Two people are in 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" 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, though it isn't unusual for a Weak, but Skilled player to take this route. 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, and Once Killed a Man with a Noodle Implement, where a character brags about or is rumored to have fought someone with an improbable weapon. See also Improvised Weapon.
- 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: The 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.
- Tenjho 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.
- Dragon Ball Z: After Future Trunks kills Frieza by slicing him into little pieces, King Cold believes that his Cool Sword is the source of his power and asks to take a look at it... before trying to kill Trunks with it. He's proven wrong; without the sword, Trunks kills Cold with even less effort than it took him to kill Frieza.
Trunks: So much for your theory. You should know that a weapon doesn't make the man.
- In Tokyo Ghoul, Arima is rumored to have once killed a ghoul with an umbrella. When asked if the story actually happened, Arima merely explains that IXA was still being repaired at the time.
- Shigure Kousaka from Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, has done this multiple times. The first time is during her first training session with Kenichi. Miu gives them both small spoons for safety reason. As she proves her skill by cutting both Miu and Kenichi's clothes as well as the latter's spoon. Later on, she faces the Valkyries and pulls a similar feat with a wooden spoon.
- Used and lampshaded in Naruto Sasuke is able to break Itachi's Genjutsu despite Itachi having the superior Sharingan. Zetsu states that this shouldn't have been the case. His other half tells him that the effectiveness of a weapon depends on how it is used.
- A similar instance occurs during Sasuke's battle with Danzo. He manages to win and Tobi explains to the dying leader that while Sasuke's jutsu was incredibly weak and nowhere near as refined as Itachi's, the way he used it (Basically making Danzo think he could take one more hit and instantly recover from the damage when in reality he had used up all of his eyes) granted him the victory.
- Sword Art Online:
- For the majority of the Fairy Dance arc, Kirito had very low level gear, but is able to perform incredible feats like one-shotting enemy players, including holding his own in a duel against Eugene, the World's Best Warrior, and essentially beating him.
- He pulls this off masterfully during his final duel with Sugou/Oberon in the Fairy Dance arc. Using Kayaba's admin privileges, Kirito summons Excalibur, the Infinity +1 Sword of ALO, and gives it to Sugou before choosing to use his own sword. For all of his bravado, Sugou has no combat experience whatsoever; even with the strongest weapon in the game, he fails to land a single hit on Kirito, who literally tears him apart in mere seconds.
- Shāng Bù Huàn\Shō Fu Kan from Thunderbolt Fantasy uses a wooden sword painted to look like a normal sword. However because of the massive amounts Life Energy he channeled into the sword it was just as, if not even more, effective than an actual steel blade. This is revealed towards the end of the first season when he picks up a random twig or branch from the ground and fights just as effectively with it as he did with original "sword".
- I Couldn't Become a Hero, So I Reluctantly Decided to Get a Job: Late in the series, Raul grabs a 1-ft ruler in self defense and treats it like a shortblade. He manages to school two adventurers.
- Gamaran has Iori teaching Gama a lesson on humilty by giving him his own sword and challenging him to a duel with his own empty scabbard. He then proceeds to counter the latter's technique and take him down in one attack.
- 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 probably killed a guy with it. This includes arrows, guns, ballpoint pens, shards of glass, bits of his own broken teeth, etc...
- This is the reason why Catwoman chose a weapon as unintuitive and user-unfriendly as a whip; without substantial practice, anyone attempting to use one puts themselves at a disadvantage, and she wanted something that would not be a liability if she was disarmed.
- 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
- Seven Samurai does this with a duel; two samurai duel with wooden sticks, and after they execute a simultaneous cut, one declares a draw. The second says no; if that sword were real, the first man would be dead. Out of anger and a stunning lack of sense (he thinks it will be a Mutual Kill, after all!), the first man picks up his katana. So does the second. The duel is repeated - only this time, the second man turns ever-so-slightly off the midline. It doesn't seem like this trope until one realizes all the onlookers knew the first man was completely outclassed just from watching the stick duel.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Two The Secret Of The Ooze: In the opening, when fighting a group of thugs, the turtles decide to not use their actual weapons and instead improvise in order to make the fight more challenging. Michelangelo winds up grabbing a string of sausages in place of his nunchucks, while Donatello uses a mop (which is possibly cheating since it's basically no different from his staff except for having a little bit extra on the end).
- 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.
- Subverted in The Wheel of Time: Mat defeats a pair of very skilled swordsmen with a quarterstaff in two on one combat. While the swordsman think it is this trope, their master points out that the greatest swordsman in history was defeated only once, by a farmer with a quarterstaff. This is Truth in Television: staff-based weapons are the most effective personal weapon in general, which is why most historical armies primarily used spears or halberds rather than swords.
