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Stage combat

Stage combat is a specialised technique in theatre designed to create the illusion of physical combat without causing harm to the performers. It is employed in live stage plays as well as operatic and ballet productions. With the advent of cinema and television the term has widened to also include the choreography of filmed fighting sequences, as opposed to the earlier live performances on stage. It is closely related to the practice of stunts and is a common field of study for actors. Several actors famous for their stage fighting skills have backgrounds in dance or martial arts training.

The history of stage fighting and mock combat can be traced to antiquity, or indeed to the origins of the human species and primate display behaviour. Display of martial aptitude is a natural occurrence in warrior societies, and ritualized forms of mock combat often evolve into war dances. Fights staged for entertainment may also be in earnest for the combatants, as was the case with the Roman gladiators, and any public duel, such as the judicial duel of the European Middle Ages. Depiction of violence in theatre can also be traced to Antiquity, with Aristotle quoted as noting that "conflict is the essence of comedy".

The medieval tournament and joust are a classical examples of competitive ritualised mock combat. The joust from the time of Maximilian I developed into a sport with enormous cost involved for each knight and correspondingly high prestige attached, comparable to contemporary Formula One races, while at the same time minimizing the danger of injury with highly specialized equipment.

  • William Hobbs, Fight Direction for Stage and Screen, Heinemann (1995), .
  • Jenn Boughn, Stage Combat: Fisticuffs, Stunts, and Swordplay for Theater and Film, Allworth Press (2006), .
  • Keith Ducklin and John Waller, A Manual for Actors and Directors, Applause Books (2001), .
  • Dale Anthony Girard, Actors on Guard: A Practical Guide for the Use of the Rapier and Dagger for Stage and Screen, Theatre Arts Book (1996), .
  • Michael Kirkland, Stage Combat Resource Materials: A Selected and Annotated Bibliography, Praeger Publishers (2006), .
  • Richard Lane, Swashbuckling: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Art of Stage Combat and Theatrical Swordplay, Limelight Editions (2004), .
  • Meron Langsner, 'Theatre Hoplology: Simulations and Representations of Violence on the Stage' in 'Text & Presentation 2006' edited by Stratos E. Constantinidis',McFarland (2007), , 9780786430772.
  • Meron Langsner, 'Why Everyone Should Study Stage Combat', HowlRound,
  • J. D. Martinez, The Swords of Shakespeare: An Illustrated Guide to Stage Combat Choreography in the Plays of Shakespeare, McFarland & Company (1996), .
  • J. Allen Suddeth, Fight Directing for the Theatre, Heinemann Drama (1996), .
  • Richard Pallaziol, The Textbook of Theatrical Combat[1], Weapons of Choice (2009),, .
  • Jonathan Howell, "Stage Fighting, a Practical Guide", Crowood Press (2008),
  • F. Braun McAsh, "Fight Choreography, a Practical Guide", Crowood Press (2010)
  • Basic Stage Combat DVD, Educational Video Network (2004).
  • Traditioneller Schaukampf für Anfänger nach Dreynschlag, Agilitas TV (2007).


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