fight scenes

Down the Rabbit Hole

The third in my Problematic Badass Female Tropes series is live, lovely lurkers! I call it Down The Rabbit Hole. Have a look-see over at Writers’ HQ.

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Sign up for Advanced Stage Combat plea #4

And the reason this time is:

Strange and unusual weapons.

At Metro, the beginning Stage Combat class covers the basics of both unarmed and rapier techniques. And as you might imagine, the whole 16 weeks’ worth of time is necessary for the introduction and especially the practice, of the bare basics.

In the advanced class, everyone enters knowing the basics, basically (we of course do a review session on our first day), and so we can use that knowledge to move forward into other stuff. This coming semester, we’ll be doing broadswords and staffs, as you’ve already heard about.

But there’s other stuff we’ll cover, too: some have to do with harder versions of the basic weapons. For example, large group fights, sword fighting up and down stairs a la Errol Flynn, circular or erratic footwork in sword fighting, advanced taihenjutsu like dive rolls, simulated (and real) martial arts throws, falling from a height, etc. (See me below, playing around on a climbing wall with a past advanced class–we learned some aerial dance rope stuff as well as basic climbing, plus falling from a height.)

In the past, I’ve also done micro-units on martial arts styles and found weapons (which are normal everyday objects used as weapons–something that pops up in current theatre far more often than, say, swords), and then of course one can also use classic weapons techniques to inform other, more unusual ones.

For example, a knowledge of basic Japanese katana technique will make you pretty decent at wielding a lightsaber (and staff knowledge helps with that double-bladed number Darth Maul had).

This coming Fall (if I can get 12 students signed up), we will be doing a video-game fight unit. And wouldn’t it be cool if I got UCD’s renowned film department in on that project. Is mo-cap, animation, or film technique in our future? Will I bring this class (as I have done for one of our summer private courses) down to one of the Parkour studios in Denver for specialized training? Time will tell. That’s if I get the enrollment numbers.

A reminder: anyone can audit, but anyone attending the three schools on Auraria campus (MSU, CCD, and UCD) can sign up for this course. As of last time I checked, I had 6 enrolled, which is half the required number I need for the class to go.

So. What are you waiting for?

Plea #2: sign up for Advanced Stage Combat

Reason Number 2 of thousands:

Six foot staffs.

Even in SAFD land, the six foot staff (what they call quarterstaff) is not often taught in the basic stage combat courses. This is certainly understandable to a certain extent, as it’s not one of those weapons that most actors will most often find themselves wielding.

This coming fall semester, however, I will be adding staff back into the Stage Combat curriculum. Fun fact: when I first designed the beginning Stage Combat course for Metro back in 2005, there were three weapons systems they all learned: Unarmed, Staff, and Sword (rapier). I later axed the staff unit, for to spend more time with the swords and the finals, and with the knowledge that the staff (though basic weapons training for me at the time in martial arts) wasn’t really a fundamental weapon most beginners would need to know about.

But it’s so very much fun!! And so this fall we will be wielding them again for the first time in about a dozen years. So if you’re an Auraria student or want to audit, get on your registration now so I can hit my minimum enrollment before cancellation. Do eet.

The Fight is the Story (part 2)

Make sure you go back to the previous FitS post, part 1, and read it thoroughly before you read this one. This is my contrasting example to the pointless fight scene that was in the Phantom Menace. It appears at the end of Return of the Jedi. Here it is:

Let’s look at the basics first: this, like the PM fight, is a master and apprentice vs. a solo opponent. What’s that? Oh yes, it is. If you are under the impression that the Emperor isn’t a part of this fight because he isn’t whipping out a lightsaber, that’s where you’re wrong, and that’s also where you’re falling into the same trap as so many storytellers out there, when it comes to fights. The Emperor is a major part of this fight, throughout. In fact, he starts it.

