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Weapon Twirling

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It's well known that when it comes to fictional fight scenes, what looks exciting and cool is far more important than what would be effective in real life. That's where Weapon Twirling comes in because spinning is spectacular. It's visually interesting and looks like it may be difficult to pull off, and is thus cool. It's also used when a character would otherwise be standing idly since someone just standing around with a weapon isn't as interesting as that person doing fancy tricks with that weapon.

In certain cases, some weapons have large rings or straps at the end of their handles, allowing the ability to spin or twirl their weapon much easier. The former is more common in short-bladed weapons such as knives or daggers (kunai and karambits are good examples) and for the latter it's more commonly seen with blunt weaponry (namely batons.)

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In some instances, spinning weapons are used to block projectiles, attack enemies, or create wind attacks.

If the weapon twirling is being used show off before an attack, probably with the intent to intimidate, it's also Intimidation Demonstration. Can also overlap with Unorthodox Sheathing.

Supertrope of Gun Twirling. Subtrope of Spectacular Spinning. Sister Trope to Fanning the Knives


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Soul Eater: Every single Meister in this series seems to love doing this. It may or may not aid with Soul Resonance or not, but it sure looks cool and eats up a few seconds of screen time. As Maka actually incorporates lots of this into her combat style, she is in fact sent into a brief Heroic BSOD when the Book of Eibon tries to use this to claim that if she (seemingly) cannot pull off the same moves with a regular broom, she is too weak to do anything but rely on Soul Eater.
  • Bleach:
    • The Third seat of squad 8 tries to intimidate Chad by spinning his sword rapidly as part of an "unbeatable sword technique" and just gets punched in the face for his efforts.
    • Just before Tousen unleashes bankai on Kenpachi, he walks forward, twirling his sword in his right hand.
    • Former squad 13 member Kaien Shiba's Shikai is activated by twirling his sword until it morphs into a large trident. then proceed to keep spinning said trident at a speed that he uses to smash his opponent with it.
  • Saruhiko in K likes to do this with his throwing knives.
    • Doumyouji is also fond of adding a few extra flourishes before sheathing his sword.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: Kenshin was once able to deflect fire being spat at him by an Elite Mook until the latter had to reload.
  • Snow White with the Red Hair: Obi tends to spin his throwing knives between his fingers when he's waiting for his allies or targets to reach his location.
  • Gate: Rory Mercury has this down to an art form—with an axe that's taller than she is, and heavy enough to hospitalize humans trying to lift it.
  • The titular heroine in Sailor Moon regularly uses weapons which she sometimes twirls before firing the actual attack, such as during Moon Healing Escalation and Moon Spiral Heart Attack. The egregious example is likely Starlight Honeymoon Therapy Kiss, where she telekinetically twirls her rod.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel's The Mighty Thor is very well-known for holding the leather strap of his mighty hammer Mjölnir and spinning it around. This serves a practical purpose however, as rapidly twirling Mjölnir has a variety of uses. From building up momentum to launch himself up in the air to fly over great distances akin to flight,note  increase the impact strength of his strikes to quickly dispatch sturdy foes or send large swathes of mooks flying, using his status as the god of thunder to create thunderstorms with the rapidly spinning Mjölnir and that's not the last bit.
  • The Disney comic "La cappa e la spada" has Goofy write a novel where one of the characters used to be a knight who loved to show off by twirling his swords (even lampshading that it's much more impressive than doing it with revolvers.) He stopped using physical weapons altogether after one stabbed his foot while in mid-twirl.
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    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Kung Fu Panda. Master Shifu twirls his chopsticks before his awesome fight with Po for the last dumpling.
  • Strange Magic: The Bog King does a lot of unnecessary showy staff twirling during his duel with Marianne. Probably because by the time he starts this, the two are quite flirtatious.
  • In Tangled, Rapunzel is justifiably pleased with herself after dispatching an intruder.
    Rapunzel: Too weak to handle myself out there, huh, Mother? Well, tell that to my frying pa—*clonk*

