# Making Dual Wielding Possible-And Effective

Self-explanatory title, right? No? Dual wielding is a common theme in fiction, but according to research is way too impractical; two weapons get in the way of each other, striking with both blades is akin to punching with both fists, and attacking with two weapons isn't any more efficient speedwise. This is according to this TVtropes analysis.

I want to change that. In other words, I want to make dual wielding possible for my characters. I believe better coordination (to prevent both weapons hitting each other) and greater strength (to enable two swords to strike with the same power a sword would normally strike with) would be instrumental for accomplishing this. However, there are still problems here.

The idea is simple; wield two weapons, both with the same effectiveness as a skilled swordsman can wield just one sword. How can this best be realistically accomplished?

Specifications:

1. The methods used to ensure dual-wielding works should be biological, AKA bodily modification. The actual method of modification (genetic engineering, natural selection, mutagens) does not matter, as long as it is feasible that the desired modification can be obtained through realistically possible methods.

2. Preferably, the modifications used to make dual-wielding feasible will not drastically alter a person's appearance; stronger arms should be more muscular, that makes sense, but they shouldn't look inhuman due to their modification. (Especially since chimps are so freakishly strong, and they don't have arms like a bodybuilder....)

3. The dual-wielder's targets will be the same as other adventurers; not only other humans (highwaymen, for example), but also monsters like goblins, trolls, dragons, and shrieking death bats (vampire bats on steroids).

Please note: If there is a problem with the question, please let me know so I can clarify for you. I truly appreciate the answers and input I receive, so don't be shy.

• striking with both blades is akin to punching with both fists boxers fight using both hands, but you never see them hitting with both of them at the same time, do you? Dual wielding is not about hitting with two weapons; it's about using two tools as two parts for the same purpose; you could use one weapon to open the enemy defense and the other to strike, or one weapons for mid-range and the other for close-range. Sep 21, 2021 at 15:05
• Ever seen a boxer use only one fist? See also Miyamoto Musashi, the use of the main gauche in Renaissance swordfighting, sword & shield use among e.g. the Romans... Question is downvoted due to flawed assumptions and lack of basic research. (And I would not trust ANYTHING that's "TV".) Sep 21, 2021 at 16:39
• As a Historic European Martial Arts practitioner, I think that your question is asked from a place of inexperience, with some bad assumptions. Yes, some of these problems occur when you use double-longsword, but that's recognized as showboating. You can block and strike at the same time, such as using counter-thrusts and counter cutting. RPGs miss this a lot; Gaygax and Co were not fighters. Also, shields are weapons and therefore duel wielding. HEMA folks think of weapon systems, not weapons. Many clubs are all over and have intro classes: the HEMA Alliance can help you find one! Sep 21, 2021 at 18:52
• Not really an answer, but consider the praying mantis Sep 21, 2021 at 19:10
• Also as others mentioned - dual wielding pistols is ineffective. There are a number of other times that dual weapons can be effective. Sep 21, 2021 at 19:12

but according to research is way too impractical; two weapons get in the way of each other, striking with both blades is akin to punching with both fists, and attacking with two weapons isn't any more efficient speedwise

This is nonsense.

This is according to this TVtropes analysis.

This is not a particularly good source of information about fighting styles. There are plenty of other options, including the Book Of Five Rings which I linked in your last question on this subject.

The idea is simple; wield two weapons, both with the same effectiveness as a skilled swordsman can wield just one sword. How can this best be realistically accomplished?

I don't understand. Humans can already do this, and quite effectively. To perform a task as effectively with ones offhand as with ones main hand is challenging, but with enough training and practise there is no reason it isn't achievable for most people who'd be willing to put the time into it.

The methods used to ensure dual-wielding works should be biological, AKA bodily modification

This just isn't necessary.

I believe better coordination (to prevent both weapons hitting each other)

Oh do come on. People don't turn into absolute klutzes just by holding something in their off-hand! A bare minimum of training will prevent this happening.

and greater strength (to enable two swords to strike with the same power a sword would normally strike with)

Lets just note that people have historically used a long-and-short weapon because the short weapon can be used to do things that the long one cannot, not because they're too weak to use a sword in their offhand, but lets leave that for now.

