Cutlass Between the Teeth

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Even when gnawing the hilt of his sword, no sentence is a mouthful for Zoro.

"Yes, this lad'd seen the idea in a book, and he swung across into the other ship's rigging with his cutlass clenched, as you say, between his teeth. ... 'Topless Harry', we wrote on his coffin. ... I don't know if you've ever seen a soft-boiled egg after you've picked up your knife and sliced?"

Taking disregard for the old saying "Don't run with scissors" to a whole new level, the Cutlass Between the Teeth is the tendency for usually Badass characters to run around with the handle (or blade, if they're feeling really tough) of a sword or knife clenched between their teeth. Can have its uses, at most earning a free hand, but its true purpose is to make the character doing it look even cooler. One would think you'd only attempt this on something with a blade with an edge on just one side...

A frequent tactic of Pirates, who often need their hands free for swimming or climbing the rigging.

Rarely a Truth in Television as it takes much discipline and exercise to fight the gagging reflex down which inevitably comes into play when you've got something between your teeth, still breathe through your mouth and wont swallow the damn thing.(And considering how big sword hilts are your whole face would hurt too soon enough)

Compare Now That's Using Your Teeth.

Examples of Cutlass Between the Teeth include:

Anime and Manga

  • Kyuzo does this twice in Samurai 7. With two swords, it's easy to run out of hands.
  • The pirate-themed anime One Piece takes this to extremes. Roronoa Zoro, a bounty hunter who eventually becomes Luffy's swordsman, utilizes the powerful techniques of Santôryû, a fictional fighting style that involves wielding three swords, one in each hand and one in the mouth. Somehow, he can even talk while doing this: the creator said that it is his heart that allows him to speak.
    • Although in the FUNimation dub, his voice is muffled (albeit still quite coherent) when using it.
      • However in the original Japanese voice over he amusingly rolls his r's like a yankee with sword clenched in teeth. Now that's talent.
  • Psychotic priest Alexander Anderson does this in Hellsing though not by choice, as he had previously gotten his arms blown off by Alucard.
  • Just about every other promotional image for Naruto features the title character posing with a kunai in his mouth. Laughed at in this fanart.
    • A more extreme example takes place in the series' Land of Waves arc climax. Deprived of the use of his arms, a really pissed off Zabuza is able to plow through a bridge full of armed criminals to get at the Big Bad who tried to double cross him while armed with just a single kunai held in his mouth, whipping it around with his tongue whenever he needed to change direction. In the manga he even cut his target's head off.
    • Similarly, the mouth is just one of the improbably places Killer Bee holds his 7 swords. Note that none of the seven are actually in his hands.
  • Full Metal Panic! has the protagonist's Humongous Mecha Arbalest, which has a spare dagger stored on its "mouth", specifically designed to be evocative of a ninja holding a scroll between his teeth. Rather than a sheathe, however, the dagger is held by a pair of clamps which pop open when Sosuke needs it.
  • Kotarou of Mahou Sensei Negima does this with Asuna's BFS in the Magic World tournament. Not that he had much of a choice since he had transformed into his monster wolf form.
  • Roberta from Black Lagoon. What makes it so awesome is that she caught someone ELSE'S thrown knife between her teeth, then bit it in two.
    • Similarly, in Tekken the Motion Picture Tekken, Heihachi Mishima catches an axe flung at his face by Michelle Chang by biting onto the blade with such force it shatters. He then leaps down from the balcony to confront her, spits out a shard of metal, and tells her that if she wants revenge on him, she'll have to fight her way successfully through his tournament.
  • Samurai Champloo: Mugen puts his samurai sword between his teeth when climbing a cliff in Episode 16.
  • In the manga of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Jounouchi challenged in a fight with a bully with knives in both of their mouths in a narrow alley after the bully beat up Yugi and took his puzzle after losing to an arcade game against him.
  • In the Fullmetal Alchemist manga and the Brotherhood anime, Wrath gets his hands cut off and his sword broken into pieces, but still manages to catch the weapon's blade between his teeth and stab his enemy in the stomach with it before collapsing.
    • Ling also does this while picking up the injured Lan Fan
  • The five lions of GoLion (aka the Lion Voltron) all carried their swords in their mouth since, well, where else is a lion gonna carry a sword?
  • Dante in the first episode of Devil May Cry: The Animated Series has Ivory, one of his guns, in his mouth. Justified, as one hand was shooting with Ebony (his other gun), the other hand was filleting with his sword, and he's half-devil.
  • Guts from Berserk is not only big on using his teeth to stop enemy attacks, but he also uses them so that he may use his own weapons when his own two hands are incapable of doing so.
  • The ARX-7 Arbalest from Full Metal Panic! stores a spare monomolecular cutter in a special grip on its faceplate; Word of God is it was inspired by the image of a ninja holding a scroll between his teeth. However, the Arbalest only stores the blade like this, and will fight with it in hand like normal.
  • Crossbone Gundam combines this with Barehanded Blade Block and Humongous Mecha. The final duel between Kincaid and Zabine starts with their beam zanbers and, as they damage each others' weapons ends up with their heat daggers. In the final clash, Kincaid catches Zabine's knife in the X-1's "mouth",[1] while his own knife goes right into the X-2's cockpit. Bonus points, of course, for being a pirate-themed series.

Comic Books

  • Parodied in Mad Magazine: Tarzan swings in to save Jane from a crocodile, with a knife in his teeth. Later we see him in a doctor's office, with the knife embedded in his cheeks.
  • A similar joke was used in the Italian comic Sturmtruppen with a paratrooper ending up with the knife like that.


