The Man Makes the Weapon

If you think he's good at swordfights, wait till you see him do the dusting.

Did we mention he had windshield wipers?
One of the many Mooks Jackie Chan whooped

Two people are having a duel. One of them pulls a fairly traditional weapon... a sword, spear, maybe even a gun. His opponent (usually the protagonist) picks a relatively "weak" and equivalent, something that's generally not lethal (something as dangerous as a broken bottle would rarely be seen in this trope). Sometimes, he may even go as far as to ignore real weapons that are lying around. He proceeds to kick the first guy's ass, showing off a clear difference in skill. The key to this trope, however, is skill. He doesn't win the fight due to the weapon being unconventional, quirky, or unexpected (like a stepladder). The weapon is generally analogous to the user's own preferred weapon - like a wooden practice sword or an umbrella instead of a real sword. This allows him to show off the fact that he can apply the same techniques with a proper weapon if he chose to do so.

The fight will usually end before anyone's killed, but only after the person with the weaker weapon has clearly demonstrated his superior fighting technique. This is a route generally taken by pacifists who are good at fighting and want to end a fight without having to actually hurt anyone. There will probably be a lesson in humility during or after the fight, and the weapon master usually remains humble himself and uses the experience as a teaching opportunity.

Contrast Cherry Tapping, where the purpose of picking a weak weapon would be to humiliate their opponent. This is usually why Wooden Katanas Are Even Better; the weapon isn't better, but the user of the weak weapon is usually stronger. Also contrast Improbable Weapon User, someone who regularly arms themselves with wacky weapons. See also Improvised Weapon.


Examples:

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     Anime & Manga  

  • Revolutionary Girl Utena, on at least two occasions, Utena has actually wielded a Shinai - that is, a bamboo-sword - against opponents using steel blades, and on both occasions, won. And in the movie she pulls the same feat off with a broom.
    • Though in the movie her opponent quickly slices the broom into pieces, and she wins only thanks to Anthy's timely interference - it's against the rules to duel without a sword, apparently.
  • One Piece: First duel of Roronoa Zoro with Mihawk, where the latter defeated the former with a butter knife. Mihawk even apologized for not having a knife even smaller! He then proceeded to block a heretofore considered unblockable attack with it, with minimal effort.
  • Tenjou Tenge: After Soichirou and Bob are beaten by a fire-using Bully, Maya puts him in his place by kicking his ass with a twig she just pulled off a tree.
  • In one filler episode of Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin made use of an umbrella as an effective weapon.
    • In the main run, however, he at one point gets hold of a sword which he cannot unsheath due to his vow. He quickly gets a major upper hand on his adversary, Chou the sword hunter, without having to draw before Chou gets out his secret weapon (some sort of sword-whip). Only then does the fight get somewhat even.
  • Done with firearms in Trigun when Vash shoots a group of attackers with a toy sucker-dart gun and they decide to give up before he starts using bullets.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, King Cold is convinced that the inverse is true when he faces Future Trunks, believing that the young Super Saiyan's power comes from the Cool Sword he wields, and asks to take a look at it. Needless to say, Cold is dead wrong.

     Comics  

  • In The Ultimates 2 Hawkeye shows off this ability. First by killing most of a SWAT team with things he finds in his kitchen. Then when he escapes the holding facility he tries to find a gun. The last panel of him before he shows up for the finale is a naked Hawkeye with his fingertips stretching toward a pistol while dozens of armored soldier with assault rifles open fire from a couple feet away.
  • Daredevil villain Bullseye is all about this trope. If it can be thrown or shot, he can turn it into a deadly weapon. This includes arrows, guns, ballpoint pens, shards of glass, bits of his own broken teeth, etc...

