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Sword Limbo

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Everybody limbo!

A common maneuver in a Sword Fight: one character will dodge a horizontal sword cut aimed at their head by bending over backward as the opponent's blade passes over their body. This may involve bending both knees in order to drop the body lower while using the arms for balance.

Often filmed from above and in Slow Motion to boot, a la Bullet Time. Sometimes the shot will also employ an extreme zoom to show the sword cutting through a loose strand of hair. Ooh, that Could Have Been Messy.

In real life this move is less than ideal. You could defend against such a cut more quickly and safely by parrying with your sword, which would also let you immediately counterattack. On the other hand, if you were so good that you could definitely predict the height and angle of his cut, you could dive really low on one knee—either forwards or to the side instead of backwards—and nail him with your sword while his cut passed over you. Doing the limbo implies that his cut caught you flat-footed and you didn’t have your sword ready to defend: in other words, you already goofed and this is your desperate reflex. Bending backwards is problematic because it only works if his cut is quite high, and it’s obvious enough that he could see what you’re doing and correct his aim unless you waited till the last possible moment and cut it really close. Then, even if it works, your recovery time is too long and he’ll probably hit you with a follow-up strike before you’re ready to defend again. That it works in movies is thanks to Flynning and Rule of Cool. On the other hand, if you avoid a high attack with a retreating step you could add to your margin of safety by leaning slightly backwards as you step.

Not at all about swords that disappear into nowhere.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Revy from Black Lagoon does this to duck Shenhua's throwing knives so that they can kill the bad guys they were meant for instead of her.
  • Bleach: Although the manga itself never uses this trope, the anime does when creating filler. One of the classic examples is during the penultimate fight between Byakuya and Kouga during the Zanpakutou Unknown Tales filler arc. Both fighters force their opponent to undergo minor versions of this trope at various times, all done in slow motion and shown from very artistic angles.
  • Hei of Darker than Black dodges a stream of blood (that Portal Cuts on contact) in this manner.
  • Dragon Ball Super: During the Tournament of Power Goku pulls this off while falling, planting his feet into a broken piece of the arena floor so he can dodge Kefla's homing energy blast.
  • Rock Lee pulls this off while drunk during his fight with Kimimaro in Naruto.
  • One Piece:
    • Kaku does this during his fight with Zoro.
    • And Brook in his fight with Ryuuma, complete with the Close-Call Haircut (kind of inevitable given the size of Brook's Funny Afro).
  • Fakir pulls one off during the finale of the first chapter of Princess Tutu when attacked by sword-wielding ravens.
  • The title character of Ranma ½ does this several times, absentmindedly (he was more interested in looking at some photos), during his first real duel with the bokuto-wielding Tatewaki Kuno. The latter is extremely irked at Ranma's nonchalant dodging, claiming Ranma isn't taking him seriously (which is absolutely right).
  • Samurai Champloo
    • Mugen during his fight with Sara.
    • Mugen also pulls this off in his first fight with Ukon/Shoryuu—on that occasion however we see an Oh, Crap! Reaction Shot from Mugen, showing he barely escaped with his life rather than a Nonchalant Dodge. Ukon on the other hand is pleased to encounter a Worthy Opponent.

    Comic Books 
  • Red Robin dodges a strike from Vitoria, who can kill someone in less than a minute with a partial second of skin-to-skin contact, by quickly leaning backwards. He gets kicked for his trouble but in his clothed and armored torso rather than the sliver of exposed skin on his face that she was initially aiming for.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Apocalypto, Jaguar Paw slides on his knees while bending his upper body backwards to avoid his Mayan pursuer's sword. The sword does manage to slice a chunk of skin off his forehead, but he survives.
  • The Avengers (2012): During the fight between Thor and the Hulk aboard the Helicarrier, the Hulk rips a wing off a fighter jet and throws it frisbee-style at Thor. Thor goes to his knees and bends backwards almost double to let the flying wing pass over him.
  • In Daredevil, during their first encounter, Daredevil is able to successfully dodge razors thrown by Bullseye with this, which naturally pisses the hell out of him.
  • The Bride in Kill Bill vol. 1, in her fight with Gogo and later the Crazy 88.
  • The Film of the Book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: Peter dodged a stab from the White Witch in this way.
  • The Matrix series:
    • Popularized by Neo's bullet dodging sequence in The Matrix. The sheer number of times this particular variation has been parodied itself is enough to warrant its own article. Why this trope wasn't titled "Neo Limbo" is a mystery in itself.
    • Two melee examples occur in The Matrix Reloaded. The first, more a matter of dodging fists, occurs during the "Burly Brawl" battle where a ring of Smiths all bend out of the way when Neo swings at them (From the Knox voiceover: "Limbo!"). The second more appropriate example is seen in the Chateau fight, where several enemies use kamas, swords and maces all at once against The One. Neo ducks under every swing.
    • It's also in The Animatrix.
  • In the first Spider-Man film, Peter Parker dodges a punch in this manner. He later avoids Green Goblin's razor blades with it.
  • Luke Skywalker does this in his duel with Kylo Ren during the climax of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Of course, since Ren was only fighting an Astral Projection, Luke was never in any real danger.
  • Loki does a variation in Thor: Ragnarok, combined with a pirouette, as he dodges a Berserker's sword during the final fight.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Not a sword, but in the first episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Phil Coulson leans backward to avoid being hit by the flying door of van propelled at high speed by a metahuman with Super-Strength.
  • Legend of the Seeker:
    • Kahlan and Cara do this all the goddamn time. It turns out that when you have magic and you're fighting mooks with swords and all you're armed with is daggers or an Agiel, this is the proper way to not be exsanguinated. For those who don't know, an Agiel is a torture device that looks like a cheap dildo. We have no idea either, but it certainly doesn't have reach on swords or polearms.
    • Sisters of the Light and Sisters of the Dark occasionally do this, often against Richard.
  • Happens with Samantha Carter in the "Emancipation" episode of Stargate SG-1, albeit with a knife.

