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Have at thee, villain!

"It was not like the silly fighting you see with broad-swords on the stage."

The classic swordplay of Swashbuckling movies: Threaten high countered by parry high, threaten low countered by parry low, lather, rinse and repeat as you climb the spiral tower staircase, until the hero can drive his sword through the villain's heart. It looks exciting, and the "tink-tink-tink" of sword tips clashing has become so familiar to the ear over the decades that this is what most people would think of if you asked them to imagine a "sword fight".

But it's not practical swordsmanship for a real, deadly fight. Instead, it's a type of choreographed fighting for show called Flynning, which often boils down to two combatants deliberately trying to hit each others' weapons with an impressive clanging sound, rather than trying to actually hit each other. Each attack will be deliberately aimed too high or off to the side so that it would miss the opponent even if they stood still without defending, and yet the defender will go out of their way to meet it in midair with a clumsy block instead of taking advantage of the attacker's mistake by avoiding and striking back in the same motion. In theatrics, this trick where two fighters take turns attacking and parrying in an endless loop is called "Pirate Halves." Whenever an attacker seems to attack into a parry instead of straight at their opponent's body, or the defender starts moving to parry an anticipated attack before they could have even seen it coming, it's a dead giveaway that they're following choreography.

Note that just having a lot of parrying or blade-on-blade contact does not automatically make a fight Flynning; what makes it Flynning is that the participants pass up the most direct and obvious opportunities to kill each other, and ignore sound principles of defense in a way that they can only get away with because they're performing a choreographed dance with each other's cooperation.

In the more flashy and energetic varieties of flynning you can expect to see a preposterously reckless offense, typically consisting of 360 degree spins and somersaults that would leave the back wide open. Another hallmark of Flynning is poor application of distance or measure, with the combatants switching between staying just out of reach from being able to deal any critical blows and getting close enough to even Blade Lock. To keep the excitement up, and sometimes to distract from poor blade work, the characters may chase each other through all sorts of locations and environmental perils as they fight.

Exotic Weapon Supremacy will be in effect and Dual Wielding is fetishized as the mark of a superior fighter, often appearing in contexts where it was almost never practiced. Don't expect to see them used with correct technique, either.

Often done to maintain Bloodless Carnage, especially in works geared toward children. Can be used to keep production costs low in animated works with Limited Animation since Flynning can be portrayed via a repetitive loop of two characters whacking their blades against each other.

Named for the film star Errol Flynn, who relied on it as the star of swashbuckling movies such as The Adventures of Robin Hood and Captain Blood, due to the fact that unlike many of the actors playing his opponents, he didn't actually know how to fence.

Compare A-Team Firing, where instead of lots of sword clashing but nobody getting cut, you have lots of bullets flying but nobody getting shot. Contrast Single-Stroke Battle, where both fighters are clearly aiming to kill with their first strike. Poorly done Flynning can lead to Fight-Scene Failure. See the Analysis page for a detailed discussion of why getting realistic fights on stage or film is a lot harder (and more dangerous) than it sounds. See also Combat Aestheticist.


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  • In a Dos Equis "The Most Interesting Man in the World" commercial, The Most Interesting Man is shown taking on two opponents with sabres, for sport. Flynning mixed with camera cuts (as if it were an old, worn film).
  • Best Buy as of Summer 2014 has an ad for 2-in-1 tablets where there is a brief scene of two students in fencing garb Flynning it up.

    Anime & Manga 
  • The Asterisk War: The anime features many sword fights in which the fighters zip around at tremendous speed, attacking and dodging. While the intent may be to show the consequences of extreme agility, it often just looks as if they were deliberately missing by several feet, or simply unable to hit the side of a barn with their swords.
  • Inverted in Chivalry of a Failed Knight. Ikki's swordsmanship is totally unrealistic because it is too good, to the point even world class swordsmen would find the moves he makes to be simply impossible to recreate by real life human standards.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena's sword heavy duels Flynns to cut down animation costs, though the participants generally aren't actually trying to kill each other (the victory condition of the duels is to cut a rose off the lapel of one's opponent's outfit, which means that fights can and frequently are resolved without more than minor Clothing Damage). But Utena, ever the Deconstruction, lampshades and exploits this in the worst possible way.
    Akio: No, you know nothing besides play duels. But if you don't put up your sword now, you'll find out how terrifying real duels are.
  • Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Max and Milia's duel with daggers in episode 25 includes a part where they're furiously clashing their blades together, but the animation is quite repetitive and it looks more like a stylized sword fight than the techniques that are actually used with short blades. If they were real life knife fighters they wouldn't keep at such a wide distance where neither of them would be in range to make a proper attack, and they would use their off hands for grappling in conjunction with the knifes instead of holding them behind their bodies and doing all the parrying with the blade like Olympic foil fencers.
  • Bleach:
    • Ichigo does this at first since he has no swordfighting experience. This gets him in trouble in an early fight when he gets his sword stuck on a low ceiling and Rukia yells at him not to flail his sword around. As he gains skill and experience, he learns to stop doing this.
    • Justified with Kira's fighting style as his zanpakuto's power doubles the weight of anything it hits. Thus he hits his opponent's weapon repeatedly until it's too heavy to lift.
  • In Hayate the Combat Butler Hayate and Athena's fights are constantly swords clashing. Apparently Athena was aiming for this effect, since her swordsmanship was supposedly so good she'd kill him if she actually aimed for Hayate. When Midas attacks Hayate, he apparently OHKOs him.
  • Possibly because the animators are a little sketchy on the details of Western-style fighting, most of the fights in Record of Lodoss War's OVA and TV anime adaptations have severe Flynning; people not only attack each other's weapons but each other's shields, which is even more silly.
  • In Akame ga Kill!, many of the sword fights involving Night Raid include this, most obvious in the fight against Zank in 3rd episode. There is also a ridiculous amount of times when people hold their sword without ever moving it and the other attacking with inhuman speed but nobody gets hit. Justified with Akame, however; her sword is a One-Hit Kill if it cuts someone anywhere unless extreme measures are taken and many of her enemies know it, so Flynning is required in order to stay alive against her.
  • In Naruto, while some of the fights between people wielding swords or similar weapons fall into this, often, one or both of the combatants have special techniques related to their weapons, enabling them to slice through their opponent's weapon or otherwise injure their opponent while they lock blades.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, at the beginning of Kurama's fight with Ura Urashima, they swing and parry with their razor-sharp rose whip/fishing line, respectively. Kuwabara, who while tough is not very experienced, is absolutely amazed and says they are evenly matched. Hiei calls him a fool and says Kurama could kill Urashima at any time, but has an annoying habit of feeling out an opponent due to curiosity of their fighting talents.
  • Parodied in Slayers OVA "Jeffrey's Knighthood". Jeffrey Mailstar, an inept and unskilled warrior, does ridiculous Flynning every time he tries swordplay (the opponent just stands there with weapon readied and watches Jeffrey repeatedly hitting his sword, or sometimes empty air). Most real swordfights between skilled swordsmen (Gourry, Zangulus, etc) in this anime are either a few stop-shots of parries followed by a Single-Stroke Battle, or a showdown of sword magic abilities.
  • In My Bride is a Mermaid, Kai is normally a trained swordsman, but when he's Mistaken for Dying, his fear and panic makes him flail his katana like a child throwing a tantrum. A disappointed Nagasumi easily evades the sword and punches him into submission.
  • KonoSuba: Darkness is completely inept in swordsmanship. Whenever she fights, she flails her sword around and never ever hits her target, even if her opponent is standing still.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Happens in Shadow Snark when Uma, Pinkie Pie, and Shadow try to poke each other with sticks. It eventually becomes a deconstruction when they end up trying cool sword fighting moves and have to ask their opponents to stage it.
  • In How I Became Yours, Sokka's "sword fight" with Sho involves several panels of the two in an "en garde" stance with each other, and Sho once doing a flip. Then again, this is in large part due to the frequent copying of panels in the comic, to the point where a character will have the same expression for several panels in a row in a dialogue scene.
  • Done in the Danny Phantom Unlimited Halloween Night by Danny and the Fright Knight at the climatic final battle. Justified since Danny wasn't looking to defeat him in a straight sword fight but actually making some time so the nanobots he threw at his face at the beginning of the fight as a blinding metallic dust (yes, he cheated and that's the nicest thing he does here) would attach to his entire nervous system. And what do they do? They explode him from the inside out. Even Danny reckons he wouldn't defeat him in a straight sword fight with the 3 months of training he got from Pandora and his high-tech claymore sword which is made of Ecto-Ranium and tempered in Blood Blossom water.
  • In the Expanded Universe Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, the Guild of Assassins makes a virtue of this, formally teaching Flynning alongside less showy but possibly more effective techniques for fighting with bladed weapons. It is described here, where we learn the Guild has specialized teaching facilities set aside for this very purpose.
    For these are Assassins, where swordfighting and duelling are done with style and panache.
  • Fate DxD AU: Yuuto Kiba is normally a skilled and disciplined swordsman, but holy swords are his Berserk Button. Whenever he fights someone wielding a holy sword, he goes berserk and attacks the sword over and over again, even though his summoned swords always break against them, causing him to lose. Ritsuka Fujimaru points out that swordplay is about attacking the opponent's body, so Kiba could have won if he just bypassed the holy sword and stabbed the wielder, but he can't get over his hatred and keeps doing this in later fights. Realizing Kiba won't change anytime soon, Ritsuka provides him with Black Keys, which are durable enough to stand up to holy swords to give him a chance at survival.

