A battle rages in the Quad. Metal clangs against metal, and combatants wield swords with balanced precision.
There’s no need to be alarmed, though — it’s all part of a class offered at the university.
Listed as THEA 3415 Stage Combat, ETSU’s stage fighting class is taught by professor Robert Funk, who was able to get the course accepted into the theatre curriculum about 10 years ago.
Stage combat is defined by the Society of American Fight Directors as a broad term covering conflict, danger, and/or violence for entertainment. This includes things like a slap in the face, falling down stairs or even a battle.
Funk studied stage combat in college and graduate school. In graduate school, he also taught an unarmed stage combat class as part of his assistantship in his second year of the program at UNC-Greensboro.
He has worked at ETSU since 1998.
According to Funk, the stage combat class has evolved over the years. For a while, unarmed combat was taught as part of stage movement, before being accepted into the theatre curriculum.
Due to the nature of the work, the class is small compared to the average college course.
“I cannot safely work with more than 12 students in a class,” Funk said.
Early in the semester, students are taught ways to properly stretch before combat. Classes consist of being taught a skill and learning how to work on it. Students are then asked to master the skill for homework to present to Funk during the next class after warmups.
During the semester, students are taught three fights — the first is unarmed combat, the second is combat with a rapier and the third is combat with a broadsword.
“The focus is to allow fights to look real but must be safe,” Funk said.
Funk said the class is very physically demanding and is hands-on with fight choreography being introduced in class. He uses fight choreography to keep it safe.
To anyone considering taking the class, he has a word of advice.
“Be serious about it,” Funk said. “It requires a lot of out of class practice. We fight with real weapons, so people must be safe and follow directions or someone could get injured.”
While the class is open to everyone, including non-theatre majors and minors, Funk advises that students should be willing to put in the time to practice after class.
For more information about stage combat, go www.safd.org. Likewise, more information about Funk’s stage combat class can be found on the ETSU class descriptions page.