I need a badass skill
June 29, 2009 8:36 PM   Subscribe

I want a badass skill. I want to know how to do something that people will see and think "wow, that is badass."

Please don't suggest the Rubik's cube. There are so many how-to's that it's downright pedestrian to be able to solve it these days. I just want some skill/trick/ability that's really--for lack of a better term--badass.

I don't want gimmicks or cheap magic tricks. I'm willing to put in a lot of time learning it. I ask not because I'm not an egotistical prick, I just want to have something cool I can do that isn't easily replicated.

Lastly, it can't be really involved or expensive. I'm talking things you can do with something in your pocket or in someone's house or something.
posted by Autarky to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (104 answers total) 400 users marked this as a favorite
I used to know a guy who could run up and flip off of walls.
posted by jschu at 8:40 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That's exactly the type of thing I'm talking about. I should mention that, while not a klutz, I'm not especially athletic either.
posted by Autarky at 8:41 PM on June 29, 2009

Best answer: you may consider it a "gimmick of cheap magic trick," but being able to juggle well enough to grab some arbitrary poorly-balanced objects off of someone's coffee table and set them in motion is pretty damn impressive.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:45 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Apparently learning to do a backflip isn't hard, just time consuming. There are a lot of videos on youtube teaching how.

And/or you could learn to pick locks.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 8:46 PM on June 29, 2009

Mythbusters had a segment about tearing phonebooks in half. Apparently even a weakling like asavage can tear one apart if they know the right technique.
posted by pwnguin at 8:46 PM on June 29, 2009

Best answer: A few months ago, I went on a (first) date with a guy who:
1) brought a deck of cards, did card tricks, then went on to teach me how to do them, too.
2) used dollar bills for origami. He folded dollar bills into a pair of boots, a heart, and a frog.
He then proceeded to tell me how much he liked me and asked for a second date. I said yes.

THAT GUY was badass.
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos at 8:48 PM on June 29, 2009 [24 favorites]

One-armed pull-up. For cheats, the version where your left hand holds on to your right wrist is much easier, but looks just as impressive to the unlearned observer.
posted by 0xFCAF at 8:50 PM on June 29, 2009

Learn how to listen attentively to others, care about their opinions even if you disagree with them, and respond to their words with ones of your own that contain something of your genuine self in them. This should take many years of practice before perfecting.

Not what you were looking for? You could always learn how to tear a phone book in half. It's easy. There's a MythBusters episode that explains the details. Also this website. It only take a few minutes to get, so you'll have time to add other skills to your arsenal, too.
posted by Nonce at 8:50 PM on June 29, 2009 [8 favorites]

Seconding the dollar bill origami. You can do it anywhere, it's easy to learn and people seem to be really impressed by it.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:52 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Some things that come to mind that seem pretty badass -

Clearing a pool table in one turn
Flipping a knife/ knife juggling
Doing the reverse K-turn to change direction when driving fast on a highway
Opening beer bottles by hooking the cap on a surface and slamming your hand down on it perfectly each time
Using a straight razor
posted by Miko at 8:53 PM on June 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

Moonwalking always seems to get a good reaction.
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 8:54 PM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Ditto knife throwing. Totally badass and fun to learn.
posted by unSane at 8:58 PM on June 29, 2009

Carry around a Linux system on a flash drive. You will be able to seriously impress people (albeit in a very geeky kind of way) if you plug in a USB drive and start using a full desktop system. Bonus points if you use a distro with Compiz, so you can unleash some fancy graphical effects on their asses...
posted by fearthehat at 9:00 PM on June 29, 2009

Hard to beat a good non-gaffed coin trick that requires true slight of hand.
Barring that - google for the "scotch and soda" coin trick. This makes people's minds melt. Warning - not *everyone* appreciates illusions (a trick is something a whore does for money, Michael).
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 9:03 PM on June 29, 2009 [8 favorites]

Maybe I'm taking the question a little too literally, but I have a cousin who can fart on command. She usually farts to the rhythm of Christmas carols (or did when we were about 12).
It isn't clear from your question which people groups you'd like to impress. If it's middle school boys at summer camp (or my family, apparently) this is a good one (and you can learn how on youtube). Otherwise, keep looking.
posted by deadcrow at 9:04 PM on June 29, 2009 [5 favorites]

Catch flies with chopsticks.
posted by milarepa at 9:05 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A friend's dad taught me to do this when I was 19 or 20, and it has served me well.

