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So I have seen some fictional characters dual wield spears or would it be wielding twin spears? While it was done with Implausible fencing powers using polearms, I would like to know whether this has any real combat applications and what the merits and demerits of using two spears are.

I have seen games that allow the use of two spears like the Drang Twin Spears in Dark souls 3 and it seems to work pretty well. Thanks to what fighting style is lancer in using in Fate/zero?, I know that there is a real aspect of using twin spears since there was a 'style' revolving around using twin spears.

Now from my basic knowledge of weapons, I know that

  • Spears have a longer reach than swords giving the wielder an advantage

  • The shorter spear would probably be used for parrying against attacks since it has less reach.

  • The wielder would need to have excellent skill and conditioning to even use the two spears properly.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't this be kinda similar to using 2 batons albeit long ones? Then it'll be like playing whack-a-mole. $\endgroup$ – Planarian Jul 26 '16 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ Diarmuid Ua Duibhne of Irish mythology was the inspiration for Lancer. Despite using two spears, Diarmuid only used one at a time, paired with one of his legendary swords. $\endgroup$ – Kys Jul 26 '16 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ There are historical examples of warriors using two spears. Often one is used as a throwing spear, while the other is used in melee. One example is the Iklwa style that the Zulu used. $\endgroup$ – Kys Jul 26 '16 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ You would have to be extremely strong (like, superhuman strength) to use two spears effectively. $\endgroup$ – Wayne Werner Jul 26 '16 at 18:48

13 Answers 13

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One of the best things to consider when deciding what weapons to use is if there is any better option. You may be able to fight with dual spears, but if you consider what better options there are, then you quickly realize you're only limiting yourself.

Some other options:

  • Two-handed spear. With both hands, you can have greater control over a longer spear. With a longer and more agile spear, you can keep people further away from yourself. If you are using two one-handed spears, someone with a two-handed spear should be able to out-range you, and swat away your one-handed spears with their added power.

  • Spear and knife. If you have two spears, you're essentially doubling down on strengths and weaknesses. If someone gets past one spear, they've probably gotten past the other spear. In this case, it may help to use a knife. Knives are relatively short, which means they can be moved quickly without knocking into things. This way, you can parry with the knife without worrying about hitting into your spear, and if anyone gets past your spear you can easily stab them. It's also nice to know that if you're in an enclosed space, you have a way to attack someone who comes from behind.

  • Spear and shield. Shields are really useful. They're pretty much the only defense against arrows, and they let you close in on an enemy spearman without worrying so much about getting stabbed. With dual spears, you have to constantly worry about parrying, whereas with a shield you can focus more on attacking.

So these are three different options, all of which are much more well-known and battle-tested than dual spears. With enough training, you can use anything as a deadly weapon, but if you have better options, you might as well save yourself the time and train with those instead.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for lance and parrying dagger style, a Dark Souls classic $\endgroup$ – Kys Jul 26 '16 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ There was a video on using the twinspears and parrying dagger. I think it was a training room video by Praise the sun $\endgroup$ – Planarian Jul 26 '16 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ with metallic armors shield became useless until the came of crossbows which could penetrate both armors and shields. $\endgroup$ – άλεξ μιζέρια Jul 26 '16 at 15:24
  • $\begingroup$ Well, you can use spear for throwing, stabbing and as two handed weapon. For throwing, you can have multiple. For stabbing, this is best used with a shield otherwise your defense will really suffer. In general, this would be used in a group of soldiers (e.g. Romans were using a combination of spears, shields and swords). I am not really sure how would a person use a spear and a knife because a spear is very hard to use with one hand and holding a spear will affect your balance therefore you won't be able to use knife very well. $\endgroup$ – Sulthan Jul 26 '16 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ In short, if your opponent has a sword and a shield, he will use the shield to parry your spear and then it will be a sword against your dagger and the longer weapon will win the fight. $\endgroup$ – Sulthan Jul 26 '16 at 17:39
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There aren't a whole lot of merits to using two spears, in fact I can think of exactly two situations where it might be useful.

Negatives:

  • Spears are heavier than your standard one handed weapon (with the exception of the short spear)
  • Spears are long and hard to control with a single hand
  • Your weapons would be slow, you're moving more mass with a single hand/arm
  • Generally spears are used in formation, having two awkward weapons in formation... sorry buddy I didn't MEAN to stab you
  • Do I really need to keep going? I could probably think of more reasons...

