Stage & Screen Combat

What is stage combat?

Stage combat is a variety of theatrical techniques designed to create the illusion of physical violence whilst maintaining the safety of the performers and audience. Employed to create effective story telling of physical conflict, stage combat encompasses an endless variety of unarmed and armed techniques, these techniques can be applied and adapted for a variety of media including film, theatre, opera, ballet, and motion capture. Fights can vary widely from true realism to outright fantasy depending upon the requirements of a particular production and the director's vision.


Is stage combat the same as screen combat?

On many levels the answer is yes. ‘Stage’ combat has become a common short hand industry term often used to refer to both and stage and screen combat. Actual techniques in regards to safety and performance are similar for both, though there are some differences in application with each genre having specific requirements.

For film, fights have to be performed with the camera in mind and there are numerous nuances to consider to achieve a variety of effects. For theatre, fights often need to be performed night after night with no option for post-production editing so a solid foundation is key.

Stage combat techniques can also be applied to motion capture work, again with some adjustments made.


Are there any age restrictions to do stage combat?

Our training courses listed on our website are aimed at ages 18 years and older.

However we can deliver training for students from 8 years old upwards. We also provide private lessons, training through schools and other institutions as well as corporate workshops.

Fill out a booking request form for more bespoke needs.


How fit do I need to be to do stage combat?

A general level of fitness is fine for most stage combat classes. If you have a high level of fitness or gymnastic skills this may be handy for certain productions but generally trained skill wins out over super fitness for most roles. If you have physical difficulties they need not prevent you performing certain elements of stage combat as an actor. If you have any doubts regarding your ability for an ID course please feel free to e-mail any enquiries. We treat all enquiries with confidence and will make all reasonable efforts to accommodate specific needs.


Is stage combat difficult?

Some elements of stage combat are very easy to pick up whilst others are much more complex. At a basic level unarmed moves such as punches and slaps are relatively simple with the distances, movements and angels being grasped after a little practice. Weapon work is often more technical but again with a little training it is possible to get a basic grasp for most people. As with many skills leaning is straightforward, mastering can take a lifetime. With practice everyone can see improvements in their skills levels and confidence. There is always something new to learn in stage combat which is one of the reasons many students get the bug and go on to train to advanced certification level.

Workshops and taster sessions are an excellent way to find out if you like stage combat or to keep your skills up to date. If you are unsure whether a course is going to be too difficult for you don’t be afraid to ask the organiser. Most courses are designed around specific skill levels from beginner courses to those aimed specifically at advanced students.

As you progress towards activities such as performing complex choreography (with weapons or unarmed) which is believable to an audience whilst maintaining safe and correct techniques stage combat can become much more difficult. Accredited stage combat training courses will help students build a strong foundation and prepare for performing fights for an audience or camera.

It’s often too late to learn skills on the job for complex fights unless it’s a project which is both time and cash rich so if you’re interested in going for roles requiring fights then prior preparation can make a difficult job much easier and also more fun.

For any performer expected to do a lot of combat in their work (and you never know) we recommend you should endeavour to achieved at least an advanced grade from an equity recognised training body. At this level there is still more to learn but it shows you have reached a high standard and should be able to adapt to new weapons and techniques relatively easy.

Being able to perform a dramatic sword fight at speed whilst maintaining character, avoiding props, other actors, expensive cameras and even audience members is not something to attempt without appropriate training.

Contact us on for more information about training, qualifications, academies, or what you can do after you've got your advanced grade.


Where can I use my combat skills?

Stage combat skills can be applied across a variety of media including theatre, opera, ballet, circus, stunts and motion capture. With stage combat training you add another dimension to your acting skills. The higher your skill level the more marketable and versatile you will be and the more ambitious projects you can attempt.

Stage combat draws upon a variety of fields of influence including martial arts, historical and modern weapon techniques, military training and competitive fencing. As such it can provide a useful insight into other training you may be undertaking, even if it's just to show how some real techniques may not be suitable for theatrical use.


Will stage combat help me as an actor?

Stage combat is high stakes acting at its most intense. All drama is conflict and in stage combat you learn how to build the tension in a scene dramatically to the point when words are no longer enough. Character analysis, communication, timing, intention and motivation are also core acting components of stage combat training.