Note: I was a 115-pound girl at the time, so it was especially impressive, but fifteen or twenty pounds and years later, it's still pretty cool, and it was fucking cool when the forty-year-old, +/- 200 pound guy showed it to me. I think it's universally rad. And despite the fact that it's common enough to be on WikiHow, I'm still the only other person I know who can do it.
posted by padraigin at 9:17 PM on June 29, 2009 [56 favorites]

Spring up from your back to your feet in one movement, as you see in most martial arts movies.

You need to be mildly althletic, but it's not really about strength so much as it is about timing and coordination. I can't get onto youtube to look for it for you (search "kick-up"), but it's really quite simple:

1) Lie on your back, hands flat on the ground next to your ears.

2) Bring your legs up and as far towards your chest as you can get them (keep them straight).

3) When they go past your point of flexibility, they'll naturally 'spring' back a little. You need to kick them out as soon as this happens. Keep your legs straight. The 'kick' is all in the hips- basically moving from an acute angle at your hips to a flat angle as quickly as possible.

4) At the same time, push back with your hands to lift your torso off the ground. If you time it right, and put enough energy into it, you'll find yourself standing up with far less effort than you'd imagine.
posted by twirlypen at 9:18 PM on June 29, 2009 [33 favorites]

Best answer: I don't want gimmicks or cheap magic tricks.

Then learn how to do well magic tricks. Just a little palming and a few card tricks, if done well, can take you a long way, but you can get to be really good. You'll also have to learn quite a bit of showmanship, which is reportedly 90% of the trick.

A night out with a friend who dabbles in magic usually has first our table, then the neighboring ones, then the whole bar mouth agape and laughing and clapping like kids with just a few coins, a deck of cards and lots of sleight of hand.
posted by _dario at 9:50 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

How 'bout choppin' stuff up by flingin' playin' cards?
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:53 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Screw these suggestions.

Learn to play some music! Piano. Harmonica. Ukelele. DRUMS. Steel drums. Bucket drums.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:53 PM on June 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

Here is an easy card trick that requires zero technique or even the ability to count. How it works is obvious to anyone with some elementary math skills and a moment to figure it out, but it can dazzle a room of stupid and/or distracted people:

Take a new deck of cards, or arrange a deck in order 2 through ace by suit.

Begin to cut the cards. Do not cut from the middle, just make as many single cuts as you like. Or get a volunteer to cut them. Keep making even cuts until folks are satisfied the cards are "shuffled".

Now lay out 13 stacks of cards. The 14th card goes on top of the first stack, etc, until you've got 13 stacks with 4 cards in each stack.

Now the reveal. Ta-da! Turn over any stack. You'll find 4 of the same card. Now turn over all the stacks. Magic! The cards have sorted themselves numerically!

I will note, however, that this trick has never gotten me laid.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:55 PM on June 29, 2009 [5 favorites]

Heh, I've spent some time thinking about this myself. What I came up with, despite never spending enough time to accomplish any of them:

-Learn to play the guitar (goes without saying)
-Be able to do a back flip (as mentioned above)
-Learn at least one song (well!) on the piano (sit down at a Casio at a music store and blow some socks off)
-Easy but impressive coin tricks
-Learn to play the harmonica (maybe it's quaint, but it's small, portable and I've always been impressed by the sound that comes out of those things. I figured other people would, too)
posted by fantastico at 9:56 PM on June 29, 2009

Whistle really loud, as in train whistle loud. It takes practice, but you can learn.
posted by JujuB at 9:56 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

In retrospect, she must have brought it up on purpose.... but I was once at a party at the home of a friend-of-a-friend and it came out that that our hostess had gone to circus camp as a kid. What did you do? Oh, I was a fire eater. Are you kidding? Not at all, and gosh, I must have that old kit around here somewhere... Anyhow, the whole party trooped out to the parking lot of her boring VA apartment complex and she lit torches spun them around and stuck them down her throat and pulled them out STILL ON FIRE!!! and it was amazing and I'll never forget her. So I'd recommend learning how to do that.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:57 PM on June 29, 2009 [9 favorites]

Rolling a quarter across your knuckles. Love that trick and you don't need any special prep.