- 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.
- Technically, the concept of "Reinforcement" within the Nasuverse (especially as employed in the sequel story to Fate/Zero, Fate/stay night) allows any mage to do this: as long as you know the fundamentals of 1) deploying magic through any part of your body and 2) the basic structure of every single matter, you can make even a rolled-up poster as hard as a staff or a sword—as protagonist Shirou Emiya does in the beginning. This, together with his innate capacity for Projection, becomes the basis of his Reality Marble, Unlimited Blade Works.
- In Kings Dark Tidings by Kel Kade, this trope idea is spelled out very literally in Rule 233 of the Strikers, which states that you are the weapon. Simply put, it refers to the fact that weapons are used to make one more effective, but should never be depended upon to do so. Exemplified after Rezkin beats a large number of assassins in the Gauntlet without drawing his own weapons or taking a life, as stated to the Grandmaster assassin.
- 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 had also played Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers, which gave us the previous example.
- Later, the Doctor claims (and judging by the enthusiastic response of the crowd, this actually happened) that he won a broadsword match with a daffodil. As he notes later in that story:
The Doctor: I'm the Doctor, just accept it.
- Later, the Doctor claims (and judging by the enthusiastic response of the crowd, this actually happened) that he won a broadsword match with a daffodil. As he notes later in that story:
- 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.
- Unknown Armies sorta does this trope with its melee weapons list. See, its list is three questions: Is it big? Is it hefty? Is it sharp? Each yes means the weapon grants +3 damage in a game where an attack doing 6 damage is a big deal. As a consequence, whomping someone with a ridiculous object is as effective as a real weapon as long as the object meets some of those criteria; an office chair (big, hefty) is as effective as a baseball bat (same) and a large plush bear would be as effective as a knife (one's big, one's sharp). Furthermore, these would all tie to the same skill, Struggle, so a very skilled fighter will mop the floor with someone less talented even armed with something absurd.
- Pathfinder: Monks of the Empty Hand use Ki Manipulation to wield Improvised Weapons with preternatural skill and power, even in ways that are completely nonsensical for the objects at hand. A sufficiently powerful monk can literally slice someone's head off with a pillow.
- 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 chickens foot, a spatula, and a fishing rod. Riot game Lampshades the trope in character's joke: "Imagine if I had a real weapon!"
- A somewhat bloodier-than-usual variant is possible in Way of the Samurai 3 due to the Single-Stroke Battle game-mechanic. A correctly-executed counterattack can instakill any Mook, and if your timing is good enough, you can then proceed to do the same to any other nearby enemies. This means that, with the right skills (both for the character and the player), you can equip yourself with a random stick you picked up off the ground, and proceed to carve your way through an army of katana-wielding Samurai or bandits...
- In at least one Assassin's Creed game, you have the option of picking up a broom if you knock it from the hand of a random guy sweeping the streets. It's wielded like a sword, and does very little damage... but it can still be used for instakill counterattacks, once again enabling you to dispose of a horde of armed guards with a simple stick, just to show off your supreme skills.
- Kill Six Billion Demons: Taken to its logical conclusion. The greatest swordsmen don't need swords at all. They can cut through entire armies with nothing but their will alone. Auntie Maya, the greatest swordswoman the multiverse has ever seen, only drew a sword once over the course of the comic—to fight an angel, which is described as a living nuclear explosion trained in millennia-old martial arts. The sword she drew was a broken hilt with maybe an inch of blade left. She used the edge it didnt have to cut the angel in half with a single stroke, which continued on to cut through everything behind the angel, and everything behind that...
Proverb: Beware the swordsman who carries no blade.
- Accented Cinema discusses this trope in his video "Why are Chinese Swords not as Famous", and considers this trope's prevalence in Chinese culture to be a major reason. While legendary swords exist in Chinese mythology as with other parts of the world, "a swordsman's skill is often far more important than the weapon"; while "you can recognize someone through" their Weapon of Choice, "at the end, it's just a sharp piece of metal" in the context of Chinese works.
- Samurai Jack's title character once had to indulge a Fake Ultimate Hero "Sa-mu-rai" in a duel. Not wanting to actually hurt the idiot, he insisted on a duel with bamboo stalks first, and managed to strip him naked with zero effort. He then dealt with an actual threat (a hundred robot assassins with scimitar-arms), still using the stick.
- In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "There's a Batman in my Basement," when the Penguin draws his umbrella sword, Batman (still injured) picks up a screwdriver.