    Films — Animation 
  • Justified in The Road to El Dorado. Protagonists Tulio and Miguel deliberately use Flynning to stage a pantomime street-fight (with rapiers; the classic duelling weapon) to divert attention from their con-tricks, in a manner that suggests they've done it before. Once out of trouble, they announce:
    Tulio: Ladies and gentlemen, we've decided it's a draw!
    Miguel: [tosses swords to guard's feet] Thank you all for coming! You've been great, see you soon!
    Tulio: Adios!
  • In a 2009 animated Wonder Woman film, Wonder Woman comes to modern America and sees a group of boys flynning in a park with wooden swords while excluding a nearby girl. The girl tries to make the best of it, saying she doesn't know how to sword fight anyway. Wonder Woman points out that the boys have no clue how to really fight either, and gives the girl some practical tips on how to handle a sword and avoid flynning. The girl promptly wipes the floor with all the boys.
    Steve: That was sweet, teaching her to disembowel her friends like that.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Zorro:
    • Played totally straight in the 1920 Douglas Fairbanks The Mark of Zorro.
    • Briefly defied in The Mask of Zorro, where Don Diego De La Vega asks his successor Alejandro to demonstrate his sword fighting style. The student energetically swishes around his sword, only to have Don Diego casually disarm him with one move, with the implied lesson of not wasting energy with such useless flamboyance. Given that this is Zorro, the rest of the movie ignores this lesson for more Flynning, but points for trying.
    • The Legend of Zorro:
      • It has plenty of flynning in the climactic sword fight between the hero Alejandro (Zorro) and the villain, Armand. See this commentary by Matt Easton of Schola Gladiatoria. Wielding rapiers, Zorro and Armand both elect for Slice-and-Dice Swordsmanship instead of relying on thrusts, which they only attempt a couple of times. Whenever one of them does thrust, they do it in a telegraphed way that opens them to a counter: when Armand tries it inside the passenger car Zorro captures both of his swords, and when Zorro tries a thrust on the side of the locomotive, Armand strikes it from his hand, leaving it to be crushed by the train's wheels.
      • Instead of closing the opponent's line of attack while advancing into distance to deliver a thrust, as a fencer is supposed to do, they spend a lot of time artfully swatting at each other's blades from out of distance, meaning that they aren't even getting close enough to hit each other. To be fair, a lot of this is hard to notice unless you slow the footage down because the film-makers make the characters look like they're at closer range through some clever Forced Perspective and fast-paced editing: you get a better idea of the actual distance whenever they circle around each other or attempt corps-a-corps, such as elbows or kicks that were out of distance but made to look like they connected.
      • Obvious kills are missed. Several times Zorro dodges a wild swing by Armand that ends up missing by a huge margin. On the side of the locomotive boiler, immediately after the explosion caused by Elena throwing Armand's henchman from the train, Armand considerately continues to give ground while Zorro is busy climbing over an obstacle, instead of skewering Zorro while his guard is down.
      • There's a Blade Lock where Zorro and Armand each use their empty hand to grab the other's sword arm, and they glower at each other while ineffectively pushing against each other for three seconds before Armand manages to throw Zorro on his back. A headbutt to the face or a knee to the groin would have ended that quicker.
      • Rather egregiously, Zorro manages to knock Armand off the wood pile and into the cab of the engine, disarmed of his weapons. Zorro knocks Armand further back with a kick to the face, performed while hanging from the roof of the cab. Instead of dropping into the cab and finishing off his momentarily helpless opponent, Zorro inexplicably climbs back up on the roof and clambers out onto the boiler, giving Armand an opportunity to pull himself together, grab a gun, and take a shot at Zorro.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
    • Played for Laughs during the first few seconds of the fight between the Black Knight and King Arthur, in which the Black Knight attacks boisterously while Arthur dodges and counters in a stiff parody of what an "expert" fencer is supposed to do in a movie. This quickly degenerates into a Bloody Hilarious farce when the Black Knight refuses to admit defeat or even that he's significantly hurt after losing an arm to Arthur. And persists when he's lost both arms. And both legs.
    • Hilariously subverted during Lancelot's otherwise very Flynn-esque attack on Swamp Castle, as he slaughters guards and unarmed wedding guests without encountering the slightest resistance.
      King of Swamp Castle: Did you kill all those guards?
      Lancelot: Err, yes. Sorry.
      King of Swamp Castle: They cost fifty pounds each!
  • Invoked in the big duel in the filmation of Potop, where an arrogant noble picks a fight with an experienced army colonel. The colonel spends the entire 'duel' meticulously humiliating the nobleman, who is very much trying to kill him, by deflecting every blow and relenting every time he's taken the offensive. Eventually the noble just asks him to Get It Over With.
  • The duel in The Great Race was an even more exaggerated version of this. For those who understand fencing terminology, it was two people endlessly repeating parry-riposte-counter parry-counter riposte-etc. in line 4. For those who do not, it was two people endlessly repeating the first two moves taught to beginning foil fencers. When they switched to sabers, it quickly descended into Pirate Halves.
  • The Princess Bride: Though it looks spectacular (and the dialogue cites real fencing masters and styles), the great battle between Inigo and Westley is almost entirely Flynning. The screenplay even says that the characters are Flynning; Wesley and Inigo both being masters with nothing personal driving their fight, they want to enjoy it, as it is so rare for them to encounter someone else on their level. Commentary states that Cary Elwes (Westley) and Mandy Patinkin (Inigo) were complete novices at swordfighting, but threw themselves into the fights with a lot of energy and panache. The first time that Patinkin and Christopher Guest (Count Rugen) practiced together, Patinkin actually stabbed Guest. At that point, Guest informed the fencing choreographer that instead of flynning he would actually and actively defend himself. Being a noble does comes in handy upon occasion.
  • Star Wars:
    • The lightsaber battles from the original trilogy, dubbed "budget kendo" in some circles. The original idea behind the lightsabers was that they were difficult to handle, which limited their choreography to mostly slashes and parries. There were technical limitations involved as well as skill limitations. Every duel in the Original Trilogy involves Darth Vader. In A New Hope, the Vader mask left actor David Prowse with such a restricted field of view that he had trouble even seeing the person he was dueling with, never mind trying to fight. The props themselves were also fragile, preventing the use of more aggressive and intense strikes. For The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, the fighting was done by fencer and choreographer Bob Anderson, who was much better at it, and the props were sturdier, but he still had difficulty seeing.
    • For the prequels, George Lucas specifically stated that the battles of the original trilogy were fought by "old men, feeble cyborgs and young kids" and he wanted the prequels to highlight a more sophisticated fighting style. They are more technically impressive and faster paced, but still use common tricks associated with flynning such as time-wasting flourishes, obviously not aiming strikes at their opponents, and keeping at too far a distance to hit each other. It's a bit more downplayed compared to most other times this trope comes into play, however. The Force makes all the more acrobatic, inefficient moves more practical and also confers superhuman reflexes and precognition, meaning the "target" is not as defined as one normally sees and expects. Also, as a single lightsaber strike means certain amputation and/or death, and only another lightsaber (or specified materials) can block it, lightsaber combat has to be based as much around countering your opponent's moves as it is around quickly killing/disarming the opponent.
      • Revenge of the Sith makes a point of the precognition when Obi-Wan and Darth Vader have their climactic duel. Two very extensive flourishes (parodied mercilessly) end in a blade lock because there simply is not a real opening.
    • The expanded universe elaborates on lightsaber combat, based partially on the forms developed by stunt coordinator Nick Gillard, who made unique styles as a fingerprint for each character. Wookieepedia spells it all out, and Gillard himself said the styles were meant to evoke that the Jedi use an Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age and thus have to be really good at it. There are also handwaves that the sheer lethality of lightsaber blades mean that it isn't enough to get the killing blow, you have to make sure you won't be hit even slightly as your enemy drops their weapon.
    • The X-Wing Series novel Starfighters of Adumar introduced a culture that practiced semi-ritualistic duels to the death with so-called "blastswords."note  This trope was definitely not played straight; a lot of people apparently did tend to fence like this when fighting merely for sport, and fared badly when they came up against someone who was playing for keeps, even if that person has very little idea how to use a blastsword.
  • Exception: Unlike modern performers, many actors from The Golden Age of Hollywood, such as Basil Rathbone and Tyrone Power, were actually champion swordsmen in Real Life. Combined with a very active fencing scene in Hollywood at the time, this led to superb fights in films where all of the male leads knew what they were doing.
    • Cornel Wilde, too. It is said he dropped off the US Olympic fencing team for lack of money.
    • Rathbone, who played the villain opposite Flynn in Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood, actually used his fencing skill to make it look plausible that Flynn won the fight!
    • Rathbone was often cast as villains (with one notable exception), and so was not allowed to win most of his on-screen matches. The only two exceptions were his role as Tybalt in 1936's Romeo and Juliet, and a very short duel against Eugene Pallette in The Mark of Zorro. However, Hollywood consensus was that in any non-choreographed fencing match, Rathbone would have cleaned the clock of any other Hollywood figure.
    • Rathbone vs. Danny Kaye in The Court Jester. Either a brilliant example of this trope or a brilliant parody of it. Danny Kaye, though not a skilled fencer, was fast enough and agile enough to keep up with Rathbone in a choreographed fight, thus giving Rathbone a rare chance to show off his skill to the fullest. Naturally, he took the opportunity and ran with it. Rathbone was 63 at the time, and he still effortlessly gave Kaye a run for his money.
    • Rathbone was approached by Warner Brothers to play opposite Flynn in his third great swashbuckler, The Sea Hawk, but Rathbone, who had a horror of type-casting, turned down the part. It therefore went to Henry Daniell— an excellent actor, but too incompetent with a blade even to Flynn convincingly. In the end he had to be doubled extensively by fencing master Fred Cavens.
  • The 1952 movie Scaramouche climaxes with a fight scene in which Stewart Granger and Mel Ferrer (and/or their stunt doubles) methodically Flynn their way through a theater, starting the balcony boxes, working down to the lobby, through the main seats, backstage and ending on the stage itself. That particular scene was possibly the most masterfully done aversion of this trope ever. A careful observer may note that the combatants are actively trying to hit each other, dance through every one of the eight lines (except for #1), exercise such complicated procedures as feints and disengages, and generally fight very well given the uneven footing they find themselves on. Especially impressive is the fact that they manage to work Andre's game breaker multiple disengage sequence from the book into the duel, though you won't notice it unless you know what to look for.
  • The three-way fight between Sparrow, Turner, and Norrington in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Most other sword fights in this trilogy are portrayed far more realistically, although duels between main characters tend to have decent amounts of Flynning.
