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Author Topic: Saber Choreography: Tutorials  (Read 22364 times)
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« on: July 29, 2015, 04:11:23 PM »


I know I am new here but that does not mean I am a complete moppet. In reviewing a lot of videos it is no surprise that many are enthusiastic amateurs doing the best they can with choreography. I used to work for a fight choreographer at ren faires, have some training from my theater classes back in the day, and used to be certified in SAFD for rapier and dagger (which by the way I will be fighting with saber soon - a 36" main and 16" off hand, maybe shorter). Sooooo... I figured maybe I could help a little in aiding people here on making their combat choreography better.

I figured I would start with notation. Basically this is how to write down what you are doing. Professional choreographers do not typically write down in words what is happening - fights are too fluid and reams of words actually gets confusing. They are specific to the scene you are trying to portray and the "stage" you are working on. A small point- if you are used to doing your choreography in a 20 x 20 area and you get to a con and its 15 x15 you are probably in trouble as the choreography will be broken. So choreograph to the location  - not the training area- if you know the size you have to work with.

There is no overarching system for notation. Some are exceedingly complex such as the Benesh Movement Notation, the Hobbs method, and so on. Some of the simpler ones are the Wise or Barton systems. What I will discuss below is the Barton system as it is probably the simplest method out there and would do well for saber fighting purposes. Barton was the former associate director and fight master for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Fights are broken down into "beats" of roughly 8-10 moves. After this the combatants usually separate before proceeding to the next beat. If you look at any fight you can see these beats - in movies they can sometimes be tough to see but they are there. Unless it is one long take any cut scene is usually a mini-beat.

Anyway in the Barton system there are certain symbols as follows:
# = Numbers are the attacks in sequence - so 1 is the first movement, 2 the second, etc
+ - this an an attack
- - this is a defense
F with arrow - This is specific footwork required for the movement and should have a specific purpose. An up arrow is forward, a down is back
X - Crossed swords defense
D - Dagger or off hand weapon used in the defense
K- Kill. This would be where someone is "killed" or "injured" (Note: We used to use a K for injured and an underlined K for kill)
@ - A swirl symbol means a spin
L - Lunge or a straight on attack with the point of the weapon
R - Response. This would be a simultaneous counterattack during a defense using another weapon, head butt, etc (ie parry Qui-gon then head butt him)
C - Corps a Corps (French for "skin on skin"). When combatants "lock" blades and are typically pressed against each other.
/ - Used to separate movements going to same location

Barton also used a very simplified diagram of the body which you will see below. Typically the attacker for the beat is on the left and the defender on the right. For every beat there is a new diagram made. So lets look at a diagram set up for a beat with an explanation - the attacker on the left will be A and the defender on the right B.

1 - A attacks B right shoulder and B defends
2 - A attacks B at lower left leg (calf) and B defends
3 - A spins to attack the right side of B head. B also spins to defend the attack
4 - B lunges at A chest. A defends and takes a step back to clear the blade
5 - A attacks B head with an overhead centerline strike. B defends
6 - A spins to attack B left shoulder. B defends and takes a step to the right simulating a heavy hit that staggers.
7 - A attacks B left side head. B defends
8 - A attacks B left side head. B defends

Beat is over - combatants disengage and prepare for next beat. You should be able to visualize the fight in your head from the above notation and how to get from one movement to the next.

Note that footwork and other flair is not shown. Again this is due to the fact that those things the director or fight choreographer fill in taking into account the actors, the stage, a camera and so on. What this does do is give you a compact notation ability for the fight. The combatants should be able to easily visualize this and can easily practice their parts on their own. This is just the raw fight. We often used a wipe board to quickly change fight symbology due to input (actor, director, seeing it in person and going "crap- that wont work") and so on.