  • In the climax of Tod Browning's Freaks, the limbless Randian is seen wiggling through the mud after the antagonist with a knife in his teeth.
  • Jack Burton does this a few times in Big Trouble in Little China.
  • Will Turner duly sticks his knife between his teeth while climbing the rigging of a ship in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.
  • In Peter Pan, one of the pirates does this more or less all the time. After receiving a cannonball to the head, he bites through it.
  • Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas has the rare occurance of it being someone else's sword. During the opening fight, a soldier attacks Sinbad's first mate, who catches the blade in his teeth, then uses it to fling the man overboard.
  • In Lethal Weapon 4, Riggs climbs up ropes onto a smugglers' ship with his pistol held between his teeth.
  • In Tangled Maximus takes this to the next level by fighting Flynn with a sword held thusly (given that he had nothing resembling thumbs he could not hold it otherwise) and giving a better account than all of the human guards put together.
  • Muppet Treasure Island: Arrow when delivering Smollett's sword, because his hands are occupied by his own weapon and the rope he's swinging out with.


  • Parodied in Jingo, in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, when Commander Vimes suggests this trope for boarding an enemy vessel, the captain responds with the page quote above.
  • In The Hundredth Man, Carson Ryder is trying to swim to the other side of the Mobile River during a flood. He's had to cut the scabbard and his holster loose before, and he can't clench his knife in his teeth while swimming. So what does he do? He jams it into his thigh and keeps swimming. Fuck yeah.
  • There's a famous magazine cover by Kelly Freas for Murray Leinster's story "The Pirates of Ersatz" depicting a Space Pirate climbing aboard a rocket with a slide rule in his teeth. See it here.
  • Referenced in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when Raoul Duke describes a particularly bad trip in which you might see your grandmother climbing up your pantleg with a knife between her teeth.
  • Jesus in Revelation is described as having a sword in his mouth. It's likely the most mundane part of John's description.
  • Discussed in one of the later Amelia Peabody stories. Despite her skepticism, Amelia later expressed regret that she couldn't have a cutlass between her teeth when she boarded a hostile vessel ... but, "Ah, well, one cannot have everything."

"That has always struck me as an impractical procedure," I said. "One would have to have extremely hard teeth and strong jaw muscles, and even then an involuntary movement might easily result in the loss of teeth and jaw."

  • Referred to in Cheaper By the Dozen in the chapter about what it was like when a baby was born into the Gilbreth household.

So when Anne was born, in New York, Dad was not the least bit disappointed, because he'd known all along she would be a girl. It is doubtful if any father was ever more insane about an offspring. It was just as well that Anne was a girl. If she had been a boy, Dad might have toppled completely off the deep end, and run amok with a kris in his teeth.

  • Shows up in The Pyrates, of course. Most of the characters are too Genre Savvy to actually try it, except for Firebeard. Fortunately for him, he gets distracted trying to remember whether the sharp edge is supposed to face in or out.

Live Action TV

  • In the Lost episode "All the Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues", Kate climbs a tree with a knife between her teeth in order to cut Charlie down.
  • Kamen Rider Kiva features a particularly extreme example, with the eponymous hero's werewolf-themed Fragile Speedster form uses a fire-elemental Cutlass Between the Teeth slash as its Finishing Move. If that doesn't sound too extreme, you should also know that Kamen Rider costumes consist of full helmets, meaning Kiva's mask has to sprout a mouth just to perform its finisher.
  • Will Ferrell teaming up with Bear Grylls in Man vs. Wild puts his knife between his teeth for showing off while "watching the perimeter".

Real Life

  • From 1976-96, the helmet logo of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was a red-and-orange pirate with a dagger between his teeth. (Not to mention a really fabulous cavalier's hat with a big feather, a dashing pencil mustache and a big gold earring. What was their win-loss record during those years again?)

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons and Dragons has a weapon property called Mouthpick. It allows a creature with a bite attack to wield the weapon in its jaws instead of with its (possibly nonexistent) hands. As if beholders and dragons weren't bad enough, now they can stab you with their tongue.
  • An earlier edition of GURPS had a separate skill for "Fast-Draw Knife from Teeth".
  • The Conan d20 Role Playing Game gives this as a class ability to the Barbarian and - naturally - the Pirate.


  • A 1980s Broadway production of The Pirates of Penzance, available on DVD (and YouTube), parodies this: During his excellent "I Am" Song, the Pirate King (Kevin Kline) steals the conductor's baton and carries it onstage between his teeth. Other flashy-if-dangerously-stupid tricks are mocked by having the King implicitly cut his hand on his own blade...or maybe that's just to show he's not a very good pirate.

Video Games

Web Comics

  • In an early Freefall strip, Florence shows us her flashlight with a side-mounted handle, so that she can hold it in her mouth to keep her hands free.
    • There's an accessory for mini Mag-lites called a "Lite Bite" that serves the same purpose.

Western Animation

  • Similarly, in the first appearance of the Freedom Fighters on Avatar: The Last Airbender, Smellerbee is seen with one stolen sword in each hand and her own kuhkri in her mouth.
  • The old Disney Peter Pan had some fun with this by having a boy whack a pirate doing this on the head so hard, he bites clean through the blade before collapsing.
  • After the first bloodless sword fight scene that took place near the beginning of Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, one straggler mananges to get to his feet and make one last charge at Sinbad's first mate Kale. Not only is Kale able to catch the blade in his teeth, but is able to lift and heave the man over his head off the ship. All without so much as a scratch on his lip.
  • In a Samurai Jack episode featuring a group of kids collectively making up their own story about how Jack would beat Aku, this is attributed to him as he climbs Aku's tower. The Rule of Cool is all but explicitly invoked.
  1. Actually a heat vent in its faceplate