Since I left my old house in Sussex, I genuinely feel I have the confidence to do anything (within reason) that I set my mind to (As cliche and cheesy as that may sound)! I can’t say I had ever considered learning the art of dramatic combat for stage and screen (choreographed fight sequences for film/theatre, usually with historical weapons such as swords and daggers), but after seeing an advert for a week’s intensive course, where you can pass an exam to get a recognised qualification at the end, I thought this would be a very fun and challenging way to begin the new decade 2020. I mean, what better way to introduce yourself to a strenuous and potentially dangerous activity that is completely unknown to you, than signing up to do an entire seven days, high pressured, intensive training programme of it?! Of course I had to give it a go!
I was so excited when the lady organising the event sent us examples of the type of scenes we could choose to perform for our exam- We were able to recreate fight scenes from famous films, such as Pirates Of The Caribbean, Star Wars, and my absolute favourite- The Addams Family! I decided there and then, that I wanted to play Wednesday Addams, and that I’d make sure I got partnered with someone who was happy to recreate an Addams Family scene 😀
The title “Stage Combat Intensive” was not an exaggeration- It really was intense! Eight hours a day for seven days, of learning an entirely new skill set, mixed with a lot of cardio workouts also. It was a LOT to take in, in such a short space of time, but I loved every minute, and I knew I had my trusty emotional support tiny knitted Porg in my bag, cheering me on, as is the expected behaviour of emotional support Porgs! There were ten people taking the course altogether, and I was one of the very few Brits, as most the others were American. It was really nice to hear about the acting industry over there, and how training to (safely) fight with weapons for the stage and screen, is really popular. Everyone was really nice, and helpful towards each other, which in all honesty, was something I was worried may happen, in that people might be competitive and not very friendly.
The course primarily focused on teaching us how to fight with (blunt) swords and daggers, and also how to “fight” convincingly without weapons, and how to make it look real to the camera or audience, which I was particularly excited by, as it felt as though I was training to fight in the WWE, as a lot of the moves we were taught, I had seen performed on the live shows! I loved holding the weapons, although we weren’t allowed to take photos with them for some reason. Several of the other students had taken stage combat classes prior to this, and I wish I had known this from the beginning, as I couldn’t believe how quickly they seemed to learn things, and started thinking I must be “slow” as it was taking me longer to understand things, I was pleased when I found out I was one of the least experienced, and was reassured that I was actually picking things up a lot quicker than the tutors expect from first timers!
Unfortunately, on the third day into the course, I woke up with the beginnings of a head cold, and sore throat, so went straight to Boots and stocked up on nasal spray, Strepsils throat lozengers, and max strength cold/flu capsules, which thankfully seemed to hold off any impending illness, as I was able to lollop through the week! I don’t think my home for five of the evenings was much of a benefit to my overall health either- I was staying at the Travelodge in Woolwich, and even when reception brought me an electric heater, the room was very cold. I also struggled to find healthy food when I was staying in Woolwich, as the main restaurants were Nandos, a Thai buffet and a Beefeater attached to the Premier Inn across the road from my hotel. There was a Costa and Greggs that I went to for lunch, but they were shut by 5pm. On a few of the evenings, I got the bus to the O2 Arena in Greenwich to eat, as they have a lot of restaurants, and I also have great memories there of watching wrestling shows, and I also was part of an X Factor parody show there in 2018!
Towards the end of the week, we were put into pairs, and allowed to choose what film scene we wanted to fit around our fight choreography. Unfortunately my “scene partner” didn’t feel comfortable performing a comedy piece, but we both agreed that a scene where we would both play pirates was a really good idea! We ended up performing an extract from an old swashbcklin’ adventure, where I played the famous Irish pirate Anne Bonny, which was awesome!
I was quite nervous and tired from the intensity of the week by the time the exam came around, but thankfully it all went really well, and everyone in my class (including me of course) passed with above average grades! We didn’t find out who got what % etc, but no one was really concerned about the smaller details, as we all became qualified BDAC (British Academy Of Dramatic Combat) performers!! I was especially pleased, as I was one of the very least experienced students, having literally started learning from scratch just a week before.
I have now started taking weekly stage combat classes in London, and am working towards taking my intermediate exam/qualification in August, which is in Manchester this time, so I will get to see two of my good friends when I am there, although I will see them AFTER my exam, as I will no doubt be exhausted and ready to sleep in the evenings after training! I am also working towards an exam focusing entirely on unarmed fighting which takes place in Kent, during April.
I am very glad I decided to take the risk of trying this new skill, and I am also hoping to have an awesome professional fighting showreel made for me by the end of this year, as I will hopefully be far more advanced in combat by then!