Nthing the Dollar Bill origami (he has a book.) Works well for giving cash as a gift, too, and making something fun with the bills instead giving of just a piece of paper in an envelope.

Athletic trick requiring stomach muscles: sit on the floor, legs together straight ahead, arms at sides, palms on floor, fingers pointing back and lift yourself off the floor. Not showy, but it's impressive (to me, at least) and not at all easy to do unless you're fit, but it doesn't require a lot of co-ordination.

Dance like a cossack, complete with kicks from a squatting postion.

Forget any trick you ever saw in any Animal House type film as you'll get the wrong kind of laughter.
posted by x46 at 9:58 PM on June 29, 2009

I once knew a guy who could balance anything on his head/forehead. I once saw him do it with a guitar, which was frickin' cool.
posted by Billegible at 10:03 PM on June 29, 2009

Learn to beatbox really really well.
posted by majick at 10:06 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding (well, sorta) JujuB. The only thing even remotely impressive along these lines that I can do is a seriously loud wolf-whistle done with the fingers of one hand. It is actually incredibly useful for catching cabs in NYC, and often results in slightly awed comments by slightly perturbed friends (whose ears are still ringing). Also good for signalling approval at sporting events and demanding encores at rock concerts.

A counselor at camp taught me how one summer. I'm sure if you Google around you can find some instructions. Takes some practice, but actually fairly easy. Not sure why more people don't know how - maybe because it's kind of annoying. :)
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 10:12 PM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Learn to break dance. It always seems to draw a crowd and applause.
posted by EatTheWeek at 10:13 PM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Firebreathing. Dead simple to learn how to do, looks great every time.
posted by Jairus at 10:19 PM on June 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Zippo lighter tricks. Think George Clooney in out of sight.
posted by theDrizzle at 10:24 PM on June 29, 2009

posted by johngoren at 10:31 PM on June 29, 2009

I second slicing stuff by throwing playing cards at them.

Also, there's Devil's Sticks. They're impressive, and there's definite skill involved. I used to work in an educational toy store in a mall (apparently, this is good for eye-hand coordination) where we sold these. To get people into the store, the manager would have me stand at the front of the store playing these things. I'd stand there for three to four hours pretty much just practicing. I got good--people were impressed. You can't just throw them in your pocket or whip them out of your wallet (unless it's a huge wallet), but it'll look cool.
posted by rybreadmed at 10:36 PM on June 29, 2009

Best answer: Google "Ricky Jay using cards as weapons" to begin your road down learning how to throw playing cards. My friends and I started to learn this in high school and by the end of our senior year we could easily draw blood, bury a playing card into a watermelon from across the room, throw cards into walls, and hurl a playing card up to 70 yards.

This is serious stuff.

Once we all armed ourselves with a deck of cards each and, wearing only running shorts, went into a racquetball court and proceeded to attack each other. It was a blood bath.

But now that I'm married and have a kid (I swear, I'll never know how I managed to marry a babe after wasting so much time in school learning to throw a playing card), it's a bitchin' trick to whip out at various social gatherings, BBQ's, game nights, etc. It always blows people's socks onto their asses. I especially love drawing blood from the tough, skeptical guy who scoffs at my claims of playing card weaponry.
posted by Detuned Radio at 10:38 PM on June 29, 2009 [45 favorites]

Card tricks and guitar playing are not really badass. What you want are Beast Skills. A handstand would be a good place to start, then maybe work on a handstand pushup or a flag. These will not be easy, but if they were they wouldn't be badass.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:39 PM on June 29, 2009 [10 favorites]

Doomsday Algorithm
posted by phrontist at 10:53 PM on June 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

1. Bonafide telekinesis
2. Receiving a call from the President
3. Successful CPR
4. Chopin's Etudes or Rach's Third
5. More than three unrelated languages
6. Lightning calculation
7. Aerobatics
posted by bz at 11:03 PM on June 29, 2009 [5 favorites]

Oh yeah- fire twirling is totally easy. Get a broomstick, watch some youtube, and you'll have the basics down fairly quickly. It's not often that you'll get the opportunity to show it off, but imagine if everytime you saw a firetwirler you were able to approach them, chat for a minute, then have a go at their staff and wow everyone around you. Definitely badass.
posted by twirlypen at 11:08 PM on June 29, 2009

Levitating. This is pretty impressive, especially to crowds of drunk people.
posted by fire&wings at 11:21 PM on June 29, 2009

Be one of the people who can lift your ring finger when your middle finger is flexed palmward.

