Film Martial Arts/Stunts

Week 11-12: Spinning Head Scissors Throw & Taco Fall to Kip-Up

For week 11, I decided to follow up on my previous work on the scissor throw at the head level, and try a fancier version with a spin. This one really is purely for aesthetics, but is a beautiful looking takedown for film work. The initial set-up is pretty much the same, but once in position, I relax my legs as my partner removes his arms allowing me to drop. I don’t fully open up my legs though. I need to keep a bit of squeeze to allow the momentum to swing me back up a bit so that I can land on my feet as my partner throws himself down to make it look like I’m initiating the throw. The end result is pretty cool looking, as you’ll see below. (more…)

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Week 7-10: Film-Oriented Throws & Flying Takedowns/Submissions

In early February, I went away to Toronto to teach a seminar for a local Jiu-jitsu organization. While I was there, I also met with a number of Toronto stunt coordinators, hoping it might lead to future opportunities. Happily, the first one I met with hired me to work on a show while I was there. He also hired me to put on a seminar for some of the female stunt doubles who work on his show, requesting that I teach them some fancy throws and flying techniques that would look good on film.

I had a number of techniques in mind, but wanted to work on them in a context that was better suited for camera. I also had to train up a training partner who was local to Toronto so I had someone to demonstrate techniques on for the seminar, so I used our training time to pick a few moves that I wanted to tweak for film and dial in for the seminar. These include kani basami (using the head), flying omoplata with gun disarm, back flip into arm break, and back flip to counter ushiro guruma into ura nage. I’ve put them all together in the video below. (more…)

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Nerf Warz: Dinner’s On

A clueless husband. A ruthless wife. An ominous note. One shot decides who takes care of dinner.

This Christmas day, Chris and I would like to share a film project we worked on together. We shot this video in our home over two 8-hour shoot days. It was shot entirely on the iPhone 6S. It was Chris’s first stunt fight project, and he learned a lot in the process of creating it. Big thanks to Stu Cooke who did most of the filming (we had to film a few pick-up shots and reshoots ourselves with some creativity). I handled most of the editing and sound effects, while Chris composed the music for it. Big thanks also to Ivette Hernadez who helped out on the shoot days while we set up shots. Here is one of my favourite photos that Ivette took behind the scenes:



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How to Make Safe Contact that Sells for Camera

How to Sell Strikes Safely for Camera

I’ve been training to improve my form and structure to make my punches hit harder for 22 years. I know what it takes to hit with heavy hands and have worked hard to do so. But for film you want to “fight light.” This is a skill that can be a challenge for trained martial artists. While a trained practitioner may know better how to look the part because they know how to do it for real, they have to be able to do so, and even make contact, without making impact associated with it. Here’s what I’ve learned about doing that. (more…)

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Using Wirework to Enhance Throws for Stunts

This past weekend, I spent it at Sea to Sky Stunts training with some stunt friends. One of my goals for the weekend was to spend some time applying wire work to throws to make them look more spectacular. The one we worked on specifically this time around was tomoe nage (stomach throw). You can see the results in the video below. (more…)

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Potential Career Paths for Martial Artists

Potential Career Paths for Martial ArtistsWhen it comes to long-term practioners, martial artists can be a peculiar breed. When one falls in love with the martial arts, and you do it for years, you can’t help but want to give back in some way through your training, to share that which you love so much with the world. The ones who REALLY love it, try to find some way to make a career out of it. This is not an easy thing. Martial arts skills are highly specific and not in huge demand in a variety of fields. The obvious choice is to open a martial arts school, but if you don’t have other teachers to support the school, or you’re not interested in teaching children, it’s challenging to make a living solely from teaching martial arts. There are a number of natural career paths though that draw in martial artists, however. Ones that can complement teaching, even running a dojo. Here are a few: (more…)

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How to Adapt Jiu-jitsu Joint Locks for Film Stunt Fighting

*WARNING: This article is for informational purposes only. If you wish to put these concepts into practice you should do so under the supervision of a trained professional.

Being both a Japanese Jiu-jitsu stylist and stunt performer, I naturally want to use some of the skills from my background in a film context. With films like John Wick highlighting Jiu-jitsu locks and throws, it’s an exciting time for me. But it’s not as simple and taking what you know and just doing it in front of a camera. Below is a little taste of the fights in John Wick.


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How to Deal with Subtle Acts of Sexual Harassment

How to Deal with Subtle Acts of Sexual HarassmentAs many of you already know, I work in the film industry as a stunt performer. I also work as a background performer in between stunt days, to keep gaining on-set experience, keep up-to-date about industry goings-on, and to make extra cash. In doing so, I end up being put in social situations to help manufacture the atmosphere of the film.

Since you don’t always get to choose who you’ll interact with and the ways in which you’ll be interacting, sometimes you end up having to be in social situations with people you might not be 100% comfortable. Now if all people involved behaved in a way that was purely professional, without crossing natural personal space boundaries, all would be good. Unfortunately, not everyone abides by the same code of conduct. While it is rare that someone would do something that was clearly crossing the line, a lot of subtle personal space invasions occur on set, ones that are harder to identify as such. I imagine this sort of thing also happens in the normal working world, but when you’re on set, people are more likely to do it in the guise of trying to “set the scene” and “act in character,” making it easier to dismiss as an innocent mistake, either in the mind of the recipient as well as in active defense of the perpetrator. (more…)

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The Skinny On Stunt Work: The Conundrum of the Female Performer

Eating_disorderMany people look at stunts as being a thankless job. Stunt performers often train many hours a week to achieve a list of skills of a modern day super hero. They assume all the risks involved in a film’s shoot list, and remain largely unrecognized for their efforts beyond the credits at the end of the film. They may gain recognition within the stunt industry, with awards ceremonies specifically aimed at them, yet they aren’t celebrated in the more recognizable film awards such as the Academy Awards or the Golden Globes. All that being said, the performers who do work in the industry, generally love what they do, and accept the industry for what it is.

Female stunt performers, however, have additional challenges, some of which were highlighted in a recent article on Cracked, called 5 Reasons Doing Movie Stunts Is Harder than You Think. As the writer points out, stunt women often have to do stunts in skimpier wardrobe than the men do, doubling for actresses who sport outfits that leave little to the imagination with no room for the protective pads men can more easily hide under pants and long sleeved shirts. But this is only a part of the problem. (more…)

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How to Adjust Breakfalls for Movie Stunt Work

How to Adjust Breakfalls for Movie Stunt Work*WARNING: This article is for informational purposes only. If you wish to put these concepts into practice you should do so under the supervision of a trained professional. 

Knowing how to do breakfalls is really useful for a stunt performer. A high proportion of the movie stunts performed involve falling, whether it’s for a fight, chase, or off a building. But it’s not enough to be good at the breakfalls you do in martial arts training.

When we do throws and takedowns in Jiu-jitsu, our first and foremost goal is to prevent injury. In stunts, the goal is to make the fall look realistic. These two goals can clash, however. The big slap and controlled leg position of a very safe breakfall are the same things that make it look as though the person falling didn’t get hurt. No big surprise, right? (more…)

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