What is “Flow”?

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This is Flo at the Top

Her name is right there on her name tag. However, we are talking about, “flow” in armed and unarmed exhibition drill which is broken into three different types.

This is not Flow

Before we get into the two types of flow, let’s quickly go over what flow isn’t. Flow is not a sequence like this:

Port Arms to Right Shoulder into a Shoulder Roll/Drop catching the rifle behind your back and bringing it to Order.

All of those movements require completing the movement and providing what is called, articulation.

Flow is also most definitely not a style. A style is a manner of doing something and you cannot continue uninterrupted Flow Work (see below) throughout a whole routine. Your style may be fluid or smooth, but “flow” is a descriptor used to describe technique.

See also: Grammar Rules and Exhibition Drill “Rule” EquivalentsThe Seven Parts of an Exhibition Drill Routine, Routine Design Considerations, The Opening StatementProgramming, Programming, ProgrammingWhere’s the Power?How to Write a Military Drill Routine: Routine Mapping ToolsHow to Switch from Regulation Drill to Exhibition Drill,

Yes, the above is quite a bit of reading, but then you will be that much more educated. Now, let’s get into the “flow.”

The Two Types of Flow

1. Vertical Flow. This first definition is about the smooth work of a piece of equipment and/or body movement.

The word, vertical, is used to describe the brief usage of flow in the performer’s equipment or body work. This flow is only in a short segment from one move to another move.

When using a piece of equipment, flow centers around continuous spinning and the Here is an example:


2. Horizontal Flow. The second definition takes the whole routine into account, flow over time.

Logical progression best describes Routine Flow. This is when there are smooth transitions between segments of drill. This flow is from the beginning to the end of the routine encompassing all movement, body and equipment.

Watch any routine and pay specific attention as to how segments fit together. This can be difficult because it is normal for us to only react to a performance in the form of liking or disliking it. You have to train yourself to not be entertained and react to those feelings (probably 90% or more of how drill has been judged for decades) and look further into the performance. Try it with this video:

3. Flow Work. This is what some confuse as style. Flow Work is a segment of linked moves that creates continuous, joined movement that is a combination of Vertical and Horizontal Flow.

Unarmed exhibition drill Flow Work consists of spinning piece of equipment (rifle or sword/saber) for an extended period without stopping. Basic Flow Work would be a two-handed from spin. To create more advanced flow, spin the rifle and move it in different ways around your body. That is true Flow Work.

Unarmed exhibition drill flow work is a little more difficult as the performer’s footwork, hands, arms and body all play a part in continuous smooth movements over a short amount of time. I have judged military drill for over two decades and can only remember seeing one true flow segment and that was when I marched in high school back in the early 80s. My teammate, Russell Fryman, created an amazing unarmed routine that had large segments of flow using his arms and footwork that I have not seen duplicated since. He was just awesome and the team was amazed at his abilities. I wish we would have recorded his performances!

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