    Music Videos 
  • OK GO's "A Million Ways" throws one of these into its choreography, complete with impersonated bullet time.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Though they're dodging fists instead of swords, WWE Divas Trish Stratus and Melina both use this style of dodge frequently, and a few male superstars (Rey Mysterio Jr. and Jeff Hardy most notably) have used versions of it once in a while.
  • In limbo, Black Rose would have been disqualified for touching the ground with her hand but she used it to push back up and elbow La Amazona after dodging a sidekick in an IWA Puerto Rico women's title match.
  • In Pro Wrestling ZERO1, Low Ki and Toshie Uematsu have been known for doing this.
  • Mixed martial artist Ta'Darius Thomas, perhaps best known as a wrestler for his run in Ring of Honor, will use matrix evasions to transition into moves.

  • Lerdsila is a multiple-time Muay Thai world champion who’s known as the Eel on a Skateboard for how slippery and good at dodging he is, including crazy head movement to avoid strikes which sometimes has his torso leaning back almost parallel to the ground. His skill, athleticism, and reflexes are so good that he can use what would normally be an impractical move as an effective tactic.

    Video Games 
  • Pulled of by Thane if he's still alive to fight Kai Leng, in a particularly awesome confrontation between two assassins. Thane can't pull it off the second time, however.
  • In this trailer for League of Legends, Katarina and Master Yi engage in one, undercrank and all.
  • Dawn of War 2 opening. Performed by an Eldar Banshee to evade a fuckhueg chainsword.
  • The introduction of Chen Lian-Jiou in The Legend of Tian-ding have him sending his spear on the titular hero. Cue Tian-ding performing a spear limbo and throwing his head backwards while the spear misses his chin by an inch.
  • This is a standard dodge animation of trolls in Neverwinter Nights, both more justified than normal in that they can bend much farther backwards than humans, and less justified in that they may do this even if you're using a downwards slash that you can clearly see going right through them.
  • Sam Gideon does this in Vanquish when Robert Burns slices at him at the start of the game, Sam successfully limbo dodges thanks to his Powered Armour but also gets his cigarette cut in half in Slow Motion.
  • Performed by Geralt of Rivia when he's fighting with Letho in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has done this three times.
    • Aang in the "Blue Spirit" when two Fire Nation soldiers slice at him with polearms.
    • Zuko to Jet in "City of Walls and Secrets" — in a "Making Of" special, Bryan Konietzko and Sifu Kisu were doing a motion-reference for the Sword Fight between Jet and Zuko (Bryan was Jet, Kisu was Zuko) and they did this part in slow-mo (as in they physically did it very slow to show of the rate of time; Bryan even had a blade of grass in his mouth).
    • In season 3 episode 4, "Sokka's Master", Sokka is trying to run away from Master Piandao, but doesn’t notice when Piandao manages to get in front of him until it’s almost too late to react. Piandao sticks his sword out at the level of Sokka's face so that he’ll run right into it, and since it's too late for Sokka to stop his own momentum he bends over backwards and falls on his knees into a Tenacious D-style powerslide under Piandao's blade. We’re treated to a slow-motion shot from above as the blade passes right over Sokka's terrified face.
  • In Futurama: Bender's Big Score!, Hermes shows off his skills by literally limbo dancing under a sword. It's subverted when he gets his head severed by the other sword that was mounted on one of those sword/shield/wall mount thingies.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars, having Laser Blades as the main characters' primary weapons, indulges in this trope pretty much every time there's a lightsaber duel.