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Using a melee weapon which is obviously meant to be swung using both hands with only one hand.
Say a character has a large sword. It may be anything from a regular two-handed sword, or it may be something utterly ludicrous in size. Clearly this thing requires both hands for any normal person to swing it. So anyone who swings around something so huge using only one hand is obviously not normal, and not someone to be trifled with. Often they'll be able to wield this huge weapon as effectively as a 'regular' single handed weapon. In fact, it will often seem as if the enormous slab of metal weighs next to nothing, allowing the character to pull off ridiculous(-ly awesome) feats that make even expert swordsmen look like amateurs. And if a guy is swinging a sword the size of a Buick around one-handed, what would happen if he used both hands?
The character is typically The Big Guy, The Brute, or The Berserker Quite often they're the protagonist. Anyone doing this usually possesses some degree of Super Strength or Charles Atlas Superpower.
Very common in video games and manga/anime. Does not have to involve a BFS (though it often does), or even be a sword. Any normally two-handed melee weapon qualifies, though swords are by far the most common usage of this trope.
Obviously, trying to wield a large sword using one hand in reality is a good way to pull major muscle groups, or give yourself a hernia. The trope naming German Zweihänder for example, is sometimes cited as being over seven feet long, and named for the requirement that it be wielded with "two hands." Trying to swing something that large around with just one hand would be impossible to do with any degree of skill.
It is worth noting that real swords are in fact much lighter than one would think (a Zweihänder averaged 4 to 6 pounds, for example, and even the oversized ceremonial "Paratschwert" (parade sword) version was 10 pounds), and it may be quite possible to swing even a large sword using one hand, albeit with greatly reduced balance and with too low a speed to make it useful in a fight. The issue is less with force and weight as leverage and length—the only distance one hand has for applying torque is the hand's width, whereas two hands each have half the distance between each other. In fictionland, however, swords tend to be much larger and heavier than would be feasible in reality, so the audience reaction is "There is no way he could use that thing one-handed." It is not this trope if the sword or other weapon could be reasonably used one handed by a normal person.
Of course, some of the weapons used by practitioners of this trope are so huge that not even using both hands would do them any good, even if the weapon was made lighter by using an aluminum alloy instead of solid steel.
Often comes with Implausible Fencing Powers. Sometimes taken to ridiculous levels when Dual Wielding is involved. For the Gun Counterpart, see Firing One-Handed. Related to BFS. Subtrope of Improbable Use of a Weapon.
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Anime and Manga
Kirito from Sword Art Online wields a huge black iron sword with one hand in ALO. The reasoning for this is that he is used to heavy swords from SAO.
Guts from Berserk is quite capable of wielding his freakishly large BFS, the Dragon Slayer, using just one hand. His other hand is mechanical, as he lost the original one during the Eclipse, and the only way he can wield the thing using that other hand is with a magnet inside of it.
In Bleach, Kenpachi Zaraki wields a very large sword, similar in design to a nodachi, in one hand, and uses a very reckless fighting style to boot. In the Hueco Mundo Arc, he encounters an enemy so powerful that he resorts to holding his sword properly, which has a marked effect on his power. Amusingly, he had to actually be taught that this works better when the head captain forced him to take formal swordsmanship lessons. He normally refuses to use the techniques he was taught, because he doesn't want his battles to be too easy. The true form of Kenpachi's zanpakuto, which he only recently unlocked upon learning his sword's name, is a gigantic axe-like blade that's bigger than he is...and he's a very big man. He still wields it one-handed.
Protagonist Ichigo remarkably averts this: his Zangetsu in any pre-Bankai form is definitely a BFS (it's generally about as long as his wingspan — and he's both tall and somewhat long in the arm — and quite broad, its primary form resembling a chopping knife for most of the series) but he typically wields it two-handed. Though it's shown a couple of times that he can one-hand it.
Played straight in the final story arc, when Zangetsu has to be reforged and the resulting weapon is two swords, one of which is similar to the original "giant chopping knife" and the second being the size of short sword or very large knife. Naturally, Ichigo dual wields them.
Justified:It's stated that a zanpakuto is part of the soul of the shinigami or the arrancar wielding it. Therefore, to that person, even the most massive and absurd-looking weapon as light as a feather.