Stage combat also helps actors get to know their bodies and how to use them as an effective instrument for telling a story. From finding a character's physicality and showing the effects of pain and injury to being able to work physically with other performers stage combat training can help improve your general physical awareness. Posture, coordination, the ability to learn choreography quickly and general reflexes can all benefit.

With stage combat training you add another dimension to your acting skills. Even a basic understanding of stage combat will enable you to communicate more effectively with a fight choreographer or director enabling you to take direction more effectively and contribute where appropriate from a more knowledgeable position. The higher your skill level the more marketable and versatile you will be and the more ambition projects you can attempt.

Time and money is often short on theatre and film productions and having actors that can already fight can be a key factor in casting. A fight director will likely spot someone who can't fight safely and believably in under a minute at an audition, so having good stage combat skills can greatly increase your casting potential for roles requiring fights.


Is stage combat just for actors?

No. If you just like to meet people and learn a new skill then stage combat is just as suitable as going to a social dance class. Acting will help you be good at 'selling' techniques for an audience but that can come with practice and our tutors are there to coach the acting side as well as the fighting side.

This translates to the stage combat classroom where an individual's differences, be they big or small, short or tall, have long hair or no hair, all become positive attributes that can be used to make a fight exciting. This can be a refreshing change for individuals and can build confidence and self-awareness. Combined with the sense of accomplishment that comes with learning a new skill and achieving goals with one or more classmates, stage combat can be a positive way to spend your time.

Stage combat is a valuable field of study for dancers, martial artists, stunt and circus performers and is increasingly being taught in schools due to its social and educational attributes.


Do I need any prior experience to do stage combat?

You don't need any prior experience to do stage combat. Certain courses will require some prior experience or entry level requirements to ensure they are pitched appropriately for students. Any pre course requirements will be listed under individual course details.


Why do stage combat exams involve scene work?

Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end, as does every scene. The build up to the fight is just as important as a fight itself; setting the scene, the state of mind of the characters, the stakes, the motivations, and ultimately the 'final straw' that takes a conflict from a verbal to a physical one.

The fight scene could be the most visceral and raw acting opportunity a performer could ever come across and building on the story through the fight to its conclusion are key skills for a fight performer.

Mistakes, difficult choreography or tiredness are all aspects that a performer may need to deal with in a performance and scene work helps prepare actors for such eventualities ensuring that the show goes on.


Is stage combat safe?

Safety is at the core of good stage combat training, teaching you how to fight like you mean it whilst keeping yourself and others safe. It adapts real martial art applications, historical and modern weapon techniques and military training specifically for performance designed to create the illusion of physical violence whilst maintaining the safety of the performers and audience. It's rare that anything in life is 100% safe but effective knowledge, training and acquired skills will greatly reduce the chances of any accidents and potentially reduce the severity of injury if something does go wrong. Being safety conscious also means people are more likely to want to work with you.

Combat itself is inherently dangerous – that's it's purpose! Without correct training actors can injure themselves or others because they either haven't been trained in safe techniques, don't have the appropriate skill level for the task they are performing, are working with unsafe equipment or are being directed by people with no training.

Stage combat is like motor racing - it's fast, furious and fun though potentially dangerous. It's not a good idea to get behind the wheel without driving lessons, lots of practice and a roll cage.


Is stage combat all about fighting?

No. The actual moves and techniques of stage combat are just the tip of the iceberg. Being able to apply them to a dramatic scene at speed whilst maintaining character and avoiding danger and injury required a much greater skill set.

In performance terms stage combat teaches character analysis, communication, timing, intensity, intention and motivation. Physically it improves fitness, posture, coordination, awareness, physical memory (learning choreography) and reflexes.

In education stage combat can be used to create a fun and interesting way of learning history (Romans, Egyptians), culture (Greek, Medieval), technology (weapon smithing and evolution), Geography (warfare), religion (crusades), philosophy (violence), psychology (domestic violence), current affairs (gun and knife crime), literature (Shakespeare), sociology (teamwork and collaboration) and many more.

Simply stage combat can even improve social and life skills such as team work, discipline, self-control, responsibility and confidence.


