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5th May 2017

Featured ID Team Member: Jon Alagoa

Jon teaches Independent Drama's Martial Arts for Actors class on Sundays 17:00-18:30. He is a 2nd degree black belt in Sanshou Kuan and 3rd dan in TaeKwon-Do.
What is your day job?
Aside from acting, I teach martial arts 3 times a week, personal training occasionally and I work in promotions.

How did you get into stage combat?
I did my basic in drama school and enjoyed it a lot so I went on a summer intensive course 2 years in a row to get me intermediate and advanced qualifications.

How long have you been training in stage combat?
Officially, since 2009.

What is your favourite weapon or unarmed style?
My favourite weapon is the katana and my favourite unarmed style is martial arts fighting that makes the audience wince.

What has been the favourite part of your training?
When I get to work with someone the same level or even better than me. It feels like it could be an actual fight and I find that interesting to watch. It also means I have to up my game.

In what ways has stage combat training helped you?
It has helped understand how to sell moves to an audience. It differs from martial arts because in that either you are actually hitting someone in sparring, competition or self-defence, or getting as close as you can to demonstrate your skill. The camera or where you position yourself on stage is crucial for making the fight read well and be believable.

How has martial arts training aided your stage combat?
The other side to making it believable is when it is a character that can fight well, the performer needs that level of skill. Having martial arts training allows you to do moves others can't, do basic moves well, pick up choreography easily and with a lot of attacks, you actually know what the impact of getting punched, thrown and kicked feels like.

Have you had any work through ID?
Yes, last year I worked on a Sudden Attack 2 trailer with lots of tactical weapons and Accident Man with Scott Adkins, Ray Park, Ray Stevenson and Michael Jai White, who is one of my favourite actors.

What has been your favourite fight related job?
For the past few months, I have been working on an independent project in which I star and am the fight choreographer. I was lucky to be working with friends that are talented martial artists and met some great new people. I learnt a lot on that and can't wait to start showing people.

What would be your ideal job?
Same as the above, with the same crew but all of us getting paid.

Do you have any funny/interesting stage combat stories?
Don't take anything for granted. In a mock for our basic exam, my partner and I really went for it. It was mostly great but we didn't give each other eyes and I actually punched him in the forehead, dropping him to the floor. Then I was supposed to take a nap for an uppercut but I was leaning too far forward so got and actual uppercut. We got the best mark on the exam but never rush.

For one of the scenes we shot in our indie project, we rehearsed one sequence 20 odd times and did 10 or so takes. Then on the last one, we slightly changed the position of my partner and instead of blocking my kick with his palm, it hit his index finger, which then became a right-angle. Still good friends though.

One last one, good reaction times are handy. I had a moment in one film where I jumped over a wall and the camera operator was moving backwards to track the shot. He fell backwards over the wall holding a Red One camera but I managed to land quickly and catch him. That could have ended badly.

What is your favourite fight you've seen in a film or stage production and why?
It would have to be the hallway fight from Oldboy (2003). First of all, Choi Min-Sik isn't even an action star, just a great actor. It's one continuous shot that last around 3 minutes with little respite from the action. What makes it great is that it's very gritty and believable. He take on a mob of gangsters in a tight corridor, shot from a side on perspective. The claustrophobic setting allows the guys at the back of the mob to be jostling to attack the protagonist, rather than simply waiting around as is usually the case. Choi's character starts off with a hammer then resorts to using his fists, but each blow appears painful, everyone tires as the fight progresses so you see it taking a toll, the hero gets hit many times but you can believe that he can take it given how tough he is and how pathetic the other guys are. His attacks are nothing too fancy, with simple strikes with the hammer, push kicks, a bit of grappling and good boxing. It took 17-18 takes but given that each were all longer than most fight scenes, that is some feat by the performers.

From your experience what advice would you give to someone wanting to be a fight performer?
Get/stay in shape. It is demanding work especially in the rehearsal process. On-set, you could be asked to do things multiple times with the same or perhaps even more energy so you need to be fit. If it is on-stage, you will be doing the same routines for the duration of the run so you can't let your standard dip. Doing a martial art, whatever it is gives you the double benefit of staying in shape but also understanding a fight system. And get weapons. The more you hold them and experiment with them, the more comfortable you will be with them when performing.

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