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
, breaking a brick
, or kicking and punching while doing flips. This is very common in fighting games and martial arts movies, as characters will want to appear Bad Ass
by doing some unnecessary cool moves
before they fight.
Can apply to twirling around firearms, but not that type of twirling
. Just don't confuse intimidation with a Dramatic Gun Cock
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 Ass Kicking Pose
. When it works, it's an example of winning without fighting
; examples of doing this badly may fall under What the Fu Are You Doing?
or Flexing Those Non-Biceps
. If done by someone who should be stealthy, not flashy, see Highly-Visible Ninja
. 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
open/close all folders
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 × 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.
- 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. Grimesby 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 him. Undaunted, Holmes simply bent the bar back into place after the man had left, proving that Holmes' own strength was a match for his.
- 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 assumed they were humans and that all humans were just as strong and tough as they were.
- 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 Sweet Silver Blues, one of the groll (troll/giant hybrid) brothers catches a brick thrown by a racist mob and crushes it into dust. Subverted in that the mob isn't sufficiently impressed, so the grolls have to start swinging large pieces of lumber around before the racists disperse.
- 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)
Brennan: This posturing is called "throwing the crab," it will intimidate him into compliance.
(Peppy looks at her, puzzled and amused)
- 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.
- In WWE, The Great Khali demonstrates his vice grip (basically a move in which he crushes the opponent's head with both his hands) on a basketball hard enough to make it pop to intimidate Batista before a match. Batista then reminds him that, among other things, he's not going to be wrestling a basketball.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- 2nd Edition had a Non Weapon Proficiency called "Display Weapon Prowess". If the user demonstrated his weapon skills successfully, it caused opponents to make a morale check.
- Also the whole point of the "Blade" bard kit from the same edition's Complete Bard's Handbook, which wasn't so much about being a great fighter (being, well, still a bard rather than an actual member of the fighter class) as it was about convincingly looking the part for showboating and intimidation purposes.
- 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.
- Hackmaster 4th Edition. The monk class had two abilities of this type which could be used before combat began, both involving the use of the monk's martial arts techniques. Intimidating Display caused all opponents to lose initiative on the first round of combat, allowing the monk's party to attack first. Really Intimidating Display could cause opponents to sit down and watch as long as the monk continued to perform.
- Top Secret/SI. The Dragon magazine #178 article "A Swing and a Hit'' has various combat techniques. One of them is "Weapon Display", which allows an agent to twirl a weapon all around their body to try to impress an opponent. If the tactic works the opponent must stand and watch the display until it ends, and may not be able to attack or defend for another combat turn.
- In the Metal Gear 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...
- In Mass Effect 1, whenever there is a stand-off in cut-scenes, Liara is immediately shown to flare her biotics, while Tali raises her omni-tool.
- There are several examples in Worm:
- Glory Girl likes to make her entrance by doing flashy maneuvers such as Ground-Shattering Landings.
- At the beginning of Chapter 6.1, a gang member whips his katana around to try to intimidate Skitter. It doesn't work.
- 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".
- There's a practical reason too. If the alpha male fights a rival, even if he wins he risks getting injured, making him vulnerable to the next challenger.
- 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.
- Sometimes, peacekeepers are advised to coax loud, metallic noises out of their weapons to simulate the (Hollywood) sound of a gun cocking. This is sometimes enough to make threats run away.
- This is how Gunboat Diplomacy works, if one nation wants to assert its claim over water territories, they send their biggest ships to show they mean business.
- In 1976, the US embarked on a mission with 813 men in order to take out a tree in the DMZ between North and South Korea after two American soldiers were killed in a incident.