Stage Combat Certification
“This has greatly increased my self-esteem as well as my physical stamina/endurance. This is one of the best and most fun things I have ever done.” –Basic Certification Student
“I think this workshop, more than any other I have attended, brings out the best in you as an actor and a fighter.” –Advanced Certification Student
FDC Certification: What & Why • Certifying at Rapier Wit • Training Formats • FDC Certification Levels
About Exams • General Notes • Beyond Actor-Combatant
What is Stage Combat Certification?
Certification in stage combat is done through a standardized training system similar to those in dance, music or martial arts, where students are trained and examined through a series of progressively more challenging levels. At Rapier Wit we certify through the Fight Directors Canada syllabus, which has 3 student levels : Basic, Intermediate and Advanced Actor-Combatant. Certified Advanced actor-combatants may then apprentice to become certified at the Instructor and Director levels.
What is Fight Directors Canada?
Fight Directors Canada is Canada’s only nation-wide, internationally-recognized organization dedicated to the art of dramatic combat. FDC was created in 1993 to promote the work of fight directors and develop a national stage combat training system. Today the training component of FDC, the Academy of Fight Directors Canada, oversees a world-class actor-combatant and instructor certification program. This rigorous, acting-focused training is highly regarded throughout the international stage combat community and is recognized by similar organizations worldwide such as the Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD), the British Academy of Stage and Screen Combat (BASC), The Society of Australian Fight Directors, The Nordic Stage Fighting Society, and The New Zealand Stage Combat Academy. The FDC system is also recognized by professional performer associations such as CAEA and ACTRA. Full details on FDC can be found at www.fdc.ca.
Why You Should Certify Through the FDC System
First reason: it’s a very good program that gives actors skills they really need – and even helps develop the acting craft they already have. FDC certification at Rapier Wit is a sustained, in-depth, comprehensive approach to stage combat training that goes well beyond technique. Actors learn how every element of a fight moment or scene is integrated to form a powerful, story-driven, character-specific performance. Exams at each level give students invaluable opportunities to test their stage combat abilities in a performance context. The FDC certification process is demanding, but performers come out of it knowing – and remembering! – their stuff.
Other great things about the FDC program:
-After over 20 years it’s a very solid system, but it undergoes continuous refinement. FDC practitioners across the country collaborate regularly to reexamine, improve and augment all aspects of the training.
-FDC-certified instructors and adjudicators are accountable to the organization for maintaining the training standard and adhering to a code of ethical, professional practices.
-FDC standards and vocabulary are shared across the country, which greatly eases communication between performers and fight directors and provides a skill level shorthand for casting both in Canada and abroad.
-FDC is an integral part of a world-wide network of internationally-recognized stage combat associations and professionals. Our members enjoy great fellowship with their counterparts from other national associations at conferences, workshops and events all over the world. It’s an amazing, fun, vibrant community!
At Rapier Wit we work hard to provide all of our community members with a supportive atmosphere, a clean and comfortable workspace, top instructors and staff, a professional training standard, and honest, helpful assessment. Like the FDC system, every aspect of instruction at Rapier Wit undergoes a continuous process of refinement. We make improvements based on feedback that we collect routinely from students, assistants and teachers. If we can do better, we want you to tell us!
When you certify with us, you get:
-additional time (beyond the minimum number of course hours) to work your scenes and fully internalize the technique so that your training stays with you beyond the studio
-a choice of training formats (see below)
-the option of using the Rapier Wit space for partner rehearsal outside of class hours
-detailed final assessments and recommendations that are tailored to your specific needs, hopes and goals
-first-rate teachers and assistants who collaborate to monitor and assess you thoroughly and fairly and who genuinely care about your progress! We want you to leave class feeling that your training was completely worth every minute, every penny and every drop of sweat you put into it.
Rapier Wit is a member of the Toronto Association of Acting Studios, a professional association dedicated to high standards of teaching and professional conduct in actor training. For more on TAAS standards and the member code of ethics, please visit the TAAS website.
Depending on your learning style and availability, we have two different formats for courses to suit your needs. Each course will cover 30 hours per weapon form. To see our next scheduled certification courses, please visit our Upcoming Classes page.
This format offers classes 1-2 days (8 hours) a week, and typically runs September to December or January to April. Semester courses are ideal for those who need more time to learn material or who can only dedicate 1-2 days a week to training. Classes may run during the day or in the evening, depending on instructor availability and student needs. Intermediate and Advanced levels have an intensive week prior to testing with full 8-hour days for exam preparation. Students are also encouraged to attend our drop-in Monday and Friday sessions for extra practice.
Intensive courses operate as full days (8 hours, plus some evenings), with 5 or 6 days of classes to one rest day. The length of the course depends on the level, but usually finishes in about 2 1/2 to 3 weeks. Arduous but efficient, this format is ideal for quick learners, students coming from outside the greater Toronto area, and those who have a limited period of time to devote to stage combat training.
As mentioned above, FDC has 3 actor-combatant levels: Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced. Each level has a minimum number of course hours which must be completed with the requisite number of FDC-certified Instructors, Directors or Masters. Students study a range of weapons and dramatic combat techniques at each level, along with a vocabulary of related terms. Techniques are then worked as fight choreography for scenes which partners develop and present as the main element of their final assessment. *Please note: students must be FDC members in good standing in order to test for certification. For membership information, please visit www.fdc.ca.
The following overview is a synopsis of FDC requirements at each certification level. Details on techniques and weapons for each level are on the Certification Levels page on the Academy of FDC website (www.fdc.ca).