Also - as an observation- by and large in most videos BOTH combatants tend to be on the attack and/or it fluctuates where every other strike switches between combatants as attacker/defender. This makes the entire fight "muddy" - each beat should have an identified primary attacker and defender. When they break the roles can be switched. Again look at any movie with swordplay and each beat has someone attacking and another defending - this is much more exciting for the audience and you wont hear muttering of "what's happening? looks like two people sort of knocking stick together"

OH! And the symbols above? Feel free to use your own. This is not set in concrete - it is what makes sense to YOU as the choreographer

If any question let me know and I will try to answer them
« Last Edit: July 30, 2015, 03:23:40 AM by Darth Cephalus » Logged

Dauntless Seven
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« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2015, 04:24:07 PM »

Wow partial moppet.  This is very impressive information.  Thanks so much for taking the time to share this.  There are some members that belong to both small and larger stage/theatrical like sparring groups.  So I would imagine that this choreography sharing will be of value.  I could see using this pattern for one's individual shadow practice.  ds point.   Cool

Knight Lieutenant

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« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2015, 07:27:54 PM »

wow. it just a pitty i don't have any friends. :-(   lol
I'm 30 now and spend most my time working aor looking after my padawan. If i'm lucky enough to see my mates we usually end up learning new tricks and spins or just fighting. We did work on a short routine ages ago. But time escapes up now.  Never the less, this is still very interesting. thanks.

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Darth Cephalus
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« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2015, 03:23:10 AM »

Good stuff indeed. I was hoping something like this would come along. I will move this into a new thread called  "Saber Choreography: Tutorials" and sticky it so this does not get lost. Thanks for the post and point.

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« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2016, 09:40:42 PM »

This is really cool information thank you for the tips. Some LS points for you. 

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« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2016, 01:17:11 PM »

Very helpful information, thanks for sharing!

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« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2016, 03:16:04 PM »

Not only does this help with choreography, but it'll help us clean up our work.

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« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2016, 03:21:13 PM »

Good information.

To the untrained eye it takes a little getting used to. The way I tend to choreograph fights is the "explore", "let's do something like this and see where this takes us" sort of thing =P Once a sequence is completed, and several rehearsed runs later that section is recorded, then I start working on the next section...

Simple as it is, a system like this could definitely bring some structure into designing fights...

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« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2016, 02:45:16 AM »

I have done stunt and choreo work on my own for a few years no and had no idea there were forms of notation to it. The martial arts I practice is nearly entirely performance based and I teach panels on choreography for masquerades at conventions.  My dream job is stunt work for Hollywood, but alas, my body is already deteiriorating with injuries.

This was extremely helpful.

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« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2016, 04:35:15 PM »

This is great!! My husband and I were going to try to learn some lightsaber forms and use that as a "cardio" workout, but it might be fun to do some choreography too! I'm a former dance and Zumba teacher, so I definitely get the alternative notation than just writing for words!!!

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« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2016, 05:28:00 PM »

This is great!! My husband and I were going to try to learn some lightsaber forms and use that as a "cardio" workout, but it might be fun to do some choreography too! I'm a former dance and Zumba teacher, so I definitely get the alternative notation than just writing for words!!!

Hi.  I don't know if the 2 separate dvd's are still available, but you might want to check out Ilaria Montagnani and her Forza Samuri Sword Workouts.  They use a wooden bokken but I use a wrapped Prophecy and vary the lengths and weights of the blade that I use depending upon how energetic I am.  You will get a good toning workout as they are very technique and body/sword positioning structured.  But not the high energy and movement of Zumba.  I'm getting tired just thinking about that kind of class.  Party on !  Cheesy

Also suggest checking out Medwyn's Forms of the Elements video series in Saber Artistry.  Smiley

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« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2017, 04:06:52 AM »

Points for informative post.


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« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2017, 03:20:57 PM »

I have been wanting to do some choreography for a while, this definitely helps.

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« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2017, 11:36:06 AM »

Awesome post! I can totally agree on some of the videos on youtube that don't seem as fluent in saber combat, but still great for their effort! Bookmarking this and +1 DSP  Grin

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« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2017, 09:13:13 PM » please? Cry

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