swordfighting

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?

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Fight Clip Club

I finally got around to seeing the new Star Wars movie, you’ll be happy to hear. So in honor of its awesome fight scene in the snow, today’s Fight Clip Club boasts the documentary The Evolution of the Lightsaber Duel, hosted by Mark Hamill. In full.

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…)

Fiction Selection

I came across this clip from an unpublished story that’s the first of 5 I need to get my butt in gear with and edit, proofread, revise, and freaking publish already! Or, at least I think I do. What do you think, lovely lurkers?

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From Sweet Revenge, 2000 (unpublished)

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“Take that, spawn of the devil!”

Thwang!

I whirl around. Protruding from the mast, inches from my right shoulder, is a sextant, the sharp end embedded into the wood. It trembles with the impact. I turn back around to face my assailant.

Three rigging-lackeys lounge on barrels, ropes, the rail. The man in the center, one Arbitor, curses at his near miss. The other two laugh.

“Here’s the instrument to stick in a pretty walking map!” the mustachioed pirate on the left jeers. The right-hand lackey, lounging on the rail, grabs his trousers and gestures lewdly. I frown. Jack O’Napes is nowhere in sight. Meeting my uncle the Captain, no doubt. The rest of the crew is far from us. Arbitor fidgets. He looks uncomfortable; he doesn’t know what to do with his hands. His two flanking cohorts advance on me, leering, muttering under their breath. I catch a few phrases: “Tie ‘er up and hang ‘er,” “Our treasure…” “Nothing but a little girl.” At that, the right-hand lackey clutches himself again and replies, “I’ll make ‘er into a woman, Skrike. You hold ‘er.”

Fab4

The main characters from a sequel to this story. You can see Gemma on the far left labeled as “Cap’n.”

I tense, every muscle on the alert. Arbitor backs up slowly, biting his fingers.

“Now!” shouts the right-hand lackey, and lunges at me.

I draw my sword so quickly, he runs straight into it. The point pierces his abdomen. He gasps in pain and fury. I wrench the sword free, and whirl to face my other opponent, who whisks his sword out of its scabbard and squares off with me. Arbitor drags his bleeding, cursing other crony downstairs, calling for the Captain. I do not hear him. Skrike swipes a cut at my left side, which I parry easily. He is already breathing too heavily, in anticipation. I can see his next move in his eyes.

I thwart his expected thrust and bind his blade around, surprising him with my strength, and exposing the left side of his back. I cut quickly towards his kidney, but he somehow twists out of his awkward position and beats my blade away. I hear running feet belowships and on the hollow-sounding stairs, but all my thoughts are on my man, my breathing, my footing. His blade, my blade.

His next thrust is far too sloppy, he being still off-balance. I tack aside the off-center miss, and aim this time for his right calf. He won’t expect a blow so low.

Just as I thought: the cut draws blood. He sucks in a ragged breath and falls to his knees.

He’s not through yet, however. He shoves his blade straight, like a battering-ram, towards my solar plexus. I parry the blade, and this time envelopĂ©e the sword right out of his hand. It circles, out of his control, and clatters to the deck. It flings itself across the floor and lands at the feet of Jack O’Napes, who has appeared from belowships. The Captain stands next to him. I point my sword at the hollow of Skrike’s throat. He, panting, sweating, eyes me with awe.

“Apologize,” I say between clenched teeth. When he does not respond, I place the point of my blade right up against the depression at the base of his neck. He swallows, with difficulty.

“A-po-lo-gize,” I sing to him. “Say you’re sorry in front of the Captain–” my vision widens, and I notice that the whole crew has assembled like a theatre crowd. “–and all the crew. Then,” I lower my voice and move a step closer, “kiss my foot and promise you shall never try me again.” At the word ‘never,’ I prick his skin ever so slightly. He tenses.

“I…am sorry.”

“That’s right.”

“Cap’n Jonquil, sir, ye crew, I behaved like an ass.” This makes the crew growl in malicious laughter. “I’ll never threaten the Gem again, to ye all do I swear.” His voice seeps with humiliation. I move the sword away from his throat. A tiny bead of blood wells up from the spot. We look into each other’s eyes for two heartbeats.

Then, he bows to the floor and brushes his mustache against my left foot. I smirk. The crew bursts into a roar. Captain Jonquil picks him up by the scruff.

The crew quiets.

Captain Jonquil speaks, holding Skrike by the back of his neck.

“Know this. If any one of you ever so much as dreams of touching our Gem with unclean intent, you shall be fodder for the sharks, understood?” A murmur of assent. “She is my child, more than my brother’s, and is no devil’s whelp. She shall get her share, you scurrilous son of a pig,” this last comment is directed at the wounded and gasping rigging-lackey I skewered. “and she’s a better seaman than you, Arbitor.” The man bows his head.

“For you, Skrike, to be this badly beaten by a woman should be enough punishment for you, yet the proper punishment for the attack of a fellow crew member, according to our code, which you dutifully signed when you boarded,” the crew murmurs again. “is nineteen lashes with the cat o’ nine. O’Napes, take him and bestow the honors upon him.” Jack hoists the sagging Skrike by the arm and drags him away.