Lets say you can hit with force X if you're holding a sword in one hand. If you put something in your other hand, you can still hit with force X, because that's how your arms work.

You won't be able to hit as hard as if you were holding a suitable sword in two hands at once (like the bastard sword), but consider what you're trying to accomplish here. A sword isn't a bludgeon... it slices and stabs, and uses a sharpened edge and tip to do so. Super strength might help against thick armour, but really: you should be using appropriate weaponry to defeat the armour, not just the same old stuff but swung harder. Use a mace, a pick, a warhammer, a halberd... whatever.

And as mentioned in your previous post, the issue with dual wielding is losing the defensive benefits of a shield, which is a pretty big deal.

• @Alendyias it would be great if you were able to see or speak to people who did some historical martial arts to get more of an in-person feel for how this kind of stuff works in practise. Not knowing where you are in the world, I wouldn't know where to point you in the right direction, but it might be worth some investigation. All the words in the world aren't a suitable substitute for seeing this stuff, or playing with the toys yourself! Sep 20, 2021 at 16:36
• @Alendyias there will be various medieval re-enactor groups about, but whether any are local to you is a question only you can answer. Another useful phrase you might want to search for is Historical European Martial Arts, or HEMA. The daishō that Musasahi was a fan off has no shortage of information on the net, but there are also traditions from elsewhere... the European parrying dagger or main gauche, for example, or Filipino escrima work with two sticks which has a reasonable amount of video footage about. Sep 20, 2021 at 16:50
• The problem with researching this topic is not the lack of information out there, but the heaps of misinformation. I know I've seen all sorts of sources saying duel-wielding is BS... but those sources are mostly the opinions of people who've spent a whole 5 minutes trying it out and then rage quitting, or people who've spent so long learning single sword fighting techniques that learning duel wielding is hard because it is so different than what they are used to. Sep 20, 2021 at 17:03
• "the issue with dual wielding is losing the defensive benefits of a shield"... which is itself a form of dual wielding, and just goes to the point you're making, which is that we're not nearly as bad at it as the OP thinks 🙂. Anyway, the key is that both devices (weapons, shields) are either used in an alternating fashion or in synchronization (e.g. blocking an attack with crossed swords). It's only trying to use them independently, I think, that someone would run into difficulties. Also, many people can play instruments using as many as four mallets at once... Sep 20, 2021 at 17:54
• @Matthew and in the case of something like a parvise or spiked targe, the shield may be a lethal weapon unto itself. Sep 20, 2021 at 18:13

## No Anatomical Changes Needed

A lot of sources say that duel wielding is not historically accurate, or practical, or even doable, but this is simply not true. What is true is that duel wielding was not historically useful on a battlefield, but from the gladiatorial fights of ancient Rome to the Judicial duels of the Medieval and Renaissance periods, it was not uncommon for masters of one-on-one combat to choose duel wielded weapons.

On a battlefield where combat effectiveness is determined by how well you synergize with the guys next to you, shields and polearms are king. When one guy fights with a spear and shield, he has to work extra hard to keep you in his threat area. But when a row of of people fight shoulder to shoulder with spears and shields, assaulting said formation without either having your own shield or even longer spear is pretty much suicide. This does not leave a whole lot of room for duel wielding.

However, in a one-on-one fight, a shield (without other shields to interlock with) can be readily turned aside with one weapon while you strike with the other. Or a long polearm can be parried (if done right) with one weapon as you strike with the second.

If you are creating a fantasy/adventurer type setting, duel wielding actually makes a lot of sense. An adventurer has to do a lot of traveling, often into wilderness with minimal logistical backing, and not enough companions to create a proper battlefield formation. Carrying shields and polearms in the wilderness is cumbersome because they are heavy and catch on branches, and they keep you from using your hands to manipulate your environment. In contrast, a pair of short swords or a side-sword and dagger are very light weight and can be sheathed much more out of the way.

Or if your character is just a guy who hangs out in the woods a lot, it is likely he has a small hand axe, a machete, and/or a general purpose knife. So, with nothing else on your person, drawing a hand-axe and machete to protect yourself with would not be unlikely. If you are attacked by a wild beast you can use one weapon to maintain distance, and the other to inflict harm.

