"Swords are made to return to their scabbards."
Katanas Are Just Better
. This is, as we all know, a universal truth, as incontestable as the boiling point of water or that the Earth orbits the Sun. Only slightly less well-known is that the Quick Draw
is pretty damn awesome in its own way. If you find a person who is good at combining them, then you have an Iaijutsu Practitioner
Iaijutsu is a catch-all name for several martial art schools that center on drawing and attacking with one move. The movesets often include multiple slashes, swiping the blade off
, and the subsequent re-sheathing of the blade. Battoujutsu
are often used interchangeably with it, although the words have nuances in the Japanese language.
Although usually associated with Japanese swordsmanship, there are Western versions similar to battojutsu used for cavalry sabers. Another variant dates back to Fiore
, who taught swordsmen how to block weapons with a sheathed sword and dual wield the scabbard
and blade for powerful combo attacks.
Users of this trope can often create Sword Beams
, or just strike and re-sheathe so fast that it looks
like a Sword Beam
See also: Quick Draw
, Single-Stroke Battle
, One-Hit Kill
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Anime and Manga
- The sword style of Kenshin Himura and his master, Seijuurou Hiko XIII, from Rurouni Kenshin focuses on this. Although an all-around Master Swordsman, Kenshin was called "Hitokiri Battousai" (Quick-Draw Assassin) during the bakamatsu by being just that good at battoujutsu and is occasionally referred to as "Himura Battousai" afterwards.
- Aldebaran from Saint Seiya does this with his bare fists. He keeps his arms crossed across his chest when he is facing an adversary, and then he whips them out with such strength and speed his enemy has been crushed on the ground or thrown through several walls before even realizing what has happened. When Seiya fights him, Marin -Seiya's master- blatantly tells him Aldebaran's technique uses the same principle then a Iaijutsu Practitioner.
- In the opening credits of Samurai Champloo, we see Jin practicing Iaijutsu.
- The series' Big Bad also gets a little of it in, but by and large he calmly draws his sword and lets his opponents do the same before fighting.
- Some of Zoro from One Piece's most powerful attacks are iaido, such as Shishi Sonson and Rashomon, the latter of which uses two swords.
- And later, this is clearly seen in the signature move of Brook, whose sword is so fast, it looks like Brook was just walking past the enemy, before they get all cut up when he stops walking. While humming. Although it is possible that it was the sword doing the humming just because it was being swung around so fast.
- Honoka from The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye fights primarily with Iaijutsu, enhanced with Chi for more cutting power.
- Subverted in Bleach anime episodes 136-137. An arrancar named Patros always sheathes his sword after using it to send out a blast of power. He's just showing off his iajutsu skills, right? Nope. Urahara's mod souls figure out that he has to resheathe his sword after every blast in order to recharge it, and they render him helpless by preventing him from doing so.
- Played straight earlier in the Soul Society arc. Head-Captain Yamamoto prepares to battle Captains Kyoraku Shunsui and Ukitake Juushiro. In this case, it's a battle of who can do this first. Yamamoto wins and unleashes a Sword Beam which blows them back.
- Played straight even earlier than that when Byakuya pulls this off twice in combination with his Flash Step, once to cut off the blade of Ichigo's sword, and agian when he stabs Ichigo to remove the powers he borrowed from Rukia. Renji, who is at this point more experienced at following high-speed movement, is barely able to follow the second attack, but can't even see the first one at all. Ichigo on the other hand has absolutely no idea what happened.
- Isshin uses this style to kill Grand Fisher in one strike.
- Takamichi from Mahou Sensei Negima! uses what is called "iaiken"; in other words, pulling his fist out of his pocket, attacking and putting it back so fast it looks like he's just standing there. And he can use it to create Fist Beams.
- Katanas in Ga-Rei and Ga-Rei Zero- are typically used this way in combat. Kagura's (and later Kensuke's) "Michael" katanas actually use pneumatic pressure inside the sheath to increase cutting force when using these technique.
- Some duels in the manga version of Lone Wolf and Cub are between two of this type; which leads to several pages worth of Beat Panels as they wait for the most advantagious moment to draw.
