What does a Fight Sound Like?

I had a great term teaching at the Randolph Academy this year! I have been focusing very hard on getting students to use their entire bodies to create the illusion of force and power. I find, especially in basic stage combat, that it’s easy for students to only use their limbs for strikes, rather than letting the power travel through the legs, hips and core first.

This term my attention to this detail paid off: students were really powerful!

However, as always, as soon as you focus on one thing, other things get left behind. And in this case the note that kept coming up was VOCALS. Have you ever watched a fight in a movie with the sound off? It’s pretty lame, and if there are mistakes, they become more apparent. In theatre we don’t get to add the soundtrack in post – we have to create the vocal score live – and if we fail to do so, the fight suffers considerably.

Sounds of effort and pain are crucial to making a stage combat fight more exciting. It makes it seem faster, harder, and full of intention. In fact, making sound does make you more powerful and intimidating – just look at any martial art – they pretty much all use some form of battle cry (i.e. the Japanese: Kiai) and for us (actors) they can be as useful as a piece of text!

Once they are making sound, fighters then need to be careful not to always make the SAME sound. A joint lock pain vocal is different than a knee-to-the-face pain vocal, is different than a hair pull, or a stomach punch pain vocal… you get the idea. Vocal variety is important to tell the most specific story possible. Just as vocalizing effort shows power, vocalizing pain shows us vulnerability – both necessary parts of fights. I also like to remind fighters to leave space for surprise in their vocalization – sometimes the severity of pain is unexpected – and that’s fun for the audience to hear. This opens the door for endless emotional possibilities to be layered into pain performance!


Finally if fighters are also speaking through the fight – the physical struggle has to be matched vocally. An actor’s voice can’t be casual, relaxed and melodious when they’re in a life or death clinch, struggling to direct a knife away from their face. Their voices have to contain the effort and struggle that their bodies are displaying.

Unlocking the voice can be tricky for young actors (and old!). My general rule is to tell students to make more noise than they think is necessary, and let me pull them back. (It’s always easier to subtract than to add vocals to a fight). Usually once they start to make noise the fight becomes easier to perform because they are actually BREATHING (also a tricky thing for some!) and I find I rarely have to reign it in.

Here are some exercises I use for those who are insecure about not making the ‘right’ sound, or do not want to make sound at all:

  1. Silly Vocal Run: Go big, be silly, see what you discover – you might actually want to keep a lot of it!
  2. Choreographed Vocals: look at the choreography and decide where there definitely needs to be sound (i.e. large exhale on a stomach punch) and add it to your choreography. If it’s not coming naturally, sometimes you just need to plan it. Generally joint locks, groin attacks, hair pulls need higher toned vocals than kicks or punches or knees. It’s also important to make sure you are making noise at the beginning of a sequence: a) to make sure you are breathing and to encourage that to continue, b) to make sure you don’t ease into the fight but that you start it with intensity.
  3. Radio Play Test: I am a big supporter of having students watch each others fights – so they can develop their eye, but also because they can get a better understanding of some of their own challenges as well. This can get silly, but get the audience to close their eyes and see if they can still picture the fight. Without the visual, does the fight disappear? Or is the vocal story as clear as the physical story?

Did you find putting the fight in your voice difficult? Do you have any exercises that helped you? I’d love to know! Tweet me @TemperArts

Comments Off on What does a Fight Sound Like?

Filed under Stage Combat

Stunts and Me

Several people have asked me to write a blog about how I got into stunts and how best to get into the industry. I have been hesitant to write this blog because am relatively new to professional stunts. I wouldn”t call myself an authority on the business in any way, I can only tell you about my journey so far.

Most stunt performers I meet have a different story of how they got into the business. Stunts require all sorts of skills – hand to hand skills, horse skills, acrobatics, bo staff skills, nunchuck skills… ;) – you name it. Some stunt people are extremely well rounded and have a wide variety of skills to offer, and some are more specialized.

My path to stunt performance was through stage combat. Through Fight Directors Canada I gained a wide knowledge and skill base in European weapon systems as well as unarmed combat and some Eastern martial arts. I am not a martial artist (though I have studied a few, including fencing – yes, it is a martial art), but what I have spent 15 years doing is acting and choreography.