    • The duel between Jack Sparrow and Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in Will's blacksmith shop. Neither is trying to kill the other: Sparrow just wants to escape, having entered the shop so that he could hide from his pursuers, and Turner wants to apprehend Sparrow so that he can actually get some credit for something for once. The result? A lot of fancy swordplay and use of the environment (the fight eventually even goes up into the rafters) with no one really aiming to harm the other. It eventually ends when Sparrow pulls his gun on Turner, who claims that he's cheated by using a gun.
    • Later in the film, when Barbossa and Jack fight, it devolves into great amounts of Flynning when it's revealed that Jack stole a piece of gold and cannot die, meaning that neither can physically kill the other.
    • The fight between Davy Jones and Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. It involves lots of Jack's trademark "if I wasn't crazy, this probably wouldn't work" tactics to escape the immortal and unkillable Jones, including but not limited to swinging from the rigging, using the chest as an impromptu weapon, and Flynning on the crossbar holding up the mainsail, all of which occurs on a ship that is sailing on the side of a massive whirlpool.
  • In Broadway Melody of 1940, the dance to "Please Don't Monkey With Broadway" has Fred Astaire and George Murphy flynning with canes.
  • 1995's Rob Roy with Liam Neeson climaxes with a duel containing some of the most realistic sword fighting in modern cinema. Though some Flynning occurs, most of that is a character flynning, as Robert Roy MacGregor's opponent, Cunningham, is a cruel man with a grudge against Rob and Cunningham quickly sees that he is a much more skilled duelist, so he draws the fight out to add extra pain and humiliation for Rob. All throughout the fight you really get a sense that these two men want to do each other serious bodily harm, and it's notable that while Cunningham is drawing the fight out to torment Rob, he is still managing the distance between the two men and staying out of range of Rob, who has the longer reach as well as the heavier sword. Cunningham clearly came into the fight with a gameplan to make Rob constantly move both his body and sword to wear down Rob's stamina (especially since he notices just before the fight that Rob is nursing a rib injury), and to score multiple light wounds so he can bleed Rob out and exhaust him, all of which are valid sword fighting techniques. The way the fight ends also contributes to the raw and realistic feeling of the fight; Rob grabs Cunningham's blade firmly enough for it to lodge into one of his hands, finally giving him and his sword a good, open shot at Cunningham, and then... whack. Watch it here
  • The brief stickfight between Adams and Dickinson in 1776 is rather unconvincing Flynning when it's not just the two men grappling.
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights had the characters Flynn with shadow puppets!
    • Men in Tights also mocks this with the staff fight between Robin and Little John. Their weapons repeatedly break in half throughout the scene, and each time they simply throw half away and continue to attempt Flynning, to the point where they're playing medieval Pencil Pop when any sensible combatants would have simply given up and begun fisticuffs.
    • And at one point in the last duel, Robin calls out the Sheriff's sequence of moves while responding to them.
      "Parry, parry, thrust, thrust... good!"
  • Troy's Flynning is so obvious one does not even need to have so much as a cursory knowledge of actual swordplay to spot it. When Hector and Achilles fight, both of them avoid obvious killing strikes and holes in their opponent's guard on several occasions, and both make big, flashy, energy wasting movements while passing up more direct opportunities to defeat each other. That said there are some potential psychological justifications in the Achilles vs Hector duel at least; Hector is likely off his game and struggling with his state of mind because he's had something of a premonition that Achilles will kill him ever since he first saw Achilles fight, and Achilles is getting fancy and drawing the fight out in order to utterly humiliate Hector before killing him. Achilles even lampshades the fact that he's passing on chances to kill Hector when Hector stumbles over a stone and falls, leaving him vulnerable to attack, and Achilles refuses to strike.
    Achilles: Get up, prince of Troy. Get up. I won't let a stone take my glory.
  • All sword fights in Nate and Hayes during the daring attack on the German gunboat are this.
  • In Highlander, this was done in large part because Christopher Lambert's eyesight is so bad that he just swung his sword around. His opponents were tasked with hitting his sword with theirs to make it look like a sword fight (instead of a mostly blind guy swinging his sword wildly).
    • Possibly handwaved, as the immortal warriors cannot die from anything except being decapitated. Connor is run through multiple times during a drunken duel with no ill effect, so swordplay becomes about disarming the opponent or immobilizing them so a good swipe at the neck can get in.
  • Hook's climactic fight between Peter and the captain, which is all Flynning. In his review, Roger Ebert lamented how boring and uninspired the whole sequence was
  • In Cutthroat Island, William Shaw's Flynning during the tavern fight between Morgan's crew and Dawg's crew is justified, since he'd not yet learned how to do any serious fighting:
    Morgan: Very pretty, Mr. Shaw.
    William: Thank you, ma'am. I had the good fortune of studying with a grand master in Vienna!
    Morgan: Now stop fiddling, and kill the man!
    William: Kill him? Bless me, we never got to that!
    [Morgan grabs William's arm and thrusts it forward, sending William's sword through the chest of the enemy mook]
    William: I see.
  • The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother. The sword fight between Sigerson Holmes and Professor Moriarty.
  • Shanghai Knights features some of this in the final fight, but it's Justified for both combatants: Chon Wang, although trained in martial arts, does not know how to handle a sword, and Rathebone (specifically stated to be a master swordsman) is using overly flashy techniques to toy with and humiliate Chon, knowing that he doesn't have the skills to recognize and attack the openings Rathebone is presenting him with. Bonus points for Rathebone being named after Errol Flynn's iconic swordplay opponent.
  • In Gladiator this is almost lampshaded; in the gladiator training camp scene, the instructor tells the student, "this is how you fight", and starts showing him the "Pirate Halves" move. Justified - gladiators were essentially entertainers, as well as fighters. Maximus, a former professional soldier, was actually told off for being too efficient as he naturally went straight for the killing move.
  • Done deliberately in If when three self-obsessed teenagers get into a sword fight more or less for the hell of it and tear around the school flynning for all they're worth.
  • Jose Ferrer's version of Cyrano de Bergerac starts with a vintage demonstration of Flynning. Justified in that Cyrano wants to humiliate his opponent before taking him down; he is composing a sonnet in honor of the duel he is fighting, ending each stanza with "Then as I end the refrain, thrust home!"
  • Subverted in Red Sonja (1985 film): When the Arnold Schwarzenegger character is fighting mooks, his first strike simply attacks the blade. His second strike muscles the sword back on target while the mook's sword is helplessly to the side. Which is known as "battement" and is a very effective fencing technique, especially if you're massively stronger than your opponents without being considerably slower.
  • Played with in The Lord of the Rings. In some scenes, such as Aragorn's battle with the Uruk-Hai chieftain at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, there is a certain amount of Flynning, done subtly enough so that things look dangerous. In most of the mass-battle scenes, on the other hand, the action tends toward the swift and brutal. Viggo Mortensen (playing Aragorn) and the stuntmen who were roped into playing Orcs suffered quite a few on-set injuries.
  • Subverted in The Rocketeer: Neville Sinclair's role in movies is that of a Flynn-type action hero. As such, he engages in this kind of swordplay with one of his costars. However, he "accidentally" stabs said costar for upstaging him.
  • The sword fight between Blakeney and Chauvelin at the end of The Scarlet Pimpernel is almost entirely this trope, though it is clear from the beginning that Percy, the clearly superior combatant, is just messing with his opponent. Eventually he tires of it and ends the fight. He doesn't strike the killing blow, though.
  • Discussed at the end of the John Ritter comedy Stay Tuned when Ritter's character becomes a Fencing instructor whose student tries a fancy behind-the-back turn-and-block move that she saw on TV. Followed by him trying out the pose after his student leaves.
  • In My Favorite Year Alan Swann (a parody of Errol Flynn) walks in, sloshed, on the writers on the TV show he will guest star on that week. They are watching one of Swann's films, where he is fighting a villain. He looks at the screen, sees the villain and himself in obviously over-the-top swordplay, and says, "I thought I killed you," as his character in the film uses his own sword to knock the blade out of the villain's hand, before running him through with his own sword. Seeing this, Swann says, "Oh yeah, I did."
  • As with most swashbucklers of the era, this happens in Anne of the Indies. It is especially obvious in the fight between Anne and Blackbeard; although this perhaps justified as this friendly sparring between two friends and not intended to be deadly combat.
  • Justified in Paddington 2 when used by the villain Phoenix - since he himself is a stage actor.
    "Stage combat, level 4!"
  • Centurion, despite its historical accuracy in other parts, features a lot of this. For the protagonist Quintus Dias, it's justified, as his father was a gladiator. The other characters? Not so much.
  • Two examples in Bond Movie Die Another Day. First Grave challenges Bond, where we see the whole gamut of Flynning, including spins, multiple sword changes, a slashed paintings, and fighting in the corridors. Later, Jinx takes on Olympic Fencer Frost, involving similar cool, but impractical moves.
  • Played with in Masters of the Universe — He-Man is pretty clearly swinging for Skeletor's staff in the final battle, which turns out to be a pretty good tactic, as breaking the staff depowers Skeletor from his One-Winged Angel state, making hitting Skeletor himself more likely to actually work.
  • The final fight scene in Mom and Dad Save the World consists of two guys flailing at each other with swords to the point where it looks like neither participant had a clue what they were doing. Given that the hero is a middle-aged suburbanite who may have never drawn a sword in his life before that moment, and the villain is an imbecile with an overly inflated sense of his own competence, that may very well have been the case.
  • As might be expected from the title, all of the swordfights in Swashbuckler are pure Flynning, but highly entertaining nonetheless.
  • Bleach: Rukia tries to train Ichigo in swordmanship so they spar with wooden swords. As Ichigo is a novice, he keeps flailing his weapon and getting his ass kicked with one or two moves. As the film progresses, Ichigo becomes more skilled and stops doing this.
  • The final battle of Blade (1998) is a Sword Fight where the combatants spend half a minute smacking their swords into each other, with sparks Sword Sparks flying and Audible Sharpness galore. That is, until Blade kicks into high gear and starts striking faster and faster until he lands a blow on the villain... and the villain instantly heals his sword wound. He then starts trying and Blade can't rely on swordplay to win.
  • The Bandit of Sherwood Forest: The final duel between Robert of Huntingdon and William of Pembroke is pure Flynning. The great Ralph Faulkner, fencing master and fight coordinator on most of the great Hollywood swashbucklers of the 1930s and 1940s, here doubles Henry Daniell (William of Pembroke) in the climactic duel scene, much as he had done six years earlier in The Sea Hawk (1940), when Daniell (described as "completely helpless" in a memo to Hal B. Wallis, because he couldn't handle a sword) had to fight Errol Flynn.
  • During the climax of Gramps Is in the Resistance, Super-Resistant challenges Ludwig von Apfelstrudel into a duel with epees. The latter, having been a master-at-arms in his youth, gladly accepts. A swordfight worthy of a swashbuckling movie ensues.

