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Stage Combat

Lesson 2: Choreographing a Fight


Students will demonstrate an understanding of the basic punches, slaps, knaps, and kicks of stage combat and how to use these techniques by choreographing their own fight scene.


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

Begin the class by reviewing the three falls that were previously learned and asking students to properly demonstrate each fall. After each fall, ask for comments from the class and add your own comments on what they did right or wrong and safely or dangerously. You may also review some of the terms discussed last time (BLOOD, knap, etc.) and what the number one rule in stage combat is (SAFETY FIRST!).




  • Begin with a small lecture where they take notes of things to take into consideration when choreographing a fight. I created the following list, although you may add to it as you feel necessary:
  1. Audience Location - Always know where your audience is so the stage combat looks as realistic as possible. Also, take into consideration how close the audience is and make sure the audience is NEVER put into danger during any staged fight.
  2. Set and Environment - Know what kinds of set pieces you have (and avoid dangerous sets or furniture pieces that may trip unsuspecting actors), whether it is indoors or outdoors, if people are watching or not, what kind of props you may have available, and the way the stage is lit (it should always be properly lit).
  3. Script and Storyline - Determine what written clues are given in the script that may tell you waht kinds of weapons are used, who wins the fight, who is involved with the fight, how long the fight is, the historical time period and style of fighting, etc.
  4. Costumes - If an actor has a big cape for their costume, do not have them do lots of twirls so they get wrapped up in their cape. The costumes should be appropriate and allow enough freedom to perform the choreographed moves.
  5. Characters - When choreographing, you should know what kind of character choices would be made by each fighter. For example, is the character more likely to be angry and make lots of attacks, or are they smart fighter that would mostly defend and make a few very effective advances?
  6. Actors - Choreograph the fight according to the abilities and limitations of your actors. For example, do not have an overweight actor doing repeated kicks against their attacker, or require a small, weak actor to do lots of strenuous and difficult moves that require lots of body strength.
  • Also, instruct students how to write down a fight
  • Begin with warm up exercises as described in the terms and definitions
  • Teach the rest of the moves (kicks, punches, slaps, knee attack, elbow attack, hair pull and strangle) and properly show the safety precautions for each move. Teach those moves you feel are most appropriate for your class, and as you teach, put the students into partners for them to practice each move. It may take more than one period to teach all of the moves listed.


After you teach a major move, give them time to practice it on their own and go around and watch each group on an individual basis. If time permits, it would also be helpful to give them a small fight that you have choreographed for them to practice with their partners, and give pointers about choreographing the fight as you present the fight to the students (apply the fight choreographing tips presented earlier). The fight you give them should be for only two people, and can be adapted as necessary. Also, demonstrate how to write down the fight in proper fight notation. It is best to prepare a student beforehand with the moves to your fight so you can have help demonstrating the fight to the rest of the class.


After teaching each of the stage combat moves, give the students an assignment to choreograph their own fight in pairs (or trios) using the techniques discussed earlier. Give them specific requirements for the assignment and require a certain number of moves per fight, as suggested below:

  1. 2 break falls
  2. 2 slaps or punches
  3. 2 kicks or knee attacks
  4. 1 hair pull or strangle
  5. Performed in 1/2 speed and includes proper sounds (knaps, grunts, groans, etc.)
  6. Purpose for the fight (can add dialogue if necessary)
  7. Fight written in proper fight notation

The students may add to the requirements if they would like, but these are minimum requirements. Give them the rest of class to run through their fights and make sure they start slow and perform at 1/2 speed. Allow each group time to perform for the class and give participation points.