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29th April 2017

Featured ID Team Member: Richard Clark

We interview another long term ID Team member today. Richard Clark has worked with us as an assistant, a performer and a student for over 5 years.
What is your day job?
Senior artworker (commercial illustrator in advertising). Been freelance for over 20 years.

How did you get into stage combat?
Freelancing is great, but not so good when there's a recession! So I started doing extra work after first working on Colour Me Kubrick. I registered with a bunch of casting agencies, one of which noted my martial art skills. They sent me to an audition, my first, because I "did stuff with swords". The venue was Pinewood and the production Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides! I had no idea what to do and a junior stunt man took me through some choreography, which I then performed in front of the fight director. I didn't pass, obviously, and out of the 35 of that were put forward only two did. One of the two was wearing a t-shirt with the initials BASSC on it...

How long have you been training in stage combat?
Six years. The first course was a gun workshop with Society of American Fight Director instructor Aaron Anderson and the following week started the two week British National Stage Combat Workshop 2011.

What courses and/or workshops have you done with ID?
I started with BASSC Quarterstaff, taught by Ronin Traynor. Since then I have completed many courses including BASSC Sword and Shield, ID firearms Level 1 & 2 and BADC Level 1. I've continued to train at combat lab and have assisted on some workshops culminating in myself teaching Japanese sword/katana at ID Warriors Unleashed - Samurai vs Vikings and several katana themed Combat Lab sessions.

What is your favourite weapon or unarmed style?
Easy - katana (obviously!). 15 years training, and still going, with a 3rd dan black belt to show for it!

What has been the favourite part of your training?
Handling different weapons and styles/techniques in contrast to katana.

In what ways has stage combat training helped you?
My biggest weakness, physically, is being centred. Stage combat training is another avenue to address that (I also do yoga and Argentine Tango, that both help). It's good for posture and for keeping fit - much more fun than hitting a gym!

Still waiting for the 'big break', but been close a few times. My favourite miss is being too tall for the remaining costume, in the sword training scene, on Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella.

How has martial arts training aided your stage combat?
Without battodo (Japanese swordsmanship) I would've never been put forward for that Pirates audition, seen the t-shirt, done some Googling and started this aspect of my life.

After 15 years I'm very comfortable around live/edged blades and using metal weapons with a partner in choreography.

Have you had any work through ID?
Have done a few shorts/webisodes – Voodoo Magic, Richard III: A Memoir of a King's Love, Sanctuary and a day running down a steep hill on Ren (I think I also got beat up by Dita Tantang). But the most recent is Rise of the Footsoldier 3, getting yanked out of a Jag and beaten up by Craig Fairbrass (Cliffhanger, EastEnders). Though physically intimidating at 6'3", he was very professional and I felt very safe in his (literal) hands!

What has been your favourite fight related job?
I'd say Richard III, where I realised how it's safe being trained! Dan Styles was fight coordinator and I was teamed with Richard Leggett. But the rest of the 'fighters' were drawn from a local martial arts (escrima) school. I realised, after the rehearsal, the week before the shoot, that even though I had only been training in stage combat for a year at that point, I was lot safer than my martial art 'colleagues'. My death scene went without a hitch, but it left an impression (figuratively speaking of course). I always felt safe with Richard and Dan, because they're trained well! I've since discovered that there are major screen productions where there are non-trained people fighting on set. So finding a certified stage combatant to work with, on a production, is very important.

What would be your ideal job?
A katana wielding computer hacker! I'd be hanging out with a group of history nerds/re-enactors and martial artists, that come along to rescue Rick & crew on The Walking Dead from a HUGE horde of zombies. Then proceed to take the piss out of them on how they've survived for so long whilst still only wearing t-shirts for protection. I may also inquire how the character of Michonne can draw a 3'+ long katana from the scabbard (or saya) across her back with the 2' extension of her arm.

But the dream job would be anything to do with Star Wars. And unlike Cinderella, I wouldn't be too short to be a Stormtrooper.

Do you have any funny/interesting stage combat stories?
'Interesting' would be watching, and hearing, an actor actually head butted for real. The impact was so great (and loud) he flew back, landing on his back. It was a stacked shot for the camera, so they could've been 3'-4' apart in reality.

What is your favourite fight you've seen in a film or stage production and why?
Grosse Pointe Blank (1997). No katanas involved. John Cusack vs Benny 'The Jet' Urquidez, soundtrack: Mirror in the Bathroom by The Beat. Nasty, short fight that both characters are battered by the end (and dead, by lethal pen, for Urquidez). Urquidez undefeated for more than 27 years, and remains the longest reigning World Champion of all professional sports in modern history (Kickboxing record of 63 wins, 0 losses, 2 draws with 54 knockouts). He also has a long list of fight/stunt coordinator credits from '89 onwards. He, of course, was the fight coordinator on Grosse Pointe Blank.

From your experience what advice would you give to someone wanting to be a fight performer?
Do it! Very simple. Check out ID's Combat Lab and Martial Arts for Actors for a taster as they are only a tenner and run every Sunday. Then if you like it, do a course! ID offer both BADC and BASSC certifications so try one out and then take it from there.

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