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Riddick does some fancy knife-twirling in The Chronicles of Riddick. Possibly a subversion of the usual usage of weapon twirling in fiction. Riddick picks up an unfamiliar knife, and proceeds to perform a complex twirl of the weapon while apparently studying it intently, then comments on what's wrong with the balance. The implication is he twirled it only to do a thorough check of the balance.
  • From the Shaw Brothers film, Life Gamble, the protagonist Yun-Xiang who favours using a curved silver dagger frequently twirls his dagger to taunt opponents.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Boromir twirls his sword a few times while waiting for the goblin horde to break into Balin's Tomb in Moria. Though, as the Real Life section points out, this is more likely a case of him stretching.
  • The infamous scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where a swordsman twirls a large scimitar to show off and Indy just shoots him.
  • The lightsaber fighting in much of the Star Wars prequel trilogy involves lots and lots of spinning. There's at least one portion in Obi-Wan's climactic duel with Anakin that has both of them standing next to each other, spinning their sabers for a good three seconds before they actually attack again.
    • It should be noted that most lightsaber combat is based on Japanese techniques, where the general better balance of weapons wielded by leaders (and therefore the type of people who were likely to write things down) encouraged a rather circular movement of the blade as being smoother to execute and harder to anticipate.
  • In The Force Awakens, a First Order Stormtrooper wields his riot control baton this way.
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, as well as many other wuxia films, have a ton of sword spinning for this very effect.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) has a scene where the turtles come across some Foot Clan soldiers. One starts twirling some nunchucks. Michaelangelo then twirls his nunchucks. Then the Foot twirls his more elaborately, and so does Mike. Finally, the Foot does a really elaborate twirl and then looks up in surprise - to see Mike spinning his nunchucks on top of his finger.
  • Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Max sticks a pistol in the face of The Collector, then shotguns off the fancy headdress of a mook who comes at him twirling twin knives. The mook slinks off with a pensive look and The Dragon moves in instead; Collector wisely signals everyone to back off until they can come to a more civilized arrangement.
  • Barbarella. The Black Queen has two knives that she twirls simultaneously after stabbing two men.
  • Tombstone has one of the best yet subtle ones of all time: Doc Holiday is pointing twin pistols at one of his enemies. Mind you, he is utterly shitfaced levels of drunk and this happens:
    Thug: The drunk piano player. You're so drunk you're probably seeing double. (he pulls his big knife out)
    Doc Holiday: I have two guns. (he twirls the pistols IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS SIMULTANEOUSLY and points them at the thug in perfect sync) One for each of ya.
    • There was an even better scene earlier when the best gunfighter of the villain's gang, Johnny Ringo, decides to show off with some fancy, quick pistol twirling to antagonize Doc Holiday. It goes on for quite some time. He finishes, then stares at Doc in challenge. Doc then calmly replicates Ringo's entire showoff routine perfectly...with his drinking cup. While making mocking faces at Ringo the whole time. Capped with "holstering" the cup when he's done. Ringo is understandably livid at being mocked in public so effectively and it's fuel to the fire with their eventual showdown in the climax.

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Buffy twirls a stake after dusting a particularly troublesome vampire in "The Freshman" and has been seen doing this frequently in other episodes. Spoofed in the promo for the aborted Buffy: The Animated Series where Buffy hits herself in the head while twirling her stake.
    • Dark Willow lifts the training weapons off Buffy's Wall of Weapons using her telekinetic powers. Before they fly at our heroes in a Flechette Storm, one of the axes and some of the knives twirl in mid-air.
    • In the spin-off series, Angel often does this when he's using an axe.
  • Whenever there are swords out on Merlin (2008), somebody twirls one at least once.
  • Leverage: Elliot twirls every single weapon he manages to get his hands on at least Once an Episode.
  • Game of Thrones:
  • House of the Dragon: Aemond Targaryen twirls his dagger he intended to use to cut an eye of Lucerys (his nephew) before putting it back in its scabbard upon Lord Borros Baratheon's refusal to have the blood of a messenger shed in his throne room.
  • CSI: NY:
    • In "Corporate Warriors," Mac twirls the katana he's testing while Lindsay observes. He did not do so with the other martial arts weapons he tested just before this, so possibly a case of stretching, a la the LoTR example above / Real Life section below.
    • In "Redemptio," Sheldon is caught up in a prison riot. Upon being introduced as a fellow inmate by one of them to a group of others holding the warden hostage, he is handed a billy club and is told to use it on the warden as revenge. He hesitates, then twirls it much the same as a sword fighter would do. Just as he starts to swing it for real, the first inmate stops him and convinces the group that they don't need to harm the warden any further, but to use him as leverage.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The one class in D&D 3.5 for whom the weapon twirling has an in-game effect is the Warblade. Warblades recover their spent maneuvers by spending a swift action and making an attack or full-attack action — or, if no opponent is within range, doing a weapon flourish.
    • Otherwise, it can certainly be used as part of the perform [weapon drill] skill or during an intimidation attempt.

