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Basically, holding the grip of a dagger, a sword, a katana or whatever so that the blade points the direction opposite to the thumb. Usually only done with single-edged blades.

In the TV Land, the Rule of Cool usually is the reason why the reverse grip is used, rather than practical considerations. First, that's how ninjas hold their katanas in Japanese movies. Not cool enough? Well, that's how the Semper-Fi marines do it with their knives, too. In short, Reverse Grip indicates a major Badass.

While rare for full-length blades, Reverse Grip is still common in Real Life knife fighting (essentially giving the user more leverage/power and making it easier to parry, at the cost of range). See this link for more details. It also provides a better way to block than standard grip. In fiction, Reverse Grip is used to show that a character is an experienced street fighter or hardened killer (indeed the grips are sometimes known as the "murderer's grip" or "slasher's grip" because of this). So if you see a Knife Nut face off against another and one of them holds the blade backwards, you know who's gonna win.

With full-length swords, Reverse Grip is most likely to be used while Dual-Wielding, and demonstrates that the character is really proficient with two blades. If the primary sword is held this way, it may also indicate the unwillingness of the wielder to hurt the opponent, since Reverse Grip is rather a defensive position more suited to block than to attack since it reduces the range of the weapon. On the other hand, it is also somewhat suited for slashing the enemy, especially, at stomach or throat level. This is often used on unaware targets or in passing. In that case, the message is clear: the guy doesn't want to fight you but push him too far and you'll be sorry. On the real-life side of the fence, it is occasionally taught in the form of kata for full-length swords and some schools teach it as a last ditch technique if one is surprised while sheathing the sword; in actual practice, however, this grip is very rare and not particularly effective.

See also Gangsta Style, this trope's equivalent with regards to guns[1].


Examples:

Anime and Manga

  • Many ninja in Naruto hold kunai in this position, generally for melee combat.
  • Kensei Muguruma of Bleach does this, most prominently in the chapters where Ichigo is battling his inner Hollow.
  • Alita/Falis from Murder Princess does the katana+wakizashi variety and switches from saber-grip to reverse-grip and back all the damn time with ease.
  • In Gekiganger 3 they used the Gekigan Sword this way against a ninja-like robot once.
  • Kadaj of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children does this with a double bladed (as in the blades are side-by-side) katana, despite the fact that this would be incredibly difficult in Real Life. He gets away with it, though, thanks to the Rule of Cool.
  • Kaku occasionally uses Reverse Grip Dual-Wielding on a pair of katana in One Piece. Also "Bohemian Knight" Doma who reverse-grips a saber in each hand. His fighting style seems to center around defeating opponents from behind him.
  • Caldina from Magic Knight Rayearth favors this style when she's not just manipulating her foes into offing themselves.
  • Leomon wields his sword reverse grip.
  • Integra Hellsing reveals just how badass she can be by facing an army of vampires holding her saber in a reverse grip. On a side note, Alexander Anderson who appears soon thereafter switches from reverse grip to normal and back with ease all the time.
  • Aoshi Shinomori from Rurouni Kenshin normally grips his kodachi the standard way, but will switch to a reverse grip for his Finishing Move.
    • Enishi Yukishiro reverse-grips his Chinese sword for his Finishing Move.
  • Kallen Kozuki and Li Xingke from Code Geass actually have their Humongous Mecha hold their blades this way.
  • This is the usual grip for Lupin the Third's Ishikawa Goemon.
  • Old Man Fuu, Ling Yao's manservant from Fullmetal Alchemist, wields his sword this way.
  • Take a look at the standard cover for Princess Mononoke. Either dude has the strongest wrists in the world, or things will become very unfortunate, very quickly.
  • Rival player Yuujirou Kai in The Prince of Tennis plays normal-grip right-handed at first, but reveals he is actually Reverse Grip LEFT-handed during his match with Kikumaru.
  • Shiki of Karano Kyoukai often switches her grip several times over the course of a fight, and at one point even throws her knife from a reverse grip.
  • Kureha from Tokko usually wields her twin daggers with a reverse grip.
  • Death the Kid from Soul Eater wields his dual pistols reversed. Yes, he pulls the trigger with his pinky.
  • In the Fate/stay night movie, Shirou switches to double reverse grip during his fight with Archer. It boosts his attacking speed and gets him under Archer's guard, then in a few moments he flips his right sword upright, then his left, until he finishes the fight. Truly, he is a combat genius.
  • Akira of Togainu no Chi holds his knife like this whenever he's fighting.

