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Fighting with my Falcata: How I took up screen fighting

I have a goal in acting and that is to play a character on screen that is forever associated with me. Think of LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge in Star Trek, Kit Harrington as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones or Rue McClanahan as Blanche Deveraux in The Golden Girls. In fact all of The Golden Girls was perfectly cast, but you get my point.

So, I want to play a character on a film or TV show where I can really make them my own. What type of show would I like to appear on? Whilst I love comedy and modern day drama as well as period pieces, my heart lies with Sci Fi and Fantasy. I really want to appear as a bridge officer in a sci-fi series or a warrior in a swords and sorcery type production.

I have the build and I have the look (as well as book cases full of nerdy stuff) but I can't rely on just that. Sure I have wrestling training in my background and whilst I could bring the showmanship aspect of that to the fore, it doesn't mean I can swing a sword in an entertaining and, most importantly, safe way. I can't rely on someone just picking me out with blind luck either, I need to show that I have the credentials to be there.

So, what do I do about it? One of my acting colleagues Sarah Dillon (see my showreel to see my work with her) had advised that she was doing a screen combat course. I thought this was a great idea, although I did procrastinate a bit. In fact, it wasn't until the time she'd reached Stage 4 that I took the bull by the horns and decided to just do it. The company she had trained with and recommended was Stagefight and so I duly signed up, booked my hotel and transport to Birmingham where they are based. The hotel was great, although I could hear the live band from the bar on my first night. But whilst some would find it difficult to nod off, I slept like a log to the death metal music that filtered down the corridor.

I got there early the next day all fresh faced and ready, even though Google Maps tried to get me to jump across a canal to get to the venue. Something I would have attempted when I was 12 and built like a splinter, but I'm a little older and a little heavier now so I decided to walk around instead.

After introductions to my fellow students and the coaching staff we warmed up for a while before we began the combat training. We were to start with unarmed combat. You may think with a background in pro wrestling I'd find this easy but I had to retrain myself as there is a massive difference; in wrestling you make contact to make it appear convincing whereas in screen combat you don't. It's all done very safely and whilst I won't reveal all of the course secrets here, I learned so much including the history of how screen fighting came about and how many moves are used today as they were when they were devised.

Speaking of history, my trainer Raph Aldis is passionate about the subject and whilst he certainly knows his oats on how "Hollywood" would like fight choreographed, he also is very knowledgeable on how the style was developed and how it would have been done in days gone by. I absolutely love this as I'm a bit of a history buff myself.

Daggers came next and then swords. Bear in mind this was just a taster day to get a basic grounding in the art, however I learned so much. And I LOVED it!

I signed up for my stage one course at lunchtime and returned for that the next month to become a Screen Fighter. I passed this and then booked my stage two, which involved sabres, sword and shield and two handed longswords to become a Screen Warrior. I am at the time of writing 48 years old and I was throwing myself around like I was still 30, such was my love for this. In fact when it was time for the assessment I was asked to run through the routine twice as there was an odd number of students for the course. I agreed happily and although I was knackered from coming up with the routine with my two cohorts, running it through continually with each of them over and over before performing for the camera for the assessment. We even put a little bow in at the end which raised a little chuckle from Raph.

I passed. I've gone back for combat refresher days and I'm booked on for my stage three which will bestow on me the rank of Screen Champion should I be successful in my quest. And all of these are Spotlight certified accreditations through the ECSPC, the European Certificate of Skilled Performance Combat.

I could have just stayed at home and hoped my ship would come in or I could have gone out and invested in my skills and my career. And whilst it's still early days, I feel that I have improved my chances exponentially of getting the roles I want in the future by acquiring skills that others who may also want these roles do not have. You miss every shot you don't take. I'm happy I took this one.


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