Follow TV Tropes


Reverse Arm-Fold

Go To

The physical inverse of the Badass Arm-Fold, where the arms are folded behind the back. The hands may be clasped together just behind the waist (more common in the West and pictured at right), or gripping the opposite forearm higher up (more common in the East). This posture generates strong connotations of patience and consideration, and looks more relaxed than the front fold.

There are four basic character types who use this, for their own reasons:

  1. Martial artists, especially the Old Master, who will hold this pose constantly while his hands are not occupied, unless he's a monk, in which case one hand will hold a prayer position in front of his chest.
  2. Old people of the Asian persuasion in general, who take the same pose but lean forward as if for balance.
  3. The Contemplative Boss. See the picture on that page for an example.
  4. Military personnel, while on duty but not actively engaged in some activity (for instance, in formation but not being inspected, waiting for inspection formation, or waiting to be told to form up for inspection). The stance shown in the picture is known as "At Ease" in The Commonwealth and US armed forces. When done in formation with the implication that the troops should stand still and look forward, the US armed forces call this position "Parade Rest."

Villains are also fond of the pose, as it allows them to lean forward intimidatingly and not look silly as they would if they just let their arms hang loosely. Compare and Contrast Coy, Girlish Flirt Pose.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball franchise:
    • Mercenary Tao and less often Master Roshi.
    • Frieza also has this as one of his trademark poses, normally when he's in his first form.
    • Beerus also does this, such as while talking with Goku in space after their fight. Actually, you could say this is his standard position.
  • You sometimes see Gendo doing the Western version in Neon Genesis Evangelion.
    • The Eastern version is practically Rei's trademark pose: grasping right forearm with left hand with right arm hanging straight down. No one else in the show does it, just her. It suits her rather closely and heavily emphasizes her femininity if she does it while wearing a plugsuit.
  • Pokémon: The Series: Serena has this as a common default pose, and she even does it in the final episode of the XY series after she (kinda) confesses her feelings to Ash and kisses him.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Tifa defaults to this position in Seventh Endmost Vision several times, particularly when talking to Reeve, a civilian superior, in a flashback. She qualifies for the military version of this, since her background in this fic includes being a 1st Class SOLDIER.

    Films — Animation 
  • Anton Ego does this in Ratatouille when he interrupts Linguini's press conference to announce he's going to review Gusteau's for a second time.
  • In Turning Red, several extras are seen walking in the manner of the second type.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • From Kill Bill, Pai Mei, as per tradition, holds this pose almost constantly when his hands are not in use.
  • In The Lord of the Rings adaptations, Gandalf does this on the rare occasion that he's not clutching his staff or a pipe.
  • Morpheus does it all the time The Matrix when he is not kicking ass. His variation particularly stands out because he's frequently gripping his arms at the elbow. Note that this isn't particularly comfortable or relaxing, especially if you're a reasonably well-muscled guy in a bulky Badass Longcoat, so either it's simply Rule of Cool, or it's emphasising his flexibility and badassery that he's able to relax in this pose. This particular variant of the pose is typically identified with the Old Master, so doing so suggests his mentorship to the rest of the crew as well as the general badassery required to make the pose work.
  • Darth Vader from Star Wars is sometimes seen doing this, a holdover from his days as Anakin Skywalker. The same is true of many Imperial officers.
  • Emma. (2020): Mr Knightley, the owner of Donwell Abbey, is a very intelligent and reasonable gentleman who is seen with arms behind his back several times, for example when he stands by the window and talks to Mrs Weston about Emma at Randalls, when he speaks with Emma at the ball or when he's at his grand house at the gallery and he talks to his guests.
  • In Electra Glide in Blue, the motorcycle cops all stand like this at the beginning of their shift.
  • In House of Cards (1993), Sally folds her hands behind her back as she climbs the giant tower Ruth built.
  • In Moving Violation, Tylor stands with his hands folded behind his back while he talks to the mayor.

