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When someone wants to show off how skilled they are with a weapon, martial arts, acrobatics, or just plain strength, they will do some sort of flashy movement to display their skills, such as juggling knives, twirling a sword, swinging their nunchucks, flexing their pecs, bending a metal pipe, or kicking and punching while doing flips. This is very common in fighting games and martial arts movies, as characters will want to appear Badass by doing some unnecessary cool moves before they fight.
Another variant is simply a demonstration of firepower and/or military capability. In Real Life, this is a common diplomatic tool—if you want to intimidate a country, conduct a military exercise with an aircraft carrier battle group in their general area. Or a nuclear weapons test.
A favorite move of Bruce Lee clones, Martial Arts Movie, and Artistic License Martial Arts in general. Is sometimes combined with a taunt or Badass Boast. Often finished off with a Bring It or an Asskicking Pose. If someone does this badly, it could be considered What the Fu Are You Doing? or Flexing Those Non-Biceps. See also Defeat by Modesty and "If I Wanted You Dead...". If a person crushes something in their hands for a reason other than intimidation, see A Glass in the Hand. Battle Strip and Pec Flex are related.
Anime and Manga
- In the Full Metal Panic Fumoffu episode, "Summer Illusion of Steel", Sameshima the cook runs up to Sōsuke with a knife in each hand, and starts twirling them around. He then switches over to rapidly slicing them through the air while stating his reputation as "Sammy the Slasher". It pays homage to Indiana Jones, though, as Sōsuke just shoots him.
- Early on in Hunter X Hunter, one of Kurapika's opponents punches a concrete wall, leaving huge cracks and chips in it, then reveals a tattoo resembling that of the deadly Spiders organization as well as his kill count on his back. It turns out that he embedded a steel plate into one of his hands to enable him to punch with more force but can only do it once in a while as it really hurts, that the Spiders have a membership number on their tattoos, and that their kills are so numerous that they don't bother to count.
- Played with in School Rumble. First, Karen scares off an attacker by absolutely disintegrating an apple just by squeezing it in one hand. Later, Lala does this to intimidate a few classmates, but Imadori, unfazed, claims that it's no big deal and does the same thing with a ripe banana.
- During his fight with Luffy in One Piece, Arlong uses his powerful teeth to bite through a solid stone pillar. While this was intended as intimidation, Luffy answers by pounding the stone with his fist, and telling Arlong that biting through stone is rather silly.
- The Big O episode "The Greatest Villain". Before Beck fights Roger Smith he does some fancy maneuvers with a giant boomerang-like weapon his megadeus created.
- One of the early Spirou and Fantasio stories has the Marsupilami meet a gorilla, who starts engaging in threatening behavior (chestbeating, ripping trees out of the ground...). Subverted, however, in that it is quickly too tired to actually fight, and the Marsupilami goes by unharmed.
- Big Trouble in Little China. When the Three Storms first appear to break up the fight between the Chang Sings and the Wing Kong, they give a display of martial arts skills to intimidate the gangs. One of the Storms, Lightning, adds a display of his electrical powers for extra shock value. You can watch the sequence here.
- Blade 2. As Nyssa approaches Blade before their duel, she whirls her blades around to display her swordsmanship. The scene can be viewed here.
- Full Metal Jacket: After a Vietnamese boy steals a camera and tosses it to his friend on a bike, he turns around and starts doing a series of palm strikes in the air and making fierce screams, then does a spin kick.
- Game of Death has a scene where Bruce Li and another man spend the majority of their battle expertly flailing their nunchucks around while yelling and staring intently. They get around to fighting, eventually.
- Goldfinger: Oddjob demonstrates his ability with his killer bowler hat early in the film, Foreshadowing the fight with Bond at the end.
- Indiana Jones
- The famous scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana faces the Master Swordsman has the swordsman demonstrating just how skilled he is by throwing his scimitar from one hand to the other, and then spinning it in his hands.
- There was a similar scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where Indy faced off against two swordsmen. They did some brief sword spinning as well, as you can see here.