Having devoted half my life (sometimes part time sometimes much more frequently) to stage combat, and what I have acquired is more than specific techniques: I have gained a solid ability to absorb choreography quickly and perform it with emotional intensity, and I have good partnering skills – adapting to each persons style, moving with them and keeping them safe. I believe many martial artists also acquire these skills over years of training – which is why so many stunt performers have martial arts backgrounds (that, and they know how to fall!). Beyond fight technique, Stunt Performers need to have a good sense of timing, awareness of the camera, and good partnering.

I am not really a thrill seeker, but I love to do fast, intricate fight choreography. I best pokies online also have a good eye for story, and have spent years learning to articulate technique and performance notes to actors. This is also helpful, because much of a stunt double”s job is helping the actor be confidant and safe in their performance.

How stunt performers get their first job is probably as unique as their skill sets. My first stunt job was on Season 1 of Lost Girl – and I got it because I happened to fit into Anna Silk”s regular double, Jenn Vey“s, stilettos. I had given the stunt coordinator my action demo, and he was nice enough to invite me to set to meet him and watch them shoot a fight scene. Months later, they called me up. I got lucky again later in the season when they needed a sword fighter, and that”s when I really got to prove myself.

Having the right skills can get you the job. Then, as with any job, having a good work ethic, and being reliable, helpful and professional will help you get the second job.

I”m not really in a position to teach anyone how to be a stunt performer, but here are some things that I believe in:

  • Train Always: Get to know people, keep acquiring skills – especially how to fall and pick up choreography if that”s the kind of stunt performance you want to do.
  • Put Yourself Out There: Send out your Demo, Meet People, Listen.
  • Be Professional – getting hired is one thing, getting hired consistently is another: that happens when you do a good job, and are good to work with: enthusiastic, focused, helpful, etc. This is true for any job, I first learned it as a theatre technician, and it is especially true in film and television. Say Please and Thank You.
  • Be Honest about your Skills – I know how to fight with a sword, and I can say this with confidence. I would not claim to have skills that I don”t just to get the job. Some might find their way into the industry that way, but if it doesn”t work out, best case you look stupid and worst case you get seriously hurt. There”s always risk involved, that”s why stunt performers exist, but as I tell my stage combat students “Stage Combat is Not Built on Hope” – and neither are stunts. And that brings us back to: Train Always. You want the skills? Get them.

So that”s me and stunts, in a nutshell. I”m sure there”s more to tell, and this is certainly not meant to be a “how to” blog. Got Questions? Tweet me @CaseyHudecki – also I will try to figure out how to enable comments. :)


Comments Off on Stunts and Me

Filed under casey, Stage Combat, stunts

A Peek into Casey Choreographing a Castration

Alright, now that I”ve outlined the basics of what I do, I am going to try to write shorter blogs. This next one might be a bit racy, as it is about one of my most recent fight directing jobs.

So in Vancouver this past National Workshop, I was awarded the title of Fight Director by the Fight Masters of FDC. I have been fight directing for years, but to be recognized officially by my organization makes me very proud and encourages me to uphold the high standards we hold.

So, that being said, what is my first fight directing job after being declared an FDC Fight Director? I had to choreograph a sado-masochist threesome that includes the fellating of the American Music Award and ends with a castration. Seriously.

Zack Russell became the first director to fully stage Alice Tuan”s “unstagable play” Ajax (por nobody) at this 2012 SummerWorks Festival in Toronto. “The play centers on four people who get together for a booze and drug-fuelled evening of sex, but the sexual spree unexpectedly rages out control. Part comedy, part biting social commentary, Ajax (por nobody) is an explicit look at sex and violence in modern culture.” And it was my job to add the violence.

“Where would you even start?” you might ask; or “Do you have experience with this? Is this what they teach you at FDC?” Certainly not! But somehow once I got there I found the task quite manageable. Allow me to explain.

It is interesting, sometimes, what qualifies as “the job of a Fight Director”. I have choreographed “homoerotic wrestling,” rolling on the ground make-outs, sword fights with pencils, accidental hangings, characters fighting throngs of invisible pirates, wizards hitting other wizards with invisible balls of energy, and a cat fight (literally people dressed as cats clawing and pulling each others tails). I have choreographed many more “normal” fights also, but I want to give you an idea that this job is not always what you might expect. But it always involves the same principles.

So when faced with choreographing a man tearing off another mans testicles, I looked to my strengths. I always find it helps to be a strong performer as a Fight Director. As an actor and a combatant myself, I have a wealth of emotional and physical instincts to draw from. Have I ever castrated anyone? No. But I know how to tell a physical story, and as it turns out, slots machine my skills apply. I simply had to break it down:

2 Pieces of Violence: the Forced Fellatio of the American Music Award, and a Castration.

  1. First I must make it safe: so I have to make sure the music award which this actor must fellate won”t chip teeth, or that there are safeties in place so that he doesn”t accidentally go too far and cut or scrape his throat. I must then teach the aggressor how to create the illusion of force so that it is the victim who is actually in control of the action. Finally, I must make sure that the actor is not actually grabbing the other actor”s “tender bits”.
  2. I must tell the story the director needs told: even though the castration happens behind a set piece, the casino portugal physical action must be clear enough that the audience understands what is happening. As with any piece of storytelling it must be split into story beats so that the actors and the audience are clear on what the journey is. This involves clarity of focus and movement, timing, and both smooth and sharp actions.
  3. I must help feed the actor”s character motivation: in this case I needed to know whether it was an accidental castration, or purposeful. It turned out to be on purpose, so we found it was much stronger for the actors to connect eyes before the action – it draws the audience into the story as opposed to the technique and puts the violence into the minds of the viewers.
  4. I like to help characters with wound performance – with specific body isolation, tension, breath, and vocalization.
  5. Finally I advise on special effects: do we need blood effects? In the case of the castration, then yes – we are doing two separate blood effects – one for the victim”s wound and one for the emancipated “testicle”. There was also the hope of making a dummy music award in rubber, which would have been safer than the real glass one (which I found quite intimidating in that context).

Finally the actions had to be run technically over and over until they were clear and safe – the director, Zack Russell, and I looking on to make sure the effect was clear.

So there you have it. Was it successful? Read Below.



​ “Less an adaptation of Sophocles”s play than an exploration of its themes of sex and brutality, Alice Tuan”s Ajax (Por Nobody) is a remarkable work, drawing on the language of porn and pop culture excesses to present a savage indictment of contemporary society. Long considered un-playable – rape, bestiality and castration are on the menu, along with some unusual appetizers – this production feels spontaneous and slightly dangerous, thanks to Zack Russell”s clear direction and the committed performances by a quartet of actors.” (Glenn Sumi)

For more information on the play and it”s reviews please check out their website here and find out more information about the wonderful SummerWorks Festival here

And if you have any questions for me -Tweet Me! @TemperArts



Comments Off on A Peek into Casey Choreographing a Castration

Filed under casey, Stage Combat

More than Speed

Speed is very important in fights – it”s exciting, it hides the mechanics of certain techniques, and it helps convey the chaotic energy of characters fighting to survive.

But speed is not everything.

If actors simply go as fast as they can many opportunities to thrill the audience and deepen their connection to the characters will be missed. There are many layers that must be put into a fight before the actors even think of pushing the speed.

First there is the technique itself. There is no point trying to move fast when your movements are imprecise, incorrect or dangerous. A phrase I”ve stolen and use always is: Practice Doesn”t Make Perfect, Practice Makes Permanent: So Make Your Practice Perfect. Your muscles will remember the movements you repeat – so give them the correct information the first time, because bad habits will take much longer to unlearn. Most importantly: fast, vague and sloppy movements do not tell the story of violent intention.

Students also tend to do their favourite moves fast and then slow down when they forget choreography or get to a phrase that is more difficult or complex. Rehearsing this way will guarantee your fight will fall apart at speed. The focus of rehearsal should always be FLOW – so that the fight speeds up evenly and easily. As a Gun Wrangler on Nikita once told me “Slow is Smooth, and Smooth is Fast.”

Once you can flow the moves together, then you decide which moves get more weight than others: a slap does not carry the same weight as a punch, a punch is not the same as a knee to the face. Some moves are power moves, others are meant to distract or create an casinos online australia opening; just as some phrases escalate, and some phrases slow down as characters get more beat up. This way the fight will have an unpredictable and realistic cadence, or rhythm.

Breath and vocalization must be worked in from the beginning as well. One of the main reasons for fights falling apart at speed is that the fighters weren”t breathing in rehearsal. If you”re not breathing when it”s slow, then during the fast run, when you really need to breath, tension will lock up the technique and your memory will freeze up also. Vocalization is also linked to breath, and it no deposit online casino is also something that will make your fight seem faster! Have you ever watched a movie fight with the sound off? It”s at least 30% more lame, and the mistakes will become more apparent. Sound tends to magnify the intensity of a fight.

Finally – if you run a fight straight through as fast as possible, you are not giving the audience any moments to connect to your struggle. Moments of triumph, discovery, arrogance, pleasure must be created. Technique is nothing if the audience doesn”t care who wins – and the actors make them care by letting sharing their journey within the fight.

However. Once all that is is place. The fight needs to fly. Movie-Savvy audiences expect fast fights even in theatre, but, whether they know it or not, they expect all those other layers to be there as well. This combination of stillness and chaos, character moments and flashy technique is what makes fight scenes so popular.

To illustrate this blog, here is a clip of one of the masters of all these things: Jackie Chan. He never misses an opportunity to share a moment with the audience. But once it”s on – it”s fast! (This is by no means my favourite Jackie Chan fight – but it”s one of the few that is under 7 minutes! :) Enjoy! (sorry about the Ad)

Rush Hour Clip

Comments Off on More than Speed

Filed under Stage Combat

FDC National Stage Combat Workshop!!

The FDC National Workshop is starting next week – this year it will be held at Capilano University in Vancouver – and I”m off to join this year”s team of Instructors. I want to tell you guys a bit about my training and the organization that I now teach for.

The Academy of Fight Directors Canada (Fight Directors Canada”s Training Arm) is the only federally recognized National Stage Combat Training Body and Professional Fight Director Association in Canada. FDC”s standardized testing practices and member certification levels are recognized worldwide and allow members to be recognized at their level in any professional fight arena around the world. We have Instructors across the country all teaching FDC”s very high standard of safety, performance and technique. There are three Certification levels:

At the Basic Level, students will learn three weapon disciplines:

  • Unarmed
  • Quarterstaff
  • Single Sword – what we call the basic knowledge of the sword – attacks, defense, footwork, etc. – that is the basis for more specific sword styles in the higher levels.

The Intermediate Level teaches students four weapon disciplines:

  • Rapier and Dagger
  • Broadsword
  • Smallsword
  • Eastern martial arts (Unarmed)

Finally, in Advanced, students are expected to learn five weapon disciplines:

  • Rapier and Companion (Often Case of Rapier or Rapier and Cloak)
  • Smallsword (Advanced)
  • Broadsword and Shield
  • Eastern Martial Arts (Armed)
  • Found/Environmental Weapon

At each level, students are taught about the history of each weapon system, and learn the vocabulary that applies to the weapon, the style and the technique. AFDC is one of the only organizations that has a written component to their certifications, ensuring that each Certified FDC Actor Combatant shares a knowledge of fight terminology. Each level also has a higher expectation and attention put on performance quality, because, as discussed in my earlier blogs on stage combat and fight direction, fight technique alone is not enough to tell a good story.

I started training in stage combat in Toronto at Rapier Wit, where Certification classes were offered in town. It never occurred to me to go to a National Workshop, but for my Intermediate level I was encouraged to try it out.

The FDC Nationals blew my mind.

There were Fight Instructors, Directors and Masters from across Canada, and a few International Instructors, all with their unique take on each fight discipline. The atmosphere was alive with creativity, there were all sorts of new weapons I”d never worked with, ways of doing things I hadn”t imagined and rooms full of people who all shared my enthusiasm for stage combat. I was 17 at the time, and I failed my certification, but my eyes had been opened to what stage combat could be, and I was hooked for life.

At Rapier Wit – where I also now teach – we work with the same instructors on a regular basis and we have a specific en ligne casino way that we like to do things. I love working with the instructors in Toronto, and we”re very lucky to have so many of us here. We work very efficiently together, and some of us have even started to move the same way. Even having a great team to keep inspiring and challenging you, it still becomes very easy to get small with your focus, and inured in a routine. Canada is a big place, and the World is even bigger: it”s so great to get together once a year with Instructors from across Canada and the world and have your ideas tested and challenged, and to become a student of someone else”s style.

This will be my seventh National casino Workshop. I did two workshops at the intermediate level, one at advanced, one as a journeyman (in charge of weapon transport and maintenance, and assisting the Instructors), one as an Instructor Candidate, and this workshop will be my second time through as an instructor. The workshop is packed with classes from 9am to 6pm, and for the Intermediate and Advanced students, classes continue into the evening. It”s hard work, but the atmosphere is charged with excitement as students pick up new weapons for the first time and slowly master full fight scenes in each system.

For the teaching staff it”s a chance to share all sorts of thoughts on teaching style, performance, and interpretations of historical techniques. Is there complete consensus on all of these ideas? Of course not! What fun would that be? But ideas expand, evolve, some are thrown out, and some are confirmed and supported. Either way the ideas and the instructors are stronger for having been tested – Tempered on might say – by the rigours of peer evaluation. It is inspiring to “fill the cup” this way, and it forges FDC into a stronger organization and community.

One of the things I love most about Fight Directing and Instructing is how it forces me to keep learning: learning history, technique, stagecraft, and storytelling. I love working with actors and enriching their performances with my knowledge, and letting them enrich my choreography with their instincts. I don”t plan to stop learning. So this time around I am so excited – and terrified – to teach a discipline that is not my strongest; but I”m thrilled to be surrounded by people who share my enthusiasm, and I know I have support from this amazing network. I”m ready, especially as an Instructor, to get my mind blown all over again, and come out the other side stronger!


Of course this is not the only way to learn stage combat, and some students prefer more long term classes to the complete intensive immersion of the National Workshop. For me, though, there”s nothing like training together with students from every level, seeing how far stage combat can go, and how far you”ve come already. So if you”re up for it and your plans have fallen through for the next couple weeks – it IS possible to get in on this year”s Workshop – just sign up here and join the fray!!

Got Questions for me? Tweet me @TemperArts!!



Comments Off on FDC National Stage Combat Workshop!!

Filed under Stage Combat

The Art of Fight Direction

The stage is not merely the meeting place of all the arts, but is also the return of art to life.”

Oscar Wilde

Theatre is a very collaborative art form – and I think Oscar Wilde sums it up nicely. Many art forms are combined in theatre, and when these jobs are done properly, the individual elements disappear into something bigger: a living breathing story.

There is an art to each element – be it lighting, props, or costumes – but all are designed to serve the story. This is also true for fight direction: as one of the great Masters of Fight Direction, William Hobbs, says: a “fight must grow out of the whole, and not be a mini-spectacle divorced from the rest of the piece.” (Fight Direction for Stage and Screen, William Hobbs).

Many people, even within the theatre industry, do not understand the role of a Fight Director. Often, directors will look to individuals with martial arts backgrounds to choreograph staged violence. But there is much more to creating stage fights than knowing how to fight. Let me show you some of the elements that influence a Fight Director”s choreography.

1) The Play.

  • Plot. As we all know (because our teachers and parents are always telling us) Violence Has Consequences. Exciting though it may be, if a story is well written, there has to be a reason for the fight: it is there to add to the development of the plot. It”s a juicy part of the story when characters can no longer articulate their conflict and it must play out physically: “I have no words, my voice is in my sword” (Macbeth V/viii). And when the fight is done, things have shifted: characters die, get wounded, discover hidden strengths, friends become enemies, enemies – friends, monarchies fall and rise – all of which must choreographed into the fight in the form of story beats.

  • Character. A Fight Director must read the play to understand the motivations of the characters, how the fight evolves from their conflicts and where it needs to take them. The text contains all sorts of clues to characterization: “if careful consideration is given to a man”s physique, intellect and personality, an idea will be formed of the probable way he will move and fight” (Hobbs). To pick a fairly obvious example: Tybalt is described as the “Good King of Cats… that fights by the book of arithmetic” (Romeo and Juliet III/i). Shakespeare is telling us that Tybalt is a well trained, agile, cool-headed, strategic fighter. One can also deduce that he studies the latest martial school of the time focusing on thrusting attacks over cuts, (as the shortest distance between two points is a line therefore a thrust is more efficient). To make a slightly more contemporary analogy – if they were characters from Top Gun, Tybalt would be the Iceman to Romeo”s Maverick (probably making Mercutio the ill-fated Goose… though one could argue he”s more casino online the Maverick… but I digress, you get the point). So you see how the skill level and the emotional state of the characters influence the fight choreography.

2) The Director. The Fight Director must understand how the Director wishes to stage the play. What period will they set the play? In the period it”s written? The future? An imagined world? What is the Tone? Comic? Stylized? Flashy? Realistic? Fantastical? All this will affect how the fight will be staged.

  • Time Period. The time and place will dictate the weapon system and much of the style and technique: i.e. will they use 17th century French smallsword, or Roman gladius and scutum? Each weapon system has it”s own movement style and strategy. It is the Fight Director”s job to instruct the actors as to how they would stand, how they would draw their blades and the combat etiquette and tactics. Not all productions strive for historical authenticity, but as an actor myself it is always delicious to learn about period movement and incorporate it”s meaning into my characterization, and in this way a fight director can be quite valuable.

Once the Fight Director understands the play and the directors vision, they can choose appropriate weapons and meet the actors.

3) The Actors.

  • Skill Level. It”s important to know the skill level of your actors. The more training an actor has, the more complex, stylized or athletic a fight can be. Untrained actors can be taught, but this will take more time, and time is a valuable commodity in theatre and film. On the other hand, if your actors have unique skills it”s great to incorporate them into the fight! Therefore, the choreography must be adapted and/or simplified, so that the actors can master it and infuse it with enough speed and intensity to make it believable.

  • Characterization. Not every actor performs “Hamlet” the same way, that”s why everyone wants to do it. The fight director may know how the character is written, but they must also consider the actor”s interpretation of the role. I will refer again to William Hobbs, as he says it best: “People who behave in a distinctly individual way throughout the play” must continue to do so in the fight. Most fight directors I know are very good at creating choreography from a character perspective. And often the best results will come from getting input from the actor playing the role: what is their instinct? In this way the fight will evolve seamlessly out of the actor”s characterization. After all, they are the ones who must perform it night after night.

4) Storytelling/ Drama

A fight scene is just that – a scene – and like any scene it is a little story with a beginning a middle and an end. You may have noticed by now that I think story is very important to choreography (and in general :) and even Hobbs writes his fights out in story beats. The most exciting fights have a shifting jeopardy, as a one sided fight does not put audiences on the edge of their seats. It gets boring to cheer for a hero that is never in danger. A hero is not someone who always wins; a hero is someone who overcomes hardship, and stands up to evil in the face of possible defeat. Vulnerability is just as important as Strength when acting a fight, and equally dramatic. By this I don”t mean to limit the heroic journey to only one character, because, of course, to each actor – their character is the hero.

Every story beat must be choreographed – every movement from the moment before weapons are drawn, even the stillnesses, are created to build the dramatic tension and take you along on the character”s journey.

5) Visual Impact

Not unlike dance, fights can also be choreographed with an eye for shape and rhythm. It is important, I think, to keep changing up the cadence of a fight – combining sharp, direct motion with large sweeping, circular movement – both for individual fight techniques as well as in terms of moving the fighters around the stage. This always helps make a fight dynamic, especially when it evolves out of the emotional score of the characters.

Visual impact can also involve the various special effects related to stage combat – like bone cracking sound effects, blood effects, dismemberment, and so on!

So, hopefully I have impressed upon you the fact that fight directing is more than just stringing techniques together. It”s translating the text into action, it”s putting the director”s vision on it”s feet, it”s flavouring the fight technique with the characters” unique style and intention, it”s incorporating the actors skills and instincts, it”s pulling from authentic historical and contemporary fight styles, it”s factoring in rhythm and flow and, oh yes, safety. This is why I call Fight Directing an Art.

These first two blogs were packed with technical information to orient you as to what it is that I do. My future blogs will be less formal, though I plan to keep educating the masses about the Art of Action! Thanks so much for checking in! More to come!

Got Questions? Tweet me @TemperArts!


Comments Off on The Art of Fight Direction

Filed under Stage Combat

Stage Combat 101: The Broad Strokes for the Uninitiated

Most people who have not worked in the entertainment industry are not very familiar with Stage Combat. Having studied and performed stage combat for almost half my life, it is my mission to spread an understanding of this Art of Action.

The purpose of Stage and Screen Combat is to tell a story. In film, television and theatre, actors must invariably play characters that come into physical conflict. Action scenes are very popular – this was true even in Shakespeare”s day. So whether it be a sword fight between Tybalt and Romeo on the Stratford stage, or a martial arts throwdown between Neo and Morpheus in The Matrix, the actors need to know how to perform their fight scenes so that it is both safe and exciting.

Why safe? Fight scenes must be safe because show after or show, and take after take, they must be repeated exactly; and no production can afford to have their actors constantly injured (and no actor could survive it for long!). The tricky part is that even though actors are not physically in danger – the fight must not look safe – it must appear chaotic, rough, and unplanned.

To create a safe yet exciting fight scene involves a Stunt/Fight Coordinator in film/television, or a Fight Director in Theatre. Beyond the performance of fights, if a sequence requires a technique that is more dangerous or requires a special skill, they will call in a Stunt Performer. I will discuss all these roles in future blog posts.

For now lets clear up what Stage/Screen Combat is and is not. (I will focus on Stage Combat as that is what I teach; however, most of these answers also apply to Screen Action – with some differences that I will discuss in a future blog post). Here are a few frequently asked questions about stage combat:

  1. Are the Fights “Real”?

Without getting existential about what one might mean by “Real,” the simple answer is No, it”s not real. Stage Combat creates the illusion of force and impact. The difference between a “real” punch and a stage combat punch is simply a few inches. Instead of connecting a strike, generally actors will simply direct the strike off target. However, between a “real” fight and a stage combat fight, there is a World of difference.

Stage Combat fights are thoughtfully choreographed from beginning to end. Though stage combat is rooted in real fight technique, these techniques are employed for a completely different purpose than in a real fight. They are used to further the plot, highlight character weaknesses and strengths, and give historical or martial flavour to the world of the characters. These fights are about addressing the details that tell a specific story. The more the fight evolves out of the story, and is not just a vehicle for awesome flashy fight moves, the more invested the audience will be!

As with so much of theatre, stage combat tells the truth through lies – the audience may see characters in vicious conflict, but the reality is in fact the opposite: the actors must be in complete control, working in harmony to create the illusion of casino spiele online chaos and violence. (Of course that doesn”t mean it isn”t real sweaty, exhausting work!)

  1. Are The Swords “Real”?

Again, skipping over any existentialism– they are not imaginary, of course, but nor are they sharp. The edges and points are dulled, and they are often not even steel. Many swords on stage are in fact aluminum, and in most martial arts movies, they might even be bamboo. This helps actors perform the fights at a speed that audiences have come to expect.

On stage, however, they must be durable – because the contact they make with each other is real. A trained actor will know how to control their strikes so as not to put force into their partner”s blade, making light contact look forceful. But even when used correctly, stage weapons must still be constructed properly to be safe. Not any sword taken off a wall is fit to be used in a stage combat fight.

That said, a blunted, light sword can still be dangerous. Mankind has managed to demonstrate an endless capacity for hurting themselves with seemingly safe objects. Which brings us to the next question:

  1. Is Stage Combat Safe? Do people get hurt?

I have been doing stage combat for well over a decade, and I can boast no serious injuries. Of course there is an element of risk. Of course there are bruises – just as bruises can be expected from any contact sport. Stage Combat injuries generally happen the same way most accidents happen: when people are tired, lose focus, or get cocky – this is when mistakes are made. Stage Combat, taught properly, has many safeguards against accidents.

Stage Combat is designed for actors not UFC hopefuls. As an actor, I have no desire to get hurt, and as a teacher I have no desire to put my students in danger. Stage combat is not about taking risks – it is not built on hope – it is built on specific rules, techniques and many hours of rehearsal. As my mentor Daniel Levinson would say – stage combat is a calculated risk the same way driving a car is a calculated risk. It is dangerous for the human body to drive at those speeds, but that is why we have lights, signs, and many rules in place to mitigate that risk.


There you have it: Fake Fighting Fundamentals. But, of course, that is just the tip of the iceberg.

When I first learned how to stab someone with a sword on stage, I will admit – I was disappointed. It”s exactly what you think it is: holding a sword beside your body. The techniques in and of themselves are generally simple enough, but mastering them won”t make you good at stage combat. The audience knows, you see, that what you are doing is not real. The job of the actor combatant, apart from safety, is to make the audience forget what they know. Once your technique is safe and fast you still have to make the audience care. That is where the art comes in! As with any art, once you add a bit of your unique soul, it has the magic to become so much more than the sum of it”s parts! For more on that – and all sorts of delicious fighty factoids and fictions – tune in next time!

Got combat questions? Tweet them to me @TemperArts!

Comments Off on Stage Combat 101: The Broad Strokes for the Uninitiated

Filed under Stage Combat