You just sit there doing it over and over again looking bored. Eventually someone else will try and fail completely; after that pretty much everyone else at your table will be trying. Of course it makes you more of a freak than a badass but any attention is good attention right?
posted by prak at 11:52 PM on June 29, 2009

Lip reading.
Lock bumping.
Making fire with a coke can and a chocolate bar.

And now, for something completely different:

Being able to identify colors at a glance by RGB percentage
and the 101 percentage greyscale values in descending order...maybe it's an artist-nerd thing, but I think it's incredibly badass to to be able to look at a color and be able to call it precisely.
posted by aquafortis at 12:16 AM on June 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

Somehow the word badass implicates a crowd of dudes to me. I mean, while reciting the whole of Dante's Divine Comedy in Italian sounds pretty cool, badass it is not. So here's a trick I learned in Czechoslovakia, when I toured that country with my band in the early nineties. No special skills needed, just the determination to get drunk at any price.

>How to open a bottle of wine for dudes<>
Imagine the situation: a room filled with empty beer bottles. Half the crowd passed out already, the other half wants to keep on drinking. Practical problem: there's no more beer. Somehow, somebody suddenly turns up with a box of wine. Next problem: there's no cork screw. This a room filled with drunk dudes, right? They all got Leathermans WITHOUT the cork screw.

Suddenly there's shouting and screaming. One skinny guy turns up with a copy of Das Kapital. He shouts: "As always, this book comes up with the right solution!" The book looks like a rag, I am soon to find out why.

He takes a bottle, takes off the capsule and walks through the room. With his left hand, he pushes the book up against the wall in front of his face. With his other hand, he grabs the bottle and places the bottom of the bottle against the book. Then he starts pounding the bottle, bottom first. And I mean pounding in a way that the whole building starts shaking. And while he keeps on hammering the bottle, the crowd starts yelling GO, GO, GO. Like magic (well, if you're drunk it seems like magic) the cork starts shifting up and up. After a while he stops and twists the cork from the bottle. By this time the white wine looks like milk, but nobody gives a shit. There's cheering when the bottle gets passed around. That was great, just eleven bottles to go.

There were more tricks I learned that particular evening. But since they involved brothels, flying ping pong balls and muscles that dudes don't have, I will wait for an appropriate opportunity on Ask Mefi to share that experience.
posted by ouke at 12:25 AM on June 30, 2009 [9 favorites]

Learn to play some music!

Fuck yeah. Disappear for a few years and master an instrument. That would classify as badass and relevant.
posted by philip-random at 12:36 AM on June 30, 2009

Play an instrument. Guitar if you have small fingertips, piano if you've got big ones.
posted by flabdablet at 1:07 AM on June 30, 2009

1)Fix anything, but be humble about it
2)Shave with a straight razor.
3)Survive well in the wilderness for 2 weeks with just a knife and the clothes on your back.
4) Completely overhaul a car/truck engine.
5) Pool [billiards] tricks.
6) Do anything on a computer via the command line/terminal.
7) Standing back tuck.
8) 10 Nail Balance Trick
9)Flawlessly sweep, fingerpick or overhand a guitar.
10) Dollar Bill oragami

Sorry if some of these deviated away from you in-the-spur-of-the-moment idea. they're just good to reference. Be sure you have good storytelling skills. if you've got those, you can make ANYTHING you've done in your life seem badass!
posted by cmchap at 1:10 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

ludwig_van wrote: What you want are Beast Skills.

Damn straight. If you can do a one-armed chin up, you are officially bad-ass. I used to be officially bad-ass, but not so much after the resulting elbow surgery. So, do be careful, won't you?
posted by tim_in_oz at 1:58 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Second the farting. Truly Bad Ass
posted by A189Nut at 3:38 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Learn another language. Preferably not French... it's so passé these days. Hahah.
posted by ryanbryan at 3:54 AM on June 30, 2009

I agree with ryanbryan. Whatever your nationality/ethnicity is, attain fluency in a language that people won't expect.