- In Kin-dza-dza! an etsilop to whom a character forgot to say "Koo!" used his weapon to perform Diagonal Cut on a faraway sand tower just to make a point.
- Various times in Kung Pow, such as the "gopher-chucks" scene where The Chosen One is scaring off his opponents by twirling his gopher-chucks, much like someone would show off normal nunchucks.
- The Matrix series
- The Matrix
- The very first fight Neo has. "... what you must learn is that these rules are no different than the rules of a computer system. Some of them can be bent. Others can be broken. Understand? Then hit me, if you can." Cue Neo and then Morpheus both waving their hands around in the air and assuming theatrical pre-fight poses.
- The Matrix Reloaded.
- During the Burly Brawl, Neo hits an Agent Smith with a pole and knocks the concrete off the end, then spins it around to intimidate the other Smiths watching.
- During the fight in the Merovingian's chateau, Neo does a brief spin display with the two sai after he pulls them off a wall to him. Also, one of the Merovingian's goons spins his swords around in an intimidating way before attacking Neo with them.
- During Morpheus' fight with the albino ghost twins, each of them does some fancy moves with their straight razors before fighting him.
- During Morpheus' fight with the Agent on top of the truck. After pulling the sword out of the side of the truck and slicing through the Agent's tie, Morpheus swings the sword around a few times.
- The Matrix
- In the first The Substitute movie, the principal tells the protagonist that at the start of every year he does this with the school's out of control students by smashing a large wooden board with his bare hands right in front of them. He adds that you can't control the unruly Gang Banger students until they think that you have power. The protagonist takes it to heart.
- Undercover Brother
- During his fight with Mr. Feather, the title character demonstrates his skill with nunchucks.
- Likewise, Mr. Feather deploys his hand claws in a flashy manner.
- In The Wild Life 12-year-old Jim intimidates some would-be bullies at the bowling alley by putting his cigarette out in the palm of his hand followed by a Bring It.
- Wild Wild West: During Jim West's battles with several of Dr. Loveless' Mooks inside the giant spider robot, one of his opponents does some fancy martial arts moves and says "I learned that from a Chinaman".
- Subverted in the novel The Anubis Gates, when the protagonist attempts to crush a metal mug to intimidate some men at a bar, and finds it's too sturdy to crush.
- The Hunger Games: One of the nuances of the training room is whether or not you show off your deadliest skill. The Careers (volunteers for the Games) like to let the other tributes know what they can do as a sort of boast.
- This leads to in-universe Values Dissonance in The Dark Elf Trilogy. To dark elves, demonstrating one's superiority with a weapon to someone else, while leaving them completely unharmed, is an indicator that you have no intention of harming them and in fact wish to ally with them. When Drizzt tries this on a human, the response is one of fear.
- In the Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Speckled Band, Dr. Roylott, an ill-tempered and violent man followed his stepdaughter to 221 B Baker Street (where she had gone to consult Holmes about the death of her sister) to warn Holmes off by bending an iron bar in order to intimidate Holmes. Undaunted, Holmes simply bent the bar back into place after the man had left.
- Isaac Asimov's short story "Victory Unintentional." Three robots visit the planet Jupiter and see the Jovians' plans for war against the human race. The Jovians attempt to demonstrate their superiority but the robots casually brush all it aside (sticking a hand in a vat of molten steel for example). Then the Jovians sue for friendly relations with the humans. The robots leave bemused. The lead robot finally realizes that they never explained that they were robots. The Jovians thought they were humans.
- In Interesting Times, a samurai warrior tries to intimidate Cohen the Barbarian by throwing a silk handkerchief in the air and cutting it in half with his extremely-sharp sword. In response, Cohen throws his own handkerchief in the air - and attacks the samurai while his attention is on the handkerchief.
- In the 30 Rock episode Idiots Are People Two!, a ninja attempts to intimidate Kelsey Grammer by performing several flips, kicks, and punches.
- Bones: Brennan does it while explaining to Booth in anthropological terms in the episode "The Maggots in the Meathead" while surrounded by Guidos. She picked it up while watching a "documentary" on TV.
