during eras of frequent conflict and duels. As with European longswords, proper use of both edges was necessary to generate sufficient power while retaining precision.

Over time, the introduction of protective armor and bamboo swords facilitated the evolution of kenjutsu into kendo. Kendo is a modern martial art and combat sport adapted from kenjutsu. Participants use bamboo shinai swords and specialized protective armor to safely practice sword techniques and spar at full speed and power.

The foundations of cutting and evasion in kendo are still deeply rooted in traditional kenjutsu, preserved through kata demonstrations and adapted for competition. These foundations provide insight into historical double-edged sword arts in Japanese culture.

Haidong Gumdo

In Korea, traditional sword fighting arts known collectively as gumdo focus on curved single-edged swords. However, the martial art of haidong gumdo concentrates specifically on double-edged swords instead. Studying haidong gumdo gives insight into long-lost Korean straight sword disciplines.

The origins of haidong gumdo can be traced back to swordsmen resisting the Japanese occupation of Korea in the early 20th century. Samurai kenjutsu techniques were adapted using available double-edged swords to mount an armed resistance. Consequently, haidong gumdo techniques maintain aspects of Japanese swordsmanship.

Modern haidong gumdo continues to develop by refining the battlefield swordsmanship utilized against the Japanese army. Currently, it is practiced using live blades, wooden swords and padded swords to suit different training objectives. The revival of interest in haidong gumdo plays an important role in preserving Korean sword-fighting heritage.

Fighting Styles and Training

Double-edged swords occupy a notable place in numerous martial arts across Europe and Asia. Despite differences in culture, tactics and preferred weapons, some common threads can be seen.

The need to manage both offensive and defensive capabilities was vital. From longsword fencing to jian swordplay, maintaining acute awareness and strategic positioning was essential. It was also critical for practitioners to become extraordinarily familiar with their blades – versatility emerged from skill, not just weapon capability.

Training methodologies also transitioned based on context. Martial arts are adaptable by nature. As competitive sports fencing grew in Europe and kendo developed in Japan, training became oriented around scoring points safely. However, traditional combat techniques continue to be preserved through historical documentation and kata. Relevant battlefield skills are thus maintained even alongside modernized practices.

Most importantly, the double-edged sword remains embedded in the cultural legacies tied to these martial arts. Revivalist movements like haidong gumdo in Korea reflect the resurgent pride in cultural heritage. Meanwhile, the global spread of arts like kendo propagates shared interest that crosses boundaries. The double-edged sword is both a regional legacy and an increasingly universal icon.


For European knights and Asian warriors alike, double-edged straight swords were relied upon as principal weapons for centuries. Correspondingly, diverse martial arts across these regions integrated this iconic weapon into their core disciplines.

From longswords wielded by medieval knights to jian straight swords brandished by Chinese swordsmen, double-edged blades left an indelible mark on martial culture and history.

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