  • In the first Burke novel, Burke drops in unannounced at the home of snuff-film producer Goldor. When the door opens, Goldor is standing in this position and Burke notes that it's an old bodybuilder's trick — squeezing your hands behind your back to pump blood into the upper body, thus making yourself look bigger. Burke finds out too late that the real reason Goldor is standing like this is because he's holding a taser pistol behind his back.
  • Discworld: Vetinari, as a Contemplative Boss, is stated to do this whenever he stands in front of his big picture window.
  • In The Way of Kings, the enslaved Kaladin makes a point of assuming parade rest between bouts of having to carry a bridge in order to show his discipline. Eventually the rest of the bridge crew join him.
  • In Lieutenant Hornblower the officers on the quarterdeck are described as walking "with their hands clasped behind them as a result of the training they had all received as midshipmen not to put their hands in their pockets." The novel The Commodore has a pointed subversion with Lieutenant Mound, who repeatedly reaches for his pockets before remembering that he's in the presence of a very senior officer. Commodore Hornblower eventually orders him to just do it and quit fidgeting, at which point Mound falls into a comfortable slouch.
  • In Island in the Sea of Time and its sequels, Marian Alston frequently adopts this pose, because she's a Coast Guard officer.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Rand takes to doing this after losing a hand. The Asha'man do it occasionally as well.
  • In The Golden Hamster Saga, some of the illustrations show Freddy standing like this.
  • Aster from An Unkindness of Ghosts does this when she talks to people who have authority over her, in order to stop herself from fidgeting or doing anything that might be seen as disrespectful.
  • In Like a Fish Understands a Tree, the teachers at Susan's school always clasp their hands behind their backs when they stand close to students so they can't be accused of touching them.
  • In The Revenge Of The Hound, a Sherlock Holmes novel by Michael Hardwick, a sailor stands with his hands clasped behind his back while talking to Holmes and Watson. Watson doesn't think anything of it, but Holmes knows that the sailor isn't in one of the services where this pose is standard, and realizes that he was doing it to hide a piece of incriminating evidence behind his back.
  • The Vazula Chronicles: In A Kingdom Restored, Merletta meets the Record Master, the de facto ruler of the merpeople of the triple kingdoms, who floats with his hands folded behind his back.

    Live-Action TV 
  • If Avon of Blake's 7 is not Leaning on the Furniture, he's doing this.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Ser Loras Tyrell adopts this pose in Season 3 whenever he wishes to appear relaxed; examples include his greeting of Queen Cersei and King Joffrey in "Valar Dohaeris", while he walks away from Sansa Stark in "Dark Wings, Dark Words", and Tyrion Lannister and Sansa's wedding ceremony.
    • When Sansa Stark is back at Winterfell as Lady of their House, she often stands or walks with arms behind her back as she attentively listens what other people have to say.
  • Hornblower:
    • Captain Pellew folds his arms behind his back many times during the first instalment when he commands HMS Indefatigable.
    • Horatio Hornblower holds his arms with joined hands behind his back quite often. He does it especially when he's in command. The first time when he does it makes it look like he's imitating Captain Pellew's quarterdeck stance.
  • Starsky & Hutch: Starsky stands like this sometimes.
  • Star Trek:
    • Spock In The Original Series uses this pose many times in the second season onward.
    • In early seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Jadzia Dax walked about with her arms behind her back, to demonstrate the "old man" that was inside her. A later episode, in which Dax's colleagues temporarily embody the symbiont's previous hosts, reveals that she got it from an earlier host, a politician who started doing it when she realized her male colleagues were making fun of her prolific gesticulating, and continues trouncing them all on the debate floor anyway.
    • Star Trek: Voyager.
      • Captain Janeway does this in the early episodes, later replaced by her iconic hands-on-hips posture.
      • In "Meld", Tuvok does a Mind Meld with a psychotic murderer, and starts to pick up some of his more unstable traits, including twitching his hands. But when Tuvok goes to visit the murderer in his cell the latter does this trope, showing that he in turn has picked up Tuvok's mental discipline.
    • Star Trek: Discovery, this is how Admiral Katrina Cornwell stands when she's Face Death with Dignity after sealing herself in with a torpedo that's about to explode, in order to save the rest of the Enterprise.
  • Power Rangers sees Tommy Oliver do a non aggressive or evil variation of this when speaking on camera while the teens were doing a trash pickup activity.


    Professional Wrestling 
  • This is a signature pose for Wrestling Monster WALTER. It helps to his "Ring General" gimmick. This has also been passed down to his stable "Imperium."

    Video Games 
  • Bug Fables: When the Wasp King eats the Everlasting Sapling's last leaf and turns into the Everlasting King, he mostly keeps his arms folded behind his back. On top of making him look more intimidating, it's also a subtle indication that he doesn't need to use his arms much anymore thanks to his new magic powers. On the lesser note, there is General Ultimax, whose default pose has him fold his arms behind his back, as befitting for a militaristic general.
  • Dawn of War: Imperial Guardsmen do this when capturing a point.
  • Destiny 2: The Witch Queen: Rhulk, Disciple of the Witness, the Final Boss of the 'Vow of the Disciple' raid, spends most of the encounter with him in this pose, as befits his arrogant, mocking demeanor. When he actually is rendered vulnerable and realizes The Guardians could beat him, he starts taking things seriously and shifts to a Limp and Livid stance.
  • Disco Elysium: Kim Kitsuragi does this as his standard idle pose, befitting his calm demeanor and no-nonsense approach to his work.
  • Solas from Dragon Age: Inquisition often settles into this pose during cutscenes when he is advising or educating the Inquisitor on various Fade-related topics.
    • Cullen is also seen doing it at moments when he's relaxed. In the earlier parts of the game, it's more common to see him with his arms folded across his chest, but as he grows more comfortable with his role and his relationships with the people around him, he gradually is seen to use this pose more often. It's particularly noticeable at the end of the Trespasser DLC, when the inner circle is all gathered together for one last scene, and especially if he romanced the Inquisitor and they are the last two left standing at the railing.
  • The Elder Scrolls Online: This is a stock animation that characters will use in dialogue. Most typically, it's some sort of person of nobility or importance. Queen Ayrenn and Meridia are notable examples.
  • General Zod in Injustice: Gods Among Us does this by default.
  • In Injustice 2, this is also Darkseid's default stance. While it's nothing new for the character, this version does it constantly, even while jumping. 90% of his time is spent with at least one hand behind his back.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
  • Mass Effect:
    • Thane Krios uses this stance a lot, underlining his calm and composed personality. Shephard imitates him in an interrogation scene, adding to the formality of the set-up.
    • Shepard often adopts this pose when speaking with superior officers or the Council during the first game, or while receiving a briefing from Hackett during an N7 mission in the third.
  • Pokémon:
  • Sam & Max: Freelance Police: President Max adopts this pose when discussing Matters of State.
  • Shenmue:
    • Master Chen walks around hunched over like this, but wow, that old guy can dodge a punch.
    • Lan Di, too, by way of Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy.
  • Characters with the "thoughtful" stance in Star Trek Online will stand like this.
  • Old Master Wang Jinrei of Tekken gained one of these during his intros circa Tekken 5.
  • Xenogears: Citan Uzuki is frequently shown doing this.

