Reverse-grip knife and sword fighting in movies





Movies and TV shows love to show knives and swords used in a reversed-grip for slashing. But is this at all realistic or practical? For example, is the use of …

38 thoughts on “Reverse-grip knife and sword fighting in movies

  1. Azure Blaze says:

    Actually Matt there is another way a reverse-grip can be useful for a slash. Mind you, you may call this rubbish or tomfoolery, however, should you find an opening, say on someone's bicep, you can use a draw cut to stagger them by flaying their skin and maybe even disabling the arm itself. As a follow up motion after doing such, it leaves an opening in most cases for a hard stab with the knife or sword or dagger with said reverse-grip, to run your blade through your opponent. These moments of course are not easy to come by unless you can disarm or disable the weapon of your adversary, but they are a possible presented moment for such to be useful.

    I'd like to hear back from you about this, as the reverse-grip is something I am rather interested in. I do agree with many of your points with this video, but you did not exactly hit them all. This method is useless of course against someone using cut resistant materials like we see in modern gloves for tool/hardware usage, or metals such as steel plate, scale mail, and even ringed underlay, yet in modern times and in some instances in the past if it was a fight in clothing or armor in the revolutionary war/american rebellion, it could be an effective technique for gaining the "higher ground" so to speak.

  2. Potion Seller says:

    I've found the reversed grip slashing to not be useless if you change your stance to more of a sideways stance, more akin to the old one handed pistol shooting stance. Id never say a slash in that stance is better than a stab, however it is a very quick way to land hits and I've found sets your arm up for a fairly good stab on the return strike. In sparring its my preferred knife/dagger fighting stance, until the knife gets to about 14+ inches long, then an upward grip is far more effective.

  3. KismetHavok says:

    I could see it being useful for someone experienced in brawling who happens to have a knife. Grappling limbs and doing quick punch like pull cuts to muscles and tendons to disable but not kill your opponent.

  4. RealZeratul says:

    I know I am a bit late to the video, but what is your opinion on reverse-gripping knives with the blade towards your arm? I figure it might be more dangerous to block a powerful strike, but hooking and stabbing become more effective, so it might be a worthwhile trade-off depending on the situation. Do old treatises say anything about this?

  5. To Garrick says:

    Reverse grip is for close range combat. standard grip is for range combat. Reverse grip also provides a stronger guard & grip enabling to apply more pressure to the attack.( not applicable for long swords though) Logically speaking from my point of view, its not simply for choreography and fashion. In a close range combat, standard grip may not be as useful due to attacks launching only from the side. Reverse grip enable a strike to the middle while using the elbow as an addition force to put more pressure in the attack. simply speaking, its like a slight hook using the knife.

  6. Dankus Memus says:

    Blocking with a knife is a stupid idea. Pretty much every other weapon has more momentum. Even deflecting is never really recommended.
    If you have a knife you need to strike first or you will lose.

  7. Harry Ford says:

    2:12 They used to do this in the 1980s "Robin of Sherwood" TV series all the time. They'd lay their sword into someone's belly (invariably this someone would be wearing a mail hauberk) and the "victim" would double over it and "die".

  8. Clint Carpentier says:

    I can see using a sword with a reverse grip for specific reasons. Not being a combatant, I won't go into how you would get into a situation where they might be the most effective option, but here we go.

    The reverse stab – whatever position you are in, you're likely to gain more power with a reverse stab action. How quickly you can reverse your grip is… up for debate. Even if the opponent is armored, a reverse stab will carry more blunt force than a forward stab.

    Close-in slash – you're in kissing distance of your opponent, and your sword has been reversed on you. Forget arm power, slam your side into the blade, and direct the hilt across your belly as you slide past (or disengage) your opponent. Your side acting as an impromptu fulcrum. However, this could be used just as easily with a proper forward grip.

    Betrayed truce – you're holding your sword along the backside of your arm as you parley in good faith. You're first few movements have to take the reverse grip as you reacquire your bearings. Perhaps you are the one betraying the moment of trust, and your first attacks need be reverse gripped.

