When Michael Janich designed his first knife
for Spyderco nearly 20 years ago, most personal-defense knives had
traditional martial blade profiles, like spear points, Americanized
tantos, and variations on the Bowie theme. Janich's design—the
first-generation Ronin fixed blade—challenged that convention and
literally pioneered the concept of the "tactical Wharncliffe." Today,
Wharnie-style tactical knives are everywhere, but the roots of that
trend can be traced directly back to Janich's early designs—and
Spyderco's willingness to take a chance on them.
Ronin (literally "wave man" in Japanese, a term for a masterless
Samurai) actually began as a collaboration with custom knifemaker Mike
Snody. Janich had written an article on Snody's knives that became the
tipping point for him to become a full-time maker. As a gesture of
thanks, Snody invited Janich to design "the ultimate neck knife," which
he would make as a custom blade. Although Janich had designed other
knives previously, including the Tempest folder for the Masters of
Defense knife company, he was determined to approach the design process
from a fresh, empirical perspective.
He had already begun
incorporating a demonstration called "Pork Man" into his knife
self-defense courses to illustrate the cutting capability of small
knives. Pork Man—a hefty pork roast tied around a wooden dowel and
wrapped with multiple layers of plastic—not only demonstrated the
cutting power of typical carry knives, but it also quantified the
significant performance differences between different blade shapes.
determine which blade styles cut with the greatest effect, Janich
invested a small fortune in pork roasts, crafted an army of Pork Men,
and started cutting. To his surprise, of all the knives in his
collection, the ones that cut best were a pair of Frank
Centofante-designed "gentlemen's" folders from Spyderco with classic
Wharncliffe-style blades (the C25 and C50).
As Janich dug deeper,
he realized the secret of the Wharncliffe blades was their perfectly
straight edges cut with full power all the way to the point. Conversely,
the cutting power of blades with upward curving edges and lots of
"belly" diminishes near the point. The Wharncliffe’s needle-like point
also penetrates almost effortlessly during thrusts. Despite their
elegant demeanor, Wharncliffes are tactical cutting and thrusting
Armed with this knowledge, the Ronin design Janich
presented to Snody was pure Wharncliffe. Initially, Snody was not
thrilled with it and began to backpedal on his offer. When he finally
made one and cut with it, however, he was blown away. Ultimately, he not
only made a number of custom Ronins but shifted the course of his own
knife designs to focus heavily on Wharncliffe blades.
same time (1999), Spyderco founder Sal Glesser invited Janich to take
over as the instructor of the "Martial Blade Craft" program. Sal was
fresh from attending James Keating’s "Riddle of Steel" training camp and
wanted Spyderco to host a series of knife self-defense courses at our
headquarters in Golden. As the program gained steam, Sal also thought it
would be good for Janich to design a signature Spyderco knife that
reflected his system of knife tactics. Janich showed Sal the Ronin,
explained the logic behind it, and hammered the point home with the help
of Pork Man. Sal liked what he saw and the Spyderco Ronin was born.
that time, Spyderco's fixed blade market was still limited, so Sal also
asked Janich to design a folder as well. Janich had already been
working on a rough prototype of a folding tactical Wharncliffe, so he
quickly adapted the design to incorporate Spyderco’s Trademark Round
Hole and delivered a set of drawings and his own handmade plastic
concept model of the design. Although Sal liked the design, development
of it happened slowly, so Janich decided to "tip the scales" a bit. He
went back to Mike Snody and commissioned a special one-off of his
design, which he had named the Yojimbo (Japanese for "bodyguard"). Snody
gratefully made the knife, posted photos of it on the internet, and
mentioned that Spyderco might be working on a production version of it.
Spyderco Yojimbo followed shortly thereafter, in 2003. Manufactured in
Spyderco's Golden, CO factory, it featured a full-flat-ground CPM S30V
Wharncliffe blade, nested stainless steel liners, blue or black textured
G10 scales, and an early version of the Compression Lock mechanism. Its
three-inch blade was purposely shorter than its tapered handle because
Janich had originally designed it to be legal to carry on airplanes,
even during heightened security alerts. After 9/11, that design feature
was moot but still made the knife legal to carry almost everywhere.
many dismissed it as a "box cutter on steroids," the Yojimbo gained
more market traction than the Ronin. However, when Janich accepted a job
managing another knife company in 2004, both he and Spyderco decided to
remain friends, but discontinue the design.
Janich continued his
Wharncliffe campaign with several other designs until 2009 when he
joined Spyderco as a full-time employee. Although his duties focus
primarily on technical writing and product education, he soon joined
Spyderco's R&D team, as well. He was also invited to create another
signature design that reflected his philosophy on personal-defense
knives. Taking full advantage of the lessons he had learned since the
first Yojimbo, he designed the Yojimbo 2, which was released in late
The Yojimbo 2's more refined design—backed by Janich's
relentless promotion of the Wharncliffe as a tactical blade profile—have
helped it earn a solid place in Spyderco’s product line. Since it was
purpose-designed as a self-defense knife, the live-blade version was
joined by a dedicated trainer model in 2017. In an interesting example
of "reverse evolution"—and with the help of custom knifemaker Mickey
Yurco—the Yojimbo 2 also inspired a near-identical fixed-blade
counterpart, the Ronin 2.
Although tactically themed Wharncliffes
are commonplace these days, the evolution of this breed all started with
the efforts of Michael Janich, Spyderco, and the spirit of
collaboration and innovation that they have shared for more than 20
- Hand Orientation: Left/Right
- Tip Carry Position: Up/Down
- Blade Length: 3.20"
- Closed Length: 4.49"
- Overall Length: 7.69"
- Cutting Edge: 3.00"
- Blade Thickness: 0.145"
- Blade Material: CPM-S30V Stainless Steel
- Blade Style: Wharncliffe
- Blade Grind: Hollow
- Blade Finish: Satin
- Blade Edge: Plain
- Handle Material: G10
- Handle Colors: Black
- Locking Mechanism: Compression Lock
- Pocket Clip: Tip-Up/Down, Right/Left Carry
- Model Number: C85GP2
- Model Name: Yojimbo 2
- Weight: 4.1 oz.
- Designer: Michael Janich
- Made in the USA