The Yojimbo 2: An expression of Michael Janich's Martial Blade Concepts (MBC) edged-weapon system in stainless steel and fibreglass laminate, and arguably the most well-known of Spyderco's non-Glesser designs. As popular as it is, there is a subset of the knife community that contends that the features that optimize the Yojimbo 2 as an aid in self-defence compromise its functionality as a more conventional work and everyday-carry cutting tool. Is this the case in actual use?
Before we set about answering that question, a quick aside. Yes, I know that evaluating the Yojimbo 2 as a work tool is sort of missing the point—the knife equivalent of judging a C8A2 carbine on its merits as a hunting rifle—but the overwhelming majority of my experience with the Yojimbo 2 is using it in a utility knife capacity. Can I offer comments relevant to the Yojimbo 2's original self-defence intent? Perhaps, but much of that commentary would be in the realm of the theoretical, of limited practical value, so we'll skip any talk of that here.
But I digress... on to the review!
The breadth and extent of my use of the Yojimbo 2 are as follows: I have been using the Yojimbo 2 for warehouse work for roughly one eight-hour shift per week for the past two years—it shares use-time with the rest of my work knife rotation—with perhaps a total of four or five missed months when it was edged out of the rotation by some new knife I wanted to try out. A knife is my primary hand tool at work. I employ one dozens, if not hundreds, of times per shift to cut pallet straps and tie-downs, break down cardboard, and slice through stretch wrap. I almost certainly use a folding knife to cut things more times in one workday than most people do in a week. I also frequently use the Yojimbo 2 as my “convenience cutter” (i.e., my “EDC”) outside of work. All in all, my impressions of the Yojimbo 2 have thus far been formed from about 800 hours of work carry and use and somewhere around 300 hours of “EDC-ing”, plus several hours of gym jackassery with the blunt-bladed trainer version.
The Yojimbo 2 is one of the most ergonomic folding knives I've ever handled, about on par with the Spyderco Introvert
in how easily it melts into my hand in the standard orientation (an important contextual note: I am right-hand dominant, wear small to medium-sized work gloves, and have fairly narrow fingers). I can hold it in my hand using the “Filipino grip”
with my eyes closed and know exactly where the tip and the cutting edge are. This is especially important to me from a safety perspective. When things get particularly hectic at work, a knife that functions like an extension of my hand lets me work fast without having to be excessively concerned about accidentally cutting or piercing things.
Despite its handle's rather unconventional appearance, I find the Yojimbo 2 to be very comfortable to hold and easy to manipulate when doing grip transitions. The indentation on the blade spine is a perfect landing spot for my thumb when holding the knife in my preferred grip. The handle is textured enough to provide a good amount of traction. The handle's scalloping and palm swell provide adequate grip security in both the forward grip and the less commonly used reverse grip but are subtle enough not to generate any hot spots. The handle is also sufficiently tall and thick to provide good contact area for my hand's thenar eminence, which greatly contributes to comfort during extended use. The sturdy Spyderco spoon clip does not generate any hot spots in the right-side, tip-up carry configuration and has just enough tension to keep the knife securely clipped to the pocket while not making it too difficult to take the knife in and out. The knife's Trademark Round Hole as well as the compression lock tab are easily accessed with the thumb, index finger, or middle finger, even when wearing work gloves.
I find the protrusion at the butt-end of the Yojimbo 2's handle, which is intended by designer Michael Janich to serve as a blunt impact and pain compliance feature on the closed knife, to also be very useful for applying pressure to break perforations and pop adhesive tape on cardboard boxes containing bagged product (because these boxes are packed to bursting, it is not a good idea to use any sort of blade to open them because one risks cutting into the bagged product inside). I also frequently use the closed Yojimbo 2 as a fist-loader of sorts, when I have to punch a box particularly hard to break stubborn or incomplete perforations.
At 113 grams (approximately 4 ounces), the Yojimbo 2 is heavier than all my other Spyderco folders with the exception of the Li'l Temperance 3 (which weighs roughly the same) and the Manix 2 (which is slightly heavier) but this does not bother me at all in a work knife. An extra ten, twenty, or thirty grams in the pocket isn't something I really notice when my trousers are already loaded down with a tool belt at work.