Is stage combat like martial arts or fencing?

Yes and no. Yes in that stage combat draws inspiration from martial arts and fencing and prior and training in either may provide you with good coordination, fitness and an understanding of martial logic. However whilst the techniques may look similar there are significant differences in their execution with regards to safety and illusion. If you are an experienced martial artist or fencer you may find yourself unlearning many aspects of your art in order to learn stage combat properly.


I have a black belt in Martial Arts. Does that mean I can enter my advanced level straight away?

Unfortunately no, it doesn't. Although you may be highly skilled in your martial art(s), the act of learning stage combat is about safety and illusion and employs some significant differences as well as acting assessments. You must therefore learn the skills needed for stage combat from the basics and work your way up.


Is stage combat the same as stunts?

Stage combat is a useful skill which can be utilised within the stunt industry but stunt training covers a wider range of activities. Advanced actors combatants (stage combatant trained actors) are often some of the most skilled sword fighters in the entertainment industry as they train constantly in this specialist field. However jumping off tall buildings, crashing cars and horse riding etc. are additional special skills which fall under the stunt category. Each country has different regulations regarding stunt qualifications so you will need to check with the appropriate bodies if you wish to train as a stunt performer. Alternatively if you want to be an actor who does their own fights then stage combat is a handy place to start.


Roles & Responsibilities

What is an Actor Combatant?

An Actor Combatant is an individual who can ‘act the fight’. They have trained in theatrical combat techniques which incorporate safety, staging and acting.

Various accrediting organisations provide certifications in theatrical fight performing with the most accomplished fight performers achieving advanced actor combatant certification. Not all training bodies refer to their students as actor combatants and there are also fight performers who work in the industry who are not actors but have specialist skills.

Independent Drama has listed all our performers as either Combatants or Advanced Actor Combatants to keep things simple. Combatants have undergone 85 hours of accredited training or have passed an auditioned with ID where we feel they have relevant industry experience and appropriate skills. Advanced Actor Combatants are those performers who hold Advanced Actor Combatant certification from an approved stage & screen accrediting body.

Individuals can list their training and experience on their Fight CV viewable on our Combat Casting and Fight CV's page.


What is a Special Action Extra / Performer?

A Special Action Extra is a fight performer often used in large fight scenes to play generic roles. This roles has been used in many major studio blockbusters. The role is often filled by a mixture of performers with special skills such as tumbling, free running and fight performing based on the nature of the production. Well trained actor combatants often fulfil this role.


What is a Fight Captain?

A Fight Captain is an individual chosen by the fight choreographer in consultation with the director to undertake certain fight related duties for a theatre production. Usually selected based on their stage combat experience their duties include maintaining weapons, ensuring fights are rehearsed before each performance and keeping a general focus on safety. They may be an actor in the production or a member of stage crew.

Fight Captains are not responsible or trained to teach or choreograph fights and should any changes to a fight be required or a cast member replaced, you should consult with your fight choreographer to ensure any health and safety considerations are taken into account.


What is a Fight Choreographer / Fight Director?

Fight Choreographers and Fight Directors are specialists who facilitate the process of creating dramatic action that is safe and appropriate to the ability of the participants involved. They have knowledge of dramatic theory, history, directing, teaching and acting as well fight skills. Fights are devised in collaboration with the director and can vary widely from true realism to outright fantasy depending upon the requirements of a particular production and the director's vision.


When should you hire a Fight Choreographer / Fight Director?

If you have any type of staged violence from a simple fall or slap, all the way up to a mass battle with weapons then you should employ a fight choreographer / director.

ID has choreographers who work on large professional productions but also choreographers who are happy to work on fringe and armature productions so please contact us whatever the size of your production.

ID Fight Choreographers work closely with a productions creative team and will facilitate the process of creating dramatic action that is safe and appropriate to the ability of the participants involved. It's a good idea to get an ID Fight Choreographer involved as early as possible on a production to allow time to address a range production requirements including:

  • Sourcing appropriate and safe weapons
  • Planning and delivering any required fight training for the cast
  • Choreographing and teaching fights to the cast
  • Consulting with wardrobe regarding safety issues of costuming
  • Consulting with set design to take account of potential dangers for any fights
  • Provide ID casting services for experienced actor combatants if required


What is a stage combat teacher?

