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18th July 2016

Featured ID Team Member: James Rowlands

Our last, but by no means least, featured ID Team member this month is James/Jim Rowlands (aka Jimmy Ace). Jim came from a martial art background and when discovering stage combat had an "epiphany".
What is your job?
Full time Spact (Special Action extra), SA (Supporting Artist) and anything in-between.

How did you get into stage combat?
With a history of martial arts, a love of the movies and a complete disillusionment of office work, it literally sounded like a good idea at the time. Out of all the academies and all the clubs, I randomly chose Ronin @ ID. After an introductory course I realised a new direction in life. I realised that I could combine a number of apparent talents in a way that I'd never considered. I hate using the term but I suppose it was an epiphany.

How long have you been training in stage combat?
Almost 2 years.

What courses and/or workshops have you done with ID?
BADC Standard and Intermediate. BASSC Intro / Broadsword / Smallsword / Sword & Shield. Lots of Combat Labs. An Icebreaker.

What is your favourite weapon or unarmed style?
Favourite weapon is probably the one I most fear, which is small sword. Although I am extremely comfortable with everything unarmed - I like the brutal physicality of grappling with an opponent.

What has been the favourite part of your training?
The sense of accomplishment when completing a fight test; seeing all the hard work come together in one creative piece. The bond made with a partner on a course is equally as great.

In what ways has stage combat training helped you?
It's given me a solid direction in life; one I've been looking for for many years. My career is just beginning, and it's a tough start, but it's simply great to be able to begin to call Spact work a career; it's something I feel proud to do and talk about. It's also something that feeds positively into everything with the fitness and confidence it brings. I doubt it will ever get boring.

Have you had any work through ID?
The best job of my short career. Body doubling for a big actor. A Spact role in which I literally got dragged about a cobblestone floor for two days by Tom Hardy. Worth every bruise. Even getting accidently kneed in the face by Tom was a bonus.

What has been your favourite fight related job?
The one above. In a bit more detail: My character was blown up, set on fire, dragged, dumped, shot and dragged some more. Might not sound like a fun day out, but it was an amazing experience with a great crew. Great to see how the big boys work.

What would be your ideal job?
A role with an opportunity to develop a character. Perhaps a protagonist in a short. With just enough screen time and dialogue to flesh out a character. Not only with brutal violence, but with some internal conflict.

Do you have any funny/interesting stage combat stories?
The first Spact role I had was in a music video: Trip Switch - "Nothing but Thieves". It was a brutal unarmed fight. I took a knock during filming and lost a chunk of tooth, but carried on. The crew were obviously concerned but I jokingly told them I'd get over it if they used the footage. Which they did. It's only brief, but the reaction is genuine! Whenever I stroke my chipped tooth I think back to my first fight role with fond memories.

What is your favourite fight you've seen in a film or stage production and why?
The one that always sticks out in my mind is Jet Li's final fight in Fist of Legend. I was a fan of Jet Li before he came to Hollywood. I think it captures the raw power vs quick thinking trope excellently, has a great journey and is simply, brilliantly performed. Both the actors and the characters they play seem to give so much. There are surely better fight scenes, but this one never gets old.

What training would you like to do next?
I want to complete by BADC training, so I imagine BADC advanced will be on the cards. Or possibly a firearms course, whichever comes first.

From your experience what advice would you give to someone wanting to be a fight performer?
Varied training is paramount and a lot of patience. First step would be to find a workshop or somewhere you can practice regularly.

In my mind stage and/or screen combat is another martial art: It's a collection of systems with ideology and purpose. Something that can grow, adjust to the times and be passed on. I've found it at times as physically and mentally gruelling as any martial art I've practiced. You will get out of it what you put in.

Understand what the fight academies are and the differences between them. And understand that networking is as important as it is in any other aspect of this industry. And finally, leave your ego and any politics at the door. This isn't a competition. People want to work with level-headed, patient, safe, creative and fun individuals.

And enjoy it!

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