  • Discworld:
    • The villain of the book Maskerade complains about the unrealistic swordplay in operas (the book takes place in the Ankh-Morpork opera house). Ironically, he engages in an overly-clangy sword fight with another character, and dies when his opponent sticks the sword between his arm and his torso. Cue the super-long death speech.
    • Lampshaded in Moving Pictures, where an inexperienced human has to fight a veteran troll actor, and doesn't fully realize it's fake. The troll explains that all he has to do is parry dramatically.
    • Lampshaded in Wyrd Sisters, where Tomjon gets trapped in every live actor's nightmare: everyone else in the cast has forgotten their lines, gotten distracted, or developed stage fright. The poor guy foresees a fight scene in which he will have to "parry his own wild thrusts and stab himself to death."
    • Exploited and counter-exploited in Monstrous Regiment. Corporal Strappi tries to humiliate Polly by "sparring" with the new recruit, fully expecting her to be unfamiliar with real swordfighting and try to hit his weapon. Polly understands this, and also knows she knows nothing about sword-fighting, so she gives him a headbutt instead.
  • Subverted and Lampshaded in The Saga of Darren Shan. When Darren witnesses a knife fight between Mr. Crepsley and the mad vampaneze Murlough, he expects a drawn out battle with lots of clashing blades. He notes in retrospect that the two were trying to kill one another, not entertain an audience. The fight itself takes all of three seconds, and ends with Murlough brutally cut open.
  • An early scene in Exile's Valor features two of Alberich's students deciding to Flynn during a class practice bout to show off. Since they aren't nearly as good as they think they are, all they do is embarrass themselves (and get stuck with a hideous bill for salle damage).
  • Lampshaded and subverted in The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, when swordsmaster Don Tomsa Maramzalla explains the difference between the lessons he gives to his high-born clientele and those he'll be giving "Gentleman Bastard" Jean Tannen:
    Don Tomsa Maramzalla: Those prancing little pants-wetters come here to learn the colorful and gentlemanly art of fencing, with its many sporting limitations and its proscriptions against dishonorable engagements.
    You, on the other hand... you are going to learn how to kill men with a sword.
  • The Fencing Master describes swordfights in a way that, while showy and dramatic, would be ridiculous if illustrated.
  • In The Curse of Chalion Caz reminisces about how he thought he was a good fencer with a repertoire of fancy moves in his youth until he met another boy who ignored his flashy technique and launched a simple stab that would have killed him had they been using real swords.
  • Lampshaded in the Kingpriest Trilogy, when POV character Cathan (a veteran knight) and an old comrade-in-arms attend an (obviously scripted) gladiatorial game. While aforementioned comrade is more familiar with this sort of thing, and therefore able to relax and enjoy the show as something only tangentally related to actual combat, Cathan can't get over how obviously fake and unrealistic the swordfighting is, and in fact does something of a mental running commentary of all the ways the combatants could take advantage of each others' mistakes if it was an actual fight.
  • Discussed in the Modesty Blaise novel A Taste for Death, as Steve and Sir Gerald watch Modesty fencing. Steve says that it's not like in the movies, and Sir Gerald explains about the differences and why they exist. At one point, Steve complains that Modesty and her opponent were just standing there for a while, then there was a brief flurry of movement where nobody hit anything; Sir Gerald replies that fencing isn't really a spectator sport, at least for people not familiar with it, but to the experienced eye what just happened was quite an interesting contest, and unpacks it for Steve.
  • The page quote ironically has C. S. Lewis decry this trope on stage, but in the next few sentences of Prince Caspian he creates his own system of silly strikes which look no more like historical swordsmanship than this trope. Additionally, there is a difference between styles developed for rapiers and their kin and those for swords from the Middle Ages when used against armored warriors.
  • A variation occurs early in Perry Rhodan, of all places. The protagonist and the newly-introduced Atlan (who's still trying to find a way off an Earth that most of the galaxy believes destroyed at the time) end up crossing swords in a museum. They're not actively trying to outright kill each other, but Atlan demonstrates the difference between a twentieth century astronaut who may be a decent modern sports fencer on the side and an immortal Arkonide who's spent millennia on Earth and actually knows how to use a historical broadsword properly quickly enough. (This exact duel is revisited later in the series when an impostor unknowingly reveals himself by getting the weapons used in it wrong.)
  • Discussed in No Good Deed.... Elsabeth's fighting style is efficient and economical in movement, and her thought processes exhibit great disdain for swordsmen who prefer the flashier techniques of the tournament fighters. During a fight at the beginning of the book, Elsabeth makes rather quick work of an adversary precisely because his more elaborate style allows her to use quick and direct attacks to get through his defenses faster than he can counter her. She's equally disparaging of masters who teach such a style.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series novel Spock, Messiah!, Chekhov is challenged to a sword duel by a warrior from a culture roughly analogous to the Mongols. Since Chekhov is disguised as a member of a nomadic trading culture that traditionally does not carry or use any weapons, he needs to pretend he has no idea how to use a sword, or he'll blow their Prime Directive-mandated cover. Turns out being first sword at the Academy for two years running allows him to make it look like the fight is this trope, humiliating his opponent in the process.
  • The Star Wars X-Wing Series novel Starfighters of Adumar mostly takes place on a planet ruled by a society that feels the need to essentially Flynn everything, from dueling with blastswords to starfighter combat. Whenever a character who refuses to play by the rules (either a local who hates the formal styles or the off-world protagonists who were never trained to be so theatrical) enters a fight, it's over in seconds.
  • Invoked in-universe in Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt Adventures novel Dragon. Pitt is forced into a duel with a Japanese man who fancies himself a samurai trained in the use of the katana who expects to gut Pitt like a fish in one or two moves. Pitt, a trained fencer, picks a European sword and starts Flynning to defend himself, throwing off his opponent's technique.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Discussed. Dalinar scoffs at the idea of swordfights as romanticized dances, calling them "wrestling with weapons." The fight scenes bear this out; everyone does everything they can to survive, which often involves tackling your opponent and then stabbing them while they're confused. However, fights with Shardblades can be like a dance, with circling and testing and parrying. Justified because Shardblades are indestructible and impossibly lightweight. But even with Shardblades, dances like that are rare. Notably, only two of the ten Shardblade fighting styles teach parrying, and even they don't use it often.
  • Swordfights in The Wheel of Time tend to follow the format of "swordform X meets swordform Y". This is at least partially justified via Noodle Incident, as the names of the forms are poetic but unspecific (The Courtier Taps His Fan, Lightning of Three Prongs, Water Flows Downhill), allowing author Robert Jordan to mix-and-match them and just let the reader's imagination do the rest.
  • Deliberately invoked in The Brotherhood of the Black Flag: as the novel was a tribute to the swashbuckler movies of the 1930s and 1940s, the author deliberately wrote the fight scenes to resemble the ones from said movies, instead of aiming for gritty, realistic combat.
  • R.A. Salvatore's Drizzt novels both uses and averts this. Drizzt himself is an expert swordsman who primarily uses two long blades and has almost supernatural dexterity, so he will sometimes use his superior speed and coordination to bob and weave his swords every which way in between actual strikes, just to keep his opponent off balance and unsure of where the actual attack will be coming from. Various characters in the later books will use what's explicitly called a 'swashbuckling' style that specifically relies on grandiose and flamboyance swinging and brandishing of weapons while attacking, with the idea that such an up-front show of confidence against what is ideally an untrained opponent will cause them to make mistakes.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Any documentary that displays mass battles — particularly those made by the History Channel. The two four-episode-each Barbarians series, Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire and those like it/made by the same studio/group tragically suffer from this heavily. Any and all other historical inaccuracies aside, just watch the big battle scenes. Stuntmen in differing suits of armor dance about each other while visibly, readily just clashing their swords against one another's. What makes this particularly egregious is the fact that in most, if not every shot, an overwhelming majority of the soldiers clashing blades are all HOLDING SHIELDS... and not ONE of them seems to even think of raising it to block an attack. Even more egregious in those episodes of above series' that focus on Ancient Rome and its legions, who relied heavily on their shields, and only used their swords for stabbing; even in the early days of the Republic, pre-empire period, a Roman soldier would've looked at you as if you had two heads if you suggested using your sword to parry, block, or even do anything but stab and occasionally slash as need be, when he was trained to defend with his shield.

