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Combat for Film and Stage: Find the Class That’s Right for You

Between action, fantasy, post-apocalyptic and a myriad of other genres, having some familiarity with combat for film and theatre can be a great addition to your special skills. You don’t have to be angling for a stunt gig to benefit from some training. But where to start? Here are some things to keep in mind.

Specify your goals. What do you want out of combat training? Are you looking to be more castable in certain genres? Do you have ambitions to perform stunts? Are you dipping a toe into Shakespeare, where rapiers and broadswords are commonly employed? Knowing your long-term goals will help you choose a class that suits your needs.

If you know you want combat training but don’t know where to start, I would suggest taking some combat workshops or master classes. That way you can get a feel for different styles and weapons. You might surprise yourself. If you want some general fight competency but don’t know how far you want to take it, starting with some unarmed combat is a great first step. You’ll learn how to move, and slaps and punches show up far more frequently than rapier/dagger fights. For film especially, having some familiarity with firearms and how to handle them safely on camera is also a good move.

Where to go for training? As with any other class, make sure to do your research when you’re putting your safety in the hands of instructors. Stage combat and combat on film have overlapping, but differing sets of techniques, so make sure you’re seeking out instructors who have experience in both, or your preferred medium. Connecting with stunt and fight professionals in your city is a good way to learn where to go for classes. Follow industry professionals on social media and keep an eye out for workshops, courses, etc.

Certification or No? If you’re an actor first and just want to pick up some useful skills, you can absolutely take classes and workshops without ever pursuing certification. But if you’re serious about the world of combat and stunts, or interested in choreography, getting certified by the Society for American Fight Directors might be a good route for you. Things to keep in mind: each weapon requires its own certification and keeping up with training and renewals can be an expensive and time-consuming process. However, if this is an aspect of performance you’re repeatedly drawn to, getting proper training is more than worth it.

Overall, combat for film and stage is an incredible asset for any performer. Violence is a recurring theme in all forms of media, and knowing how to portray it safely, convincingly and with control can only give you a leg up. If nothing else, it’s a great workout and a lot of fun!

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