Comic Books

  • Cutter in Elf Quest uses his short curved sword New Moon in a reverse grip to slash his opponents. Panel 5 of this page from #15 of the original series (WARNING: violent battle scene) is the first time we see him use this technique.
    • Note that the manga Kamui No Ken (Dagger of Kamui) was a major influence on the artist, Cutter gets his technique straight from Kamui (which makes him some sort of elf-ninja).
  • The ninjas from Empowered also do it this way.

Film

  • This grip is favored by Zatoichi, which makes sense since it saves him the trouble of changing his grip on his walking stick.
  • John Preston absolutely owns everyone when he switches his katana(s) to Reverse Grip in Equilibrium.
    • It was only ever one Katana at a time, though he does manage to use a scabbard to lethal effect in his off-hand in one of the final scenes.
  • Bride vs Copperhead in Kill Bill, where the Bride uses the reverse grip. And wins.
  • Halle Berry in Die Another Day.
  • Both hero and villain hold their knives this way in the climactic fight of the film Under Siege.
  • Conan the Barbarian does this sometimes, usually as part of a combination, but only for an attack or two before he switches back.
  • In Dragonheart, Bowen briefly uses Dual-Wielding two broadswords, holding one in a reverse grip.
  • 12 Angry Men uses the trope as a point of contention between the jury. Allegedly the accused stabbed downwards into the victim using the reverse grip. However, one of the jurors who is from the slums points out that nobody who had experience in knife fights would ever use that grip with a switch blade as it is awkward, unwieldy, and dangerous for the user.
  • Colonel Quaritch holds a knife not only in reverse grip, but with the blade towards the arm, too. While in a three-meter-tall Powered Armour. I think it won't surprise anybody to say that he's a Badass of the first water.
  • In The Chronicles of Riddick, this is how the eponomous Anti-Hero holds his blades.
  • Per the below example,. Reverse Grip Dual-Wielding of lightsabers is actually seen briefly in the background in Attack of the Clones.
  • Used in Hero several times, both by the Nameless Hero and Broken Sword.
  • In Faster, The Rock's character wields an icepick against a man with a larger knife. Ironically, it's The Rock who flips his weapon into reverse grip.
  • This grip was also used by Mitsu in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, with a small dagger. Blink and you'll miss it, but it really helps cement the character.

Literature

  • There is a lightsaber combat style based on Reverse Grip in the Star Wars Expanded Universe called Shien (not to be confused with the Form V variant of the same name). It is seen, for example, in Stackpole's I, Jedi and used by several EU characters, including Adi Gallia, Galen Marek, and Ahsoka Tano. Vader might also be accomplished in this style, considering that he taught the latter two.
    • The style described in I, Jedi is a two-handed variant, with one hand on the grip and the other grasping the pommel, allowing the wielder to lever the blade around by its end using the grip hand as a fulcrum.
  • A key point raised by the dissenting juror in the play 12 Angry Men is that the accused was seen plunging a knife down into the victim's chest. The juror points out that the switchblade found on the accused is not held using that particular grip, but with the blade pointing upwards.
  • The knife technique of the Tanith First-And-Only has "the blade descending from the fist and tilted in towards [the] body".
  • In Wheel of Time, the sword form Heron Wading in the Rushes has the sword held reversed over the head, while standing on one leg. According to the main character's teacher, it's good for practicing balance and getting yourself killed.
  • In H. Beam Piper's Last Enemy, Verkan Vall picks a knife duel and blinks in astonishment when he notices his opponent using this style. After killing the fellow -- "Only eight seconds from the time you closed with him" -- Vall, who learned knife-fighting from pirates, remarks that he feels like a murderer of children; evidently Piper didn't think much of the Reverse Grip.
  • Abbie Hoffman, in a section of Steal This Book focusing on knives, advocates against using this grip:

  "Having seen too many Jim Bowies slash their way through walls of human flesh, they persist in carrying on this inane tradition. Overhead and uppercut slashes are a waste of energy and blade power. The correct method is to hold the knife in a natural, firm grip and jab straight ahead at waist level with the arm extending full length each time. This fencing style allows for the maximum reach of arm and blade. By concentrating the point of the knife directly at the target, you make defense against such an attack difficult."