So. 1): Why here, why now, why these characters fighting? What’s everyone’s OBJECTIVE?
It’s quite clear: Luke’s OBJECTIVE: to bring his father back with him. Vader’s OBJECTIVE: same thing, basically: to keep his son here with him, enjoy blissful life in the Dark Side as a family. And our third fighter in this scene, the Emperor? He wants these two to fight to the death. Remember what Vader seems to have forgotten: there’s only a master and an apprentice Sith at any one time. Now for the Emperor, he’d obviously rather have Luke, as he’s younger and stronger with the Force, but hey, if Vader ends up killing his own son, well talk about Dark side, and he’s been a pretty gosh darn good viscount of terror for this many years. Really either way is fine. And no, you don’t have to have read novels or anything to get this from this fight scene–in fact, if you didn’t see any of the rest of the movie, this would still be clear as day.

So, how about 2)? Lots of clear TACTICS going on here, starting with Palpatine’s biggest TACTIC, the one he’s best at: to seduce. Notice that he’s using mainly words in this fight, up until the end, that is. Why? Because WORDS ARE HIS STRONGEST WEAPON! Palpatine has no need to resort to physical tactics through most of this fight. Why? Because HIS VERBAL TACTICS ARE WORKING. It’s his insidious tease and threat to Luke’s friends that spurs Luke to grab his lightsaber and attempt to kill him. And yeah, it’s obvious that that is what he’s trying to do–the way the first move is choreographed makes that apparent. Vader’s objective? To protect his master. Through the first part of that whole fight, every physical move Luke does (after the initial failed one) is to try and get away from his father, so he won’t have to fight him. Kicking him away, only blocking Vader’s blows, jumping up to the catwalk–all these things are attempts to STOP fighting Vader. Why does he start fighting him again? Well, Vader himself pulls out the verbal tactics, to get Luke to come out of hiding and continue the fight. He finds out about Leia, and threatens her safety. This TACTIC works: Luke is overwhelmed with anger and launches himself at Vader, his attacks now vicious.

This is where we see the fight take a major turn. And this is where the biggest fight scene mistake was made in ep. 2 (the ridiculous Yoda vs. Dooku lightsaber fight), when you compare.

Luke accidentally cuts off Vader’s hand. This shocks him, and makes him stop his barrage, remembering what his OBJECTIVE is and how this attack was NOT a TACTIC to get him that OBJECTIVE. Palpatine takes this opportunity to pounce: still using verbal TACTICS, he reveals his OBJECTIVE to the other fighters. He tells Luke to kill Vader and take his place. When Luke turns off his lightsaber, throws it away, and says, “No,” this is the moment when Palpatine’s verbal TACTICS have run out. Then, and only then, does Palpatine resort to physical violence. And he does so in a way appropriate to his character (unlike Yoda vs. Dooku). Does he whip out a lightsaber and supernaturally become agile real quick? No, of course not, that would make no sense. Instead, he uses a physical weapon much more apropos to him: the Force lightning. Luke has no idea this is even a thing, and has no defense against it–all he can do is collapse, screaming in agony. He does have one more verbal TACTIC left in him, though: he calls for his father to help him.

And boy does that TACTIC work: Vader then uses a physical TACTIC to stop the barrage. Because of this balance in the fight scene, it’s my professional opinion that Vader didn’t predict that he’d die from the lightning. It sure doesn’t look like he expected it, but once it was happening, he changed his OBJECTIVE into killing Palpatine, because he knows he won’t survive to collect his previous OBJECTIVE. And thus he succeeds. All of this is crystal clear, not from obscure back story, but FROM THE FIGHT ITSELF.

Not a whole lot of spinning in this fight scene, but what a more compelling, interesting, gripping, and exciting fight this was than the one in Phantom Menace. Well, the music in the other was pretty cool…..