There's white people with amazing fluency in Chinese that usually startles the living daylights out of both white and Chinese people when they speak.

Not only will you impress people, you'll have a great asset when you go a-travelin'.
posted by thisperon at 4:12 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

(Gee, based on my grammar in the previous post, looks like I need to learn English. Again.)
posted by thisperon at 4:16 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Open a beer bottle with your teeth.

There are a number of beer bottle tricks on youtube, but the teeth is the most badass.
posted by knile at 5:27 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

What knile just said is pretty badass.
posted by vincele at 5:36 AM on June 30, 2009

Best answer: Learn to juggle.

I don't know why you are anti-magic, but I've yet to encounter someone not entranced with a well done (well rehearsed) trick.
posted by zardoz at 5:52 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

This parole officer I talk to at work says he always brings a pocketful of walnuts to the bar. He cracks them with his bicep and offers them to chicks. According to him, it drives women wild.
posted by The Straightener at 6:03 AM on June 30, 2009 [6 favorites]

Learn Vespa maintenance and repair. People will come from far and wide to seek out your skills.
posted by BostonTerrier at 6:14 AM on June 30, 2009

Unhooking a bra with one hand is the ultimate in badassery, though not something you can do in front of a crowd.

Breaking up a bar fight? Also pretty badass, but again with limited application. Probably anything that could be done at a bar would fall on the "badass" side of the scale.

Any performance requiring you to carry around a backpack with equipment? Nifty and impressive if you're good, but badasses don't carry backpacks.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:16 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Learn to draw a map of the United States from memory. Al Franken did this on the David Letterman show once. If that isn't badass, I don't know what is.
posted by bondcliff at 6:17 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

You could always learn Dice Control. This has the added bonus of making you cold, hard cash at the tables while being a badass. :)
posted by Citrus at 6:21 AM on June 30, 2009

I think the only answer to this question is: kung-fu.

Barring that, just figure out how to open a beer with a Bic lighter really well. If you can make the top pop off into the stratosphere, even better.
posted by General Malaise at 6:36 AM on June 30, 2009

Nthing shaving with a straight razor, learning an instrument, and juggling (especially clubs, although that admittedly requires special equipment.)

Also, whenever I order a single-malt Scotch neat, there's usually someone nearby (sometimes the bartender themselves) who's never heard that term for "straight up", and for whatever reason it seems to impress. (Or maybe it's just the act of drinking unadulterated Scotch.)
posted by usonian at 6:41 AM on June 30, 2009

Learn to remove the wrapper from a bottle of wine by sliding it off. Sounds dumb, but there are frequent opportunities to demonstrate it, and anyone I've showed it to has been quite impressed.
posted by Simon Barclay at 7:10 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

You could do what this guy does.
posted by procrastination at 7:12 AM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

Fire poi and fire juggling/hula hooping, etc. People love fire (as seen above).
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:30 AM on June 30, 2009

Buy a butterfly knife (balisong) and learn how to do all those crazy tricks and twirls.
posted by chunking express at 7:40 AM on June 30, 2009

Kill flies in a single swat.

Do pull-up off a door jamb by hooking it with only the tips of your fingers.
posted by ignignokt at 7:51 AM on June 30, 2009

Learn to make a few cocktails really, really well. A good martini is always impressive, but being able to layer without a spoon will get you some serious kudos with all those who can't i.e. people like me.

My most badass thing is the ability to make a bonfire that lasts. Out of pretty much nothing. Made a fire at a party about a fortnight ago, and kept everyone warm for hours.
posted by Jilder at 8:05 AM on June 30, 2009

You could always learn Dice Control. This has the added bonus of making you cold, hard cash at the tables while being a badass
I really can not imagine anyone meeting Stanford Wong or Frank Scoblete and thinking "there goes a real badass."
posted by Lame_username at 8:07 AM on June 30, 2009

Best answer: Become extremely good at darts - this can win you money at bars.

If you want to amp it up, most aim-based skills are badass - archery, shooting, knife throwing, card throwing.