  9. Marcus Smith says:

    Furyan Ulaks that Vin Diesel used are used more like brass knuckles, the bladed part swept off to the side is only used if the foe dodges his punch so he simply follows them with the edge to at least do a serious draw cut. It's a totally different fighting style then the reverse bladed movie style we see so often. The Ulaks are much more akin to boxing really. He also occasionally flips the Ulaks so the curved part rests on the bottom of his wrists and he can stab with them. Skallagrim explained that it wouldn't have the leverage and power behind it as a dagger thrust (I mean you can put your off hand on the pommel of the dagger for more force, but there's nowhere to grab on the ulak for your off hand for even stronger thrusts really) but it still would be pretty powerful and is the only reason why Ulaks would have a pointed end because otherwise you're needlessly endangering the user by risking them stabbing themself in the arm if they twist their wrist the wrong way.

  10. polaris30000 says:

    The only type of knife that can really be used in a reverse grip is a knuckle duster/trench knife, but in that case the primary weapon becomes the brass knuckle portion anyway. You would just use the knife as a finishing blow.

  11. ndalby187 says:

    Clarify, there are slashing knives that are used with the reversed grip, such as the Karambit, but I'd like to add the Caveat that these are exceptions rather than the rule, and are again very specialized.

  12. Norseman says:

    Only way I see an use for reverse grip on a sword is in the event of finishing off an umarmoured opponent splayed on the ground, in the form of a powerful downward stab.

  13. Spencer Merritt says:

    In Escrima, draw cuts are used as part of a blocking/parrying motion while holding a knife in reverse grip. Since the vast majority of techniques in Escrima are employed within arm's reach, blocks and parries are typically aimed at the wrist, rather than merely deflecting the incoming blade. Typically, that cut is immediately followed by a stab, so you're absolutely right that stabbing is the real moneymaker when holding a knife in reverse grip, but hey, when everything's gone sideways, you take whatever you can get.

  14. Janis says:

    I've question. What if knife or sword would be touching hand in reverse grip? I understand it loses in reach and effectiveness but it would be possible to cut whit sword. Like it would be hitting with forearm but with cutting edge.

  15. Stéphane Grenier says:

    I don't know. Is it as much of an issue with a smaller blade ? I always found when sparring or practice cutting that a cut in reverse grip with something that would be more of a standard carry length nowadays (say, between 3 and 6 inches) is very comfortable and rather powerful.

    Now, if I grab something the length and weight of a bowie knife and try the same thing, it does feel very uncomfortable and awkward for anything other then stabbing.

    That might just be me, I used to train boxing among other things, and slashing in reverse grip just feels much, much more natural and more powerful for me, but that could be because the mechanic of it is closer to punching, which I trained much more. Anyone else feels the same way or am I just doing things all wrong xD ? Regardless, I do understand the original point, what we usually see in movies are fights with big ka-bars and things like that, which I would not use in the same way as my smaller, 4 inches EDC.

  16. Bagledog5000 says:

    Your pronunciation of katana isn't that bad actually, you were closer the first time you said it BTW. Basically the Japanese phonetics for all those syllables would be the same short "a" sound like that in ha, ha. So if we broke it down it would be ka-ta-na or かたな if you want the Japanese hiragana symbols. The kanji is 刀.
    Great content as always.

  17. GoddessAstrola says:

    Riddick is not a good example in this case as the ulak knife is made to so that when you are gripping it properly the blade curves back over the knuckles and points down. In the movie he uses them more like bladed knuckles. Sure there there are some stabs and draw cuts but but mostly they get used like knuckles.

  18. SeemsLogical says:

    "Really short reach range"

    I can actually see this as a positive. Like when fighting in a tight hallway. Or when you grapple an opponent to the ground and are mounted ontop of them. That downward stab into their chest is easier in the reverese grip I would imagine, though at the cost of the versatility of an overhand grip to stab the sides.

  19. Corey Long says:

    @scholagladatoria speaking for knives only. zendokai, a martial art developed in Australia in the 80s, uses reverse grip and draw cuts for both attack and defense. the knife is held along the forearm and the force is applied by the arm and the rotation of the torso into the target. draw cuts are used because of the generally unarmored nature of modern combat, as well as because of the way they are viewed by the law. stabbing implies intent to kill in Australian law whilst draw cuts can be argued as being defensive and without intent to kill

  20. xdmx says:

    There is a video on YouTube called "The Greatest Japanese Movie Sword Fight EVER!" with over a million views that is almost entirely the bad kind of reverse grip fighting Matt describes here.

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