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"Swords are made to return to their scabbards."
—Uesugi Kenshin describes this technique, Sengoku Basara Battle Heroes
Katanas Are Just Better. This is, as we all know, a simple truth of nature, as incontestable as the boiling point of water or that the Earth orbits the Sun. Only slightly less known is that a Quick Draw is pretty damned awesome in it's own way. If you find a person who is good at combining them, then you have an Iaijutsu Practitioner.
Iaijutsu is a catch-all name for several martial art schools that center on drawing and attacking with one move. The movesets often include multiple slashes, swiping the blade off, and the subsequent re-sheathing of the blade. Battoujutsu and Iaido are often used interchangeably with it, although the words have nuances in the Japanese language.
Anime and Manga
- The Hitokiri Battousai, Kenshin Himura. Although an all-around Master Swordsman, he earned the nickname "Battousai" by being just that good at battoujutsu. Not only does he go out of his way to resheath his weapon against (nearly) all of his substantial adversaries, the ultimate technique of his swordsfighting style is a battoujutsu which is so powerful that, if blocked, it creates a small vacuum in the air.
- Specifically, the first attack is meant to be blocked (though if it's not blocked, it's still lethal), but is so fast that it creates a vacuum that forcibly spins the defender around, allowing the attacker an easy kill on his back. Kenshin however, is a Technical Pacifist and uses a "reverse-blade sword" so that he won't cut anybody.
- Kenshin was an assassin rather than a soldier on the battlefield so it makes sense that he employs this style of combat.
- In the opening credits of Samurai Champloo, we see Jin practicing Iaijutsu.
- The series' Big Bad also gets a little of it in, but by and large he calmly draws his sword and lets his opponents due the same before fighting.
- Some of Zoro from One Piece's most powerful attacks are iaido, such as Shishi Sonson and Rashomon, the latter of which uses two swords.
- And later, this is clearly seen in the signature move of Brook, whose sword is so fast, it looks like Brook was just walking past the enemy, before they get all cut up when he stops walking. While humming. Although it is possible that it was the sword doing the humming just because it was being swung around so fast.
- Honoka from ~The Third: The Girl With the Blue Eye~ fights primarily with Iaijutsu, enhanced with Chi for more cutting power.
- Subverted in Bleach anime episodes 136-137. An arrancar named Patros always sheathes his sword after using it to send out a blast of power. He's just showing off his iajutsu skills, right? Nope. Urahara's mod souls figure out that he has to resheathe his sword after every blast in order to recharge it, and they render him helpless by preventing him from doing so.
- Played straight earlier in the Soul Society arc. Head-Captain Yamamoto prepares to battle Captains Kyoraku Shunsui and Ukitake Juushiro. In this case, it's a battle of who can do this first. Yamamoto wins and unleashes a Sword Beam which blows them back.
- Takamichi from Mahou Sensei Negima uses what is called "iaiken"; in other words, pulling his fist out of his pocket, attacking and putting it back so fast it looks like he's just standing there. And he can use it to create Fist Beams.
- Some duels in the manga version of Lone Wolf and Cub are between two of this type; which leads to several pages worth of Beat Panels as they wait for the most advantagious moment to draw.
- Kamui Den: Matsubayashi Kenpu. Kamui himself also counts: his signature "kasumi-giri" technique involves some unorthodox sword drawing
- In Claymore the Flash Sword and Wind Cutter techniques are similar examples of invisibly fast Spam Attack iaijutsu.
- In the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS special manga set some time after the StrikerS anime, Signum opens up her duel with Nanoha using this. There's also her Flying Dragon Flash technique, a variant that has her transforming her sword in the middle of the sword draw so it comes out as a flaming Whip Sword heading straight towards her opponent.
- Used in one of the strongest spells of Earth from Zatch Bell.
- Fürher King Bradley aka the homunculus Wrath from Fullmetal Alchemist can do it so fast you can't even see it.
- Goemon of Lupin III does this regularly.
- Mifune from Naruto is shown to be a master of Iai and fast enough with it to interrupt ninjas from forming hand-seals.