A stage combat teacher is an individual certified specifically in the teaching of stage and screen combat with a recognised academy. Teaching is a different skill than fight performing and we only use certified teachers. With the safety of students at stake, accept no substitutes! There are a number of well respected academies around the world who have thorough and demanding teacher training courses, often a year long or more. These include The British Academy of Stage & Screen Combat, British Academy of Dramatic Combat, The Nordic Stage Fight Society, The Society of American Fight Directors, The Academy of Fight Directors Canada and The Society of Australian Fight Directors.


Where can I get weapons for use in theatre or film?

Weapons used on stage or film are significantly different than those bought for decorative or martial arts purposes and are designed specifically for theatrical use. Stage blades need to stand up to repeated use, be shatter proof and must be blunt. Guns also have specific safety considerations.

When choosing weapons for a production please consult with your fight choreographer first as they may have safety or artistic considerations for you to consider.

Independent Drama provides weapon hire services for film and theatre and can provide quotes upon request.


Are there any guidelines for working with guns?

There are various legal and good practice requirements for working with firearms. These vary from theatre to film and from private to public space as well as to what type of weapons are being used.

If you would like to hire firearms our team of fight coordinators and armourers will be able to advise you on suitable weapons and procedures.

For reference below is the Metropolitan Police Service Film Unit guidance for the provision and supervision of theatrical and film firearms.

Supply of replica / imitation or airsoft firearms

Any production requiring replica / imitation or airsoft firearms, must have obtained them from a Registered Firearms Dealer (RFD) or a correctly licensed supplier that is a Company who's business is to supply replica / imitation or airsoft firearms to film, television and theatrical productions.

Use of replica / imitation or airsoft firearms

For all production work, a Film Armourer must be engaged where a firearm that requires a licence or certificate is to be held or used by someone who is not working within the privileges of their own licence, such as an actor. The Film Armourer must be competent and experienced in such work. Holding licences or shotgun and firearm certificates does not qualify a person to be an armourer.

The safety and security of replica / imitation / airsoft firearms should be treated in the same way. The production must seek the advice of the relevant weapons expert to make sure that adequate information, instruction and training is given to all those involved with, or affected by the use of the weapon.
Metropolitan Police Service Film Unit (January 2017)


Training With ID

Where can I find information about classes/workshops?

All information regarding stage combat courses, classes and workshops can be found on our website under the heading of Training. This includes other sessions such as fighting for film, firearms, horse riding and martial arts training. To keep updated with our latest courses, sign up to our newsletter.


You run courses accredited by the BADC and the BASSC. What's the difference?

The British Academy of Dramatic Combat and the British Academy of Stage & Screen Combat both offer industry recognised qualifications and ID runs courses in both so students can choose the training path that suits them. You do not have to do just one and can train in both if you wish.


What should I wear for your course?

Please wear comfortable clothes you can move in. Trainers will be required and it is advisable to bring leather or gardening gloves for sword work. We can provide any further props you will need.

ID Tip: bring a change of clothes if your going somewhere afterwards as it can get a bit sweaty fighting. If you want to look dashing we have ID branded t-shirts and hoodies available.


If I can't make all the hours of a course can I still attend?

Attendance at all sessions is very important. If there is a date you cannot make please let us know at the earliest possible moment. We will endeavour to facilitate reasonable requests but it is not always possible to catch up missed work and other students can be affected by absence.

For accredited courses, not meeting the minimum hours required by the accrediting academies will result in you not being able to take the exam.

If absences result in you being unable to complete the course we reserve the right to cancel or defer your place and you may lose your deposit or the full course fee.


Who are my teachers and what qualifications do they have?

All our teaches have teacher qualifications with either the British Academy of Dramatic Combat or the British Academy of Stage & Screen Combat, both of which are recognised by equity. Our teachers are also experienced coordinators bringing experience from working in stage and screen to the classroom.


Does the industry recognise your course?

Of course! In addition to drop in classes and specialist workshops we offer certified courses accredited by either the British Academy of Dramatic Combat or The British Academy of Stage & Screen Combat. Both are recognised by Equity, the international stage combat community and industry professionals.