    Visual Novels 
  • In her final scene before her departure in Double Homework, Dr. Mosely/Zeta strikes this pose while questioning the protagonist, determining whether to execute him and his classmates or to let him go. After a little thought, she chooses the latter.

    Web Animation 
  • DEATH BATTLE!; in the first half of the fight in "Thanos vs. Darkseid", Darkseid has his hands behind his back even while Thanos is actively attacking him, only breaking out of the stance after their fight goes galactic.
  • RWBY:
    • The God of Light normally clasps his hands in front of his body when communicating with mortals in his humanoid form, and always presents an air of patient wisdom. When the two gods unite together to pronounce their judgement upon Salem for her actions, the God of Darkness clasps his hands behind his body. While it lends him the same air of timeless, patient wisdom that his brother normally exudes, the reversal of his stance compared to his brother's still emphasizes that he and his brother are not alike.
    • This stance is also favoured by the Atlas Military characters, most notably General Ironwood who almost always stands with his hands behind his back. He even does it when he only has one free hand, such as when his left arm is in a sling during the last few episodes of Vol 7, resting that hand at the small of his back. Winter, Clover and other military characters do the same, and Penny has also picked it up by Vol 7 despite not being technically a part of the military herself.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Many villains demonstrate this trope in the DC Animated Universe. Among them are Lex Luthor, Ra's Al Ghul (though it might just be his cape), Vandal Savage, Gorilla Grodd and Darkseid. In fact, in his first appearance in Superman: The Animated Series, when Bruno Manheim, and thus the audience, is introduced to Darkseid, he is in this pose.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes it seems to be Dr. Londo's favourite stance.
  • Velma from Scooby-Doo does this quite a lot, especially in the oldest series.

    Real Life 
  • In the US Military, personnel are forbidden to have their hands in their pockets, as it appears unprofessional. This leaves three main stances — hands across the chest, hands across the back, and hands straight down. Hands across the chest is a defensive position and usually avoided (unless it is cold). Hands straight down is strongly associated with the position of "Attention", and a lot of yelling, and is discouraged unless a lot of yelling is needed. Hands behind the back tends to be used in a more casual environment, such as when the Old Man is lecturing his troops (no, not like that... well, O.K., maybe sometimes). Often the "At Ease" stance is used to signal to the troops that what follows will be a "business as usual" speech (or maybe even a Father to His Men moment).
    • For more formal occasions, usually while in formation, the command of "Parade Rest" is given instead. While some shuffling and looking around is allowed when "At Ease", "Parade Rest" requires standing stock still and looking forward. It does have the advantage of being less likely to cause personnel to pass out either from locking their knees or tensing their leg muscles (both very easy to do while standing at "Attention", and both being likely to cause a blood pressure drop leading to fainting while standing).
  • In at least Canadian military drill, the position is known as "At Ease" and consists of laying the back of your right hand against the palm of your left behind your back with your thumbs intertwined, your fingers extended, your shoulders square, your elbows tight to your body, and your feet apart.
  • Some martial arts schools incorporate this as a stance before being called to attention. Since being called to attention commonly involves clapping one's arms to their sides, it avoids having to awkwardly flap when already in the desired pose.
    • Same for the Air Force. Typical routine is for the airmen to fall into formation at the position of Attention, then be put either At Ease or at Parade Rest until it's time for them all to snap to Attention at once.
  • When placed into the "Parade Rest" position, the squad member(s) is not supposed to pay attention to any other command, until brought to the "Attention" position by the authority (or higher) who placed the member(s) in position. The supposed to because the individual can be in a situation, such as approached by a flag officer (general or admiral) who then interacts with him/her. Rather than be perceived as insulting the officer, the member will usually (upon self-authority) snap to attention, respond in kind to the officer, and then return to "parade rest" when the officer moves on. (BTW, a salute would also be in order.)