Also, many military swords had very similar blade geometry to a machete and may have very well doubled as wilderness tools. Seax, kopis, falchions, messers, and bowies just to name a few. So, if you want to kind of combine a proper solider with a woodsman into a sort of official Ranger or wilderness scout type of person, then giving him a falchion and hand-axe to fight with makes a lot of sense.

So, if this is for an RPG for example, you can use the weapons and gear as a basis for modifying how well adventurers can travel through and even fight in certain areas. Because a duel wielding class never carries long heavy weapons, he will generally be able to travel and fight better in the wilderness than someone with one big weapon. And if one of his weapons give you a tool advantage as well, then all the better.

## Actual Combat Mechanics

Wield two weapons, both with the same effectiveness as a skilled swordsman can wield just one sword

You can not do this the way you are imagining. Duel wielding two swords perfectly is not about being as good as two skilled swordsmen. To fight with both weapons as though they were your main weapon does you no good because a skilled swordsman attacks using his whole body. He plants his feet, turns his core, and shifts his weight as he attacks. So, he can not commit his whole body to two slightly asynchronous attacks.

But there are other ways he can use two weapons together to increase his fighting ability well beyond just having one weapon. With a sword and shield, you have the ability to attack with one side and block on the other. With two weapons you can parry or bind on either side of your body while striking with the other giving you way more options to open up an attack. You also have way better visibility of your foe than when using a shield allowing you to be more proactive. And if you are smart about it, you are wielding 2 different weapons with different strengths and weaknesses. When you look at Italian Renaissance swordsmen for example, you often see a side-sword/dagger combo. This is because the longer side-sword gives you reach, but if your enemy tries to rush you and gets too close for your sword to work, you can instead stab him with your shorter dagger. Another example could be the use of a sicca/gladius combo. In some cases, a dimachaeri could use a curved sword to hook an enemy's shield and then the straight sword would be better at exploiting the gap.

All this considered, if you want to make a realistic duel wielding mechanic for a game, you should not get extra attacks, you should get easier and/or more powerful attacks. The simplest way to do it is to role both attacks and keep the better attack, or depending on how defense works in your system, the first attack maybe drops your opponent's defense score so that your second attack is much easier to land and does more damage.

• Please note that duel "one-on-one combat" and dual "twofold" are different words and they are completely unrelated. Their original Latin forms are duellum /duˈel.lum/ and dualis /duˈaːlis/ with very different pronunciations (short /e/ vs. long /aː/, geminated /ll/ vs. single /l/). (And if you think think that English is tricky, remember that in French the two words got to have the exact same form, so that one can, for example, speak of "un duel duel" meaning a twofold one-one-one combat, a dual duel. Sep 20, 2021 at 15:24
• Thanks for the clarification, I did not think about how confusing that title would be for non-native English users. Sep 20, 2021 at 15:26
• You might even count weapon+shield as dual wielding, as many shields make effective weapons themselves. Sep 20, 2021 at 21:41
• @Ryan_L I agree, as I commented elsewhere the parvise and spiked targe are very much both. However, there is a big difference and how you use a Shield, and how you use parrying dagger in your offhand, so when talking technique and practicality, it is worth it to categorize them differently. A shield is an area denial system. As long as you hold it in front of you somewhere, it is doing a lot to protect you. Other weapons used in the offhand will only protect you if you actively parry an enemy's attack with it. Sep 20, 2021 at 22:01
• @Nosajimiki +1 As a Historic European Martial arts practitioner, I actually study and do the things you referenced... Dual "longswords" was mostly showboating, but other weapon systems (off-hand shield, dagger, etc.) are fairly legitimate in their respective contexts (warfare, skirmishes, duelling). Also, I am a firm believer that shields are weapons. Why? Judicial duels / Dueling shields. Sep 21, 2021 at 18:35

Adding a bit of nuance to the excellent answer by @Starfish Prime - not only am I a developer, SF fan and aspiring author, I am also a black belt in a kung fu style which has multiple double weapons.

As such, I've spent years training in double daggers, butterfly knives and double sabres. I've also learned staff, spear and kwan do sets which are two-handed weapons - there are some crossovers.