- Kamui Den: Matsubayashi Kenpu. Kamui himself also counts: his signature "kasumi-giri" technique involves some unorthodox sword drawing
- In Claymore the Quicksword and Wind Cutter techniques are similar examples of invisibly fast Blade Spam iaijutsu. Ilena, the creator of the Quicksword technique, is so skilled at its use that she can block attacks "undetected"; that is, her arm moves at such a speed that it looks like any attack against her is hitting some kind of invisible barrier rather than her sword, which is being drawn, used, and sheathed so quickly that literally no motion is detected.
- Lyrical Nanoha
- Signum uses a few iaijutsu techniques in her battles, though she wields a broadsword rather than a katana. And while she uses the techniques, her actual fighting style is much more varied. There's also her Flying Dragon Flash technique, a variant that has her transforming her sword in the middle of the sword draw so it comes out as a flaming Whip Sword heading straight towards her opponent.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Vivid introduces Micaiah Chevelle, who specializes in this. This makes her a Fragile Speedster Glass Cannon who can deliver speedy One Hit KOs against anyone unprepared, but who has trouble against opponents who can slip past her blade and pummel her nigh-defenseless form.
- Used in one of the strongest spells of Earth from Zatch Bell!.
- Fürher King Bradley aka the homunculus Wrath from Fullmetal Alchemist can do it so fast you can't even see it.
- Goemon of Lupin III has trained in many fighting styles, but uses primarily a form of Iaijutsu. Referenced in Lupin III Stolen Lupin, where Goemon's Rival for the special points out that Goemon's style requires him to draw and sheath his sword to be the most effective.
- Mifune from Naruto is shown to be a master of Iai and fast enough with it to interrupt ninjas from forming hand-seals.
- Hanzo, one of the most powerful ninjas in the world even says that hand seals are pointless against Mifune because he's so fast with that Quick Draw.
- Uneri Ginkaku from Katanagatari specializes in iaijutsu, which is enhanced by his demonic blade Namakura, allowing him to strike five times a second.
- In Dragon Ball, Yajirobe ends his fight with Cymbal by using iaijutsu.
- Vralgo Kentauri from The Five Star Stories is a respected iaido master, demonstrated most dramatically when he nearly kills a young King Colus III in a flashback scene.
- The villain Ikaruga from Fairy Tail combines this with Razor Wind to slash her opponents to pieces without taking a single step. She can draw and resheathe her sword so fast that even Erza can't follow it.
- Kanzaki Kaori from A Certain Magical Index fakes iaido when performing her nanasen technique. While her opponent tries to track her drawing her sword, they are distracted from the real attack: Razor Wire that she controls like a marionette. She actually can perform iaido, but doesn't do it very often.
- Amidamaru and Yoh of Shaman King does something like this with the Shinkuu Buddha Giri technique in which they draw the Harusame so fast they create a projectile of razor sharp wind.
- Samurai Deeper Kyo has a variant called "hien ken" which crosses this trope with Blade Spam (draw sword and strike three times in an eyeblink). One of Kyo's early opponents is a practitioner, but Kyo beats him at his own game.
- Onimaru's Yoko Ichimoji's technique from Yaiba combines this with Razor Wind to increase the range. Later, Yaiba manages to master the technique.
- Several characters from Gamaran. Most noticeably, the Kannari Ryu (one of the oldest and strongest) is all about iaijutsu. Other swordsmen (Gama, Iori and Shinnojo) are frequently shown using these attacks in battle, along with the other techniques.
- InuYasha: Sesshoumaru usually doesn't draw his sword unless he can pull this off. As the story's resident Master Swordsman, when he meets someone he cannot do this to (his brother and the Big Bad are the only two), you know the fight just went up a level.
- Sayaka Miki gains this ability in Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion, doing tricks like slashing through Homura's bonds and then sheathing her sword in a split second.
- In Winter War, Shirogane is an expert in iaido. She gives Isane a quick lesson in the basics- it doesn't make Isane an Instant Expert, but it does shake her out of her depression to the point where she can play a useful role in the battle.
- Zatoichi the blind swordsman tends to use his Sword Cane in this way, either for one-hit kills or intimidation demonstrations. One example of the latter: he threw a single die into a long-necked bottle being held by a mook. While the mook was still holding the bottle, Zatoichi whipped out the sword, slashed, and slipped it back into the scabbard. The bottom of the bottle fell apart, and so did the die inside.