    Video Games 
  • Star Wars:
    • Dark Forces Saga: The later games include some twirling of lightsabers. In Jedi Outcast it's mostly just the animations for activating or deactivating a lightsaber while standing still,note  but Jedi Academy incorporates a lot of spinning and twirling into the fighting styles for dual or double-bladed sabers.
    • Knights of the Old Republic: There's a "Flourish Weapon" ability mapped to a key, and can be used to spin blasters, swords, and lightsabers around dangerously. Including the double-bladed lightsabers.
    • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order: Pressing left on the D-Pad will activate Cal's lightsaber, but not before the handle does a few twirls in the palm of his hand. In this same fashion, when he exits combat and deactivates his lightsaber, Cal will occasionally twirl the handle rapidly before clipping it to his belt. There's no purpose to this, other than to look like a complete badass.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: Link twirls the Master Sword before sheathing it after every boss battle. Lampshaded in one fight when he does his victory sheathe, but then notices that the boss is still barely alive; after finishing it off he quickly returns the sword to its scabbard without showing off. note  Link also twirls his sword while L-Targeting as an Idle Animation.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Moblins holding a one-handed melee weapon such a sword will perform occasional flourishes with it when in combat, flicking it into the air and catching it again by the hilt before striking a blow.
  • Final Fantasy
    • Final Fantasy VII: Cloud does this as his victory dance, often with a sword that's as long as he is tall.
    • Final Fantasy IX: Zidane does this when he's equipped with double-edged swords.
  • Granblue Fantasy: The Berserker class will rapidly spin the currently equipped weapon when preparing a Charge Attack.
  • Kingdom Hearts: At the Coliseum, Sora will imitate the victory dances of Cloud and Squall, this is the result.
  • Chaos Rings II is rather fond of this trope.
    • Darwin twirls his sword before he sheathes it and before performing his first two Awakenings.
    • Orlando spins his machete-like swords after attacking.
    • Marie spins her staff after attacking and as part of her Awakenings.
  • Fire Emblem: Units in the games will often do this before scoring a Critical Hit.
    • Fire Emblem: Awakening: Chrom does this after felling an enemy.
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses: Claude will do this with his arrows in his idle animation if equipped with a bow. Similarly, Edelgard's axe animation has her twirl it behind her after any hit, critical or otherwise.
  • Persona 4: Yosuke does this while in battle and in the opening animation. It backfires when he nearly drops his dagger in both.
  • Kid Niki: Radical Ninja: Kid Niki attacks by spinning his sword in front of him.
  • Tales Series:
  • Dragon Age II: Mages frequently do this, with their combat having evolved from the simple point-and-click casting of the first game, into a full-body form of Wushu that turns their Blade on a Stick into a veritable font of destruction. Mage Hawke's Signature Move in cut-scenes is to repeatedly twirl their Staff, whilst summoning an inferno and roasting their enemies alive.
  • Team Fortress 2: The Spy and Scout do this a lot with their weapons. The Spy opens and closes his butterfly knife this way (or spins it around his finger if it isn't a butterfly knife), and the Scout flips his bat before grabbing it. He also does this with the Crit-a-Cola and Bonk! Energy Drink (it looks like he's spilling it everywhere, but it works just fine).
  • Aura Kingdom: The Ravager skill "Round and Round" weaponizes the spinning to deal continuous damage to all surrounding targets in a cyclone for three seconds as well as absorbing some of that damage to restore health.
  • Mystic Warriors has a Giant Mook wielding an equally enormous naginata that inexplicably develops a blade at each end when he twirls it.
  • Trails Series:
  • Metal Gear: Revolver Ocelot twirls his revolvers in impressive ways.
  • Dark Souls II: To show off his status as Climax Boss and strength, Velstadt the Royal Aegis does it with his giant (as in, bigger than you) two-handed hammer-slash-magic staff. With one hand.