Potential, yet still impractical use cases:

  • Gladiators. I could see a gladiator wielding two short spears being entertaining and potentially deadly...this is never going to be a common skill.

  • Stationary pike men. So...hypothetically you could have a formation of pike men each with two long spears/pikes/halberds. In a situation where they have good ground to do this you could maybe have them plant each pike in the ground on either side of them and hold each with one hand. This would double the spear points in the formation.

Admittedly this would also require the formation to spread out a bit as they would have to stand facing forward as opposed to sideways and there would need to be more space between those in the formation as the spears are on both sides instead of one. Spreading the formation means its not a true doubling of spear points in an area but I am pretty sure cavalry would still shy away.

Keep in mind this formation would be horribly susceptible to missile fire a single spear and a shield is still probably the more regular and reliable option.

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  • $\begingroup$ An additional theoretical advantage of your double-speared stationary pikemen is that, even though they would have to spread out, that also gives them a wider front. If they have to hold a specific pass/gate, or a gap in the rest of the lines, that could be an advantage. Additionally, if the story takes place in a period where armor has briefly made typical long-range weapons ineffective, but crossbows haven't been invented, the formation could have at least a reasonable chance of survival against missile fire. $\endgroup$ – Gryphon May 31 '18 at 22:59
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As someone who has fought both with and against spears, I'll weigh in that using paired spears actually loses you a lot of the benefits of a spear used in one or two hands.

A spear designed to be used in two hands can be much longer than one used in a single hand, meaning greater range, and in the majority of fights range is life. The second hand also greatly improves the handling of the spear, allowing you to make deft motions with the point to change thrust alignment or draw out enemy defenses; many of the fights I've lost against spearfighters have been due to a feinted thrust using the upper-hand point control to strike me where I'm not defending. The haft of the two-handed spear is also usable in a fight, and is a surprisingly effective defense and alternate weapon.

A single-handed spear loses many of the benefits of the two-handed version. It's no longer nearly as deft or fast as the two-handed spear, and can't be as long. It's also much more difficult to use the haft, as you can't lever it forward or support it like you can with two hands. Nevertheless, the single-handed spear has a niche role in conjunction with the shield, as shown by historical hoplites. The shield allows a fighter to nearly match the range and strength of the two-handed spear, as they can use their full body weight behind the spear and use the shield to cover the long recovery.

Trying to use a spear in either hand loses nearly any benefit. You can't feasibly devote your whole weight or reach to any strike as it both leaves you open while you recover, and means that your second attack will be very slow in coming. You can try to devote one hand to attack and one to defense (the most practical way of two-weapon fighting) but the weighting and construction of a spear doesn't lend itself to covering a line or to oppressing a weapon, so the defense aspect won't be very effective. Furthermore, on the offense, the one-handed spear isn't quick or versatile enough to take good advantage of the opportunities provided by its off-hand twin.

This isn't to say that twin spears is a style that's useless or impossible; it's simply overcomplicated compared to two-handed spear or spear and shield, and ineffective compared to equally complex styles such as paired swords, sword and cloak, sword and parrying dagger, and the like.

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There is a decent article on Brittanica about the historical use of spears as a weapon, although it only focuses on European development.

As a great man once said, "Shields are for hiding behind." Only slightly less famous is the commentary of edged weapons, "The pointy end goes into the other man."

The point (pun intended) is, spears are designed for mass use to stick the other guys before they can stick you. The Roman pilum was designed to bend on impact, preventing the enemy from tossing it back (with the nice bonus it snared any shields it stuck into).

Any modification of the haft of the spear to make it a more convenient single-handed weapon also reduce its effectiveness. It's just not a good design for single combat at melee range, unless you treat it as a pointy quarterstaff - in which case there's no way to effectively wield two of them, unless you have four hands and an ungodly amount of dexterity.

Many swords, by contrast with spears, are designed for one-handed operation (greatswords excepted). Even with rapiers, which are designed for the gentleman duellist, the Florentine style or brace of rapiers (dual wielding two full-size swords, as illustrated by Agrippa) requires significant training to be more than a death trap for the wielder.

