Hands full of swords

At college we’re approaching the end of term performance, with stress and emotional levels collectively rising as Wednesday nears. Meanwhile I’ve just finished my first term of weekly stage combat classes. I signed up for a year of “Great Stage Fights”, two hours every Friday evening at the City Lit.

I had no idea what to expect, but hoped it would be fun, quite aside from providing a practical qualification for my sparse acting CV. And it has been fun. Each class has been split into two main parts, unarmed combat, and rapier and dagger. In the former we’ve learned a few effective slaps and punches and put them together into safe but satisfyingly brutal sequences.

I was surprised that from the first lesson we were wielding rapiers and daggers (one in each hand). They’re not sharp, but they’re still long pointy bits of metal. We’ve gradually learned a bunch of different parries with each weapon and used these in pairs to fend off our slow and careful attacks. Learning the manoeuvres has been a lot like learning to dance. Without music and with one’s hands full of swords.

The rapier and dagger combat has so far just involved us moving a few steps back and forth while attacking and parrying, but we’ve also been learning more varied footwork, which is obviously even more like learning a dance. All the steps are named, like the parries, so eventually sequences can be recorded in some kind of notation. I fear my brain will take a while to get the hang of accurately taking the correct steps while also performing the appropriate attacks and parries.

The classes themselves are fun, and the teacher:student ratio is great for the City Lit. There are two teachers, so they can demonstrate moves on each other, and an assistant who ensures every student has a partner, even if there’s an odd number of students. My only complaint is the room being too cramped, with people backing into walls and catching rapiers on dance rails, but then, unless a class is in the main hall, all City Lit rooms feel too small for acting.

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