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail: The Dust Storm technique, when performed on the ground, is a weaponized version of this, causing a ton of weak hits, sucking in nearby items, and powering up Fidget's otherwise incredibly pitiful magic attacks when they get caught in it.
  • Destiny: Cayde-6 twirls his pistol literally every time he pulls it out, to the point that it’s like a Character Tic for him.
  • Onimusha:
    • Onimusha 3: Demon Siege has Heihachi's Super Mode, where his spear turns red and he slowly walks forward, twirling the blade in ample circles before stopping.
    • Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams: The three-combo weapons for Tenkai involves essentially lots and lots of twirling as he walks forward, as well as his special technique "Awakening", where he twirls his weapon around himself while rotating his torso and forming a dome of spinning pain around himself.
  • cloudphobia: Players can twirl the Núllpunktur vibroblade indefinitely by holding down the fire button, which can be effective for dealing with weaker enemies.
  • Street Fighter: Ibuki does this with her kunai in her generic intro when she is on point after her partner is shown in Street Fighter X Tekken.
  • While running, Jack from Ghostrunner will occasionally twirl or spin his sword just to look cool. Heck, there's even a designated button that lets you twirl or juggle your weapon whenever you so desire.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Spinning a weapon between strikes helps maintain the momentum, which is particularly useful with heavier and/or slower-to-use weapons. It means you need to use less energy to launch an attack, the attack reaches the target quicker, and delivers more damage when it hits. The problem lies in gauging when you have time to spin the weapon, or whether you need to not spin in order to parry.
  • In fencing and sabre, spinning your sword is called a moulinet, and is used to move a parry to a circular cut, although you'll rarely see it used this way in fiction. It is also used to warm up before a match, which may be where creators got the idea.
  • Spinning your blade is a good stretch for your wrist and reminds you of the heft of your weapon. Also, looks good for the ladies.
  • A point of contention between various schools of Eskrima (a Filipino martial art). Some advocate twirling as an effective way of increasing a strike's power and getting around an opponent's defenses while others claim that it's needlessly flashy and a good way to lose your grip on your weapon.
  • In colorguard and winterguard, although not real weapons, will do this with wooden rifles, blunt sabres, and oddly shaped airblades, the three of are part of weapons (also called spinning, because calling it twirling makes them angry).
  • The Rajput weapon known as the Aara (or Urumi), is actually used exclusively by twirling, as it is basically the lovechild of a sword and giant whip (it is composed of a normal sword hilt and one or more multi-foot blades so flexible that the weapon is worn like a belt when not in use). The user twirls around in circles simply to keep track of the weapons forward momentum and not injure themselves (although this has the additional effect of being a 360 area-attack). Whoever created this weapon actually managed to out-Hollywood Hollywood. Not only does the weapon make a noise like a cross between a whipcrack and two cookie-sheets banging together whenever it strikes something, but watching someone who knows how to use it demonstrate just that is like a cross between watching someone do the same thing with a whip, and ribbon dancing. The result is actually far more awesome and badass-looking than anything Hollywood has ever dreamt up. However, not only was the weapon intended to shock-and-awe and bitch-slap rather than do real damage, but it may be the single hardest weapon to master in pre-gunpowder history. Watch a two-blade version in all its glory here.
  • Russian Cossack saber-dancing with the shaksha sword is quite spectacular to watch, especially when performed with two swords. Even if formal sword-teachers from other traditions sniffily talk about "moulinette" and "windmilling". Ksenia Rogers is a mistress of the art and can be seen here.

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