Even in feudal Japan, it took until the 1600s for the advent of Miyamoto Musashi's quite radical Niten Ichi-ryū school of swordsmanship that introduced the idea of dual wielding katanas effectively.

Let's imagine for a moment you have two spears of moderate length, and you are an expert at using them together. You have all the pitfalls of Florentine, with none of the inbuilt safety mechanisms. If you parry with a single spear, there is no guard to stop a blade from sliding up and chopping off your fingers. If you catch your opponent's blade with both of them, you have no way to bind the blade with a single spear to return the second one to play. If your thrust is parried, there is no edge on the inside with which to cut. If you happen to fight someone with a shield, the best you can hope for is to stab their foot and so hope to manipulate an outcome that way. The spear by itself is not equipped for complex defense.

Video games and movies are wont to make us believe the fantastic (which I am all in favor of), but there is scant evidence dual wielding spears would be a winning combination. It is precisely these limitations that caused other permutations and the abandonment of the spear in its purest form for general use.

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I think that the core of your question is to find what differenciates a spear from a sword, considering that some swords can have a pretty long range (shorter than a phalanx spear, but still quite long, like the Shinwa Odachi). Looking at a shorter spear, it can compared to a standard sword.

So the real différence are, I think, in the mechanical properties of the two weapons : swords are generally much heavier, because of their steel core (even in the handle), but it makes them stronger too (which can be useful for parrying. Their solidity make them more usable in a two two-hand style, because the chances of breaking a sword while parrying is low. In the other hand, parrying with a spear has two disadvantages : due to its length, it is harder to manipulates quickly (length create moment of inertia) and it can break because of its relative fragility.

Beside, I can find two sword style fighting in history, but not two spears style...

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Won't work. Even short spears are fairly hard to manoeuvre with one hand. Due to their shape, the centre of gravity is about halfway along the shaft. Holding the spear there means you lose half your effective length. Holding it anywhere else means one end will drag, slowing you down.

The long length means a little movement goes a long way at the tip. As a consequence, there will be little force behind a one handed thrust unless the weight of the body is behind it. You thus can't use both spears together, other than in a double headed charge.

The shape also means you are completely exposed, since you can't use the vulnerable shaft to protect yourself. The comparatively thicker shaft of halberds and pikes needs both hands to support.

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It might make sense, but only if you used a shield as well.

While spears offer a fairly light weight option for striking an opponent from a distance, they're severely lacking as a defensive weapon. Because of this weakness, most single-handed spear or polearm wielders used a shield in their off-hand to protect themselves. An example of this would be the hoplomachus, a type of Roman gladiator who fought with a shield, a spear, and a short sword.

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In similar style, a person wielding two spears could carry a spear in their dominant hand and a second in their off hand, which would also bear a small shield or buckler. While the second spear wouldn't be as useful for one-on-one combat as something like the short sword of the hoplomachus, it would serve as a useful backup if the first spear were thrown or broken, while also allowing for opportune strikes as opposed to a secondary spear carried slung across the fighter's back.

It's likely that such a fighting style would be used by a group of people who lacked the technology to craft strong, lightweight swords out of steel. Compared to a sword, spears would suffer less wear than swords if made of a weaker bronze, iron, or stone material, while also being lighter in weight. Once a nation developed steel arms and armor, though, dual spear wielders would likely be replaced.

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Is it possible, yes. Is it practical, No.

As other answers mention, you are doubling down on strengths and weaknesses and using weapons in ways they weren't really designed to be used.

Spears are balanced a certain way so as to be thrown. If you were to rebalance it so it was more effectively swung in arcs, used to parry, etc., you've ruined it's ability to be thrown.

Using two spears, without redesigning them, would require not only a mastery of a unique technique but it would require massive upper body strength - even more so than mastery of a sword and shield. You would need a really good reason to master this kind of technique instead of going with something more conventional.

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In viking times, dual wielding was a common practice, the episode linked will show you a viking weapons specialist actually dual wielding spears and is very accurate and effective with them.