Also, for some reason I have always found whittling to be badass.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:10 AM on June 30, 2009

Oh, also, freestyle rhyming. You don't have to improvise everything completely - most rappers have a few rhymes on tap that they adjust a bit to the situation.
posted by ignignokt at 8:13 AM on June 30, 2009

Best answer: I have a kind of cool but not great book my mom gave me entitled Singing For Your Supper that may be of interest. It's mostly parlor tricks, some magic tricks, palm reading, stuff like that. Not really a badass instruction manual but I think worth having in your library.

More better and realistic than my earlier list:

1. Contact juggling. The coin flipping on your knuckles thing is one but another, already mentioned but worth re-mentioning, is pencil twirling which, having seen in person, I can attest is fairly awesome and something I don't think will take years to achieve some satisfying badassness. Extra bonus if you can do it nonchalantly.

2. I will reiterate lightning calculation simply because it really is impressive to witness. It can't really be showcased, though, it just needs to happen when there's a need, like, when you're helping the person you just met do his or her taxes, say, and want to be a little badass without getting out the lighter fluid and batons.

3. Learn how to play one good and familiar passage on the piano. C'mon, you can do it and it is badass. Even the dirt simple A Thousand Miles is impressive if played well.

4. Ballroom dancing skills. Al Pacino was quite badass in Scent of a Woman. I'm seconding a flawless moonwalk, though of lesser badassness than the tango, it is still impressive.

5. Tying your shoelaces with an Ian's Knot. It's badass, really. It just looks really cool when done quickly. Almost magical.
posted by bz at 8:56 AM on June 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

chunking express writes "Buy a butterfly knife (balisong) and learn how to do all those crazy tricks and twirls."

This was going to be my suggestion but be aware that butterfly knives are classed as gravity knives, because they can be easily opened with one hand, and are illegal many places unless you have a hand disability. Of course technically the locking blade on a leatherman is illegal in many of these places too (because it locks and/or is over 2" in length), especially if you keep it in your pocket rather than on your belt so YMMV. However butterfly knives are showy (the whole point after all) and aren't seen as having redeeming qualities. Cops see them as gang weapons.
posted by Mitheral at 9:40 AM on June 30, 2009

I think for me the most badass thing is when people I am hanging out with just start conversations with anyone they want. Like, on a street, in a restaurant, and can charm them enough that they are actively engaged.
posted by Sully at 10:05 AM on June 30, 2009 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Better than a lighter, open a beer with a dollar bill:


Another little trick you can do when the opportunity comes up: When a candle is burning, take a match and light it from the candle. Blow out the candle, wait a beat and then bring the lit match into the rising smoke above the candle. The flame will ignite the gases in the smoke, run down to the candle wick and relight it.
posted by danascot at 10:17 AM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

Open a champagne bottle with a sword?
posted by paultopia at 10:30 AM on June 30, 2009

Phone book tearing was mentioned upthread. It's a great little trick, and looks pretty badass. You can learn how to tear a phone book with minimal knowledge of technique and still have lots of room for improvement. Then you can work up to phone book shearing, and then someday license plate tearing! That's pretty badass.

Every man should have a musical skill, should be able to dance and cook a very good meal or two. But these skills are not badass. They are cool. Making knives out of plate glass is bad ass. Throwing enormous stones while wearing a kilt is also badass. Deadlifting 600 pounds is also badass.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 10:40 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Carve a chicken in 18 seconds - Don't wipe a raw chicken and then wipe the plate though.
Fillet a fish
French a lamb roast
posted by junesix at 10:47 AM on June 30, 2009

junesix: those links all seem to go to the same chicken video.
posted by bz at 10:54 AM on June 30, 2009

I had a friend in college who used to eat shot glasses. And another friend who could drink a beer whilst standing on his head (from a can or a glass, not just a bottle).

Those are pretty badass. I think the trick with the shot glass is to have really hard teeth and just CHEW CHEW CHEW. The shards break down into just little bits of sand so you just have to get good at chewing it bit by bit and keeping it away from the soft parts.
posted by jckll at 11:59 AM on June 30, 2009

Best answer: I see several comments recommending learning to juggle. Good idea. Juggling is easier than you think, and a week of practicing about an hour a day will give you basic competency. For the record, I'm nowhere near anything like a good juggler, but I can do torches, knives, bowling balls & such, and I did make rent for several lean months through street juggling. So:

Get three beanbags of equal weight. Beanbags are easier to catch and they don't roll when you drop them. I will hereafter refer to beanbags as balls, cuz I'm tired of typing the word beanbag.