- Terry Tsurugi fights a guy who looks like a cross between Zatoichi and Frankenstein's Monster in The Street Fighter. He's blind and resheathes between strikes.
- You Only Live Twice. While James Bond is attending a ninja school we see a martial arts expert do a fast draw, pretend to slice up several students and then sheath his sword just as quickly.
- Being heavily inspired by Akira Kurosawa movies, it is no suprise that Obi-Wan shows this skill in the cantina scene in the first Star Wars movie, in what is in fact the first scene ever of a lightsabre used in combat. It is after all "an elegant weapon for a more civilized age".
- The title character of Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter, notably in the bar fight. He draws his katana, strikes twice, and sheathes it, all in under two seconds. It takes longer for his three opponents to realise that they're dead than it took for him to kill them.
- Yukio from The Wolverine. We barely see her unsheathe her sword and then the sword's already back on sheath. Cue sliced objects collapsing.
- This is one of the special skills on offer in the Fighting Fantasy book Sword of the Samurai. It has the result that the player will automatically hit their opponent in the first round of combat and do 3 (rather than the usual 2) points of stamina damage.
- In one battle can be used for a crowning moment of awesome; your opponent takes massive damage and is weakened by their arm being crippled. And that's because he used it to block a one hit kill decapitation...
- Star Wars Expanded Universe has Trakata, which is this style applied to lightsabers. Its point is to activate a lightsaber quickly when it's needed to deal an unblockable blow and then turn it off.
- It also takes advantage of the unique lightsaber feature that the blade can be triggered or extinguished at any point. So a Jedi using trakata can swing at an opponent and switch the saber on and off with perfect timing to pass through an opponent's defense unhindered.
Live Action TV
- Genta Umemori, ShinkenGold of Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, mastered this way of fighting - self-taught with a Reverse Grip no less. The same goes for his counterpart Antonio of Power Rangers Samurai.
- It's taken Up to Eleven here: his quickdraw ability is such that by resheathing his sword after each strike, he is able to spam it, making a dozen strikes before he even appears to have done anything.
- In Heroes, Future Hiro is a Battoujutsu master.
- In the infamous NCIS episode "The Immortals," the Victim of the Week is found to have been teaching himself swordsmanship using a book on Iaido... for use with his straight-bladed Navy officer's sword.
- In Legend of the Five Rings, the Kakita family of the Crane is incredibly skilled at iaijutsu dueling; the family's namesake is widely considered the first Emerald Champion, and the position fills its vacancy through an iaijutsu dueling tournament.
- Duels between bushi in Rokugan almost always take the form of iaijutsu, mostly thanks to Crane Clan influence in Imperial culture. They're usually only to first blood, though—one has to have special dispensation from one's lord in order to have a full-blown Duel to the Death.
- Exalted has a fairly potent Terrestrial Martial Art that is basically focused around this sort of thing: Even Blade Style.
- The capstone Charm of Master Zu Rat Te's variant is perhaps the ultimate version of it - Impossible Unseen Strike is pretty much Exactly What It Says on the Tin, an attack that is so supernaturally fast and precise that nobody even notices it until the target's bleeding, the attacker never seeming to move an inch.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- 1st Edition Oriental Adventures had the Iaijutsu proficiency, which allowed automatic and instant drawing or sheathing of your weapon.
- 3.0 has the "Iaijutsu Focus" skill that gives you bonus damage when you strike after drawing your weapon but is only a class skill for some rather poor classes. As it has not been updated to 3.5, it is still officially legal there, thus leading to builds for the Factotum (a class that gets every skill as a class skill) that abuse it (such as by using an obscure weapon that can be sheathed freely)
- It should be noted that the skill came into play after Wizards bought the rights to Legend of the Five Rings, and really was just part of a bad attempt to make 'Rokugan D20'
- In Complete Warrior, "Iaijutsu" is a feature of the Samurai class, where it grants Quick Draw and a bonus to Initiative.
- The League of Legends champion Yasuo, the Unforgiven, toys with this trope. In addition to returning it to the sheath, he also enjoys posing with the blade in one hand and the sheath in the other.
