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The Society of American Fight Directors recognizes…

January 3, 2013

Me and my high school musical friends used to borrow the wooden swords and spare brooms to sword-fight backstage, splintering a few in the process. That was the extent of my fighting skills, breaking a broom in half. And that wasn’t even a useful skill until I joined the Quiddich team. But Stage Combat was never something I had much experience in until now.

You see, in the last five years, I gave myself the goal: to be certified in Stage Combat by the S.A.F.D. (The Society of American Fight Directors). I got hooked taking basic slap-and-knap combat workshops in high school and a small stage combat club in college; hooked into the dream that I could be an Actor Combatant recognized by the SAFD (Society of American Fight Directors).

“An Actor Combatant is someone who has demonstrated a high degree of skills proficiency in the art of staged combat. Actor Combatants have undergone intensive training in the compulsory techniques required for unarmed, rapier & dagger and broadsword, spending over thirty hours learning to safely perform choreography in each of these three “fight” disciplines, as well as additional classes in other weapon styles.”

It was a long five years. First, I had to find someone to train me. When I was looking at colleges, I specifically made note if they offered combat training (Note to college applicants…most B.F.A. programs in my experience will…but always ask! B.A. programs however, are a rare exception). Being a B.A. student myself, I hoped to be one of those rare exceptions, one of those lucky few students allowed into the B.F.A. combat classes and who get to test. This year however, my school has become one of two schools in the nation to offer TWO stage combat instructors and one of the very, very few to offer a stage combat class for B.A.s, this semester being the guinea pig test trial. We spent a semester learning how to punch, block, fall, kick, throw, knap (stage combat sound effect), slap, choke and roll.

In my freshman year, my combat club arranged for the in-coming Fight Master, brought in by the school to test that year’s class, to give us a master-class. That was the first time I met J. Allen Suddeth and the first time I was told that I was not physically centered enough. The man looks like a turtle, moves like a panther and he left an impression on me. I was going to be “centered”! Someday, I would test for him and I would be on my way to being an Actor Combatant.

Allen helped me realize the essence of me, that I am cerebral and not physically intimidating or centered. I will likely never be either of those things or 5’8″ and a soprano belter to boot but because of his critique, I’ve undertaken Modern Dance, Quidditch and Tai Chi to help me become more physically aware of my being. Judging by the way I’ve worn through most of my shoes, the way I move and walk HAS changed over the past two years. I’m still not centered enough yet but that’s what next semester’s eight a.m. ballet class is for, right? I will conquer you, Second Position, I will, just you wait.

And even though I’m still a work in progress, it was the end of the semester and time to put my money where my fight skills were.

Required Moves for Unarmed Testing:


  • Three Punches (one contact, two non-contact per combatant): These may include the Cross, Hammer, Hook, Jab, Rabbit, Roundhouse, Straight or Uppercut
  • One Stomach Punch
  • One Slap
  • One Elbow Attack
  • One Kick (per combatant): This may include an Ax Kick, Back Kick, Crescent Kick, Front Kick, Heel Hook, Roundhouse Kick, Side Kick, or a Snap Kick
  • One Knee Attack


  • One Block -either punch or kick (per combatant): These may include a Forearm Block, Open Hand Block, Wing Block and X/Cross Block

Floor Work

  • One Fall or Roll (per combatant)


  • One Strangle/Choke hold
  • One Hair Pull
  • One Throw or Flip

Knap Techniques

  • Two Knap Techniques (per combatant): These may include a Cage Knap, Clap Knap, Partnered/Shared Knap, Self/Body Knap or Slip-Hand Knap

My combat partner and I cobbled together a scene (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) that involved all of the above requirements (do you know how hard it is to find a really good girl vs. girl fight scene that doesn’t involve a catfight? Even guy vs. girl scenes were difficult to find!). I was a nervous wreck in the days leading up to it—I even had an actor’s nightmare! But when we did our final run-through and heard the classes’s applause and got high-fives from both of the teachers, I started to breathe and knew that I was going to do this.

I got through that fight scene fine. And the master class after it as well—both of the classes were mixed in and we learned a small fight sequence. It was interesting, to see the styles mixed; their chokes were completely different from our chokeholds and freaked me out a bit. Then we were dismissed while Allen figured out who had gotten a Fail/Pass/Recommended Pass.

But when it was all over, BOTH of our classes had Passed. Quite a few people had even gotten a Recommended Pass. I’m not quite up there yet but there’s always next semester (Quarterstaff and Broadsword!). I got good feedback on my many falls and the “face attack”. And, the S.A.F.D. and J. Allen Suddeth recognizes me as proficient in Unarmed Stage Combat.  I’m on my way to be a someday Actor-Combatant.

College Sig

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2013 4:16 am

    There are so many things I need to learn. Stage fighting is one of them.

    • The College Theatre Dork permalink
      January 5, 2013 3:16 pm

      Stage Combat is certainly one of the more fun things to learn 🙂 It has to be worth the effort you put in to it though.


  1. I Have a Minor in Stage Combat | The Green Room

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