  • Almost always averted in Angel, but in the season 3 episode "Billy", the title character teaches Cordelia to use a sword, and all he's describing is this trope. Although this is also a possible subversion/aversion, since his idea is to teach her to stall until he can get there to rescue her.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a great sword fight between Buffy and Angel where they shuffle back and forth alternating their blows from up and down.
  • The horribly botched Flynning that was Hugh Beringar fighting in the TV series Cadfael.
  • Doctor Who:
    • A fencing scene in "The Sea Devils": after the Master disarms the Doctor, and has him pinned in a corner ready to deliver the killing blow, the Doctor escapes by kicking the Master back.
    • Played with in "The Androids of Tara". The Fourth Doctor ends up in a duel with "electro-swords". At first he seems incompetent with the blade, merely parrying blows. However, it quickly becomes clear that this is a ruse, as he unleashes more and more skill until finally besting his opponent with ease.
    • "The King's Demons" features a very Flynnian swordfight between the Fifth Doctor and the Master.
    • Every swordfight in the 7th Doctor serial "Battlefield". Unfortunately. (In part because they'd rehearsed with a different kind of sword to the ones they got on location.)
    • "The Christmas Invasion" contains a particularly bad case of flynning between the Tenth Doctor and the leader of the Sycorax. Most notable is a moment when the Doctor charges the Sycorax leader with an overhead strike. In any realistic fight, the Doctor would've ended up with a sword through one of his hearts.
    • "Robot of Sherwood" dials it up to 11 when The Doctor has a flynning-filled dual with Robin Hood. Robin with a sword, the Doctor with a spoon!
      • In a possible nod to this trope, the Doctor mentions having learned from Cyrano de Bergerac, Richard the Lionheart, and Errol Flynn himself, who "had the most enormous... ego." A certain amount of Fridge Brilliance also sets in when one realizes that unlike most examples of this trope, the Doctor is a Technical Pacifist who rarely uses swords at all.
  • In the Firefly episode "Shindig" Mal inadvertently gets himself stuck in a sword fight against Atherton Wing, an arrogant Master Swordsman noble. Inara tries to give him a quick crash course on how to avert flynning, telling him for example to avoid taking big swings from the shoulder because much quicker, subtler movements are better and it doesn't take a lot of power to seriously wound a man when using a sword. When the pressure is on, however, Mal can't help but revert to what feels right, including taking big cuts with a sword meant more for thrusting. Atherton, meanwhile, sadistically toys with Mal for awhile, but when he gets serious it only takes a few quick moves for him expertly break Mal's sword and have Mal at his mercy. Mal still wins by disarming Atherton and taking him down with Good Old Fisticuffs.
  • In Frasier, Niles Crane challenges his wife's fencing teacher to a duel after learning - erroneously - that the German fencing master has been having an affair with Maris. The arena is the living room of Niles and Maris' gothic mansion, packed with antique fittings and furniture. Sure enough, much comic Flynning ensues.
  • Justified in the finale of the Evil Green Ranger series of episodes Green With Evil on Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Jason has to destroy Tommy's sword in order to break Rita's spell and consequently spends much of their duel attacking Tommy's sword. Tommy's Flynning, however, is completely unjustified.
    • Many swordfights from both this franchise and the originator Super Sentai rely on this kind of thing. However it's partially justified that the heroes all wear nigh invincible suits and their enemies either also have such suits or are othewise super tough monsters or armored warriors so landing hits don't really cause any serious damage and often just cause some sparks from the friction of blade vs armor. As a result most duels have them smacking their weapons together in an attempt to disarm their opponent so they can hold them at their mercy. Tryinig to land actual hits mostly just drags out the fight ineffectively as they are painful but can't cut through Ranger suits and while enough hits can cause them to lose the transformation and be helpless that can take dozens of sword strikes to do so.
  • Helen of Troy 2003 had several egregious examples, such removing one's helmet midfight, not blocking with one's shield and leaving oneself wide open, and deciding to throw one's spear from a missable distance after one's opponent has already thrown theirs at you and missed.
  • In Highlander: The Series, this is done almost every episode. This is partly due to Rule of Cool, and partly because many of the guest stars had never before picked up a sword in their lives, so they had to rely upon Adrian Paul and the stunt coordinator to make the fights look exciting. In one commentary bit, it's mentioned that there's an easy way to tell whether the actors in a particular episode are any good with a sword: if the fight scene has a lot of cuts and changes in angle, it's done to disguise the weakness in an actor's form or to switch more capable stunt doubles in. If there are long periods without a cut or change in camera angle, then it means the actors for that fight were good enough to avoid all that.
    • Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you realize that for Immortals swordplay is very different, because they can't just stab a vital place to finish it. They need a good, heavy, unimpeded swing which can only be done after you've tired your opponent out or disarmed them. That reasoning only works for really powerful Immortals, the younger ones can be incapacitated by the same blow that would work for a human. However since very few of the Immortals seen in the show are less than a century old most of them have built up that tolerance for pain.
  • Played with in How I Met Your Mother: when Ted and Marshall got into a heavy argument while holding swords (long story), they start Flynning, but as their sword play gets more elaborate as they try fancy and ridiculous moves, the argument dissolves into "Dude, how awesome is this?"
  • iCarly: The absolutely horrible attempt at fencing during the episode iFence.
  • Though Kamen Rider 555 — being a Kamen Rider series — has its share of Flynning, it's notably subverted during a fencing duel between main character Takumi (minimum experience with swordplay) and rival Masato (president of the university fencing club). Takumi's offense consists of wildly aggressive Flynning which is expertly parried by Masato, who retaliates with a single, point-winning riposte. This happens three times in a row.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Galadriel gives a demonstration to the Númenórean sea cadet recruits on how agility is more important than strength versus their Orc enemies. Her exaggerated, flashy movements look cool enough, but present a number of easy openings to exploit and strike her body, and as well as politely taking turns to attack her, the recruits mostly opt to aim for her sword, where some of her blocking maneuvers could easily be shattered by a strong opponent.
  • Once Upon a Time: It's pretty obvious that Captain Hook is Flynning on purpose in his fight with Emma in season two. He is, after all, a pirate with over three hundred years experience, and it is only the second time Emma has ever tried to use a sword in a fight. Judging by his taunts and absurdly embellished movements, he never had any intention of killing her — it's even arguable that he let her knock him out because he already knew he had another way to make it to Storybrooke and his intended vengeance.
  • Primeval has an episode where Danny get into a sword-fight with a medieval knight. (Pipe versus Sword) Danny doesn't actually want to hurt the guy, but since the knight thinks that he's in hell and Danny's a demon, he'd probably be trying a bit harder to kill.
  • Any Robin Hood series, except the British Robin of Sherwood, from the late 1980s/early 1990s.
  • Sharpe: Done in Sharpe's Honour where Sharpe is duped into a duel with a Spanish fencing master after Sharpe had been falsely accused of sleeping with his wife as part of a French plot. After playing by the real rules of fencing, Sharpe then switches to the rules of real combat (none) and quickly overtakes his genteel opponent. Ironically, actual fencers were very dirty fighters indeed.
  • Most of the swordfighting in the TV miniseries Shogun was Flynning. It's especially obvious when they show a scene of someone cutting someone else's head off, they'll zoom in to show just the sword wielder, and the trajectory of his blade will be no where near where the other man's neck was.
  • In an episode of Slings & Arrows, Geoffrey Tenant burst into a party wielding swords demanding a duel with his rival. Both being classically-trained Shakespearean actors, they naturally Flynn.
  • Smallville: The two times where Clark Kent fights with a sword, he does this since he has no sword fighting experience. In "Sacred", he has to sword fight the evil witch Isobel who has given herself enhanced strength. He is constantly fumbling with his sword and eventually wins by dropping it and just hitting her. In "Luthor", he has to sword fight Lionel Luthor while depowered by blue kryptonite. He completely gets his ass kicked.
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand plays it straight in the first season - with lots of stylised and elaborate movements in the gladiators' fights. But then subverts it in the second season - when the gladiators have to rescue someone from the mines and discover that their fighting style is not practical in such a confined space.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode Bread and Circuses the crew are forced into a Roman arena. Dr. McCoy has no idea what to do with a sword; his opponent, the gladiator Flavius, has no desire to harm him. Flavius basically tells McCoy to hold his sword up and Flavius taps it a few times with his so that the audience will have something to look at until the calvary arrives.
  • Studio C parodies this in "Fencing: Slow-mo Replay" where there's a modern fencing match that is over in two seconds, but when you watch the slow-mo replay, it becomes an epic battle in a banquet hall including a Damsel in Distress, Excuse Me While I Multitask, slicing candles in half, and spinning, all of which are lampshaded.
  • The Disney TV version of Zorro in the 1950s somewhat downplayed it, as Guy Williams, who played Zorro, was actually a champion fencer. His Zorro used a more accurate fencing style, though still stylized to avoid injury. Many of the fencing bouts in this series feature both actors downplaying real skill because actor Britt Lomond, who plays Capitán Monastario, had qualified for the 1952 US Olympic fencing team. Lomond was also a highly decorated combat veteran from World War II. Additionally, Williams' skill allowed for using tipless swords, since he was able to manage not to injure his opponents. However, it also meant that he regularly had to get himself stitched after filming sessions, because they weren't as skilled as he was.