- Spoofed in Kirby Super Star, where the Samurai Kirby minigame is based around a Iaijutsu duel against Waddle Dee, King Dedede, and the deadliest of all, Meta-Knight. The duels are fought with paper fans, mallets, and pies.
- Some Laser Blade wielding characters from the Mega Man games (Most notably Zero) sheathe their weapons after every attack.
- The Iai Form chip (Known as Slasher in the US version) in the Mega Man Battle Network series invokes this, making MegaMan pause for as long as the A button is held, during which time he'll instantly slash the first enemy foolish enough to enter his side of the field.
- Street Fighter X Mega Man has a very annoying Mook that uses this in Ryu's stage. The only time you can attack it is when it stops spinning its sword to get ready to attack (not during the attack itself).
- In the Soul Series:
- Setsuka keeps a sword inside of her umbrella, and has many iaijutsu-type moves.
- Mitsurugi sheathes his sword when he enters his "Relic" stance, and from this stance can perform some of his most powerful moves. This was removed from his move set in Soul Calibur V, though.
- After IV, Setsuka moves to Istanbul and renames herself Neve. There she gives fighting lessons to orphans, including Sophitia's son Patrokolos, explaining why Alpha Patrokolos uses a similar fighting style.
- Uesugi Kenshin from Sengoku Basara (or Frost in Devil Kings). As if his demeanor wasn't cold enough, he's got an accompanying ice gimmick to drive the point home. And yes, his sworn enemy happens to be a boisterous fellow who, you guessed it, wears a lot of red. The later games emphasize his speed by giving him a Bullet Time mode that he activates simply by attacking enemies really quickly.
- Matsu in the first game, due to sharing the same moveset with Kenshin before Divergent Character Evolution kicked in.
- And in the series' later iteration, the new iaijutsu character in town is Ishida Mitsunari, who is so fast at drawing and re-sheathing his sword that the blade turns invisible for a moment. If he re-sheathes his sword at the end of his combo, it even adds in an extra hit. Also, his personality makes Kenshin look like a teddy bear.
- You play as one in Sakura Samurai.
- Gegaro, of Bushido Blade, has several iaijutsu-type moves.
- In Bayonetta The Shuraba allows you to perform this
- Ukyo Tachibana, of Samurai Shodown.
- Yumeji Kurokouchi, when he/she isn't Mega Manning other characters' techniques, fights with a carbon copy of Ukyo's iaijutsu style. According to canon, Yumeji trained under Ukyo's old master, resulting in the similarity.
- Another character from the series who uses such techniques is Yoshitora Tokugawa. His badassery is compounded by the fact that not only does he sheath his swords in between attacks, but he fights with seven of them at the same time.
- Muramasa: The Demon Blade has Quick Draw attacks: if you wait long enough before switching swords (the amount of time required can be reduced by collecting souls and possibly by getting hit a lot), their icons will flash and switching to another one will hit every enemy on the screen for large amounts of damage.
- Jin Kisaragi from BlazBlue uses this style frequently.
- Samurai Warriors series offer us Mitsuhide Akechi, a Samurai In Shining Armor who uses Iaijutsu with his katana for flash-slices, counterattacks and Razor Wind.
- There's also Munenori Yagyu, who only takes his sword out for special attacks and otherwise just swings around the sheathe like a giant club.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Link can learn the "Mortal Draw" technique. It requires him to keep his sword sheathed while moving close to the enemy, then draw it with the perfect timing, but will One-Hit Kill pretty much anything that isn't a boss (and severely damage anything that is) if executed correctly.
- Hibiki from The Last Blade series fights using this style, even though her disposition is warm and cheerful (usually...).
- Moriya, from the same series, has a handful of special moves that require him to sheath his sword. While he's not a pure iaijutsu stylist, his character definitely fits the Blue Oni bill, complete with a Red Oni nemesis, so he deserves a spot on this list regardless.
- Ghi Yeghi, and to that extent all Parivirs, in Final Fantasy Tactics A2.
- Takes the trope rather seriously in a sense, since the actual skill Parivirs can learn - which is aptly named the Iai Blow - is explained quite well in-game (specifically saying that the skill sheathes and draws the sword suddenly and quickly against the enemy), and has a chance to instantly kill your target, much in the same way a real-life practitioner of Iaijutsu would if done correctly.
