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Stage Combat

Lesson 1: Stage Combat Basics


Students will demonstrate an understanding of stage fighting and hand-to-hand fighting moves by performing a small fight that incorporates the three types of break falls.


Materials Needed

3 Different clips illustrating basic stage fights (i.e. Seven Brides for Seven Brides, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, etc.) Horror Stories (Fight Directing for the Theatre) handout, Stage Combat Terms and Definitions handout


Related Documents


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

Begin the class by showing two or three film clips of some basic staged fights both with and without weapons (ex: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, etc.). Point out that each of the these fights were choreographed by a fight director and practiced many times before filmed. Discuss the differences and similarities between the fights. Why were they fighting? Did it look real? What weapons were used? How did it add to the storyline? (If film clips are unavailable, then discuss different fights that studetns have seen performed on stage and the qualitites of those fights. )




  • Write 'SAFETY FIRST!' on the board and explain that this is the number one rule in stage combat. Emphasize that the key to proper stage fighting is always being safe and always being in control of your body and your actions. Once you lose control and forget what you have been taught, it is called 'red light fever' and that is when accidents happen. Each fight should be carefully choregraphed and staged.
  • To emphasize the importance of safety, share some 'horror examples' from the book Fight Directing for the Theatre (see attachment) or share some personal experiences of accidents that have happened, and ask for students to share a few examples as well.
  • Go over the basic stage combat terms and instruct the students to take notes (they will be given a quiz of the terms later during the unit). Tell them that they will be doing each of the stage combat moves later.


Do basic warm up exercises and begin teaching the three different break falls of stage combat. If possible, get some mats or go to a gym with mats on the floor for safety (or go outside and do it on the grass, if necessary). First demonstrate and point out keys for the three falls (front fall, back fall and side fall). Then have the students, in pairs, practice each fall one at a time by having one partner push the other (although the contact between the partners should be minimal; no one should actually be pushed).


At the end of class, give the students time to practice the three falls and go around to each group as they practice to answer any questions that they may have. End the class each partnership choreographing a basic fight where each partner must do each of the three falls once for participation points. Allow the partners to perform their fights for the class, but require the performances to be in 1/4 speed and if there are any safety problems, point them out after each performance.