I’ve always loved action films, and appreciate a good fight scene just as much as anyone. After all, where would Kill Bill be without Uma Thurman kicking ass in her yellow cat-suit? My guess is a lot lower down the IMDB scoreboard, and a lot, lot less memorable.
Needless to say then, that when Gymbox offered me the chance to experience their latest class offering based on fight choreography, I jumped at the chance. Shoguns of Gymbox promises to get even those as uncoordinated as myself engaging in brawls and fake fights, and aims to get you ready for the chance to audition for Gymbox’s very own short film. The classes are even choreographed by Warner bro’s action actor and filmmaker Michael Hoad, so you know you’re getting training from the very best.
I arrived at the Elephant & Castle dojo area feeling slightly nervous; shortly after this our instructors introduced themselves and lead us through a warm up. They explained that they’d be teaching us how to throw basic punches, and do film-style reactions. As they lead us through five separate movements, I began to realise how different film fighting is from real life. I had never once considered the actual practicalities of remaining safe in a situation which is supposed to look incredibly dangerous, whilst also making the fight look impressive and good for screen. It feels so unnatural to deliberately punch away from your opponent, and I found it hard to do this whilst also attempting to look like I was throwing a strong punch.
As we were lead through our fight combinations, I really began to have fun. My partner and I moved around the mat in our own choreographed fight routine, practising the basics of dodging, throwing hooks and, of course, appearing to have been hit when we hadn’t. After we’d worked on our punches and reactions, my partner and I attempted to learn the art of falling over.
That’s right…falling over.
Given how clumsy I am, I thought I’d be a natural. But it turns out there are a lot of ways you can seriously hurt yourself when falling backwards after a fake hit (who knew). We were taught the best ways to avoid this whilst simultaneously looking both badass and winded. We used crash mats to practise our dramatic falls, something I found way too much fun – apparently it doesn’t look that realistic when the person you’ve ‘punched’ can’t stop laughing. We then progressed to jumping as if we’d had our legs kicked out from under us, a movement resembling a scissor-kick in football. This was my favourite part of the class, and something which looked incredibly impressive when done correctly. I watched at an angle behind one of our instructors as he pretended to kick my partner. As she jumped in the air, it really did look like he’d just sent her flying. I was impressed.
Before I knew it, the class was coming to an end. My partner and I shook hands and watched as our instructors ran through some moves that we clearly weren’t ready for. As they jumped, span, flipped and fought their way around the arena, I felt determined to come back and get better.
Whilst I had initially been concerned that Shoguns would be too much for me, the class had not only been incredibly interesting, but a lot of fun, and a real-insight into how the best fight scenes out there are made. Whilst my dodges and right-hooks definitely need some work before they’ll be screen worthy, I’m determined to go back and improve. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I certainly won’t be looking like a martial arts Goddess after only one class.
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