    Pro Wrestling 
  • Crops up on occasion in Wrestling, where the wrestlers will do this, usually with steel chairs or shinai ("kendo sticks"). Professional Wrestling in general could be considered a form of Flynning, but with amateur wrestling and martial arts instead of swords.
  • Pro wrestling itself has specific weapon spot known as an Ogelthorpe special that often involves flynning with strange implements.

  • Any sword fight that has rules to prevent injury or that is scored as a competition is a downplayed version of flynning almost by definition; the only question—and it is a controversial question—is to what degree it does or doesn't simulate a real sword fight. Obviously, even students training for real combat cannot learn or practice under the same conditions as an actual bloody fight, or else they would get maimed or killed before they ever attained proficiency. As a teacher you need to supervise their practice to make sure they aren't trying to kill each other, that they learn to respect the blade, and that they aren't doing unfriendly things like eye-gouging and biting. In that sense, the first defense against injury is voluntary restraint and control. Blunt and foiled swords were the first compromise in equipment to improve safety, and already this creates a huge difference in how the fencers will behave in sparring, because they will be a heck of a lot more cautious and less prone to being Leeroy Jenkins if they know their opponent's sword can wound them. Then you introduce things like masks and padded armor, which almost inevitably lead to more reckless tactics since the fear of injury is lessened, although the Peltzman effect can ironically lead to more injury when the fighters learn to rely on the armor instead of self-control and start hitting each other as hard as they can. Add rules against grappling, right-of-way, designated target areas, and before you know it it's a slippery slope.
    • The Olympic sport of fencing has steadily evolved away from its origins in 19th century dueling, to the point where it can no longer be said to teach you how to properly defend yourself with a sword. While it can be a good foundation for learning historical or classical fencing later on because it teaches many important fundamentals—and saying it isn't a martial art isn't meant to deny the athleticism and skill involved—you won't learn how to avoid wounding or death in a hypothetical real sword fight if you only train in the sport method.
      • In order to make practice safer, the weapons have become much lighter and more flexible so that they no longer behave like the weapons they were originally supposed to simulate. The "flick" in foil is basically flicking your blade so that the tip curves around your opponent's parry and touches them at an angle, a move which is impossible using a real, stiff sword and which is highly controversial because some consider it cheating. A similar phenomeonon in saber is called "whip-over."
      • There are also various rules which in theory are supposed to ensure that the fencers use sound principles of defense and need to score clean hits that would draw blood if the swords were real, but in practice the need to score points creates perverse incentives for all kinds of behavior that would be suicidal in a real fight. In foil and saber, for example, "priority" is given to the fencer who moves to attack first: unless they lose priority in one of a few ways such as making an attack that completely misses, then if both fencers touch each other simultaneously the one who took priority from the start is awarded the point. Priority is supposed to encourage fencers to attack first instead of just cowering at each other, and to incentivize the fencer being attacked to try and negate the attack coming at them instead of just going for the double hit, but this can lead to recklessness on the part of the attacker because they can count on winning the point even if they let their opponent's sword touch them.
      • Electronic scoring, which we've already mentioned, was introduced in order to prevent the subjectivity of the judges from messing up a call, and in that regard it was definitely an improvement. However, this has made the distinction between square and glancing hits with the thrust weapons harder to measure, and introduces the problem of cut-out times. The cut-out time is the maximum time between hits for the scoring mechanism to register them as simultaneous, and if that time is exceeded then only the first hit to land will count. In épée this cut-out time is a mere 40 milliseconds, meaning that a second hit landing even a little outside this window would still appear to be practically simultaneous with the first, yet only the first hit would register. In 2004-5, the foil cut-out time was reduced to 350 milliseconds and saber to 120 milliseconds. The cut-out time results in a distinct advantage for the attacker, and causes a high frequency of what would have been double-kills in a real duel. Electronic scoring has also had an effect on saber because it involves cuts: in real life you need to strike with the edge of a blade to inflict damage with a cut, but electronic scoring doesn't treat a hit with the flat any differently than a hit with the forward or reverse edge.
      • This is a grossly oversimplified look at complex problems which are Serious Business to people in the fencing world, and they are unlikely to ever be solved to everyone's satisfaction since any attempt to correct a problem seems to create a problem of its own.
    • Kendo has similarly developed into a "sporterized" version of its martial ancestor Kenjutsu. In olden times, students of the sword would spar using practice swords made of solid hardwood (bokuto) while wearing no protective equipment, which often caused severe injuries such as broken bones. Naganuma Shirōzaemon Kunisato is said to have introduced the use of bamboo practice swords (shinai) and protective armor (bogu) to sword practice during the Shotoku Era (17111715), and during the 19th century this form of practice became popular throughout Japan. The form of kendo practiced before World War II could still get rough, however, as it permitted moves such as wrestling your opponent to the ground, or even removing his head (men) protector! After the War, which initially saw kendo banned along with other martial arts by the occupying authorities, it was brought back and explicitly retooled as an activity for self-cultivation rather than training for combat. Today there are only a few schools that teach the rougher pre-war kendo. In modern kendo, there are four designated target areas: cuts may be made to the wrists, head, or torso, while thrusts may only be aimed at the throat. Also, because of the specific rules, the guards chudan, jodan, and seigan dominate while hasso, gedan, and waki have fallen out of use. Needless to say, grappling and wrestling on the floor are strictly prohibited.
    • Academic Fencing, or the mensur, is a very curious kind of fencing practiced by student corporations in certain European universities which developed during the 19th century and is still practiced today according to strict rules. Both participants wear armor that protects the exposed parts of their body, and they wear goggles that protect the eyes and nose, but the rest of the face is fair game. The swords have large hand guards, and narrow blades with sharp edges but no point. Unlike sport fencing in which the participants can advance and retreat, participants in the mensur stand their ground at a fixed distance while they exchange cuts. They may defend themselves by parrying, but dodging is not allowed. There is no score, nor is there a winner or loser; instead the object is to prove your character by putting yourself in harm's way, and to take any cuts to your face stoically without flinching. The Dueling Scar (Schmisse) on the face was worn as a badge of honor, and many upper-class Germans and Austrians before World War II had these scars on their faces.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The fighting style of the Dark Eldar Wyches of Warhammer 40,000 is clearly Flynning. On a side note their weapons are Awesome, but Impractical.
  • Pathfinder features a style of combat called "Performance Combat" where, along with fighting your opponent, you are also trying to win over the crowd. There is even a line of feats that make this easier. But much of what can earn one Victory Points or crowd attitude could be characterized as just doing cool stuff in a fight that is being observed.
  • The Complete Bard's Handbook for the second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons offered the "Blade" kit, which was basically all about this trope — fighting not so much better than other bards (let alone proper fighters) as fighting flashier for both entertainment (in lieu of more regular bards' musical skills) and intimidation purposes.
  • Role Master, Spacemaster Privateer campaign setting. The Swashbuckling skill allows the user to perform elaborate maneuvers with his melee weapon, including flourishes and feats of weapon control (such as recovering a dropped weapon).

