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 and Victory Through Intimidation, 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 are related.
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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.
- YuYu Hakusho:
- In Younger Toguro's second appearance, he demonstrates his strength by demolishing a building. Yusuke is scared shitless.
- Yusuke demonstrates his Spirit Gun on a balcony in an attempt to get Chu to surrender. It doesn't work.
- 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.
Films — Animated
- Aladdin. While the guards are pursuing Aladdin and Abu the monkey, Abu picks up a sword and threatens the guards with some stylish maneuvers, frightening them.
Guard: He's got a sword!Head Guard: You idiots! We've ALL got swords!!
- Heavy Metal segment "Taarna". When Taarna and the Barbarian Leader are about to fight, the BL deploys his circular saw hand and cuts through a pipe to show its deadly power.
Films — Live-Action
- 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 II. 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.
- Joker humorously tries the same thing along with his "war cry" back at the boy.
- Enter the Dragon has Oharra breaking a board with his fist in intimidating fashion. Bruce Lee is not impressed.
Lee: Boards don't hit back.
- Game of Death has a scene where Bruce Lee 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.
- In fact, Bruce had an amusing tendency in several movies to not always wait until his opponent was done showing off before he'd lay into them.
- 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. Indy promptly puts an end to it by just shooting him.
- 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 a Diagonal Cut on a faraway sand tower just to make a point.
- Various times in Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, 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 château, 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 Mighty Ducks, Coach Bombay has Fulton practice his powerful (if somewhat inaccurate) slapshots during warm-ups before the game against the Cardinals. Near the end of the game, Fulton gets the puck and winds up for a shot. All the Cardinals duck for cover, allowing one of the Ducks to take the puck and score unopposed.
- 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.
- Even better is the quote he makes after breaking it. "Power perceived is power achieved."
- 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 two of Jim West's battles with Dr. Loveless' mooks inside the giant spider robot.
- His first opponent was modified with cybernetic devices that shoot blades out his wrists. After he ejects one of them he whirls it around menacingly. West responds by activating his boot blade in his Tricked-Out Shoes and wiggling it around in a completely non-intimidating manner.
- One of his opponents does some fancy martial arts moves and says "I learned that from a Chinaman." Jim's response is to grab a shovel, knock him unconcious with a single swing and reply "I made that one up myself."
- The first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie has Michaelangelo getting into a chuck-off with a fellow chucker among the Foot Clan.
- Batman (1989). When the Joker's sword wielding mook first appears, he swings his swords around in an expert manner in an attempt to scare Batman.
- A similar event occurs in Batman Forever, when one of Two-Face's thugs performs some fancy moves with bladed gloves, only to promptly leave himself wide open for Batman to take him out with a single kick to the face.
- In Kick-Ass, one thug tries to intimidate Hit Girl with his Butterfly Knife skills. It doesn't work. She simply responds with a more impressive display using her own butterfly knife, then uses it to kill him.
- The Running Man. When the Stalkers Subzero, Buzzsaw, Dynamo and Fireball are introduced to the studio audience, each of them shows off their weapon by destroying something. When Fireball first appears to the runners Ben and Amber, he repeatedly fires off his flamethrower to impress them.
- In The Three Musketeers (1993), Pothos runs into a Japanese mook who twirls his sword around while shouting a Kiai. Unimpressed, Pothos mockingly imitates him and then drops him down a Trap Door.
- 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.
- Supernatural: In the first episode of season four, titled "Lazarus Rising", the angel Castiel first introduces himself to Dean and Bobby by causing the lights to flicker rapidly before bursting through the doors, exploding all the lights around them and showing off his shadowy wings. He never enters a room this way again after their first encounter, so clearly he was attempting to show them the extent of his powers and intimidate them right off the bat.
- 30 Rock: In the 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.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine: In "Sal's Pizza," Sgt. Jeffords warns the precinct's new IT guy to stay in line.
Terry: Hey, ball, if Savant were to do anything to harm this precinct, would I destroy him? (crushes a Magic 8 Ball with one bare hand then looks at the remaining die) “Answer uncertain. Ask again later."
- 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.
- Awesome Kong once grabbed a kendo stick and expertly twirled it around. Roxxi Laveaux's response was to laugh and nail her with a steel chair.
- 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.
- Doctor Octopus in The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, demonstrates his anti-gravity gun in his broadcast by lifting and dropping a car as well as an incoming train.
- 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.
- During The Matrix: Path of Neo nearly everybody who picks up a weapon for the first time will do some demonstrating of their sword, staff or axe techniques. Never mind all the AssKickingPoses that are shown and there are quite a few of those.
- 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".
- 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.