With one ball in your dominant hand, stand facing a wall. You should be close enough that the wall prevents you from extending your arms fully. The reason you are facing a wall is simple: this encourages you to learn to toss on a plane perpendicular to the ground.

Toss the ball from one hand to another. Do not worry about catching it! This step is designed to teach you the toss, not the catch. Toss the ball until you can achieve a consistent eye-level arc.

Now teach the non-dominant hand the same toss. This took me about a day of boring repitition: I'm hopelessly klutzy with my left hand.

Repeat this enough and you will have also taught yourself to catch: don't grab, let the ball hit the center of your palm and your fingers will close naturally around it. Did I say don't grab? Yeah, don't.

Now you know the pass. Practice with one ball. Left-to right, right-to left. Stop looking at your hands! Stop watching the balls! Focus on a point beyond the wall you are standing before. Let your peripheral vision and proprioception guide your hands to be beneath the falling ball.

Now add ball #2. With a ball in each hand, toss the ball from your non-dominant hand. When that ball is at it's apex, toss the ball from your other hand. If you're doing it right, the first ball will land in your dominant hand as the second ball reaches its apex. Practice this UNTIL YOU CAN DO IT WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED. Oh, learn it both ways: right to left and left to right.

Now dig this: that's all three-ball manipulation is! It's a bunch of two-ball exchanges strung together!

Add the third ball. Two in one hand, one in the other. Think about the timing of the two-ball pattern: this is no different, just a bit faster. Toss higher if it helps, but keep facing that wall: height is much easier to compensate for than off-plane tosses.

Juggle.you Ta-da! The first time you successfully circulate three balls, the light will come on. Within weeks you'll be competent and teaching yourself tricks. And clubs are as easy as balls, and knives and flambeaux are just dangerous clubs.

Juggling gave me confidence and a fun skill at parties. It's much easier to do than it looks.

Now you've learned the exchange. Three-ball juggling is nothi g
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:10 PM on June 30, 2009 [44 favorites]

Response by poster: If nothing else, this thread is pretty badass. Lots of great suggestions in here. I'll go through and mark some best answers later.
posted by Autarky at 12:25 PM on June 30, 2009

86 comments and 148 users have favourited.

This thread is badass.
posted by FusiveResonance at 3:01 PM on June 30, 2009

Best answer: I think the trick with the shot glass is to have really hard teeth and just CHEW CHEW CHEW. The shards break down into just little bits of sand so you just have to get good at chewing it bit by bit and keeping it away from the soft parts.

posted by jpdoane at 5:02 PM on June 30, 2009 [12 favorites]

Light cigarettes like Jun does in Mystery Train.

I always thought archery was the most badass thing, probably because you never see people doing it in real life and it's an actual skill that would help you post-zombie apocalypse.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 6:51 PM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

Oops. WTF?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:14 PM on June 30, 2009

Learned a cheat years ago on tearing a phonebook in half. Bake in oven for 5-6 hours at very low temperature. Dries the book out making it very easy to tear.
posted by Muirwylde at 7:28 PM on June 30, 2009

Sabrage is kind of badass.
posted by danb at 8:07 PM on June 30, 2009

Another cool trick:

posted by danascot at 9:25 PM on June 30, 2009

1. Buy and read the Book of Cool. Can't believe no-one's mentioned this.

2. Learn Finnish.
posted by flutable at 9:58 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

90º turns on a bike with no hands. (okay probably more like 120º) but yeah, not athletic per se, but more of a balance and timing skill. I do this when I feel the need to feel particularly badass.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:59 PM on July 1, 2009

Some of permafrost's favourite Zippo tricks:

Easy: Hold lighter in right hand with the cap between the thumb and index, the hinge toward your palm. Shake down hard, it should fall open with you still holding it by the cap. Reach round with the middle/ring finger to strike.

Jun-style (from the video above): Hold lighter in your left hand with hinge to the left, palm toward you and your thumb on the base and index and middle fingers on the cap. Squeeze hard and your index and middle fingers should slide down, popping the cap open. Light by clicking fingers with the right hand, so that as your middle finger moves down it hits the striking wheel. Yes, this can sting, but remember - bad ass.

