Cosplay Performances: Stage Combat

29 Sep , 2011,
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Cosplaying a character with a weapon prop’s easy, but putting on an actual performance where you’re swinging that prop around instead of standing in a corner looking pretty’s gonna really tax you unless you’re already proficient in its use.

Swishing Black Gold Saw’s sword about without a whit of finesse, or if you’re attempting, and failing at stabbing with a rapier, it’s going to look really, really awkward on stage.

What’s worse, if you’re in a group competition, and you’ve decided to stage a fight without any prior knowledge or training (just look at some of this year’s entries), it’s definitely gonna show if your fellow contestants possess kickass kung-fu and have you totally outclassed.

But fret not. In this week’s cosplay tutorial, we’re gonna touch on Stage Combat basics.

1. Strike Zones

Meet Bob. Bob’s a target dummy from World of Warcraft, and he’ll help us explain the concept of strike zones.

Say 'Hi!' to Bob, our target dummy.

If you’ve ever played fighting games before, you’d have heard of something called a ‘hit box’. Strike zones in stage combat are kinda like that.

The body can be divided into 6 areas (just check out those colored circles), and these correspond to 1) the head, 2) the right torso, 3) the left torso, 4) the right flank, 5) the left flank, and 6) the midriff.

By coordinating and defending against attacks to these regions, it’s possible to create actual sequences suitable for the stage.

2. Strike Patterns

A strike pattern’s kinda like a combo. It’s a series of attacks focusing on different strike zones that are executed in tandem.

Several common patterns in stage combat include:

a. The Square – A series of four attacks to 2, 3, 4, 5.

b. The Triangle – Three hits to 2, then either 4 or 5, then 3. There’s also a Reversed Triangle, striking at 1, then 4, then 5.

c. The Diamond – A solid blow to 1, then 3, 2 and either 4 or 5.

d. The Cross – Consecutive cuts to 2, 4, 3, 5.

The 'Square' Strike Pattern - It sure looks like one when you think about it. XD

These strike patterns are named loosely after the shapes they form when you join the targeted strike zones with imaginary lines, but there’s no reason why you can’t give them funky names like Caligula’s Advance or The Fourfold Petals of Anubis either.

It sounds way cooler when you’re improvising on stage, and map a character’s signature moves to a particular strike pattern together with the requisite anime-esque yelling of special move names.

Just make sure you’ve plotted out the strike zones you’re targeting first, so your performance partner doesn’t get flustered and forget their moves!

3. Stunts & Flourishes

If your weapon prop is light (or hell, even if it’s heavy), consider introducing physical weapon spins and twirls into your performance. These flourishes are flashy, and look great on stage.

Also, if your costumes permit, you can also incorporate simple stunts such as dodges, rolls and jumps into your performance. Such actions serve to add a level of flair and sophistication to your performance, greatly heightening its dramatic appeal.

4. Stage Combat Exercise

Now that you know the basics of stage combat, here’s a little exercise to get you warmed up.

1. Grab a 6-sided die (d6), and roll it 12 times. Note down the results on a piece of paper.

2. Each number corresponds to a targeted strike zone. For example, if the first four numbers you rolled were 5, 6, 6, 1, then they represent strike zones 5, 6, 6, and 1.

3. Using the results of your die rolls as a guide, create a short combat sequence of 12 moves.

4. Act it out.

Try this exercise out. Once you get the hang of it, preparing a stage combat sequence should be a breeze. Unless you’re a target dummy like Bob, that is. XD

Until next time, cosplay friends.