Basic: Quarterstaff, Single Sword, Unarmed Combat
Minimum course hours: 60
The first level of certification is considered to be essential for all professional actors. The Basic actor-combatant is competent in the weapon systems at this level, exhibits professional demeanor, and is, above all,safe. Basic actor-combatants must understand the foundation of the illusion of violence through the learning of technique, and its use in creating a safe, character-driven scene. Final exams/scenes for these weapons involve minimal line memorization, but still require that participants play assigned roles with enthusiasm and dedication.
Intermediate: Broadsword/Longsword, Smallsword, Rapier and Dagger, Unarmed (Martial Arts)
Minimum course hours: 80
The second level of certification begins a study of historical fighting styles in broad strokes. The Intermediate actor-combatant is skilled in the weapon systems at this level, demonstrates a professional demeanor and is always safe. The unique styles of the Intermediate weapons are integrated into the scenes. Final exams/scenes will require increasingly complex scene work, with more line memorization and an expectation of more awareness of character and role as well as a higher degree of technical ability.
Advanced: Martial Arts with Weapon, Advanced Smallsword, Broadsword and Shield, Rapier Case/Cape, Found/Environmental Weapon
Minimum course hours: 100
The final level of certification for performers refines and perfects the actor’s skills and knowledge. Fight Directors Canada only awards Advanced Actor-Combatant to those candidates who appear flawless, fast and unfailingly safe. Advanced actor-combatants must show a mastery of all previous technique and training that they have received. They must show an ability to handle miscues and mistakes in a professional manner and solve these problems with the use of character instead of dropping the scene. They must demonstrate exemplary partnering skills and professionalism. Final exams/scenes will require advanced acting techniques, complex character portrayal and a seamless use of technique in the scene.
The certification exam consists of a written test and a performance exam. The written component takes place 1 to 2 days prior to the performance exam and is based on the FDC glossary terms you’ve been studying throughout the course. The performance exam, which takes place on the last day of the course, requires candidates to perform a safe, compelling, well-acted scene in each discipline for an FDC Fight Master. (In the FDC system there are no individual weapon certifications; all disciplines are examined on the same day.) Immediately after exams are finished, the adjudicator, instructors and assistants convene to review the fights and discuss all facets of each student’s performance, including class work. Each discipline performance is assessed as a pass with distinction, a pass, a conditional pass, or a fail. Based on these results, a cumulative outcome is given for the level. After the assessments are finalized, the adjudicator and teaching team meet with each student privately to review the results in detail and discuss recommendations for next steps.
Exam outcomes are defined as follows:
Pass with Distinction: the student shows the highest level of performance in all weapon forms. This includes but is not limited to acting, partnering, scene work and technique. It is possible to pass with distinction for a single weapon form.
Pass: student has satisfied all requirements for certification.
Pass with Conditions: student has satisfied the basic requirements but instructors would like to see additional work to improve in a certain area before certificate is given. This could mean retesting in one weapon, more hours in one or more disciplines, or even work outside of technique. Conditions are unique to each student.
Fail: the student has not consistently demonstrated a solid grasp of all fundamentals, and needs to repeat a discipline or level before moving on.
At Rapier Wit we work hard to give students an exam experience like the rest of our training – positive, satisfying and helpful. Our adjudicators are compassionate, experienced Fight Masters who are first-rate analysts. Together with our instruction team they deliver personalized feedback designed to help you succeed in the long term. Our assessments reflect our belief that every student’s journey is unique.
- The Rapier Wit certification package includes classes, exam training, all paperwork, and adjudication fees.
- You are welcome to take any class à la carte. However, in order to be eligible to test for Fight Directors Canada, certification participants must take all disciplines at the desired level.
- In order to test for Intermediate or Advanced, you must already be certified in all disciplines at the level below the one for which you’re testing. Very rarely a student may be permitted to challenge a level or discipline without the prerequisite, but this is allowed strictly on a case-by-case basis and will involve some pre-enrollment assessment.
- Learning to partner effectively is a key component of stage combat training. Please note that students are partnered for exams, and partner rehearsal time is necessary in order to prepare adequately for testing. Space is available at the Rapier Wit studio free of charge to students for rehearsal, and schedules can be worked out between partners according to what works best for both parties. Students wishing to pursue certification should bear in mind that in order for everyone to achieve the best possible results, it will be necessary for them to dedicate some time outside of regular classes to partner practice and to make a sincere effort to honour their commitments to their partners.
- In order to test for certification, students must become members of Fight Directors Canada. Membership fees are paid directly to FDC. Visit www.fdc.ca to become a member before signing up for classes and you’ll save significantly on Rapier Wit class fees by receiving our “member” rate!
We are committed to helping our students achieve their goals and are always happy to answer questions. Feel free to call or e-mail us, or visit our FAQ. Looking for our next scheduled certification course? Go to Upcoming Classes.
Certified Advanced actor-combatants may apprentice to become FDC Fight Instructors, and eventually Fight Directors. Candidates do not apply for the level of Fight Master; the FDC College of Fight Masters appoints new FMs based on their exemplary work. Currently there are 8 FDC Fight Masters, 3 of whom instruct regularly at Rapier Wit: FM Daniel Levinson, FM Todd Campbell and FM Simon Fon.
We do offer apprenticeship opportunities at Rapier Wit, subject to availability. If you are interested in assisting/apprenticing with us, please contact Daniel. For more information on the FDC apprenticeship program, please go to www.fdc.ca.