The eponymous half-demon swordswomen of Claymore do this, often being able to Spam Attack with their huge swords. It's lampshaded in the first chapter and explained as a specific effect of their being made part-Yoma. The thin handles of the claymore swords also are a hint that the swords are made of Thunderbolt Iron. Which is why they can survive being used against Awakened Ones and do not break even when subjected to or used for Implausible Fencing Powers.
Asuna's Pactio artifact, both of Setsuna's swords — her regular nodachi and her second Pactio artifact (which can grow to enormous size), Yue's Ariadne sword, and (briefly) Fate's stone sword, all of which are positively BFSes and are usually wielded one-handed.
In Ranma ½, Ryoga's umbrella turns out to be so incredibly heavy that Akane (who, remember, is a highly trained martial artist and in excellent shape) can barely lift it. Yet, as she observes, Ryoga wields it in one hand like a normal person with a normal umbrella, tipping her off to his monstrous natural strength.
Ranma can do the same.
In Naruto, Zabuza Momochi and Kisame Hoshigaki both wield their massive swords (Decapitating Carving Knife and Samehada, respectively) one-handed; both are very heavily built. At later points in the series, Suigetsu and Kakashi both use Zabuza's sword; Suigetsu alternates between both arms and one (sometimes using ninjutsu to make it larger and stronger) but Kakashi has only been shown using it one-handed.
In Gamaran the most (and perhaps only) blatant example can be found in Kibe Ryuho, the Silver Demon: his gargantuan iron club "Black Claw Comb" is made to be used with both hands. However, thanks to the ludicrous Super Strength obtained with the Juugan drug he eventually manages to swing the whole damned thing with a single hand.
Ikaruga in Senran Kagura is able to handle her nodachi with only one hand.
In Codex Alera, the superhumanly strong Knights Terra use greatswords and giant mauls in one hand to devastating effect.
In the Book of Five Rings, Musashi encourage the reader to use the tachi (a long katana) with one hand in order to use Dual Wielding. While it's not an impressive feat, as a katana isn't that heavy, still most swordsmen used it with both hands to deliver faster and stronger hits.
Actually, katana is a subversion of this trope. This weapon has to be used with two hands precisely because it is so short and light (and thus have so little inertia on its own).
Belgariad: Garion, Torak, and 'Zakath all do this one occasion. Likely justified, as the swords in question are magic.
In the case of Garion, the sword in question is powered by a Cosmic Keystone that explicitly makes the sword lighter than it would normally be. When the stone is removed, he can barely lift or carry the sword at all, much less in one hand (he once removed the stone while forgetting the sword is slung in the scabbard at his back. It brought him to his knees). Torak, by contrast, is a god, and would not be expected to have difficulty handling any sword.
Shardblades in The Stormlight Archive are upwards of six-seven feet in length, yet light enough to wield one-handed. Justified in Words Of Radiance by the fact that Shards aren't made of matter as we know it, but are the physical manifestations of the creatures of pure magic known as spren.
In the Star Wars franchise, Lightsabers are usually wielded by Jedi and Sith alike in the two-handed fashion in order to maintain control over their completely weightless blades. Two notable characters do not do this: Count Dooku wields his saber one-handed in a fighting style that specializes in dueling and Darth Vader starts out wielding his in one hand against Luke to demonstrate his superior strength as an intimidation tactic.
Third edition has a feat called Monkey Grip that allows a character to use two-handed weapons as one-handed weapons with a small penalty to hit. As the system is one of the bigger cases of Shields Are Useless, and there is an inherent damage boost to using weapons two-handed, it's not a very popular feat from a power perspective.
It is possible to enchant greatswords/claymores to be wielded like shortswords, so even the squishy thief can swing around a blade longer than her arm span.
In second edition, a magical sword known as the "sun blade" is classed as a bastard sword with regards to appearance, damage dealt, and overall size, but is regarded as a short sword in terms of encumbrance and weight, and can be wielded by people with proficiency in using either a bastard or a short sword.