Live Action TV

  • Frequently employed by Duncan McLeod in Highlander with his katana. Used at least once with a regular sword.
  • Richard does this quite often in Legend of the Seeker. In the books, he's occasionally mentioned as doing this with his off-hand dagger.
  • The Sixth Ranger in Samurai Sentai Shinkenger and Power Rangers Samurai combines this with iaido, the art of sheathing and unsheathing your sword for a fast strike. Awesome but Impractical, you say? Don't bet on it.
  • Masato Kusaka, Kamen Rider Kaixa of Kamen Rider Faiz does it mostly by necessity, since his sword blade extends from the butt of his gun. There are a few times he flips the weapon around and wields the sword in a normal grip (such as an instance where Takumi was incapacitated and Kusaka was preparing to murder him).
  • In Supernatural, Sam and Dean often hold electric torches like this, for reasons described in the "Real Life" section of this page.
  • In the third episode of Stargate SG-1, Carter fights the Space Mongol chieftain with her combat knife in a reverse grip.


Music

  • Richard and Roland of Sonic Syndicate occasionally held their microphones in reverse grip.

Tabletop Games

  • In GURPS: Martial Arts holding a weapon this way makes certain attacks more effective and others more difficult. It's most effective with knives and tonfas.
  • The Red Mantis Assassins in Pathfinder are noted as Dual-Wielding _both_ their serrated sabers in Reverse Grip, in emulation of mantis claws.

Video Games

  • Vader's apprentice does it in The Force Unleashed and Soul Calibur IV with a lightsaber. While still not wholly practical, this is probably one of the best opportunities to use it since it's uni-directional blade.
    • It's worth noting that when the apprentice actually attacks, he switches to a standard grip. Guess the lack of range just doesn't work for him.
  • Vyse in Skies of Arcadia using his Joke Weapon (icepick, with a Giant Tuna in his other hand).
    • Vyse always holds his smaller, second sword this way, probably for parrying. His primary sword is held normally.
  • Knife Nut Shiki in Tsukihime often does it when the situation gets dire.
    • It is usually the first sign that Nanaya is taking over.
  • Twin Blades in .hack//GU, as well as the original four games, always usually hold their blades like this; Sora from .hack//Sign averts this standard by using a pair of katara.
  • Ayame from Tenchu uses her daggers in this fashion. The prequel indicates that she started off using a reverse grip in one hand and a forward grip in the other before switching to a double-reverse grip later on.
  • Used in Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibouken, for the 'Avan Slash' attack and other based on it...Dai does this with knives, short swords and BFS alike.
  • Grey Fox of Metal Gear Solid holds his katana this way.
    • Snakes (as in Solid (Old) and Naked (Big Boss)) hold their CQC blades this way, but that makes sense as it's in their off hand and it's basically dual-wielding, but with a firearm in the strong hand. Big Boss actually talks about it in Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater when he's whittling the grip on his shiny new 1911.
  • Baiken in Guilty Gear does this with her katana (which is her main weapon -- she doesn't have an offhand weapon because she only has one arm, but she stuffs a lot of weapons in her other sleeve Inspector Gadget style). In her case, however, it's partly out of practicality and partly out of habit - she lost her right arm, which was most likely her dominant arm. Considering the weapons crammed into her right sleeve, a sheath there might get in the way, and so she wears it on the left, usually drawing it in a reverse grip because that would be the easiest way to draw it when the arm and sheath are on the same side. Of course, some of her fancier Rule of Cool steps in.
  • When playing for the Lotus Clan in Battle Realms, Blade Acolytes dual-wield their swords this way.
  • The Dragon dagger is the only weapon to be wielded that way in Runescape, all other daggers are wielded normally.
  • Most classes in Project Reality that aren't able to mount a bayonet on their main weapon will usually still carry a knife, and will often wield it this way when using it.
  • Krauser in Resident Evil 4 holds his knife this way. Justified as he's clearly had military service (U.S. SOCOM).
    • He also defies part of this trope in that, in his knife-fight with Leon (who usually uses a sabre grip), he didn't win. The fight was also something of a showcasing of various knife grips, seeing as they both switched from one grip to another so many times.
    • People who didn't start the series with part 4, however, may have noticed that Jill held her knife in a reverse grip in the original 1996 title.
  • In Diablo II, all dagger-class weapons are wielded in Reverse Grip, thus distinguishing them from swords.
  • In Final Fantasy XI, "katana" (which are actually ninja-to, kunai, and wakazashi) are always held like this. Naturally, the one class that gets skill in these weapons is Ninja, and it quickly gains access to Dual-Wielding capability.
  • Hawkeye from Seiken Densetsu 3 holds his two daggers this way.
  • Kid from Chrono Cross.
  • Fiora from Xenoblade. She holds her knives this way, paired with Dual-Wielding. Although she changes her Weapon of Choice after she is turned into a Robot Girl.
  • Jyuji Kabane from Gungrave: Overdose deserves a special mention as he dual-wields gun-katanas in Reverse Grip, thereby making him an automatic Badass. He also happens to be an undead, blind swordsman with a penchant for fire, but that's....
  • Knives in every Call of Duty game starting with Modern Warfare can only be used in this way - it may be interpreted that the reason for this is a quicker draw, since the knife may not be held out alone, unless paired with a pistol for the Tactical Knife attachment in MW2.
  • In Super Smash Bros Brawl, Pit can split his bow into two swords. He holds one normally, while the other is held like this in order to speed the reattaching process.
  • In Assassin's Creed Altair holds the short blade like this. Appropriately, the short blades are slightly better than long swords when surrounded by multiple enemies, drastically reducing the times needed to parry blows, dodge, and counterattack (the downside being less base damage).
    • His descendant Ezio Auditore follows in his footsteps with his own short blades. He actually draws and replaces them from his belt in a standard grip, then flips it over in the transition to his fighting stance.
  • In Final Fantasy XII, Judge Magister Gabranth holds the smaller of his two blades, Highway Star, in this manner when he splits his weapon in two. Which is odd, because the artwork (particularly the iconic logo) depicts him wielding both blades in a standard grip.
  • In Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep Ven wields his Keyblade like this, while his starting blade is designed with this in mind, with the grip on the side, all of his other blades are standard, straight Keyblades.
    • To say nothing of Saïx, who reverse-grips a frickin' claymore!
      • And in 358/2 Days's Mission mode, secret character Sora flips to a reverse grip for the last hit of his ground combo when wielding the Dream Sword.
  • The Spy from Team Fortress 2 uses standard grip when attacking normally, but switches to Reverse Grip when Back Stabbing.
  • Knife-wielders in the Fire Emblem games, or at least Sothe and Volke, appear to wield their knives this way in combat.
    • Though in Path of Radiance it appears to be limited to the Thief class, as Volke switches to a much more relaxed forward grip.
  • More Soul Calibur fun. Taki carried two ninjato into battle; her primary seemed to be held conventionally, while her secondary, on the rare occasion it's used, is held this way. In addition, in Soul Calibur 3 you could give the 'Wave Sword' skill set to a generic character; these were twin swords used normally that just curved around the wielder's hands like a basket hilt then continued downwards.
  • Samurai Shodown's Nakoruru seems to use this form often. It also applies to Cham Cham; even though it's a giant boomerang, when she holds it in paw and swings it, it's done this way. Starting with the 3rd game, Ukyo Tachibana holds his sword this way for several of his attacks, usually strong normal sword strikes. Sogetsu Kazama also uses it, mainly in his standing strong slash.
  • The Bard from The Bards Tale can learn to dual wield a sword with a dagger, holding the latter backwards.
  • The Crowmaster enemies in Prince of Persia: Warrior Within are seen wielding scimitars in a reverse grip.
    • The titular character in the Prince of Persia reboot shifts his scimitar into this position when in a defensive/blocking stance.
  • Garland wields his sword this way in Dissidia Final Fantasy. It makes sense considering that said sword probably weighs more than him, armour and all. There's no way even he could wield it the normal way.
  • Lancelot (or Shadow) does this in Sonic and the Black Knight, with a freaking sword that's as TALL AS HIMSELF. WITH ONE HAND.
  • Tatsumaru from Tenchu 2.
  • Nero from Devil May Cry 4 uses a RG for his launcher move, compared to Dante's standard grip. Dante also switches to RG when using his Drive shockwave move.
  • In Phantasy Star Online and Universe, all daggers are held with a reverse grip.
    • Rare ones, at least. The generic photon daggers have the blade come out the top, and actually circle around the knuckles so that they're effectively wielded reverse style.
  • In Dynasty Warriors 6, Gan Ning holds his two daggers with a reverse grip.
  • The SPARTANs from Halo Reach do this with their assassination knives. ALL the time. Even in midair.
  • Edge of Final Fantasy IV does this in the DS remake after you've input a command but before he's done it, as well as his artwork for The After Years
  • Fuuma from Sengoku Basara holds his ninja-to like this. The one time Sasuke is shown wielding a katana, he holds both the sword and its sheath this way, so he can effectively dual wield.
  • In Dragon Age II, "Reversed Grip" is an advanced Dual-Wielding technique (unlike in the first game, dual-wielding is only possible with daggers in part two).
  • Titus and Tactical Marines in Warhammer 40000 Space Marine use the reverse grip when wielding the Bolt Pistol and Combat Knife.
  • While Yosuke of Persona4 uses a standard grip with his weapons, he switches to reverse when summoning his persona.

Web Comics

  • Kit from Fey Winds holds one of her swords with a normal grip, and the other reversed.

Western Animation

  • Ahsoka Tano from The Clone Wars. Apparently it's better at deflecting blaster bolts. Anakin has been trying to break her of this habit, and she now switched between them.
    • Wookieepedia calls this the "Reverse Shien grip", a variation on Form V lightsaber combat.

Real Life

  • There is a similar distinction in table tennis: the shakehand grip is the "traditional" grip with the racket's "blade" above the thumb, and the penhold grip is the reverse with the racket's grip pointing upwards, as if it were a pen.
  • Police and other emergency and security workers are often taught to hold electric torches like this, as if you're suddenly assaulted it makes it easy to hit your assailant with the non-glowing, less easily damaged end (and torches used by such people are often very heavy and robust).
    • Many security guards are only allowed to carry flashlights and thusly choose the super heavy-duty 4-D cell Maglite.
    • Quite a few police departments, seeing the bad PR that night sticks were getting due to some highly publicized Police Brutality cases, got rid of the night sticks. And at the same time, acquired heavy flashlights that could be used as similarly to a night stick if needed.
    • It's also much more practical in a non-weapon sense. Holding your flashlight underhanded makes it easier to search into a window, a car, a tight space, or trying to look at something you're holding in your hand, like an ID card.
    • The underhanded grip is also ideal if you need to carry your firearm too, placing the flashlight arm underneath the shooting arm as a support for the weapon, and a brace to steady the beam of light, in a modified shooting stance.
      • The above cases hold the light end of a flashlight overhanded in order to wield the body as a weapon in a conventional, underhand grip. Some security officers may also use lighter, mid-size flashlights with the entire body in an overhand grip in order to grapple an assailant with the crook formed by the flashlight and forearm.
  • Some styles of Kung Fu, when using a short knife as a weapon, will teach students to use a backhanded grip. Most techniques from this grip are strikes or jabs with the pommel, rather than blade techniques; it's the defensive techniques that use the blade, and mostly for non-flashy disabling cuts. "Yeah, you're not using that arm without some serious surgery..." The stabbing motion with the backhand grip also uses the same action as the (karate) chop, which lends itself well to open-hand styles.
  • Parrying daggers are often used in this way. As the name suggests they're mostly for blocking the other guy's sword. And they often are more useful when held in a Reverse Grip because doing so decreases the strain on wrists (as the parrying weapon is supported with the entire arm this way), thus allowing for a firmer hold on the weapon when blocking.
  • Butcher knives are meant to be held this way.
  • A real life example in a "real life" category.
  • Both swords and daggers / combat knives operate mainly by punching holes into vital organs and arteries. Slashing and chopping attacks are much less deadly and more suited to axes and axe-like falchions. A sword with at least an arm's length allows one to impale another without being touched in return, so it is used in the forward grip maximizing the reach, while using the pommel and crossguard as a secondary weapon against the head up close. A dagger or knife doesn't work range, and the reverse grip is used to more easily reach the vital spots on the neck and chest in a brawl, as the forward grip results in much less deadly strikes to the gut and legs.
  • In kenjutsu and battoujutsu (which are martial arts, rather than sports like kendo), the katana is usually held like this when wielded one-handed, since one has more control. Even then, different motions are called for; the sword is moved in arcs or figure-8s rather than straight cuts, again to keep more control of the blade.
  • One defensive stance for a two-handed sword has the blade pointed down with the hands at about face-height; this allows for relatively quick strikes at the legs and due to the weight and balance of the blade allows for more efficient thrusts. (Instead of swinging the sword down to line up your thrust and then stopping the movement, you just relax and let the hilt drop towards you, and shove up and out. If you're going to be wielding a BFS for the duration of a battle, the more work gravity's doing for you the better.)

Notes

  1. with the difference that reverse grip can actually be a useful technique
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