- Vergil from Devil May Cry. While he has occasional stints with other weapons, his stylish trademark is the katana named Yamato, which he fights with using iaijutsu exclusively.
- In Devil May Cry 4, Dante uses iaijutsu himself when wielding Yamato. In one of the cutscenes, he slices a huge slab of stone, several hundred meters away from him.
- Citan in Xenogears after he's taken up arms again. He even makes a point to resheathe his sword with a large flourish. His combo attacks include quick-drawing and re-sheathing his sword repeatedly
- Especially impressive because he uses a Chinese Jian instead of a katana.
- Reiji's fighting style includes this in Namco × Capcom, and Saya's focuses very heavily on it. Slightly justified in that they both carry a weapon rack in one hand that holds swords of different lengths and elements (and in Reiji's case, a shotgun), and they tend to switch weapons between each strike.
- Guilty Gear series:
- Johnny. An interesting example, in that his roguish, devil-may-care attitude is something of a direct opposite to the usual personality.
- But Guilty Gear still manages to deliver on the terse iaijutsu front: Baiken also sheathes her sword in between attacks, and her personality matches up pretty well with the archetype.
- Zhou Tai from the Dynasty Warriors series. While the speed of his slashes is something approximating what real people can do, he still goes out of his way to return the sword to its sheath in between attacks. Stranger still is the fact that the series takes place in feudal China (note: not Japan), and in an era long before Japan was ever founded, but because there are only so many interesting weapon styles to spread out over a game renowned for Loads and Loads of Characters, iaijutsu gets in there anyway. And just for kicks, he's something of a quiet type.
- Kizami from Shinobi for the PS2. Gets bonus points for being an Iaijutsu Master AND a blind swordsman.
- Kamui Tokinomiya from the Arcana Heart series fights with iaijutsu, obsessively resheathing her sword after every strike. Her persona is definitely reserved, but she also has a notable soft spot for anything cute and/or snuggly.
- Georg from Suikoden V is also an iaijutsu practitioner, sheathing his sword in between strikes. He's also a very reserved character, but his personality is unpacked and explored throughout the game as opposed to merely tacked on because it's a good match for iaijutsu guys.
- Georg is actually quite famous for this in-universe. It's said that he only draws his blade when he's sure that he can take the enemy down with one strike, earning him the nickname "Deathblow" Georg. In a case of Gameplay and Story Integration, he is permanently equipped with the Killer Rune, which boosts his Critical Hit chance by 50% and has a 10% chance of inflicting instant death.
- Dias from Star Ocean: The Second Story is one. Certainly of the Blue Oni type, he contrasts the other characters by his skills rarely doing more than one hit. His most comboish attack deals four hits, as opposed to the 10 of his counterparts. Unfortunately, this greatly decreases his usefulness in the endgame since his attacks have slow startup and his normal attack isn't affected by items that would normally make everyone's normal attacks his several times.
- Even though his very first Killer Move follows this to a tee, it takes the title of most spammable in the game. More interestingly, his best weapon, the Crimson Diabolos may exist to circumvent his one hit style as it has the hidden ability to double his Attack Power.
- Wild ARMs 1 has Jack Van Burace, who specializes in the Fast/Quick Draw sword technique. While it isn't too obvious in the original, the Video Game Remake with its updated graphics makes it clear that it's the series' name for the Iaijutsu style.
- The Dissidia: Final Fantasy games reference this with the equippable ability "Iai Strike", which has a small chance (about 1 or 2 percent, before any multipliers) of instantly putting your opponent into "Break Mode" (basically rendering them unable to inflict HP damage on you until they either land another HP strike or wait it out; in either case, their Bravery points return to their default number. It's a slightly tricky system.). Gilgamesh DOES have this ability as standard, but it involves him drawing Zantetsuken (out of 8 possible weapons) with an attack, which the player has no control over.
- Before Gilgamesh showed up in 012, Firion had this move in both games with his Swordslash Bravery Attack. Justified because each of Firion's attacks uses a different weapon, and by drawing-and-resheathing his sword in the iaijustu style, Firion leaves his hands free to perform a different attack when Swordslash is finished.
- Pokémon has the move Cut, which is known as Iai Cut in the Japanese versions.
