For my final morning of the first phase of my screen combat training, I was given a spear. This was the culmination of many a childhood (and adult) dream and not an opportunity I was about to approach with anything less than full enthusiasm.
My body, on the other hand, had different ideas. 9 hours of swinging swords around the day before had left me in a bit of a fragile state. Luckily, the warm-up helped relieve some of the pain and, by the time I grabbed a spear, the excitement overwhelmed the joint pain.
Once again, we learned six attacks and six defences, then used them in routines which were filmed and watched back. Once again, the instructors were constantly helping and developing our skills and, once again, it was the most fun ever.
For the first routine, I was paired with Ben – an enormously muscular man from Weymouth, who had no problem looking like he was wielding a heavy iron spear and entirely intending to butcher me with it. Luckily, he was also exceptionally adept at remembering our routine, which meant we could focus on trying to look like we were really fighting.
At the end of the afternoon, I was paired a woman who who wasn’t quite as confident as Ben with the spear. Instead of focusing too much on the fighting element, therefore, we were told to practise making sure we got our routine as solid as possible.
When it came to our performance, it was one of the most enjoyable routines I did in the entire course because we took it slowly and concentrated on getting in perfect – rather than necessarily making it look like we were killing each other.
Obviously, in screen combat, you have to look like you’re fighting for real or it is entirely pointless. However, if you can get the routine perfect to start with, you can work on make it look like you’re killing it each other later. If you focus on making it look brutal and not on learning it inside out, you’re likely to forget what you’re doing when the camera rolls.
That has been my experience so far, anyway.
According to Andreas, the head trainer, most pirates weren’t untrained barbarians hacking around wildly as they boarded ships. Typically, they were very well trained naval soldiers who had turned rouge: highly adept at using their one-handed dueling swords aboard the decks of ships, where they would cross-step to keep their balance.
This stands in contrast to duelists wielding rapiers, who would lead with the same foot as their attacking hand. I will learn their techniques in the next course…hopefully.
Even compared to the sword and shield or spear, learning to fight with a cutlass was a ludicrous amount of fun. For once, we didn’t have to focus on making the weapon look heavy – we could chop and swing as fast as we liked and, when the routine worked, the feeling was incomparable.
After all, our job is to make it look like we’re total experts with a lifetime in training with our weapons. In three days, I’ve been taught the basics of five different weapon systems – now I have to go away and make sure I master those basics.
Luckily, that sounds like THE MOST FUN EVER!