  • As Romeo and Juliet is both one of the first plays a high school drama club learns or a field trip attends and opens with a large armed brawl, it imprints this trope.
  • The stick-fight between John Adams and John Dickinson in 1776 is quite Flynny. Especially in the film version—Daniels clearly goes for Madden's stick, which Madden has already raised over his head. The shouting, grappling, and overturned desk distracts from it, though.
  • This is actually one of the reasons Macbeth is reputed to be cursed. That play requires an unusual amount of Flynning while wearing full costume on a stage that you hope the set crew has built strongly enough to take all that hopping, bouncing and slashing. Accidents happen.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy:
    • There is an episode in Final Fantasy IX, where a fighting scene is played on stage. Since the hero pretends to be an actor, a mini-game is presented where you have to respond with parry high to threaten high et cetera. Your performance is then rated by the audience. No matter how badly you do, you're given a chance to improve your score. Depending on your score, you're given gil, and also an item by Queen Brahne if you talk to her as Steiner later. If you can manage to impress all one hundred nobles and Queen Brahne, then she will grant a Moonstone, one of only four available in the game. This is extremely challenging, however, and not really worth it unless you're the type that has to do absolutely everything, as the Moonstone really isn't needed for much. Furthermore, in order to get a perfect score, you're pretty much required to retry, as it's only in latter tries that the more dazzling moves that are likely to truly impress the audience become available with frequency.
    • In Final Fantasy XII, Balthier's sword techniques are inspired by this, as befits the suave ladies' man. Of course, most of his weapon styles are based on the most stylish rather than practical options; he practices Gun Twirling, for example, which ironically enough makes him the worst gun user in the game, as his flashy animations slow his damage output compared to the rest of the party using the same weapon.
  • Subverted in Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, after the second battle with Vergil; the twins appear to be Flynning, until one notices the copious amounts of blood on the floor, which demonstrates that their inhuman speed is actually letting them land hits.
  • Parodied in the Monkey Island series with its famous insult sword fighting. The actual swordsmanship was automatically handled by the computer; the duels' outcomes were determined by the wittiness of the quips the player was able to choose.
  • Surprisingly, utilized in the Wii Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest game. Whereas the previous swordsmanship title (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess) only required a small wiggle of the Wii Remote to make Link fight, Pirates actually requires the player to flail like Flynn during the fight sequences.
  • Fire Emblem
    • Critical hits in general involve a lot of spinning and jumping around. It gets really intense once the series hits the GBA, but even the more crudely-animated sprites from the Jugdral games have some elaborate gymnastics for critical hits.
    • The most insane examples would have to be the Myrmidon and Swordmaster. They rely upon an insane amount of flashy jumps and pointless spinning. Even worse, the ones in Sacred Stones tend to be more effective than Eirika and her simple stabbing.
    • In The Blazing Blade, Eliwood's critical animation has him hold up his rapier specifically for Audible Sharpness, swooshes it around before stabbing, and then do a backflip.
  • While the normal melee combat animations in World of Warcraft tend to be pretty sensible, special attack animations tend the feature unnecessary amounts of spinning around or swinging the weapon. Some races' parry animations tend to be quite flashy, too. Sometimes partially justified by the race in question, but still silly. The blood elf is gonna parry and swing her weapon around behind her back to switch to the other hand. She's an elf. Given the intentionally comic-bookish and campy style of the game this is simply part of the style.
  • Inverted in most weapon-based Fighting Games. Instead, thanks to the magic of Hit Points (well, in most cases), characters tend to survive some grievous blows every round. Sword collisions, while generally possible, don't happen too often; in the cases they do, the things that happen vary from game to game, or even from instance to instance, though it's never Flynning.
  • Can be attempted in the Soul Series, but will usually result in having your weapons break (Soul Edge) or being blown back by the force of inertia (the Calibur games.) Though a particularly long Guard Impact chain can look rather like Flynning.
  • In Prince of Persia, the sword fighting animations were rotoscoped from Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone's duel in The Adventures of Robin Hood.
  • In the realm of knifeplay, most First Person Shooters do it quite improperly with the back slash which will result in a quick counterattack and subsequent death.
  • Speaking of knifeplay, in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots the second fight between Raiden and Vamp has the two characters sending sparks through the air as they repeatedly block and parry each other's combat knives. Of course, actually getting two knives that small to collide real life even once would be difficult even if it was choreographed, and downright impossible (not to mention stupid and pointless) in a real fight. For all their effort, they may as well have aimed for their target's body and not their weapon, since in a knife fight the only target you can hit at that distance is your opponent's hand — which is easily defended against by moving one's hand out of the way. Instead of blade-on-blade, all of the blocks and parries in a duel with short knives are done by grappling with your opponent's arms and body; if you can control his body, you control his knife, and you can stab or cut him while preventing him from doing the same to you.
  • The Bishop is inclined to do this in Battle Chess. It costs him big time when jumped by the King.
  • The only way to get the second boss from Ghostrunner to open up and take damage is by repeatedly clashing sword strikes with her, in a video game version of this trope. Clash enough times and her guard is thrown off.