     Film  

  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Jen is completely outclassed by Li, who is using the legendary Green Destiny sword. In order to give her a lesson on how the weapon doesn't truly matter without technique, he holds the sword behind his back and picks up a wooden stick off the ground, and continues the fight. He strikes her multiple times in areas that would have been fatal if he was using the real sword.
  • Fearless (2006): in one of his many duels, Huo faces off against a guy wielding double broadswords, using only a short stick.
  • Ip Man: Ip Man defeats a skilled northerner (who has already beaten all of the town's masters) wielding a broadsword, while using only a feather duster.
    • This scene is itself a reference to the scene in Game of Death starring Ip Man's most famous student, where Bruce Lee takes on an escrima master with...a bamboo stick.
  • The Chronicles of Riddick: Riddick uses a teacup to kill a guy wielding a sledgehammer. After that, nobody wants to see what he can do with his can opener.
  • God of Cookery - when Stephen is accused of being a fake, he picks up a kitchen knife to threaten his accuser with. The accuser picks up a teaspoon and disarms him with it, explaining that long hours preparing food gives you strong hands and wrists, which Stephen doesn't have because he's a celebrity and not a proper chef.
  • A recurring trope in Jackie Chan movies. The mooks (usually) have proper weapons and Jackie's character dodges and uses whatever's around to incapacitate them. One often-referenced example is from First Strike, where uses a folding table, a jacket, Chinese dragon heads, a broom, wooden staves and finally a stepladder.
  • The Twilight Samurai: The main character beats Tomoe's abusive ex-husband using only a stick of wood verses the ex-husbands regular sword.
  • Wong Fei-Hung from the Once Upon a Time in China series often uses an umbrella as a weapon of choice, even against crowds of mooks that take up entire streets. He almost always wins without getting a scratch on him, either.
    • Wong Fei-Hung as a child also appears in Iron Monkey, in which he takes on a gang of adult street thugs using, again, his umbrella. The street thugs never come close to standing a chance.
  • Alexander Nevsky: Alexander Nevsky tells the armorer that it is a man's arm not the tempering that gives the sword its strength

     Literature  

  • The Scavenger Trilogy by K.J Parker. Poldarn frequently goes into swordfights barehanded and prevails, (well-described) skill overcoming even this disadvantage. He even throws away weapons he gets off his attackers: they are heavy. Worse, they are covered in blood, which draws a lot of attention. He even reflects to himself that every time he needs a weapon, there's a weapon about.
  • The Wheel of Time: Mat defeats a pair of very skilled swordsmen with a quarterstaff (at the same time). Upon their defeat, their master points out that the greatest swordsman in history was defeated only once, by a farmer with a quarterstaff.
  • In Fate/Zero, Berserker has the explicit power to treat anything he holds as an Infinity+1 Sword which can damage magical beings, and to wield it as if he had trained with it all his life. He can do this with anything from telephone poles to other Infinity Plus One Swords (gaining control of them in the process) to jet fighters.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Leverage's Eliot disarms a man holding a huge knife, using a whisk. He then kills the man with an appetizer and a tray.
  • Deadliest Warrior: Happens whenever there are matchups where one warrior is much more technologically advanced than the other.
  • Martial Law: Especially in the pilot, when Sammo demonstrates with a blackboard eraser.
  • An Establishing Character Moment in the first episode of The Musketeers had Porthos fighting, and winning, a Bar Brawl with a fork.
  • In the Doctor Who story "Robot of Sherwood", the Doctor fights Robin Hood for the TARDIS with a spoon, in what worked as both a parody of the usual first meeting between Robin and Little John in the legends, and an Actor Allusion given that Peter Capaldi, who played the Doctor, had also played Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers, which gave us the previous example.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Sometimes a Tabletop RPG will forgo the traditional more or less lovingly detailed lists of weapon stats in favor of playing this trope quite straight. Spirit Of The Century is one such example (as is the default version of the later Fate Core System, though adding weapons and armor with attributes, notably damage and armor ratings, of their own is discussed), Risus another. In these cases the exact weapon used is primarily narrative cosmetic detail — a lady may use a dainty .22 caliber revolver and a hulking action hero a Desert Eagle with all the attendant differences in "look and feel", but as long as both characters are equally competent with their chosen weapons they'll also be equally effective.

     Video Games  

  • A variation occurs in most games with RPG Elements that focus on weapon specialization. A specialist can use his or her signature weapon type to pull off devastating moves that are many times more powerful than the weapon's stats should justify while non-specialists would be stuck with the same weapon's typically meager auto-attack if they're allowed to wield it at all.
  • The League of Legends champion Jax has a backstory where he is an outstanding duelist. After a streak of 152 consecutive wins, he was only allowed to fight with weapons the League deemed suitable. In response and to show the League that he holds their restrictions in contempt, he chose to employ this trope. For now, the list includes a lamppost, a chickenís foot, a spatula, and a fishing rod. Riot game Lampshades the trope in character's joke: "Imagine if I had a real weapon!"

     Western Animation