So, yes it's practical but yes it also takes years of training. Something missed in the discussion is that many martial arts are symmetric in their empty hand approaches. You educate your neuromuscular system away from single-hand dominance. I can mouse but not write legibly with my left hand.

A second weapon often performs a blocking move but the role of which weapon is attacking switches between them fluidly. There's an excellent video showing this from a school in our style, in Germany.

In melee situations, some of the techniques are also about making people keep their distance. So there may not be a focused strike with both weapons but could be a cutting motion which makes it dangerous to close.

• +1 Good to hear the eastern-martial-arts approach to this. (As opposed to western/European Martial Arts) Sep 21, 2021 at 18:28
• Second the point about training the off hand. There are a great many things in life that require (nearly) equal dexterity in both hands - playing many musical instruments, for instance, or even typing on ordinary keyboard. Sep 22, 2021 at 5:42

I think the OP has few things wrong here, namely:

1. Dual wielding varied weapons (sword+dagger or even sword+shield) was done all the time.
2. dual wieldnig two identical weapons is mostly opportunity cost - if you used something different, you would give yourself more tactical options compared to identical pair.
3. you do not need more strength or coordination for better dual wieldnig, you can do it with ordinary human body... but a single, two handed sword can do so much more than a single onehanded. In RPG terms, we have single swords as dexterity based and two handed as strength based and it is completely reversed in real life. Instead two hander should be dex based weapon as it allows for way more "technical" attacks. That's because you use one hand for strength and other for rapid and unexpected direction changes.

You just can't get same mobility with single handed weapon. You can get closer with a weapon that has a saber hilt with thumb ring as it allow some of the finesse of using single two handed weapon, but in general the only way to get dual identical weapons work as effectively as single two handed is to have 4 arms.

• I assume by "single two-handed" you mean a sword? I was sparring with long staff (about 7ft) on Saturday & definitely more constrained than if I'd had two sabres. The video I linked in my answer has some great examples of combined blocking and striking with a lot more flexibility. Your dexterity argument also seems based around momentum. I agree there are some ways in which two-handed weapons can rapidly change (thinking more spear here as that's both light and two-handed). But, I think your "technical attacks" argument misses that two separate weapons can attack on 2 vectors. Sep 21, 2021 at 21:42
• "...two hander should be dex based..." - only some of them. If you're rocking a classic Claymore, Zweihänder or Ōdachi, STR is probably your dominant stat. Especially if your weapon of choice is a classic 14kg (30lb) Ōdachi... let's see a rogue swing that bad boy around. Sep 23, 2021 at 4:49
• @Corey, I consider Zweihanders and the like are more a polearm than sword. And I have hard time to believe 14kg sword could be used at all (IMHO it was forged as ceremonial blade or temple gift) as for ex. zweihanders were at most 4kg. Sep 23, 2021 at 10:19
• @AndyDent Yes, I meant sword. Spear is restricted in that you have the part below grip that restrict some techniques (while giving other options, obviously) as many moves would be blocked by wielders body. Besides, bastard sword (or proper stiff spershaft) can't be as easily pushed aside with single handed sword as elastic spear like in your video. Against a man with two sabers I assume typical method would be to first concentrate on attacking the hands while keeping safe distance or more risky, push aside one blade and thrust while still exposing only hands to counter Sep 23, 2021 at 10:35
• > "I have hard time to believe 14kg sword could be used at all" My Guan Dao weighs 12kg but most of the techniques have your hands either in the middle, when twirling, or spread on the shaft. Looking at the length of the Odachi handle, I can see it being usable but very different techniques. Sep 23, 2021 at 20:09

Human beings are relatively poor at giving peak competence to multiple separate activities. For example, we can't use our 2 eyes to track two totally different objects or events, anything like as well as one object or event. (Cross-reference for interest, chameleons whose eyes can - they are independent).

Note that also risks compromising depth perception. You need to address that, but that aspect is much easier to handwave.

Even if the eyes can, the brain is not really that great at tracking multiple things equally well. We can do it better with different types of thing - music and car navigation, or phone and writing down a message. But if say, you try and perfectly follow 2 highly technical compact (dense) high speed discussions/conversations, one in each ear, you'll easily see bow hard it is. We have to switch between them, and it doesnt work so well.