    Web Original 
  • The Guild: a hand-to-hand combat version at the end of season two. Wade and Zaboo get into a fight; Wade spends the entire fight showboating while doing minimal damage. Zaboo takes it like a bitch and manages to strike a firm enough friendship with Wade while being pummeled that Wade thinks Codex isn't worth the fight.
  • Suburban Knights: They fight like a bunch of internet reviewers who rarely leave their chairs... oh. Luckily for them, the Mooks are just as bad. Because they are secretly just D&D nerds.
  • Downplayed in the Star Wars-inspired lightsaber duel in Ryan vs. Dorkman 2. Though there is some flynning, the choreography is especially well-done and the two fighters actually seem to be trying to hit each other instead of just clanging swords. They also put some importance on showing just how dangerous the lightsabers are. One of the best moments is when one character has another's lightsaber pinned against a wall and the 2nd character grabs the other guy's head and tries to push it into the sabers. See the fight here.

    Web Videos 
  • In Modern History Part 20, "How Accurate are Hollywood Sword Fights?", host Jason Kingsley OBE brings on fight coordinator Russell MacLeod to demonstrate and discuss with him how fight choreography works in film and television. First they play an edited fight scene where Jason acts as the hero dueling against an evil knight, and then he and Russell retread the sequence of moves showing how it follows a narrative and departs from realism in certain places in order to tell a story. At the end of the episode Jason says he's gained a new appreciation for how fight choreography is an important profession that draws on a different skill set than the kind of historical combat that Jason practices as a modern knight.
  • Played with in the short video To The Death.note  Corridor consulted with actual fencing experts on a way to create a practical lightsaber duel without any Force powers and with as little flynning as possible. In the video, a Teacher and an Apprentice face off as part of the Apprentice's graduation exam from a sword fighting school that uses Laser Swords. Some flynning does happen, mostly when the Apprentice's strikes become wild as he gets frustrated and/or as he lashes out due to pain, anger, and fear. The video immediately shows why flynning is a bad thing to do in a fight, as the Apprentice's big swings naturally result in him leaving openings that are quickly punished by the Teacher. At one point, the Apprentice gets cocky and starts to twirl his weapon around a la Obi-Wan Kenobi and even start spinning his body with his strikes, only for the Teacher to simply reach out with his blade and give the Apprentice a deep cut to the chest. Eventually the Apprentice triumphs when he regains his calm, forces the Teacher into an extended series of back and forth exchanges until the Teacher attempts to retake control of the fight with a wild slash that leaves him completely open, and which the student counters perfectly.

    Western Animation 
  • Lampshaded in the DVD Commentary of the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Sokka's Master", where Sifu Kisu (the show's martial art consultant) noted that "a real sword fight lasts less than 1.7 seconds", and that "it's not a pretty thing", as it would come down to finding a vital point and stabbing it. It was justified in that instance though, as it wasn't a real match but a Secret Test of Character. There also aren't that many Sword Fights in Avatar anyway.
  • Family Guy: In the episode "Sibling Rivalry", Stewie and his half-brother Bertram engage in an elaborate rapier duel that serves as an Affectionate Parody of the swashbuckling movie, using the playground equipment to perform stunts.
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug episode "Riposte", the fencing class begins by showing an accurate description of real, Olympic-level fencing, with Adrien explaining to Marinette the rules for hitting one's opponent depending on the discipline. However, Kagami and Adrien's fight very soon devolves into flynning, including a lot acrobatics and clanging of swords. Lampshaded by Marinette, who asks if this is still considered fencing, to which weapon teacher D'Argencourt eagerly answers that it is.
  • The Star Wars: Clone Wars miniseries is even worse with its Flynning than the Star Wars franchise's live-action outings. Anakin and Asajj Ventress spend their entire fight spastically swinging wide in each other's general direction. Even less justified than normal in that it's animated and no-one has to worry about injury. Although averted in some fights. Characters often use weapons other than their lightsabers and actually do look like they're trying to injure each other. However, they still usually inexplicably pause after each attack.
    • The subsequent series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, have varying degrees of this, but an especially harsh aversion to the trope happens in the Rebels episode "Twin Suns" in Obi-Wan and Maul's finale duel, which is decided in three strikes. Supplementary material for the episode even notes that real sword fights tend to end quickly, and the speed of the battle was to show that Obi-Wan was a true Master Swordsman.
  • In the Looney Tunes cartoon "The Scarlet Pumpernickel", Daffy Duck plays the Flynn-type swashbuckler. Near the end, he engages in this kind of sword duel with Sylvester the Cat, who plays a Rathbone-type villain.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "One Krab's Trash", Mr. Krabs fights the Army of the Living Dead with a swordfish, and says, "Look at me! I'm Errol Fin!"
  • The Steven Universe episode "Steven the Sword Fighter" opens with Steven and the Gems watching a sword-fighting movie. Pearl criticizes the flynning, going on about how it isn't anything like real sword fighting. However, when she gives Steven a demonstration of "proper" sword fighting, she and her holographic-double sparring partner also aim for each other's swords.

    Real Life 
  • 14th century swordfighting teacher Hanko Döbringer wrote that:
    [T]rue fighting will never employ ornate, showy, or wide patterns, nor [will it include] exaggerated moves which are useful only for the entertainment of spectators.
    • This suggests that the habit of fighters to show off for the crowd by Flynning is Older Than They Think.
  • The Russian Cossack sword-dancing style called shashka or flankirovka involves intricate moves often with Dual Wielding. When two or more dancers are incorporating mock-fighting into the dance, this definitely looks like Flynning from the outside.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Hollywood Swordplay, Pirate Halves


Flamboyant Fencing

Alejandro energetically swishes around his sword, only to have Don Diego casually disarm him with one move, with the implied lesson of not wasting energy with such useless flamboyance.

How well does it match the trope?

4.96 (27 votes)

Example of:

Main / Flynning

Media sources: