Frequently Asked Questions
The following is a brief attempt to answer some of the more common
questions regarding stage and screen combat. Just click on a question below
It's not a definitive guide so if anything is unclear or if there is something else
that you would like to know that is not included then please contact us. If
you have questions about specific organisations it may be prudent to contact
them directly if you have their details. If not we'll do our best to answer
queries or point you in the right direction.
Stage combat is a variety of theatrical techniques designed to create the illusion of physical violence whilst maintaining the safety of the performers and audience. Employed to create effective story telling of physical conflict, stage combat encompasses an endless variety of unarmed and armed techniques, these techniques can be applied and adapted for a variety of media including film, theatre, opera, ballet, and motion capture. Fights can vary widely from true realism to outright fantasy depending upon the requirements of a particular production and the director's vision.
- Is stage combat the same as screen combat? »
On many levels the answer is yes. ĎStageí combat has become a common short hand industry term often used to refer to both and stage and screen combat. Actual techniques in regards to safety and performance are similar for both, though there are some differences in application with each genre having specific requirements.
For film, fights have to be performed with the camera in mind and there are numerous nuances to consider to achieve a variety of effects. For theatre, fights often need to be performed night after night with no option for post-production editing so a solid foundation is key.
Stage combat techniques can also be applied to motion capture work, again with some adjustments made.
- Are there any age restrictions to do stage combat? »
Independent Drama delivers training for students from 8 years old upwards. We can provide certification courses for children aged 9 years old and above. There's no upper limit. Standard workshops are aimed at ages 18 and older.
- How fit do I need to be to do stage combat? »
A general level of fitness is fine for most stage combat classes. If you have a high level of fitness or gymnastic skills this may be handy for certain productions but generally trained skill wins out over super fitness for most roles. If you have physical difficulties they need not prevent you performing certain elements of stage combat as an actor. If you have any doubts regarding your ability for an ID course please feel free to e-mail any enquiries. We treat all enquiries with confidence and will make all reasonable efforts to accommodate specific needs.
- Is stage combat difficult? »
Some elements of stage combat are very easy to pick up whilst others are much more complex. At a basic level unarmed moves such as punches and slaps are relatively simple with the distances, movements and angels being grasped after a little practice. Weapon work is often more technical but again with a little training it is possible to get a basic grasp for most people. As with many skills leaning is straightforward, mastering can take a lifetime. With practice everyone can see improvements in their skills levels and confidence. There is always something new to learn in stage combat which is one of the reasons many students get the bug and go on to train to advanced certification level.
Workshops and taster sessions are an excellent way to find out if you like stage combat or to keep your skills up to date. If you are unsure whether a course is going to be too difficult for you donít be afraid to ask the organiser. Most courses are designed around specific skill levels from beginner courses to those aimed specifically at advanced students.
As you progress towards activities such as performing complex choreography (with weapons or unarmed) which is believable to an audience whilst maintaining safe and correct techniques stage combat can become much more difficult. Accredited stage combat training courses will help students build a strong foundation and prepare for performing fights for an audience or camera.
Itís often too late to learn skills on the job for complex fights unless itís a project which is both time and cash rich so if youíre interested in going for roles requiring fights then prior preparation can make a difficult job much easier and also more fun.
For any performer expected to do a lot of combat in their work (and you never know) we recommend you should endeavour to achieved at least an advanced grade from an equity recognised training body. At this level there is still more to learn but it shows you have reached a high standard and should be able to adapt to new weapons and techniques relatively easy.
Being able to perform a dramatic sword fight at speed whilst maintaining character, avoiding props, other actors, expensive cameras and even audience members is not something to attempt without appropriate training.
Contact us on email@example.com for more information about training, qualifications, academies, or what you can do after you've got your advanced grade.
- Where can I use my stage combat skills? »
Stage combat skills can be applied across a variety of media including theatre, opera, ballet, circus, stunts and motion capture. With stage combat training you add another dimension to your acting skills. The higher your skill level the more marketable and versatile you will be and the more ambitious projects you can attempt.
Stage combat draws upon a variety of fields of influence including martial arts, historical and modern weapon techniques, military training and competitive fencing. As such it can provide a useful insight into other training you may be undertaking, even if it's just to show how some real techniques may not be suitable for theatrical use.
- Will stage combat help me as an actor? »
Stage combat is high stakes acting at its most intense. All drama is conflict and in stage combat you learn how to build the tension in a scene dramatically to the point when words are no longer enough. Character analysis, communication, timing, intention and motivation are also core acting components of stage combat training.
Stage combat also helps actors get to know their bodies and how to use them as an effective instrument for telling a story. From finding a character's physicality and showing the effects of pain and injury to being able to work physically with other performers stage combat training can help improve your general physical awareness. Posture, co-ordination, the ability to learn choreography quickly and general reflexes can all benefit.
With stage combat training you add another dimension to your acting skills. Even a basic understanding of stage combat will enable you to communicate more effectively with a fight choreographer or director enabling you to take direction more effectively and contribute where appropriate from a more knowledgeable position. The higher your skill level the more marketable and versatile you will be and the more ambition projects you can attempt.
Time and money is often short on theatre and film productions and having actors that can already fight can be a key factor in casting. A fight director will likely spot someone who can't fight safely and believably in under a minute at an audition, so having good stage combat skills can greatly increase your casting potential for roles requiring fights.
- Is stage combat just for actors? »
No. If you just like to meet people and learn a new skill then stage combat is just as suitable as going to a social dance class. Acting will help you be good at 'selling' techniques for an audience but that can come with practice and our tutors are there to coach the acting side as well as the fighting side.
This translates to the stage combat classroom where an individual's differences, be they big or small, short or tall, have long hair or no hair, all become positive attributes that can be used to make a fight exciting. This can be a refreshing change for individuals and can build confidence and self-awareness. Combined with the sense of accomplishment that comes with learning a new skill and achieving goals with one or more classmates, stage combat can be a positive way to spend your time.
Stage combat is a valuable field of study for dancers, martial artists, stunt and circus performers and is increasingly being taught in schools due to its social and educational attributes.
- Do I need any prior experience to do stage combat? »
You don't need any prior experience to do stage combat. Certain courses will require some prior experience or entry level requirements to ensure they are pitched appropriately for students. Any pre course requirements will be listed under individual course details.
Safety is at the core of good stage combat training, teaching you how to fight like you mean it whilst keeping yourself and others safe. It adapts real martial art applications, historical and modern weapon techniques and military training specifically for performance designed to create the illusion of physical violence whilst maintaining the safety of the performers and audience. It's rare that anything in life is 100% safe but effective knowledge, training and acquired skills will greatly reduce the chances of any accidents and potentially reduce the severity of injury if something does go wrong. Being safety conscious also means people are more likely to want to work with you.
Combat itself is inherently dangerous Ė thatís is itís purpose! Without correct training actors can injure themselves or others because they either haven't been trained in safe techniques, don't have the appropriate skill level for the task they are performing, are working with unsafe equipment or are being directed by people with no training.
Stage combat is like motor racing - it's fast, furious and fun though potentially dangerous. It's not a good idea to get behind the wheel without driving lessons, lots of practice and a roll cage.
- Is stage combat all about fighting? »
No. The actual moves and techniques of stage combat are just the tip of the iceberg. Being able to apply them to a dramatic scene at speed whilst maintaining character and avoiding danger and injury required a much greater skill set.
In performance terms stage combat teaches character analysis, communication, timing, intensity, intention and motivation. Physically it improves fitness, posture, co-ordination, awareness, physical memory (learning choreography) and reflexes.
In education stage combat can be used to create a fun and interesting way of learning history (Romans, Egyptians), culture (Greek, Medieval), technology (weapon smithing and evolution), Geography (warfare), religion (crusades), philosophy (violence), psychology (domestic violence), current affairs (gun and knife crime), literature (Shakespeare), sociology (teamwork and collaboration) and many more.
Simply stage combat can even improve social and life skills such as team work, discipline, self-control, responsibility and confidence.
- Is stage combat like martial arts or fencing? »
Yes and no. Yes in that stage combat draws inspiration from martial arts and fencing and prior and training in either may provide you with good co-ordination, fitness and an understanding of martial logic. However whilst the techniques may look similar there are significant differences in their execution with regards to safety and illusion. If you are an experienced martial artist or fencer you may find yourself unlearning many aspects of your art in order to learn stage combat properly.
- Is stage combat the same as stunts? »
Stage combat is a useful skill which can be utilised within the stunt industry but stunt training covers a wider range of activities. Advanced actors combatants (stage combatant trained actors) are often some of the most skilled sword fighters in the entertainment industry as they train constantly in this specialist field. However jumping off tall buildings, crashing cars and horse riding etc. are additional special skills which fall under the stunt category. Each country has different regulations regarding stunt qualifications so you will need to check with the appropriate bodies if you wish to train as a stunt performer. Alternatively if you want to be an actor who does their own fights then stage combat is a handy place to start.
- What is an Actor Combatant? »
An Actor Combatant is an individual who can Ďact the fightí. They have trained in theatrical combat techniques which incorporate safety, staging and acting.
Various accrediting organisations provide certifications in theatrical fight performing with the most accomplished fight performers achieving advanced actor combatant certification. Not all training bodies refer to their students as actor combatants and there are also fight performers who work in the industry who are not actors but have specialist skills.
Independent Drama has listed all our performers as either Combatants or Advanced Actor Combatants to keep things simple. Combatants have undergone 85 hours of accredited training or have passed an auditioned with ID where we feel they have relevant industry experience and appropriate skills. Advanced Actor Combatants are those performers who hold Advanced Actor Combatant certification from an approved stage & screen accrediting body.
Individuals can list their training and experience on their Fight CV viewable on our Combat Casting and Fight CV's page.
- What is a Fight Captain? »
A Fight Captain is an individual chosen by the fight choreographer in consultation with the director to undertake certain fight related duties for a theatre production. Usually selected based on their stage combat experience their duties include maintaining weapons, ensuring fights are rehearsed before each performance and keeping a general focus on safety. They may be an actor in the production or a member of stage crew.
Fight Captains are not responsible or trained to teach or choreograph fights and should any changes to a fight be required or a cast member replaced, you should consult with your fight choreographer to ensure any health and safety considerations are taken into account.
- What is a Fight Choreographer / Fight Director? »
Fight Choreographers and Fight Directors are specialists who facilitate the process of creating dramatic action that is safe and appropriate to the ability of the participants involved. They have knowledge of dramatic theory, history, directing, teaching and acting as well fight skills. Fights are devised in collaboration with the director and can vary widely from true realism to outright fantasy depending upon the requirements of a particular production and the director's vision.
- When should you hire a Fight Choreographer / Fight Director? »
If you have any type of staged violence from a simple fall or slap, all the way up to a mass battle with weapons then you should employ a fight choreographer / director.
ID has choreographers who work on large professional productions but also choreographers who are happy to work on fringe and armature productions so please contact us whatever the size of your production.
ID Fight Choreographers work closely with a productions creative team and will facilitate the process of creating dramatic action that is safe and appropriate to the ability of the participants involved. It's a good idea to get an ID Fight Choreographer involved as early as possible on a production to allow time to address a range production requirements including:
- Sourcing appropriate and safe weapons
- Planning and delivering any required fight training for the cast
- Choreographing and teaching fights to the cast
- Consulting with wardrobe regarding safety issues of costuming
- Consulting with set design to take account of potential dangers for any fights
- Provide ID casting services for experienced actor combatants if required
- Where can I get weapons for use in theatre or film? »
Weapons used on stage or film are significantly different than those bought for decorative or martial arts purposes and are designed specifically for theatrical use. Stage blades need to stand up to repeated use, be shatter proof and must be blunt. Guns also have specific safety considerations.
When choosing weapons for a production please consult with your fight choreographer first as they may have safety or artistic considerations for you to consider.
Independent Drama provides weapon hire services for film and theatre and can provide quotes upon request. Please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org