My guess is that however skilled humans can be with dual wielded weapons, it is greatly limited by those factors. We compensate by designing efficient fighting styles, and techniques that make it easier to manage both weapons (different roles for each, rapid alternating uses etc) and practice, but theres a fundamental biological issue going on.

I'd upgrade the sensory system and even more so the brain, to be better at managing 2 simultaneous completely separate tasks. (It doesn't require 2 egos, or personalities to exist, btw).

Update: Some kind of upgrade to the lung capacity, or oxygen bearing capacity of the bloodstream as well? Or, possibly much more useful, more efficient removal of metabolic byproducts from the bloodstream (lactic acid or whatever). Not related but surely useful.

• This is a great answer, almost exactly what I'm looking for, but with what genes would you upgrade these systems? Also, I'm also looking for a physical component, as a regular sword attack uses the entire body it is basically impossible to strike effectively with two swords, which is one of the problems I'm trying to solve. Sep 21, 2021 at 13:57
• 1) If you can work out the gene changes needed, that's Nobel prize material even 100 years from now. Don't go there, we literally don't have a fraction of the science to even begin to understand * how * to answer that question. It's a biological change,and the details are unstated. 2) A profound change to the neurological system would count as a physical change, for sure. 3) if you could give 100% focus and attention to each hand, and what it does, simultaneously and independently and perfectly, you would have probably solved the dual sword problem. Sep 21, 2021 at 16:24
• This is a decent argument why a 2-sword person can't fight 2 people on opposite sides, but coordinating both hands in one task which we can see seems common enough. After all, we can juggle, or touch-type with both hands, and learn boxing. Sep 21, 2021 at 16:54
• Add neurological and sensory changes to the biology, and you could. Or youd be immensely better Sep 21, 2021 at 16:57
• Humans can track two activities at once with a bit of training. But you sacrifice other senses. Generally speaking you often loose your awareness to your surroundings. I don't think it will be ideal in combat. This happens when you are operating machinery that you are unfamiliar so that you have to keep a portion of your brain to translate your decisions into actions. or planning while operating For instance, when I drive I can focus traffic and find my way around. But as soon as I start interacting with someone (talking) I loose my ability to find my way into somewhere I have not memorized. Sep 23, 2021 at 8:07

Intact humans have at minimum 4 limbs.

Setting aside eminently banal prior answers let us instead focus on the awesomeness. Clearly the way to achieve dual wielding is to press the lower extremities into service! In addition to the single weapon held in the hands, one could modify a shoe into a shoe-sword or shoe-scimitar; shoemitar for short. The shoemitar will be the dual wielded weapon. Being a body length below the weapon in the hand will provide distance such that dualduelers do not whack their weapons together (except menacingly, as an invitation to combat!). The shoemitar will be difficult to defend against by a singly-armed combatant without leaving the upper body open, and vice versa, and verse vica.

The success of the shoemitar will lead thought-leading fighting types to adopt a midbody mounted weapon - this will protrude midway between arms and legs and be manipulated using core muscles. This midbody groiñard will defend the defenseworthy midbody and combined with the armaments and legaments will provide an impenetrable offense.

It may be that the ensuing and most awesome arms, legs and groins race cause fighters to mount additional weapons to the forehead, chin, shoulder blades, heel (left), buttock (right), and buttock (left) in an attempt to intimidate woeful wouldbes armed with only a single puny weapon.

It sounds like you want the archtypical RPG barbarian, brandishing a longsword in each hand and using each with the same damage, accuracy, and attack rate of a regular single-wielding swordsman. You're not going to get this with any level of body modification simply due to physics. Most of the melee weapons you see in role-playing games use your body's momentum to power their blows. Your body's momentum can only be traveling in one direction at a time, so attacking two different targets necessarily requires you to reduce the amount of bodily inertia that goes into one weapon in order to empower the other. I use the term "body" here in the physics sense, meaning "an independent object that's in motion". Changing the shape or form of that body doesn't make a difference.

That doesn't mean dual-wielding is impossible, you just have to use the right tools for the job. Your character will be more effective if at least one of their weapons doesn't require the wielder's inertia. For example, two hand crossbows can be fired in quick succession without reloading in between. They propel themselves independently of your body's inertia and can be used with normal accuracy and damage (although reloading them at the same time could be tricky).