Outrageous Fortune

ofbwtherapy

Rehearsal for Outrageous Fortune. The Dr. Ruth-type Prospera coaches we Tragedians Anonymous into embracing our tragedies and moving forward…

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Stage Movement begging session to praise to the skies a theatrical project I’m a part of: Viva’s Outrageous Fortune. Viva is a company connected to Boulder’s Society For Creative Aging, and as such, its large cast is quite diverse both in the age and the experience areas. The Boulder Weekly has a thoughtful article on some of the philosophies behind it, which you can read here. Basically, it’s Shakespeare’s tragic characters in group therapy in an attempt to find closure with their tragic lives, and things go rather amuck when some characters try and change their Outrageous Fortune to make one of their own.

On a personal level, I’ve had a lot of fun cultivating my Valley-Girl-Desdemona character, but also in choreographing the second largest fight scene I’ve ever had to tackle. An extra challenge in coordinating this giant fight scene is knowing that around 85% of the players are of an advanced age, such that certain moves are not only difficult, but dangerous and even impossible. But I am very happy with how it’s turning out, and the show as a whole should be a heckuva lot of fun to see.

Outrageous Fortune opens this Saturday and runs two weekends. Find your tickets here.

Fight Clip Club

I’m bringing to the Fight Clip Club the duel scene from stellar TV show Firefly, as it has a nice way of showing skill vs. raw ability but no skill. I’d categorize it as Realistic/Swashbuckling, with the one caveat that there is the dreaded Throwing a Sword trope here, which I despise. The closing dialogue is terrific, though: “Well, maybe I’m just a good man…”

Actually there’s another great fight scene in this same episode (“Shindig”), at the very beginning: a simple bar brawl that’s actually quite beautiful. Not sure I don’t like the bar brawl better than the duel, actually…

http://www.sciencechannel.com/embed?page=3258

firefly-trash

“So…you two have met.”       — No, this isn’t the duel scene. It’s yet another favorite fight scene from Firefly. It’s rare to find a fight scene between a male and female character wherein both are actually scrappy and both indeed want to hurt each other.

 

 

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Fight Clip Club

This selection from The Four Musketeers is a favorite one of mine and many of my compatriots in the stage combat profession. The main reason for this is twofold: 1) you can see it’s mainly the actors doing the choreography, not stunt doubles, and 2) it’s one of the more realistic sword fight scenes you can find in cinema.

Normally when you’re talking swordfighting, particularly The Three Musketeers, you think Expressionistic / Swashbuckling, right? Sure you do–we all do. This isn’t that. It’s arguably Expressionistic because of the length of the fight, but I’d actually call it Realistic / Dramatic instead. Can you see why I do?

(For a detailed rundown on my two-tiered classification system of stage combat, here.)

(Also: it’s period-realistic more than most, as it’s actually rapier-and-dagger, not just rapier, not random-pirate-y-sword-we-thought-looked-old-timey…)

Fight Clip Club

Fight Clip Club is a thing I used to do with my Stage Combat students–it was a chance for them to look closer at the fight scenes they enjoy in their favorite entertainment. There were certain prescribed analyses I had them do to show me they were able to see what was really going on in the scene based on the things they’d learned in class.

I’m going to start doing my own version of the Fight Clip Club for you, lovely lurkers. This first one was shared by one of my random Facebook friends in the field, and I commented that it was “way too long, and also glorious.”
I’m sure you’ll agree that this fight would fall under the “expressionistic” and “swashbuckling” categories in my fight-styles system, and what makes this that much more fun to watch for me is the vast difference in style. You’ve got the Old School Movie Kung Fu vs. Classic Western Boxing, and it works very well.

UPDATE:
I’m noticing that the video may show as private? Here’s a link just in case. https://www.facebook.com/190816697621587/videos/949993588370557/

The One-Shot Hallway Fight

Many folks, both fans and professionals, have been talking about the two most famous hallway fight scenes in recent cinema; mainly because they are shot ostensibly in one shot. The side-scrolling hallway fight in Oldboy and the clever hallway scene in Daredevil have been on fight folks’ minds quite a bit lately (especially since Daredevil came out; many people have returned to Oldboy to re-view the skill).
As an example, here’s a video of a comparison of the two hallway fight scenes I came across online today. Please to enjoy.