Guest Blog: A Thought on Training by Dan Styles

A Thought on Training

By Dan Styles

I recently worked on a short film with an older actor who trained at Bristol Old Vic (in the same class as Patrick Stewart) and we were talking about the importance of training in stage combat. In those days stage combat teachers were fencing coaches who would teach fencing skills just adapted slightly for stage. This was before the BADC (or any other ‘stage combat’ academy) even existed. Since then he continued training in fencing, as well as Judo, and his fighting skills have served him well throughout his career. On this particular production he was fighting a 9 year old boy and I never once felt that either he or the young boy were in any danger (with my instruction too of course).
This got me thinking about training. Training should be a continual, inexhaustible, pursuit to improve oneself. The actor above went to Japan to train with world champion martial artists until he was eventually faced with a decision: professional martial artist or professional actor? He chose the latter.
My point though, is whether you’re an actor, dancer, plumber or doctor, training should be ongoing and “yeah, I did a course in it once” (even if that course was a three year degree) just isn’t good enough.

We all know the phrase ‘practice makes perfect’, but so many people want to rush to their goals without taking the time to really understand and appreciate the complexities involved in the art they are studying. Of course I am referring to muscle memory – according to Dr Richard A. Schmidt it takes 300-500 repetitions to burn a movement into the body’s muscle memory – However it takes thousands to build up accuracy, efficiency and speed, that is why masters are masters. This doesn’t just apply to the physical either; the brain also needs regular training so don’t just do something 500 times, understand it too. Whether it’s brain surgery, dance, golf, mathematics, acting or sword fighting don’t be satisfied with just ‘doing a course once’, continue to practice, research, work with different teachers and practitioners, discover everything there is to know, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, historically and when you’ve done all that go back to the beginning and you’ll be sure to find something you hadn’t noticed the first time.

We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. ~ Aristotle

Check out his websites
www.danstyles.co.uk/stage_fighting

www.independentdrama.com

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