- Hanzo, one of the most powerful ninjas in the world even says that hand seals are pointless against Mifune beacuse he's so fast with that Quick Draw.
- Uneri Ginkaku from Katanagatari specializes in iaijutsu, which is enhanced by his demonic blade Namakura, allowing him to strike five times a second.
- In Dragon Ball, Yajirobe ends his fight with Cymbal by using iaijutsu.
- Vralgo Kentauri from The Five Star Stories is a respected iaido master, demonstrated most dramatically when he nearly kills a young King Colus III in a flashback scene.
- The villain Ikaruga from Fairy Tail combines this with Razor Wind to slash her opponents to pieces without taking a single step. She can draw and resheathe her sword so fast that even Erza can't follow it.
- Kanzaki Kaori from To Aru Majutsu no Index fakes iaido when performing her nanasen technique. While her opponent tries to track her drawing her sword, they are distracted from the real attack: Razor Wire that she controls like a marionette. She implies that her yuisen technique is iaido.
- Amidamaru and Yoh of Shaman King does something like this with the Shinkuu Buddha Giri technique in which they draw the Harusame so fast they create a projectile of razor sharp wind.
- Samurai Deeper Kyo has a variant called "hien ken" which crosses this trope with Blade Spam (draw sword and strike three times in an eyeblink). One of Kyo's early opponents is a practitioner, but Kyo beats him at his own game.
- In Winter War, Shirogane is an expert in iaido. She gives Isane a quick lesson in the basics- it doesn't make Isane an Instant Expert, but it does shake her out of her depression to the point where she can play a useful role in the battle.
- This is pretty much how Zatoichi uses his sword cane.
- Terry Tsurugi fights a guy who looks like a cross between Zatoichi and Frankenstein's Monster in The Street Fighter. He's blind and resheathes between strikes.
- You Only Live Twice. While James Bond is attending a ninja school we see a martial arts expert do a fast draw, pretend to slice up several students and then sheath his sword just as quickly.
- Being heavily inspired by Akira Kurosawa movies, it is no suprise that Obi-Wan shows this skill in the cantina scene in the first Star Wars movie, in what is in fact the first scene ever of a lightsabre used in combat. It is after all "an elegant weapon for a more civilized age".
- This is one of the special skills on offer in the Fighting Fantasy book Sword of the Samurai. It has the result that the player will automatically hit their opponent in the first round of combat and do 3 (rather than the usual 2) points of stamina damage.
- Star Wars Expanded Universe has Trakata, which is this style applied to lightsabers. Its point is to activate a lightsaber quickly when it's needed to deal an unblockable blow and then turn it off.
Live Action TV
- Genta Umemori, ShinkenGold of Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, mastered this way of fighting - self-taught with a Reverse Grip no less. The same goes for his counterpart Antonio of Power Rangers Samurai.
- It's taken Up to Eleven here: his quickdraw ability is such that by resheathing his sword after each strike, he is able to spam it, making a dozen strikes before he even appears to have done anything.
- In Heroes, Future Hiro is a Battoujutsu master.
- In Legend of the Five Rings, the Kakita family of the Crane is incredibly skilled at iaijutsu dueling; the family's namesake is widely considered the first Emerald Champion, and the position fills its vacancy through an iaijutsu dueling tournament.
- Duels between bushi in Rokugan almost always take the form of iaijutsu, mostly thanks to Crane Clan influence in Imperial culture. They're usually only to first blood, though--one has to have special dispensation from one's lord in order to have a full-blown Duel to the Death.
- Exalted has a fairly potent Terrestrial Martial Art that is basically focused around this sort of thing: Even Blade Style.
- Dungeons and Dragons
- 1st Edition Oriental Adventures had the Iaijutsu proficiency, which allowed automatic and instant drawing or sheathing of your weapon.
- 3.0 has the "Iaijutsu Focus" skill that gives you bonus damage when you strike after drawing your weapon but is only a class skill for some rather poor classes. As it has not been updated to 3.5, it is still officially legal there, thus leading to builds for the Factotum (a class that gets every skill as a class skill) that abuse it (such as by using an obscure weapon that can be sheathed freely)
- All Laser Blade wielding characters from Mega Man sheathe their weapons after every attack.