My cat essentially dual-wields karambit, and she has no problem swatting multiple people at the same time. Her weapons rely on the slashing/ripping power of sharp points against unarmored skin, thus being quite effective even when her momentum is moving away from the target. Some people can dual-wield whips quite effectively, as they rely on lever action and not bodily momentum.

You mentioned that punching with both fists isn't efficient, but that's not usually what actual martial artists do. They fight with both hands by blocking and deflecting, using one hand to disrupt an incoming attack and create an opening for the other hand to counter. The obvious way to do this with weapons is with a shield or buckler. You can also use a weapon like the sai. One can be used to "grab" an opponent's weapon, swing it wide to shift their arm and open up their torso, and the other then used to strike. Sais have the advantage of symmetry; you can block or strike with either hand. With a shield, blocking an attack on your weapon side can put your shield in a position that impedes your ability to attack. Weapons like the kama can be used to hook and tear down an opponent's shield, opening them up for an attack from your other hand.

In other words, it's all about understanding what the physics of dual-wielding does and does not allow you to do and then choosing your weapons and combat style accordingly. You will not be able to use just any two arbitrary weapons. Fighting "effectively" with two weapons shouldn't be judged based on damage or attack speed but on whether or not the enemy can be defeated. You might sacrifice the brute strength of using both hands on a heavy sword, but open up opportunities for new strategies or improve your defensive capabilities. Instead of bashing through the enemy's armor, you can lock up their weapon and deliver multiple attacks targeted at weak points before they can attack again. Your wide-swinging chain whips can attack your target while encouraging other enemies to stay out of melee range. Your main-gauche parries the blow and lets you safely move closer to the opponent, so close that his long blade is hard to strike with. None of these things mean that your weapons are less effective, only that they're effective in a different way.

• YES! Thank you, that was exactly what I had in mind! I've come to understand through the answers I've received that dual-wielding is a far different kettle of fish than I expected, but this...this was the final nail in the coffin. I'm still going to have dual-wielding in my book, but it will be much more realistic now. Sep 22, 2021 at 14:56

According to some researchers in in our mind we have one conscious process and one or more unconscious processes working in parallel. E.G. This parallelism might be exploited in some way.

Double wielding could be solved by training one arm to follow the movement of the other in an instinctive manner. There would be some drawbacks, apart from the fact that such training would take a lot of time, every single movement of one arm in combination with the other would have to be repeated many times, learning all possible movements would be impossible and the fighter would be limited to a set of moves, eventually they might become a little bit predictable.

As an alternative solution you need a very fast thinker, someone who is very fast in context switching as the only conscious process we have would have to keep track of both the hands at the same time. A juggler might be the answer.

• Great! Not exactly what I was looking for, but I do appreciate your realistic answer! I honestly didn't know about parallelism, or how it could help with dual wielding, so this is a fascinating idea. I have to ask, though, would mirror-moving swords like that be useful or effective? Sep 20, 2021 at 14:13
• @Alendyias If you want two conscious processes in the brain driving two arms independently you could consider Schizophrenic characters. Sep 20, 2021 at 14:16
• okay, but that's a mental illness, I'm uncomfortable portraying a character like that. Is there perhaps another way? I'm thinking something like how a chameleon can look in two different directions at once, and process information from both eyes.... Sep 20, 2021 at 14:23
• @Alendyias we don't know how the chameleon processes the information. The only logical alternative I see is a fast thinker, very fast in context switching. A juggler might do. I updated my answer. Sep 20, 2021 at 14:26
• @Alendyias A lot of people have Schizoid traits without being Schizophrenic. Kind of like Autism, Schizophrenia has a whole spectrum of ways it can manifest to the point that a lot of people are fully functioning members of society without ever being diagnosed or treated for it. You character could just be a little too paranoid, and a little too self aggrandizing, and still be on the spectrum. That said, research shows that Schizophrenics are actually worse at multitasking than neurotypical people. Sep 20, 2021 at 15:06

Probably a skilled sword or knife fighter can parry with one blade while thrusting with the other. Thrusting with both weapons with force would require the fighter to lean forward and use his legs to accelerate his body & thus the blades forward.