Adapting Destreza for the screen.
For a long time the entertainment industry has made use of martial arts. It has inspired generations of young and old to take up the martial practices, ether eastern or western. From the early days of the roman amphitheater in Rome with their depictions of the Gallic tribes falling to Caesar’s legions, to the displays of Shakespeare in the globe theatre in London, and of course today's movies and TV industry portraits of swash buckling pirates and knights in armour, martial arts have always been an integral part of our entertainment.
To many this has been their starting point, a first introduction into the world that is martial arts. Along with inspiring generations to take up the individual arts, it has also had negative implications through false depictions of martial arts. This can be seen most clearly in depictions of Western fighting arts, with examples of knights being nothing more than hulking, unintelligent buffoons swinging their extremely heavy swords and needing cranes to be lifted onto their horses, which we all know is complete nonsense.
However, even with the false depictions of the fighting arts, it cannot be ignored the effect these industries have had. I am glad to see that there appears to be a gradual movement towards more realistic depictions of fighting arts within the entertainment industries..
Train martially, adapt it.
In my own experience in teaching both martial arts for combat, and fight choreography for stage and film; It is better to start learning as a martial artist and then to adapt and train from a performance point of view. At Gray School of Arms we teach a range of students. Many of whom are actors and stage performers looking to learn the use of European weapons and more importantly how to adapt them to better perform on screen.
The advantages of learning to fight properly with their chosen tool (for the sake of this article we will say the single sword) are many.
One of the main benefits is in the student’s mentality, their mental focus and thought process is that of a fighter, it helps them understand the mental strains and physical strains/focus that the character they are portraying is under. They develop the respect not only for the art but for the weapon they will use. When they pick up a weapon for either performance or fencing made of either wood or steel, sharp or blunt, they will treat it with the seriousness and respect it deserves.
This form of training, from the perspective of a martial artist rather than a theatrical perspective, gives the performer an edge and helps them more easily adapt to the scene and character.
Safety and performance.
Another big aspect is that of safety and performance, an actor who learns to fight with the weapon for real, will build up fine-tuned reflexes, allowing them to better react to mistakes made by their partners, which is a key aspect of staying safe. They will be trained to using correct distance and timing, allowing them to move more fluidly around their opponent and make maximum use of the space they are given, while managing the use of their distance and tempo to progress the fight.
This also gives the actor or performer the ability to remain safe when practicing or performing a scene with an untrained actor. They will be better able to guide their partner with their experience, rather than relying solely on the training they may have received in a short time from the fight choreographer/stunt team.
Performing also becomes easier as your body is comfortable in the movements and trained in correct form and weight distribution. This allows for a more convincing portrayal of the role due to the confident and smooth nature of your movement.
Using the concepts and principles.
Destreza is a system of Concepts and principles that are applied through the use of mathematical and geometrical principles. For instance, footwork is governed by the geometrical principles of circles and lines. To move in any one direction, one must first move his/her feet along short, medium or long, lateral, transversely, circular or straight lines.
The same applies for your upper-body; the arm and the sword, they all follow similar angles and lines in order to subjugate the opponents blade or to remain safe and covered. Couple this with the use of tempo and distance, both of which fall under universal concepts of correctly timed movements and the same geometrical angles as above. These are learnt through the practice and application of martial principles and once understood can be used to perform, both martially and theatrically.
The above example is but one of many, it would take many more pages to fully explore it. However I hope it gives an idea as to what principles can be applied.
Part 2 coming soon!