- Lyn from Fire Emblem Elibe fights this way, resheathing her katana after every blow.
- Elazul from Legend of Mana has an exclusive special move based on this principle.
- In addition, one of the very first special moves you'll learn for the one-hand sword is the Iai Strike, which evidently involves hitting the enemy hard enough to knock them to the other side of the battlefield (you never really have a sheath).
- Final Fantasy V has Iainuki, the final power granted to Samurai. The move has them charge across the battlefield, presumably in a draw-and-re-sheath attack that attempts to slay all enemies instantly.
- Cyan Garamonde has effectively the same attack as his level 8 Bushido attack, by the name of Oblivion. For bonus points, the monsters unlucky enough to be hit by it are cloven into pieces.
- Final Fantasy Tactics has a rather strange variation for its Samurai class, in which they draw a katana other than the one they're currently equipped with and in the process somehow cause the sword's "spirit" to be released as if it were Summon Magic. This results in some nice effects, but also runs the risk of breaking the sword.
- Asbel of Tales of Graces fights primarily with his scabbard, only drawing for a quick combo before resheathing. His most powerful Hi-Ougi ends with a 20-hit split-second Blade Spam.
- Aden and Sonia from Rune Factory Tides Of Destiny fights this way if you opt to use a katana instead of any other weapon.
- This forms the strong attack of the Iaito katana in Dark Souls.
- In Mortal Kombat 9, all sword-wielding characters will draw and replace them as part of combos, this is most apparent with Kenshi and Scorpion. It is subverted with Sub-Zero, who materialises and often shatters his ice weapons on the field.
- Willard H. Wright fights with some semblance of this in Ougon Musou Kyoku CROSS, in particular with his 214 Iai Strikes special.
- In Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Soma Cruz will do this with any katana-type weapon.
- Non-katana example: Altair and Ezio are capable of striking while drawing swords.
- In Grand Chase, Lass' fourth job (Evan Striper / Striker / Slasher) has him using iaido.
- In Hakuōki, Saito Hajime practices iai. When asked, he explains that he prefers it because it's a skill that can reliably cut the enemy on the first strike, allowing him to end most of his battles before his opponent knows they've begun.
- Yuzuriha in Under Night In-Birth, she's a lot more carefree than most examples.
- The player's nameless samurai could be one of these in Way of the Samurai. 'Draw' stance weapons are explicitly iaijutsu styled attacks, drawing and returning the blade to its sheath between combos. Some weapons that use this stance are straightforward and sensible (traditional katana or short bladed swords, for instance). This stance could be combined with some positively ludicrous sword designs, and lead to the player draw-slashing with a Buster Sword Expy. 3 was notorious for this.
- In an odd example, Benimaru Nikaido from the Japan Team in King of Fighters has a move called the Iaido Kick, where he throws an extremely fast, almost invisible kick before returning his leg back to his stance. It's about as close to an iai draw as you can get with a kick.
- In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Raiden can use this through an unlockable attack called "Quick Draw". Another character, Samuel, heavily incorporates this into his fighting style, and his weapon was built with this in mind; his sword's scabbard contains a modified AR-15 rifle receiver that can shoot his sword out of the sheath for a lightning-fast draw.
- Katanas in Phantasy Star Online 2 are wielded in this manner. In fact, they happen to be the only weapons that have a sheath.
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies , the samurai-themed prosecutor Simon Blackquill strikes the side-turned stance with hand on sword and performs quick "swipes" during trials. Despite just using his fingers, he can use this technique to perform Razor Wind attacks that are capable of cutting small objects from across the other side of the courtroom. He can even parry the Phantom's grappling-hook-shuriken-thing.
- The rogue samurai Jubei in Evil Genius always sheathes his sword after a melee attack, resulting in a fighting style of slow but powerful attacks.
- This is Anna's fighting style in the first Mana Khemia, whether she's performing normal attacks, sword beams, or slicing open dimensional holes to either attack from several directions at once or...increase everyone's elemental resistance?
- Dead Winter: In a dream sequence, Liz draws her sword and slices a leaping wolf-monster in one continuous motion.
- Azuu from Elijah And Azuu attempts this stance at one point, but because his sword doesn't actually have a scabbard he just ends up with a big gash on his palm.