Also in second edition, Large sized creatures (ogres, small giants, and the like) could wield weapons intended for two-handed use by Medium sized creatures (humans, elves, etc.) one-handed. In an inversion, Small sized creatures (such as halflings) needed two hands to wield weapons that would be one-handed for Mediums.
In Exalted, you can wield a two-handed weapon in only one hand if you have three times the minimum strength to wield it the normal way. This is somewhat uncommon, since it's hard to have a strength score higher than five dots within a human lifetime without artifacts or charms to provide bonuses. As a result, it's best to avoid offending a Solar wielding a grand daiklave in one hand, since he is easily strong enough to pull a fully laden wagon.
The basic daiklave itself is the size of a mundane two-handed weapon. Anyone who can't attune to the weapon can't even lift it regardless of their strength score, but Exalts and others with the necessary essence pools can wield them one-handed. Solars and Lunars can also learn Charms to allow one-hand wielding of grand daiklaves and other giant weapons which are normally too big for this even for them. Lunars take it a few steps further and can eventually wield weapons meant for warstriders.
Warhammer's Elves fight more swiftly and skillfully with double-handed great weapons than humans are capable of with single-handed ones (thanks, in game terms, to all elves having the Always Strikes First rule and a very high Initiative characteristic). The Swordmasters of Hoeth in particular specialise in extreme swordsmanship skills with their seven or eight foot blades. Most elf great weapon wielders tend to use both hands, but many of the champion models are depicted swinging their gigantic swords and axes with one. The White Lion hero Korhil even uses the magical Great Axe Chayal in one hand and a regular hand-axe in the other. Elven great weapons tend to be much lighter and less cumbersome than other races' equivalents however - the power of the strikes coming from sharpness and perfect balance more than brute force and weight.
In the Legend of the Five Rings RPG, and specifically its Fourth Edition, Moto Bushi have the ability to wield ANY two handed weapon in one hand (except for bows). This includes large swords (such as nodachi) as well as other oversized weapons like naginata and tetsubos.
In the pre-Ivory Edition CCG, Kensai could wield two weapons of any sort. This led to absurd situations where a kensai could somehow wield a set of weapons that made no sense - such as a monk somehow swinging two oversized bisento. In the Ivory Edition core set, this was partially fixed by designating weapons as one- or two-handed, where kensai could only wield two one-handed weapons. That said, it only fixes weapons printed in Ivory Edition core and forward until the errata team can catch up; even in the Ivory-legal sets printed in the Emperor era, unrealistic weapons exist without those designations (and in legacy formats, plenty of other weapons exist that could lead to this trope occurring).
The Nerf N-Force foam melee weapons toyline has the Maurader sword, a fairly big foam sword. In this rare case the blade is actually light enough for most people to wield one-handed without being weighted down.
The image for this trope used to be War, from Darksiders. His BFS, Chaoseater, is at least eight feet long and two feet wide. War swings it around in his right hand like it weighs next to nothing. His other hand is a Power Fist. Even a de-powered Horseman of the Apocalypse gives Cloud a run for his money.
In the sequel Kiyomori Taira wields an absurdly large set of rosary beads with one hand.
In Ultima VII, there is a character, Dupre, that comes with a Two Handed Sword (which is one of the best weapons in the game, magical or not) in just ONE hand, and a shield in the other. It's a bug, since moving the sword to his backpack and then back to his hand makes him to use in both hands, but is awesome nevertheless.
In some of the One Piece video games, the resident BadassMaster Swordsman Mihawk will swing his gigantic sword with one hand. Recently, the New Fishman pirate Dosun is shown using a colossal maul with only one hand.
Also played straight by Kagura Mutsuki, who wields a cricket bat-shaped sword that is even bigger than Ragna's in one hand, and also uses it in Reverse Grip. Averted surprisingly by Hakumen, who wields his Nodachi the correct way, with both hands.
Bloodedge, the famous hero who sacrificed himself to stop the Black Beast and who Ragna takes his name after, used his giant sword with one arm. Justified because his right arm didn't work at all. Also, because he's Ragna.
In Mount & Blade, a character on horseback will always wield their weapons one-handed (reasonably enough, as using both hands would be unbalanced and very impractical) and yes, this goes all the way up to six-foot greatswords and longaxes. Any two-handed weapon (except polearms) used this way suffers a 25% damage and skill penalty, though.
