Scenes of Violence

Most actors learn stage combat for a specific role while in rehearsal. My belief that every performer before leaving acting school should have Basic Actor-Combatant certification with Fight Directors Canada does not have widespread support.

Therefore, the majority of actors already have a scene to fight to.

But actors who are taking the full stage combat course need to find three scenes of about 3 minutes. One for each weapon tested. Where does one find fight scenes for tests, or just for the fun of it?


FDC Requirements

The scenes must:

  • Be from a published play
  • Last no longer than 3 minutes (5 minutes with the fight included)
  • Contain information about what each character has at stake and why they are fighting.

Feeling the Shakes

Shakespeare is not only replete with violence, but his scenes are great for the actor in several ways:

  • Due to the type of audiences and theatre he wrote for, the scenes almost always repeat key plot points so we know what's going on.
  • Actors who don't normally work on stage can stretch their acting skills
  • The adjudicator will appreciate the effort, and their familiarity with the scene may lead to higher scores.

Where are the good Shakespeare fight scenes? Ask me for the full list, or consider the following plays with more than one awesome scene:

  • Macbeth
  • Henry IV
  • King Lear
  • Romeo & Juliet
  • Twelfth Night
  • Troilus & Cressida


Besides Shakespeare, there are plenty of authors from the classics and contemporary theatre who include lots of fights, and you can often find their works in collections.

Consider these playwrights:


The Anthology

Any anthology of scenes for two actors will have scenes of conflict, whether they are fights or not is a matter of interpretation (see blow on Clip and Edit). I know of only one anthology of scenes that is made for stage combat:

They Fight: Classical to Contemporary Stage Fight Scenes by Kyna Hamill



Standard Fight Scenes

I would love to give each fighting pair a standard scene, but that would not only be unbearably boring for the adjudicator, it would set up the students to compete on acting the scene.

Our goal is good fights in the context of a scene, we don't need to compare actors on their acting skills within the scene.

Clip and Edit

Grab the nearest script. There will be a scene of disagreement, since conflict is the essence of drama (a great writer once said)... make that conflict your fight.

Any scene in which two characters have a strong disagreement (even if there's no mention of swords or physical violence) can be a fight scene. The student can insert a physical fight into a scene in which the characters only yell at eachother. Or you could upgrade a fight from "she slaps him" to "she attacks him, and they fight."

The rule is this: you can change stage directions, but you can't change the written dialogue.

Just remember that we need to know why the two characters are fighting, and keep it short.

And in case it wasn't clear: No, you may not write your own scene for FDC certification.


Head of Stage Combat at Academie Duello and certified Instructor with Fight Directors Canada. Head of Bartitsu at Academie Duello, the longest continuously running Bartitsu program in the world.
Read more from David McCormick.