Bond style (I don't know why it's called this): In your right hand, hold the lighter vertically, but on one side, so the hinge is on the top and the cap to the right. Hold it with your middle finger on the top (hinge) side in the middle, and your index and ring fingers on the bottom, on either side. Push up with the index and ring, and down with the middle, and the lighter should 'split' open. Reach round to grip the body between the thumb, index and middle fingers, twisting it round so the striking wheel rubs against your palm, then push down. It will light upside down. This needs a bit of practice to be done fluidly, but can look pretty good.

Those are the ones I used the most. The real trick though is to do them in one practised motion, while talking about something else or just remaining completely nonchalant. In the UK at least, you don't see many Zippo tricks in the wild these days, so if you can pull one off you should get at least a 'hey, do that again!'
posted by permafrost at 1:59 AM on July 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

You can also light a zippo on your jeans. Flip it open, place the wheel on your jeans, and quickly snap it back and then forward.
posted by Miko at 7:17 AM on July 2, 2009

Learn how to start a car with a manual transmison by "popping the clutch" in case of a dead battery or a broken starter. Nothing to it once you know how but a life saver when someone needs it. You can practice it on a steep hill.
posted by BoscosMom at 2:06 PM on July 2, 2009

Barring that, just figure out how to open a beer with a Bic lighter really well. If you can make the top pop off into the stratosphere, even better.

This one is good because I've actually seen it be useful. Like we had beers and didn't have a bottle opener, and someone cool said "does anyone have a lighter?"

Also, if you're good at it, it just works without any effort. Then when someone else tries it, they won't be able to do it at all. That equals "badass" in my mind.
posted by smackfu at 3:55 PM on July 2, 2009

Ropes and knots can be a rich source of badassery. For example:
Tying a prussik knot and then using it to ascend the single rope (that is hanging down into the well you are trapped in).
A one handed bowline (best done without looking).
Storing a rope in a chain sinnet.
Making a masthead knot mat to put your beer on.
Tying a honda knot for your lasso trick roping.
Making rope handcuffs.
Finally you have to coil your rope like this aspiring badasses in preparation for your exit.
posted by rongorongo at 1:59 AM on July 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Can you carry a tune? Speaking from personal experience, if you train your voice and learn enough about music and performance that you can get onstage, know your key, count out a tune, nail the song, and then calmly go offstage to applause? People do tend to think you're pretty dang badass.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:00 PM on July 5, 2009

Oh, another thing that makes someone badass? TRAIN TO GIVE A GOOD MASSAGE. Seriously. People will be like putty in your hands and it's very sexy to know how to really touch someone else.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:01 PM on July 5, 2009 [4 favorites]

Knot untying in lightning speed. Also, putting someone into checkmate in 4 moves.
posted by heather-b at 6:54 AM on July 7, 2009

Four moves isn't badass. Two moves is badass.
posted by flabdablet at 5:26 AM on July 9, 2009

I was once at a party where folks were playing guitars and banjos and singing in a big circle. People were moderately engaged. Then this dude picked up a couple of spoons from the table, and started to play them really well. People got very interested. It's one of the few situations I've ever been in where I could see women coming from around the room to be close to the guy. My friends and I still joke about how laid that guy got that night. It was truly astounding. (He was good with the spoons, and it didn't hurt that he was good looking.)
posted by OmieWise at 7:08 AM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I worked in a local blacksmith shop making replica swords and armor for three years. People always tell me it's badass when they find out. You begin to think of the world strictly in terms of raw materials, and you begin to think of yourself as an engine for re-purposing those materials. I also learned surprisingly practical skills like how to make a safety pin from a paper clip, and also that the safety pin originates from 14th Century Mycenae. It's not a difficult trade to get into.
posted by Demogorgon at 10:09 PM on October 15, 2009

You could kill a fly with one swat, or do what my boyfriend does (holding up his index finger and waiting a few minutes) and get the fly to come to you, then put it outside. I think it varies on when this works though.
posted by DisreputableDog at 4:44 PM on June 18, 2010

A caution re: being that guy who busts out the spoons at an acoustic jam: be damn sure you're as good as OmieWise described, because there are few things more distracting and annoying to players and audience alike than some jackass who can't play in time or at a consistent speed. But yeah, when played well spoons or bones are pretty cool.
posted by usonian at 7:55 PM on June 19, 2010

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