Barbarians in Diablo II can wield two-handed weapons like this, allowing for either a shield or another weapon (even another two-handed weapon) to be used in the other hand, though they take a damage penalty for one-handed use. For barbarians using a Frenzy build, however, nothing tops it.
Crusaders using the Heavenly Strength passive skill in Diablo III: Reaper of Souls can also wield two-handed weapons — even polearms — in one hand. Unlike the Barbarian from the previous game, however, the Crusader cannot dual-wield, and primarily uses this in tandem with a big heavy shield.
World of Warcraft: Warriors can do this with the Titan's Grip talent. Not only that, Titan's Grip allows the Warrior to dual-wield normally two-handed weapons.
The infamous Thunderfury, Blessed Blade Of The Windseaker, which is particularly notable for being a one-handed sword that is, in fact, bigger than some two-handed swords.''
A more specific example of the trope would be the Death Knight Thassarian, a recurring character allied at first with the Knights of the Ebon Blade during Wrath of the Lich King and the Alliance in Cataclysm onward. He dual-wields two-handed swords.
In Guild Wars, your character will always have to wield swords with a shield or an off-hand no matter their size, despite of them being really huge.
In Bujingai, one of Lao's swords is large and has a two-handed grip, but he still uses it with one hand.
You can learn the ability to do this in the Final Fantasy Tactics games—called "Monkey Grip" in some games—so you can equip a shield on your free hand.
In the Tactics games as well as some other Final Fantasy games you can invert this by using the opposite ability—Doublehand—to wield one handed weapons with both arms for extra power.
The Qunari Arishok in Dragon Age II wields a claymore and a two-handed battle axe in each hand, which is not surprising considering his enormous body height and clearly Super Strength. On a related note, the in-game model of Arishok belongs to the Rogue class (rather than the burly Warrior you'd expect) and his weapons are technically daggers, since the game's engine limits dual-wielding to this class and weapon exclusively.
In the first game, one-handed swords were a little large for humans but start to look more like two-handed swords for elves and dwarves (a one-handed sword is about as long as this distance between the ground and an elf's chin). Enter the Rogue talent that lets you dual-wield one-handed weapons instead of requiring a dagger in your off-hand...
Many classes in Fire Emblem swing around huge weapons one handed. Ike wields all of his swords in Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn (including his iconicRagnell) in this manner and is explicitly pointed out to be doing so in Super Smash Bros.. Brawl by Solid Snake on Snake's level.
The Black Knight also does this with his Alondite, the twin of Ragnell. Ashnard, the Big Bad of Path of Radiance, also wields his lance-esque sword Gurgant with one hand.
Even more ridiculously, the legendary hero Altina dual-wielded Ragnell and Alondite, but that was ages ago.
In Fate/stay night, Berserker one-hands a giant sword that is more a seven foot slab of rock, so fast that even his missed attacks cause a Razor Wind.
On the other hand, Berserker's humongous size makes said sword look small by comparison.
Played straight when Shirou traces Berserker's sword and fights with it. He can't even wrap his hand around the hilt.
Auron uses large, Western swords (which are labelled as katanas). Although he can clearly lift and use them with no effort, most of his attacks (Overdrives included) actually have him use both hands. In Kingdom Hearts II, however, he keeps his left hand tucked away under his robes, playing this trope straight.
In Dark Souls, as well as its predecessor Demons Souls, a player with the right stats can carry any weapon in a single hand, whether it be a 6 foot katana, a zweihänder, a battleaxe intended for a giant or a solid-stone dragon tooth larger than the person wielding it. The NPCsHavel the Rock and Black Iron Tarkus go as far as to wield a giant weapon in their right hand and a tower shield on their left. The player is even capable of Dual Wielding two-handed weapons, though doing so grants no practical advantage—until Dark Souls II introduced the ability to attack with both weapons at once, but only if you have 1.5 times the Strength and Dexterity two compatible weapons need to simply be used one hand.
There's also Artorias of the Abyss, who is based off of Guts (the developers having admitted to being huge Berserk fans) and will Destroy you.