Designer Michael Janich touts the Yojimbo 2's Wharncliffe blade shape as providing the user with optimum leverage and consistent cutting power
along its 76 millimetre cutting edge. The Yojimbo 2's high hollow grind (coming down from 3.7 millimetre-thick blade stock) helps make easy work of cutting through thick cardboard and slashing through synthetic netting and pallet wrap. And when held at a near-perpendicular angle against a heavy-duty polyester pallet strap for a pull cut, the Yojimbo 2's full-length straight edge noticeably “grabs” the notoriously difficult-to-cut material better than a knife with a significant belly or up-swept tip held at the same angle, although obviously not as well as a serrated hawkbill (the Tasman Salt 2 in Spyder Edge would be my only work knife if all I had to cut at my job were heavy-duty polyester pallet straps).
Does the Yojimbo 2's Wharncliffe blade mean it isn't as well-suited for certain tasks as, say, a Para Military 2 or a Native 5? Of course! But instead of a compromise made in the pursuit of crafting a better weapon, I tend to think of the incorporation of an acutely-tipped, broad Wharncliffe blade in the Yojimbo 2's design as a prioritization of consistent cutting power through the entire length of the cutting edge over the ease of doing push cuts against a flat surface. Context matters, and the Yojimbo 2 is not a categorically better or worse knife than, say, a Stretch 2 with its drop point blade. It is just a knife with a different blade shape, with attributes that make certain cutting tasks a bit easier while making others a bit harder, something which can be said for any of the Spyderco knives that have time-tested and proven utility blade shapes.
As far as the Yojimbo 2's materials and build quality go, I have no complaints. The CPM-S30V blade is more than stainless enough for my purposes. I spend a good portion of each shift in freezing temperatures (–18ºC and below) and I have had no issues with staining or corrosion despite ice and condensation frequently finding their way onto and into the knife. On the matter of edge retention, I've only needed to touch up the blade on the Spyderco Sharpmaker a few times to keep it in working condition. I have little need for a hair-whittling edge for the work that I do and prefer a relatively stout edge that I am confident will not chip or roll when accidentally hitting a wooden pallet or a steel support beam at work, which happens more often than I would care to admit. The knife's overall build is rock-solid, with no blade play developing or any hardware coming loose over time despite some fairly hard use. Over the past two years, my Yojimbo 2 has maintained what I consider to be the best out-of-the-box detent and action among my small collection of compression lock knives which include a Li'l Native, a Para Military 2, a Para 3 Lightweight, and a Li'l Temperance 3. Note that I prefer a strong detent for safety reasons, and freely recognize that for many people, the Yojimbo 2's detent may be too strong.
A common criticism levied at the Yojimbo 2 is that it is “scary” or overly “tactical” in appearance and is thus more prone to garnering unwanted negative attention from coworkers and authorities. This is a legitimate concern for knife users in Canada and other places where the more nebulous concept of user intent determines the legality of carrying a knife in public, rather than blade length (although possession of certain classes of folding knives, such as balisongs and automatic knives, is outright illegal in Canada). On paper, this means that a person in Canada can legally carry a manually-operated folding knife in public as long as it is intended to be used as a tool—for work or general utility purposes—and not as a weapon
. I think this is a good, common sense knife law, in that it recognizes that it is the act of using the knife to threaten or actually harm another person that is illegal, and not the knife itself. However, this open-ended qualification for legal carry also allows for the hypothetical scenario where a knife's design may be used by the investigating authority to preemptively establish user intent. To wit: If a knife “looks like a weapon”, the investigating authority may conclude that the person carrying it is intending to use it as such. This is not something I spend too much time worrying about as it pertains to the Yojimbo 2 or any other knife for that matter, as how a constable interprets my intentions in carrying a manually operated folding knife in public is something beyond my direct control—all I can do is carry and use one in accordance with the law in the jurisdiction where I live.
Overall thoughts: With this review, I sought to address the notion that the design elements that optimize the Yojimbo 2 as a self-defence implement significantly compromise its functionality as a more conventional utility cutting tool. In considering how I've used the Yojimbo 2 over the past two years, I have come to the conclusion that this isn't the case at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. In particular, two key features that Michael Janich incorporated into the knife's design with the stated intention of making it a better aid for self-defence—the high hollow-ground Wharncliffe blade and the handle protrusion originally intended for striking and pain compliance techniques—also make it a very capable and versatile warehouse knife.