- Setsuka keeps a sword inside of her umbrella, and some iaijutsu-type moves. Also, Mitsurugi sheathes his sword when he enters his "Relic" stance, and from this stance can perform some of his most powerful moves.
- After IV, Setsuka moves to Istanbul and renames herself Neve. There she gives fighting lessons to orphans, includeing Sophita's Son Patrokloas, explaining why Alpha Patrokolos uses her fighting style (Though without the parasol and Japanese style swords)
- Uesugi Kenshin from Sengoku Basara (or Frost in Devil Kings). As if his personality wasn't cold enough, he's got an accompanying ice gimmick to drive the point home. And yes, his sworn enemy happens to be a boisterous fellow who, you guessed it, wears a lot of red.
- Matsu in the first game, due to sharing the same moveset with Kenshin before Divergent Character Evolution kicked in.
- And in the series' latest iteration, the new iaijutsu character in town is Ishida Mitsunari, who is so fast at drawing and re-sheathing his sword that the blade turns invisible for a moment. If he re-sheathes his sword at the end of his combo, it even adds in an extra hit. His demeanor also makes Kenshin look like a teddy bear.
- Gegaro, of Bushido Blade, has several iaijutsu-type moves.
- Ukyo Tachibana, of Samurai Shodown.
- Yumeji Kurokouchi, when he/she isn't Mega Manning other characters' techniques, fights with a carbon copy of Ukyo's iaijutsu style. According to canon, Yumeji trained under Ukyo's old master, resulting in the similarity.
- Another character from the series who uses such techniques is Yoshitora Tokugawa. His badassery is compounded by the fact that not only does he sheath his swords in between attacks, but he fights with seven of them at the same time.
- Muramasa: The Demon Blade has Quick Draw attacks: if you wait long enough before switching swords (the amount of time required can be reduced by collecting souls and possibly by getting hit a lot), their icons will flash and switching to another one will hit every enemy on the screen for large amounts of damage.
- Jin Kisaragi from Blaz Blue uses this style frequently.
- Samurai Warriors series offer us Mistuhide Akechi, a Samurai In Shining Armor who uses Iaijutsu with his katana for flash-slices, counterattacks and Razor Wind.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Link can learn the "Mortal Draw" technique.
- Hibiki from The Last Blade series fights using this style, even though her disposition is warm and cheerful (usually...).
- Moriya, from the same series, has a handful of special moves that require him to sheath his sword. While he's not a pure iaijutsu stylist, his character definitely fits the Blue Oni bill, complete with a Red Oni nemesis, so he deserves a spot on this list regardless.
- Ghi Yeghi, and to that extent all Parivirs, in Final Fantasy Tactics a 2.
- Takes the trope rather seriously in a sense, since the actual skill Parivirs can learn - which is aptly named the Iai Blow - is explained quite well in-game (specifically saying that the skill sheathes and draws the sword suddenly and quickly against the enemy), and has a chance to instantly kill your target, much in the same way a real-life practitioner of Iaijutsu would if done correctly.
- Vergil from Devil May Cry. While he has occasional stints with other weapons, his stylish trademark is the katana named Yamato, which he fights with using iaijutsu exclusively.
- In Devil May Cry 4, Dante uses iaijutsu himself when wielding Yamato. In one of the cutscenes, he slices a huge slab of stone, several hundred meters away from him.
- Citan in Xenogears after he's taken up arms again. He even makes a point to resheathe his sword with a large flourish.
- Especially impressive because he uses a Chinese Jian instead of a katana.
- Reiji's fighting style includes this in Namco X Capcom, and Saya's focuses very heavily on it. Slightly justified in that they both carry a weapon rack in one hand that holds swords of different lengths and elements (and in Reiji's case, a shotgun), and they tend to switch weapons between each strike.
- Johnny from the Guilty Gear series. An interesting example, in that his roguish, devil-may-care attitude is something of a direct opposite to the usual personality.