(Peppy punches Clinton, turns to Booth and throws a punch at him but misses. Booth punches Peppy, who gets up and tries to get to Booth but Brennan gets between them and makes a weird fierce posturing)
- Happy Days: Fonzie is about to fight a fencing duel with a visiting French character. Frenchie uses his epee to cut the gym's climbing rope. Fonzie counters by swiping at a nearby banner; Frenchie is amused by Fonzie's failure, until Fonz snaps & the banner splits in two.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- 2nd Edition had a Non-Weapon Proficiency (non-core, but present in multiple settings and options) called "[Display] Weapon Prowess". If the user has an opportunity to show off and demonstrated his weapon skills successfully, it causes opponents to make a morale check - those successfully intimidated try to avoid fighting the character or will fight more cautiously (with attack penalty), depending on the circumstances. Since it's a performance skill much like juggling, it doesn't have impact on anything else, and does not affect higher-level characters.
- In the Hero Game System this is covered with the "Presence Attack" mechanic. (You get bonuses if you do it really well).
- Starblazer Adventures, based on the 1980's British science fiction Comic Book. The Demoralizing Stance stunt allowed you to intimidate opponents by demonstrating your fighting techniques.
- In the Metal Gear Solid games, triple-crossing Magnificent Bastard Revolver Ocelot is rarely seen not elaborately twirling around his revolvers to intimidate his foes and his allies. It's played for both silliness and creating menacing tension.
- Parodied in the Gold/Silver era Pokémon games. One gym leader tries to intimidate you when you challenge them by throwing and smashing a rock, only for the Player Character (based on what said gym leader says) to point out that has nothing to do with how good he is at Pokemon battles.
- In Soul Calibur, each character is focused on for a few seconds before a round starts. While many characters simply taunt or toss their hair, some, such as Taki, Kilik, Hwang and Maxi will use that brief moment to take out their weapon and twirl it about while letting out a Kiai.
- A rare instance where this trope is used to end a fight rather than start one. In BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, Carl Clover interrogates Tsubaki Yayoi a little too roughly, and Makoto, not knowing who the aggressor is but wanting to stop the abuse, jumps out and prepares to punch him. Carl dodges - and good thing, too, as the punch leaves a massive impact crater where he once stood! Unfortunately for Makoto, this causes Carl's attention to shift to her, as she's with Intel and Carl wanted the whereabouts of his father, Relius Clover...
- Haloid. After the first time Samus activates her Laser Sword, she performs some basic cuts and swings with it to let MC know she's no one to be trifled with.
- Dead Fantasy Part I. When Hitomi first appears she does some martial arts moves to impress her opponents.
- Parodied with the "Martial Arts Vs. Modern Arts" .gif animation. The martial artist uses this trope to try to intimidate the other guy... who promptly takes out a gun and shoots him in the head.
- In the Daffy Duck short Muscle Tussle, Daffy's girlfriend is wooed by a beach hunk. Daffy takes some strength tonic in order to match up with the new guy. The new guy demonstrates his strength to Daffy; Daffy tries to match him but the results are less than stellar.
- Popeye: Popeye has various ways he shows off just how strong he is; virtually every time he eats spinach, he flexes his now-humongous biceps.
- Very common in animals, especially mammals, but sometimes birds as well. Males will face off against rival males to prove strength and fitness for the right to mate. Deer, antelopes, buffalo, elephants, humpback whales(rare nonphysical singing contest version), rams, lions, horses and others all do it. And yes, it can go to the death for some species.
- There's also the mating variation, where the male tries his best to impress prospective mates with strength, various skills, displays, ect.
- Also a frequent defense mechanism. Prey animals will try to ward off an enemy by showing they are too strong to target. Good example is the 'pronking' behavior of some antelope species.
- In Ethology this is called a "threat display".
- Wargame Designer James Dunnigan commented that this was one of the reasons for Bling of War: it costs a lot less to look Badass then to be badass. And hopefully everyone else will either believe you or know their own troops are just as incompetent.