How long does my qualification last for?

Once you have completed your qualification the certificate lasts three years from the day of issuance. This means that you are encouraged to maintain training and update your qualifications so you are always at the standard you should be, especially if you wish to keep these skills on your CV.

When you pass your first BASSC or the BADC Standard fight performance test, you will also receive one years' free membership with the relevant academy. After that, your membership expires unless you renew. This does not invalidate your certificate.


After 3 years do I need to start from the beginning level again?

As mentioned all qualifications must be renewed every 3 years to keep their status current. You do not need to do the full courses again just a shortened refresher.

We will always be able to advise you and sometimes it may be better to attend some drop in sessions or workshops to refresh your skills before considering renewing if you have not done any combat since your initial exam.


I've completed my Basic Certificate, so can I teach my friends now?

Our advice is no!!! Stage combat certification, even at an advanced level only teachers individuals to fight. Stage combat teachers and good fight directors​/coordinators spend many, many years studying styles, techniques, theory, directing and safety as well as undertaking additional exams and acquiring insurance. If you would like to become a teacher, once you have your advanced certification, along with other qualifications you can then apply to recognised academies to join their teacher training and apprentice programmes.


My friend wants to be a superhero, can I buy them a class as a present?

Well yes you can book them onto a course for a present. It can be a great and interesting experience, slightly more fun than buying them another pair of socks! However we must point out they will not become a superhero over night.

"A superhero is a type of hero or saviour possessing extraordinary talents, supernatural phenomena, or superhuman powers and dedicated to protecting the public."

We unfortunately do not teach super powers on our courses, but the beauty of stage combat is that you can act like one! Our students have gone on to work professionally playing superheroes from X-Men to ninja nuns! Anything's possible.


How does training online work?

Please visit our Training Online page for more information.


Can I get a refund for your course if I am suddenly unable to attend?

Last updated: 28/12/2019 - the following may change and it is your responsibility to check and read the latest version.

While any deposits or payments made in instalments are non-refundable, courses paid in full on enrolment have some flexibility:

  • 14-Day Cooling Off Period - refund
    There is a 14-day cooling off period, so long as this period does not cross over into the 14 days prior to the course start date. During the cooling off period, you may cancel your enrolment and obtain a full refund (via the same method of payment used) minus any charges ID has incurred e.g. when making a card payment for £100, ID is charged 1.4% + 20p (subject to change) so only receives £98.40 - this is the amount you will be refunded back to your card.
  • Cancelling after the cooling off period - credit note
    Cancellations made after the 14-day cooling off period but 14 days or more prior to the course start date will be eligible for a credit note for the fee paid minus a £20 administration fee. This credit note is valid for 12 months from the date of the cancellation notification. Administration fees are charged per course cancelled.
  • Cancelling with 14 days or less notice before the course start date - no refund or credit note
    Cancellations with 14 days or less notice before the course start date are not eligible for any refunds or credit notes.


Working With ID

I want to hire an actor who can fight for my project, can I find them on your site?

Yes we have a selection of skilled fighters on our agency and we will be able to help you chose the best person for your project. Please contact us with your requirements and we can help you further.


How much would it cost to hire one of your fight performers / fight coordinators?

Each role will be quoted individually for you depending on what you require. ie the level of skilled individual needed or how much co ordinating needs to be done. Please contact us and we can provide personal quotes for your needs. No production too big or too small.


How far would your teachers, coordinators and team travel?

We work throughout the UK and internationally. Our main base ia in London but we have members based throughout the UK and Europe.


How do I apply for ID castings?

When we advertise castings we usually get a lot of applications, which we will either pass straight on to the relevant production or create a short-list of those most appropriate for the roles. This can be quite time consuming so please make it easy for us, or those receiving your submissions, by applying correctly.

Casting Breakdowns - make sure you've read it properly so that:

  • You are appropriate for the role (if you have to ask if you're appropriate you're probably not).
  • You're available for the specified dates/period (date's do change but you can't assume that they will. Just be honest). Usually if dates change significantly we will post again.
  • You write to the correct email address (don't just hit reply).
  • You send the requested information (if you don't have a CV list your relevant training and/or experience. Make sure you have a good, recent headshot and full length body shot).

