The room is full of eager students. Today it’s college freshman. Yesterday it was professional actors. The day before it was 6-year-olds at a library. The prop weapon changes too. Today its fantasy broadsword for certification. Yesterday it was Bat’leth for “Klingon Christmas Carol”. And the library? My favorite: lightsaber.
My name is Orion Couling and I’m a nationally recognized stage combat instructor. I specialize in WMIs. Weapons of Mass Imagination. Lightsabers, Bat’leth, wands, magic, super hero hand-to-hand and, of course, traditional weaponry like broadsword, single sword, small sword, knife, sword and shield, and whip.
But I don’t teach stage combat. Not really.
What I teach is the philosophy that “Today in my class, in this room, for this time, you are that hero.”
I build a safe and effective fantasy of living an epic role.
“Your enemies will fall before you. Your body will move like a titan. You will inspire awe.”
When was the last time you felt truly awe-inspiring? Truly awesome? I get to help people feel that nearly every day.
When I put a prop weapon in someone’s hand I am saying with my actions “You are worthy to hold this. I trust you with this. So does everyone in this room”
When I teach adults I remind them how to play. To play like you did as a child. With high stakes and sweat. When was the last time you, adult reader, immersed yourself in fantasy so much that you were emotionally swept up and agonized in defeat or roared with success? Some of us experience that emotion through sports but a great deal of people will go through years of their lives without the exhilarating ride of the imagination. When an adult holds a sword they remember that moment when they were a little child swinging sticks in the back yard against unseen goblin hordes. And once we tap into that, we unlock a very powerful feeling of childhood. That childlike sense of determination and imagination can then be used to teach empathy, cooperation and partnering that becomes an epic sword fight.
When I teach children I am unlocking a forbidding training. I become Obi-Wan or Lupin. I am the adult in the room that understands that this knowledge is dangerous and they can and should have the ability to choose to use it properly. When they hold a sword they seamlessly become that mythological hero. Effortlessly they become Rey or Percy Jackson. The journey for the child is not one of imagination. That is a short journey for most children. The child’s voyage is one of empowerment. I train them, just as hard as an adult professional and I expect them to rise to the training. Because, just like their adult counterparts, they are worthy.
Young and old, each student deserves the chance to feel
When was the last time you felt those things? Wanna know a shortcut to those feelings? Pick up a lightsaber. More than any prop weapon I have ever worked with; nothing exhilarates the weekend warrior like the lightsaber. It is a touchstone to all ages. Whether they are having a Sith or Jedi day I have seen merely holding this prop drop the frailest, most bound, least athletic people into a battle stance that would make Mace Windu proud.
And that’s where we begin their training. With that moment of pop, hiss, engarde. From there, my friends, the galaxy is the limit.