The Definition of Safety in Stage Combat


Students will demonstrate their knowledge by their participation in class activities, writing reflective entries to their learning log, and by taking a safety quiz.



Materials Needed

Whiteboard pens or chalk
“The Mask of Zorro” or “Princess Bride” – Video or DVD (select any rapier fight scene)
“Rush Hour” – Video or DVD (select the pool/billiard room fight scene with the cue
“Big Jake” or any John Wayne western – Video or DVD (select any hand-to-hand fight
Video or DVD player
“Safety” Poster
Copies of the Safety Rules, Expectations, Assignment Criteria, Assignment Schedule
Related Documents
• Stage Combat Criteria Handout  1.Stage Combat Criteria
• Stage Combat Assignment Sheet  1.Stage Combat Assignment Sheet
• Stage Combat Expectations  1.Stage Combat Expectations
• Stage Combat Safety Handout   1.Stage Combat Safety Handout



Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook
Arrange the chairs in a semi-circle so students can easily watch the videos. Then, write the scrambled letters of the words, “Stage Combat,” on the white/chalk board: ATCEBSMOGA.




Step 1—To discover the topic of today’s lesson, have students unscramble the letters into the two words, “Stage Combat,” and write it on the board. (If students cannot figure out the words and need some help, give them the number of letters in each word and/or write blanks on the board—example: [ __ __ __ __ __ / __ __ __ __ __ __ ]. If they still need help, give them one letter per word.)


Step 2—Discuss what stage combat is. (movement, “fake fighting,” staged violence, choreographed movement that conveys physical fighting without hurting your partner)


Step 3—Transition: Rather than tell you about the different kinds of stage combat, I thought you might like to watch different movie clips that show them:

Show the “The Mask of Zorro” or “Princess Bride” video/DVD rapier fight scene.

Ask: What kind of stage combat do we see in this scene? (Students will likely respond: sword fighting, fencing, etc.)

Introduce the term: rapier
Ask: What kind of plays do we see rapier fight scenes? (Shakespeare, period plays, etc.)


Step 4—Watch this next this next clip—it demonstrates a different kind of stage combat: Show the “Rush Hour” video/DVD cue sticks fight scene in the pool/billiard hall early in the film.

Ask: What kind of stage combat did we see at the end of this scene? (Students will likely respond: stick fighting)

Introduce the term: quarter staff and staves

Ask: What famous characters are known for their quarter staff fight scene? (Robin Hood and Little John)


Step 5—Let’s look at one more movie clip. Show the John Wayne western hand-to-hand fight scene.

Ask: What kind of stage combat was in this scene? (Students will likely respond: fist fighting)
How is this fighting different than the other two? (no weapons)

Introduce the term: hand-to-hand combat and unarmed stage combat


Step 6— Transition: Stage fights are a vitally important part of many productions.
Ask: Why do you think that is? (It makes to the play exciting)
Are any of you interested in learning stage combat?
Before we can learn how to stage a fight, there are a few things we have to learn.
What do you think the most important part of stage combat is?
Do you think that stage combat is dangerous? Why/Why not?

The truth is that when a fight is not properly staged, even a simple slap can be dangerous.


Step 7—How can we avoid such danger? (learn how to do stage fights correctly. Lead the students to the concept of safety.)
There is a common saying in many stage combat books is
“Safety first,
safety last,
safety always”.
Have the students repeat it several times.
This is the most basic and most important principal of stage combat. (Show safety poster and tape it on the wall in a very prominent place.)
Ask: What is the most basic and most important principal of stage combat?
Know this. Make this your motto. Follow it with dedication.


Step 8—Safety is so important that we need to know the safety rules before we can learn how to do the fights. The most important rule is that there is never any goofing off.
Ask: Why do you think goofing off is dangerous?
What do you think the consequences should be for goofing off? (If students come up with valid consequences, commend them.)

The Consequence: There will be one warning only. If a student goofs off again, they are sitting on the sidelines for the remainder of class. If a student goofs off again during a different lesson, they cannot participate for the rest of the unit and will lose half the participation points possible. BUT they will be responsible for everything that is taught and will be required to complete all work except for the final performance for which they will get a 0.


Step 9— The study of stage combat is also the study of human violence, the student must be aware of the physical demands of the class and its primary objective, that of safety. It is essential that you know and understand the safety rules. Here are just a few basics that you must follow:

Demonstrate and/or discuss the following safety rules:
· Always Warm-up
· FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS EXACTLY – Do not try to anything before being taught.
Maintain eye contact
Always give the signal
Distance from your partner and from other participants
Minimum distance: an out-stretched hand span from the victim’s chin, nose, body
· ALWAYS practice in slow motion — Performances are in ¾ time
· The victim always determines the motion or movement – demonstrate with a push
Ask: What is the most important rule? (never goof off)
Remember—All safety rules are important! You will be required to know the safety rules before we can start learning any strikes. (hand out copies of the safety rules) Study these rules. Learn them. We will have a quiz on them next week.


Step 10—This stage combat unit not only requires you to know and follow the safety rules, it also requires you to learn and perform a choreographed fight as your final. But there are other expectations, too. Let’s talk about them. (hand out copies of the Expectations, Assignment Criteria, Assignment Schedule)
· Participation in class exercises (CLASS ATTENDANCE IS ESSENTIAL!!) You will be held responsible for all material covered in each class session. Missed class sessions may result in a lowered grade.
· Mastery of specific physical moves and techniques involved in stage combat (handout with explanations – must know for final exam)
· Safety Quiz (handout)
· Combat Analysis Paper/Presentation
· Terminology (handout – must know for final exam)
· Practice Fight Performance
· Research ESSAY — Understanding Theatrical Combat and its relationship to acting–.
· Learning Log
· Fight Script
· A Final Written and Practical Exam;

Check for understanding.



NOTE: If a student says that he cannot participate in this unit, explain that you need a doctor’s note for him/her to be excused from practicing and performing but that the student will still be required to fulfill all other assignments plus additional required project to make up for participation and performance points. The project must be related to stage combat but student –initiated projects will be considered seriously.




Have students wear comfortable, loose clothing. They should not wear anything that will prevent them from participating in stage combat practice. (If girls complain, tell them to bring something to change into after class because full participation is required.)


Remind students to write in their learning log and to study the safety rules.




Participation and Learning Log Entry



Author’s Notes

The students will understand the concept of stage combat, be aware of the three basic types of combat (unarmed, rapier, and quarterstaff) and know how stage combat is used in the film and theatre industries. They will also understand the importance of and learn the safety rules of stage combat.