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Howdy all! At the beginning of August 2021 a pair of professional stunt performers / actors came to the Swamp for a full week of training in both historical and modern martial arts.
They were fresh off of working on The Walking Dead: World Beyond and were preparing for a possible job where they would be choreographing fights for a production taking place in America during the 1860's. Without any further details to go on this opened the door to looking at huge amount of material and discussing a lot of wild history you never learned about in school!
Check out Hannah Scott and Zack Roberts stunt and acting resumes at Internet Movie Data Base! Both have video clips so be sure to see those out too - eye popping action. Can you imagine doing all this cool stuff every day???
If you watch the Marvel and DC Universe TV shows you may well have seen them already and just not known! Zack worked on Power Man and Iron Fist and check out Hannah training to power-slam the Falcon and fight Winter Soldier in her stunt video! She was the double for actress Erin Kellyman who played the villainess Flag Smasher and did all the big fights, high jumps, and even dove out of a speeding truck onto the asphalt to make the star look awesome!
(Cue the old song "Ballad of the Unknown Stuntman" which played at the start of Lee Major's TV show "The Fall Guy" in the 80's where he played a stuntman who moonlighted as a bounty hunter.)
Over the week we covered the historical and practical use of the Bowie knife, saber, bayonet, tomahawk, shillelagh, sword cane, navaja, use of the cape and jacket, bullwhip, knife throwing, and instinctive pistol focused on multiple moving targets and aerials.
One morning we went out into the Swamp to practice Methode Naturelle, much to the delight of the neighbor's dog who joined us as we practiced our various running and quadruped movements.
A recurring theme throughout the training was the use of real weapons whenever possible to give the correct weight and feel. What you can do with a wooden rifle bayonet trainer, for example, is far different than what you can do with a full length, full weight musket. And a real musket with affixed bayonet offers a lot of textures, nooks and crannies which affect the work, such as the dual 90 angles set up by the bayonet which can lock or trap another bayonet, the sling, and so on.
The same goes with the axe and tomahawk. As soon as you pick up a full weight historical or modern piece it changes everything about your motion base compared to a plastic trainer. The real weapon informs us about so much of the technique that you simply will not understand from the light version. Yet of course for TV / film they will naturally be using latex props for safety so as choreographers and performers they need to be able to sell the weight of the weapons in a scene.
Because this wasn't a wide enough amount of material to work on while they were here, we spent several hours each day practicing the 52 Blocks, covering the distinctive footwork, head movement, hand-shapes, focus mitt drills, and open hand Brim Boxing.
[Brim Boxing is just what it sounds like. It is a form of slap boxing game where the goal is to hit your opponent's hat or to snatch it away from them. The way we play it here is that you can slap them to the body, leg, etc. (just not the face) as a distraction but it doesn't score; only a touch to the hat (1 point) or stealing the hat (3 points) are considered valid.]
Since they were excellent at mimicking human motion in the course of the week they were able to learn the Entire 1-52 Form as taught by Coach Lyte Burly! While there wasn't time to cover all the tons of support drills, conditioning exercises, and so forth they got the hand shapes and the flavor of the style to where they can make it look proper for movies and TV.
In a wonderful 52 Blocks coincidence, in 2019 Zack worked as the fight choreographer and an actor on a Chinese movie called Step Up: Year of the Dance which was about a group of kids who have a street dance crew that competes against other teams from Japan and America. From what I gather it's part 6 of the series.
In it he played a character named, "52 Killer" who is brought along as hired muscle by a bad guy that wants to stop our heroes of the Sky Crew from winning the competition using their so-called "Kung Fu Street Dance" in the dubbed version.
If you watch it, I'd start about 49 minutes in to give context if you're interested in the story and seeing some cool dancing but a big fight scene Zack choreographed starts at 56:40 minutes. Zack shows up at 57:50 and it features him using the razor in hand to hand. The razor spit in the film was fake (just like Tupac in Above the Rim) but now he knows the real way to do it.
Not that you could even put the razor used in the film in your mouth as it was huge, like a credit card almost! The prop department had made a normal sized stunt blade but it didn't show up on film well so Zack asked (through a translator) for one 50% bigger and ended up with this one on the day they filmed more like 3x times bigger.
Zack choreographed all the other fights in the film as well if you care to watch. The story is about what you'd expect and the music & dancing are great. Like many Chinese productions, it just starts where the last movie ended and wastes no time explaining any back-story, but you don't need all that. It's about kids who are cool, look good and train kung fu street dance as a family!
Sadly I can't show you any of the video we filmed - an industry thing - and the pictures from inside the school came out blurry as you see above! But Here's a couple pictures from when were doing knife throwing that came out good. This was from a sequence where you flipped the knife, spun 180 degrees and threw it. Later we did this while throwing a knife with each hand at two different targets simultaneously!
By the end of their first session on knife throwing they could do all that as well as throw knives against a moving ground target whole on the move themselves chasing it! The next day we went into the Swamp and spent an hour throwing at an old, dead tree (one of the best targets there is) so they could learn to take the throws from the ground to a vertical surface.
Overall there was so much we covered this report just scratches the surface, and this is just the physical side! when not training we looked at scores of books from my library and they went home with a huge reading list,
Over the years I've had many wonderful guests at the school but seldom such incredibly skilled ones with the ability to train hard all day, every day, and then who go do their own conditioning on top of it. Let me ask any of you who teach: When was the last time you worked with someone 5-7 hours and then they went and did a run or lifted weights afterwards? That's what these two did...
All my very best to you,
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