Even more frightening once you think of the size difference between Artorias and the Player. The player's height (male) is assumed to be around 6 feet tall, Dragonslayer Ornstein is around the same height as the Black Knights (appear around 7 to 8 feet tall). Artorias makes both of them look small in comparison. This means Artorias' sword is at the minimumten feet long or bigger.
In Dark Souls II, the mighty King Vendrick or what's left of him wields a huge sword as big as he is with one hand. He's a giant, by the way.
And the Crown Of The Old Iron King DLC, we fight the Fume Knight formerly known as Knight Raime who starts off with this trope by Dual Wielding the tremendously large Fume Ultra Greatsword and a thinner, nondescript sword, though notably only using the Greatsword in huge, slow attacks. Late in the fight, he'll discard the smaller blade and start two handing the Greatsword (for the most part).
Finally, in Crown Of The Ivory King DLC, the titular king also wields his Ultra Greatsword in one hand. Notably, despite being seven feet long, the sword is pretty slick in design and doesn't at first look as heavy, especially in the king's hand, but it has a special attack that encrusts it in ice, effectively doubling its length and tripling its girth.
Silent Hill gives us Pyramid Head, who swings and drags his Great Knife in one hand (though his slow movements suggest it isn't easy). While the player can aquire this weapon, James Sunderland wields it with two hands and swings it even slower.
Baldur's Gate: In the first game, Sarevok wields a big sword one-handed. In Shadows of Amn, you can get this sword as an actual item — and only then will you see it was a two-handed sword, by the rules simply impossible for your characters to wield in one hand. (However, in Throne of Bhaal, this rule applies to Sarevok as well.)
Shadows of Amn also offers an inversion: The Pixie Prick is a (somewhat odd-looking) dagger and wielded as such, but according to the description its first owner was an actual pixie who wielded it as a two-handed sword.
RuneScape has an interesting inversion. The Dominion Sword looks for all intents and purposes like a normal, one handed longsword. However, you can only wield it two-handed. (as in, you aren't allowed to equip a shield, even though the sword is obviously small enough for you to do so.)
Played straight with the Slayer master Vannaka, who wields both a steel two-handed sword and Dragon square shield at the same time although not even players with maxed Strength can wield two-handed swords with a shield.
In Dwarf Fortress, each weapon has a minimum size to be used at all and a minimum size to be used one-handed without penalty; units above the second size won't even try to wield the weapon with two hands available. Because they were meant to let at least some dwarves wield any weapon one-handed, the size standards for this are rather unrealistically small. Even slightly above average humans are big enough to wield things like pikes, two-handed swords, halberds, mauls, and great axes one-handed without issue. For reference, the in-game weight of an iron maul or great axe (the two largest weapons) is over 10 kilograms.
Justified, considering that they are easily eight or nine feet tall. Jygallag and Umaril do this in their respective expansions, too.
In Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2, Dorn the barbarian can learn a high-level skill (it costs 15 skill points) that allows him to wield two-handed swords, axes and hammers in one hand, and even dual wield them should he wish.
All the types of spears in Titan Quest are used with one hand, no matter how large or heavy they look.
In Dungeons, the Zombie King wields a very large sword with one hand.
In the Kingdom Hearts Saix wields an in name only "Claymore" in one hand with a Reverse Grip. Terra also wields some of the largest Keyblades in the series one handed.
In Risen, putting 9 out of 10 points in the Sword fighting skill allows the Player Character to do this, allowing the combined use of a shield with a huge sword that can be swung at the speed of common one handed swords which is arguably one of the most powerful weapon combinations in the game and the best option to spend the majority of your early Learning points on if you choose to align yourself with the Don's Men instead of the Inquisition.
Lightning of the Final Fantasy XIII games usually wields light, one handed gunblades, and her normal battle stance reflects this. However, in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII her swords range in size from small, light rapiers to great swords, a category that includes the Buster Sword and Caius's sword. While she wields the larger weapons with two hands when attacking with them, her battle stance is always the same one handed one.
Marty of Dubious Company combines this with Dual Wielding great axes. Predictably, he spends most of his time trying to keep his balance after each swing, that Tiren is able to bodyslam him out of Walter's way and Elly is able to avoid getting hit just by fretting.