Who is tougher, the stunt martial artist or the ring fighter?

March 30th, 2009By Category: Culture

clapper-boardComing from a competitive Martial arts background, I used to think that doing action films would be relatively easily. No taking actual hits, no bruises on the shins and feet from giving them, no worrying about making weight. Just memorize a sequence, act it out in a non-contact fashion and go home all well and fine. If you don’t quite do it right- that’s okay! You can simply do another take. That’s what I thought- and man, was I ever wrong. In 5 years of studying action in Japan, I’ve come to realize that the stunt martial artist certainly has no easier of a road than the ring fighter. It’s a different path, but certainly not an easier one.

Yes, it’s true that you don’t have to take hits, but you still need stamina, and you still have to persevere. Depending on the complexity of the sequence, the strictness of the director, and the skill of the players involved, and the number of camera angles that the director wants to incorporate, filming a single sequence can be a full day of executing the same movements over and over again- all with 100% intensity, and depending on how tight the time frame is, sometimes without even so much as a lunch or bathroom break.

Yes, it’s true that you don’t have to worry about your opponent breaking or dislocating  your bones- but instead you have to worry about the concrete doing it As anyone who’s ever done any XMA (extreme martial arts or ‘tricking’) or parkour (French Free Running) can tell you, mislanding an aerial maneuver can be every bit as painful – if not more so- than being thrown to the ground or knocked off your feet by someone else. (At least the pinched nerve in my neck that took six months to heal or the cast currently on Jackie Nattapong’s(link to Jacky’s site- www.jackyism.moonfruit.com) arm would certainly suggest so)

Yes, it may be true that you don’t have to worry about making weight for the fight, but you still have to maintain your ‘rip’ for the camera, and your lightness for the gymnastics. When executing even a simple gymnastics move like a backflip or backhand spring, 10 pounds can make an incredible difference in not just how easy it is to do, but in how easy it is to do without getting injured. (See previous examples). As much as martial artists love talking about how tough we all are, and as challenging as our own journey in the respective systems we train in may be, when speaking of ourselves, I think it’s important to remember that old Native American saying, “Great Spirit, let me never judge a man until I have walked a mile in his Moccasins.” www.chuck-n-action.com

Author of this article

Chuck Johnson

Chuck Johnson is a Martial Arts Instructor/ Action Film Actor based in Tokyo, Japan, and Michigan, USA. He has been teaching for 16 years, holds ranks in Taekwondo, Judo, Capoeira, and Karate, and is an experienced bodyguard. He is also a member of the Screen Action Stunt Association, and Society of American Fight Directors. Additionally, he has 10 years of ELT experience, and is the developer of Phat English, a system that uses specialized hip-hop music to teach the subtle nuances of GAm English pronunciation. For more information, visit www.chuck-n-action.com or follow Chuck on twitter at chuck_n_action

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