  • Generally, unless otherwise specified we prefer links. Try to get an online profile with everything on it - ID can provide these, email us at
  • If you are using attachments, keep photos under 1Mb and only send one photo unless it's necessary to send more.
  • Make sure your attachment's file name has your name in it.

Cover Letter (that's the text in your email)
  • Keep it professional. We often forward applications direct to the production without editing them, so don't write anything you wouldn't want them to read.
  • Please mention you're from ID, or you heard the information from ID if you are applying direct to the production. Not only does this give you some approval from us, it also shows that we are providing people appropriate for the role.

All for one and one for all!
  • You are always representing us, if you do a good job, and we do a good job, there'll be more work in the future for everyone.
  • If you come across a casting that might appeal to our members, or if you're involved in a production that might need more fighters or a fight coordinator, please let us know and if appropriate, mention us and what we do to the production team.

We offer both paid and unpaid castings and always try to negotiate for better rates for everyone, but that's not always possible. If you need the experience or the footage or you just like the sound of it, that's up to you.

Please bear in mind that most of our paid castings will go direct to our advanced fight team first. If we can't fill the roles there we may spread the net a little wider. However, if you would like to be considered for more paid castings do get in touch at ( and we can discuss how you can be more involved in the team.


How do I become a member of the ID Fight Team?

Joining the Independent Drama fight team is a great way to market yourself as a skilled fight performer, stage combat teacher or fight coordinator, and get access to casting services and other perks.

Fight Performers

Only individuals with recognised training or experience can join the ID Fight Team. We are dramatic action specialists and we have set our entry-level standards at high but achievable levels.

The ID Fight Team has a good reputation for being highly skilled, always ready when needed and having a profession, friendly, and inclusive attitude. So if you think you have what we're looking for then get in touch.

For fight performers, we hold auditions roughly 3 times a year. For the latest date please check our training page and/or subscribe to our newsletter.

Stage Combat Teachers, Fight Coordinators​ and Armourers

These positions are recruited by invite only. Members holding these posts are expected to actively promote Independent Drama through their work and provide general support where applicable. If you would like to be considered e-mail us ( with your CV. Entry requirements are below:

Stage Combat Teachers

  • Certified stage combat teacher with the British Academy of Stage and Screen Combat, British Academy of Dramatic Combat, Academy of Performance Combat, Society of American Fight Directors or equivalent organisation as recognised by Independent Drama.

Fight Coordinators & Armourers
  • ​Equity registered fight director.
  • Certified stage combat teacher with the British Academy of Stage and Screen Combat, British Academy of Dramatic Combat, Academy of Performance Combat, Society of American Fight Directors or equivalent organisation as recognised by Independent Drama.
  • Extensive coordinating or armourer experience (depending on the role you are interested in) on professional productions.
  • Comprehensive CV including reviews and testimonials.

How much does it cost?
  • We do not charge to join the ID Team or to be on our books.
  • If we provide work as an agent commission may be charged on bookings through Independent Drama and any rates will be confirmed prior to engagement. There is no book fee charged by Independent Drama.

How long does membership last for?
  • Membership is for one year and is reviewed yearly.

What is expected of me?
  • Maintain your skill levels.
  • Support us through the occasional retweet, #FF on Twitter or 'Like' on Facebook and sharing of videos on our YouTube channel.
  • Allow Independent Drama to use your name, your profession (ie. Actor combatant / fight coordinator etc.) and associated credits for news stories, reference documents and a range of legitimate purposes for the benefit of ID and its members including, but not limited to advertising, marketing, promotion of ID and its members.
  • Independent Drama reserves the right to remove individuals at any time who do not fulfil the expectations of jobs they undertake for Independent Drama, fail to maintain their skill level or bring the stage combat community, Independent Drama or other members into disrepute.


Do you have any social media sites?

Oh yes! You can find us on:

Check out our Contact page for more ways of communicating with us.


The Meaning of Life

What is the meaning of life?

Okay, so we are still working on that one. If you find out let us know. So far we've heard it's 42 and the title of a Monty Python movie. Essays on a £50 note please.


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