- Zhou Tai from the Dynasty Warriors series. While the speed of his slashes is something approximating what real people can do, he still goes out of his way to return the sword to its sheath in between attacks. Stranger still is the fact that the series takes place in feudal China (note: not Japan), but because there are only so many interesting weapon styles to spread out over a game renowned for Loads and Loads of Characters, iaijutsu gets in there anyway. And just for kicks, he's something of a quiet type.
- Kizami from Shinobi for the Play Station 2. Gets bonus points for being an Iaijutsu Master AND a blind swordsman.
- Kamui Tokinomiya from the Arcana Heart series fights with iaijutsu, obsessively resheathing her sword after every strike. Her persona is definitely reserved, but she also has a notable soft spot for anything cute and/or snuggly.
- Georg from Suikoden V is also an iaijutsu practitioner, sheathing his sword in between strikes. He's also a very reserved character, but his personality is unpacked and explored throughout the game as opposed to merely tacked on because it's a good match for iaijutsu guys.
- Georg is actually quite famous for this in-universe. It's said that he only draws his blade when he's sure that he can take the enemy down with one strike, earning him the nickname "Deathblow" Georg.
- Dias from Star Ocean the Second Story is one. Certainly of the Blue Oni type, he contrasts the other characters by his skills rarely doing more than one hit. His most comboish attack deals four hits, as opposed to the 10 of his counterparts. Unfortunately, this greatly decreases his usefulness in the endgame since his attacks have slow startup and his normal attack isn't affected by items that would normally make everyone's normal attacks his several times.
- Wild Arms 1 has Jack Van Burace, who specializes in the Fast/Quick Draw sword technique. While it isn't too obvious in the original, the Video Game Remake with its updated graphics makes it clear that it's the series' name for the Iaijutsu style.
- The Dissidia Final Fantasy games reference this with the equippable ability "Iai Strike", which has a small chance (about 1 or 2 percent, before any multipliers) of instantly putting your opponent into "Break Mode" (basically rendering them unable to inflict HP damage on you until they either land another HP strike or wait it out; in either case, their Bravery points return to their default number. It's a slightly tricky system.). Gilgamesh DOES have this ability as standard, but it involves him drawing Zantetsuken (out of 8 possible weapons) with an attack, which the player has no control over.
- Before Gilgamesh showed up in 012, Firion had this move in both games with his Swordslash Bravery Attack.
- Pokémon has the move Cut, which is known as Iai Cut in the Japanese versions.
- Lyn from Fire Emblem fights this way, resheathing her katana after every blow.
- Elazul from Legend of Mana has an exclusive special move based on this principle.
- In addition, one of the very first special moves you'll learn for the one-hand sword is the Iai Strike, which evidently involves hitting the enemy hard enough to knock them to the other side of the battlefield (you never really have a sheath).
- Final Fantasy V has Iainuki, the final power granted to Samurai. The move has them charge across the battlefield, presumably in a draw-and-re-sheath attack that attempts to slay all enemies instantly.
- Asbel of Tales of Graces fights primarily with his scabbard, only drawing for a quick combo before resheathing. His most powerful Hi-Ougi ends with a 20-hit split-second Blade Spam.
- Aden and Sonia from Rune Factory Tides of Destiny fights this way if you opt to use a katana instead of any other weapon.
- This forms the strong attack of the Iaito katana in Dark Souls.
- In Mortal Kombat 9, all sword-wielding characters will draw and replace them as part of combos, this is most apparent with Kenshi and Scorpion. It is subverted with Sub-Zero, who materialises and often shatters his ice weapons on the field.
- Willard H. Wright fights with some semblance of this in Ougon Musou Kyoku CROSS, in particular with his 214 Iai Strikes special.
- In Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Soma Cruz will do this with any katana-type weapon.
- In Eternal Fighter Zero, Mai Kawasumi is a master of this technique, drawing and attacking at lightning fast speed, and resheathing her sword after each strike. Fighting style-wise, she's pretty similar to Hibiki from The Last Blade, with shades of other iaijutsu practitioners inthe mix, such as Johnny and Baiken, for example.
- Dead Winter: In a dream sequence, Liz draws her sword and slices a leaping wolf-monster in one continuous motion.