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    $\begingroup$ I assume you are referring to this line: "Two spears were also thrown at once, and were capable of the same severity of penetration." Generally speaking, I wouldn't put any more faith in Deadliest Warrior as a resource than my latest coin toss. $\endgroup$ – ReluctantRunemaker Jul 26 '16 at 18:22
  • $\begingroup$ @ReluctantRunemaker yes $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b Jul 26 '16 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ Throwing is different from using in melee to thrust, though. (I haven't watched the video; I'm basing this on the quote in the prior comment.) $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jul 27 '16 at 3:36
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If you look at ancient art the only time you see any one carrying two spears at a time is if they are carrying javelin, and are throwing them.

Looking at ancient art we see spears and shields being used together everywhere.

It is possible I guess to double wield spears, the fact that 2000+ years of history we do not see this occurring ever. While we do see a variety of other weapons double wielded or in combination with another weapon.

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I've fought with dual spears in foam combat, 6ft & 8ft. I'll start off saying that it WEARS you out and requires tons of strength. It's not actually that good, by itself, but it is intimidating at times and is good at pot shots. The one and only thing I was able to effectively do with it was keep 4-5 people at bay by myself because none of them wanted to get stabbed and I kept getting close to a stab, they could have rushed me and ran me over but they didn't.

It can be a bit effective in that you can stab in multiple spots all at once. Stab high on their shield to pop their shield a little and stab with your other spear. However the amount of control you have with each spear is horrible and can be swatted away easily or someone can just grab the shaft and have more control over it than you do. It's difficult to choke up on the spear so they can just charge you and get in close, but if you are good at baiting you could trick them then trip them with one spear and stab them as they fall with the other spear.

You really don't gain much using 2 long spears. You can do better with a 6ft spear and a ~4ft spear because you can use the 6ft spear for when they can't touch you and then when they get in close you can use your 6ft spear as a shield of sorts that can stab them if they forget about it while your 4ft spear keeps them busy. However if they have a short sword and a shield your in trouble. I really can't think of any good reason to use 2 spears, your better using a spear + sword, flail, or something to handle people who get close because 2 spears are unusable when they get too close.

One thing I have done that works decently is used a strap shield while holding a spear in that hand so I can defend with the shield or pop it open and use it as a spear while using a sword in the other hand. You keep them busy with the sword for a bit then SURPRISE STAB from the spear they forgot you had with your shield.

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  • $\begingroup$ Foam combat? Any sites that you can link me to? So from your experience, it's kinda a pokey pokey way of fighting? $\endgroup$ – Skye Aug 31 '16 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ dagorhir.com Yeah it is pretty much exclusively pokey. Though in real life you can stab people in the foot so you could keep people at bay with the 8ft and stab in foot with the 6ft. You could also keep going for the eyes and they back off REAL quick or smack it away with a sword. $\endgroup$ – Rujikin Dec 2 '16 at 15:09
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I would actually not take video games as a reference, especially not ones focusing on action.

Historically spears started out as mainly single handed weapons but in a much shorter fashion probably somewhere in Africa. As different cultures evolved them to be longer for the advantage of greater distance especially agains cavalry they also became harder to handle. For the right balance and accurate control infantry started using them with both hands. The single hand usability actually differs from the weapons length and balance. Greek hoplite used a long spear single handedly in combination with a shield as seen in the movie Troy. For a compromise between balance and protection their shields had an indentation to rest the spear on, basically as a weaker second hand to lower the negative effects of the single hand use but it was probably still less easily controllable.

I honestly do think the use of a long dual hand spear as a single hand weapon is anything but beneficial. Even the advantage of close distance combat with a dagger or short sword would probably not outweigh the loss of control of your main weapon. With the right shield that lowers the negative effects like explained earlier it can work but other than that, I'd rather take distance from such an approach.

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Two spears cannot be wielded effectively in a fight, because the effective use of one spear involves the wielder's whole body-- from the feet, through the legs, up to the torso and arms. The point of the spear is to keep your opponent away from you-- and to manipulate the pointy end from that distance requires strength to overcome the leverage. It's the same way a boxer starts their power punch from their feet and involves the musculature of their whole body.

One doesn't just stand there and slash with the spear-- in that case it would be a sword, a really long, heavy, ungainly sword. If you have two spears, one in each hand, your opponent can grab one and use their whole body to overpower you with its leverage, while you can only resist with the strength of one arm. Then you either drop the spear, or have it wrested away from you, and you're down to one spear.

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