I recently contributed to an article on Lifehacker re: how to throw a punch. My contributions were in the realm of staged punches. I realized as I was writing it that so many people still call weak, bent-wristed punches “punching like a girl” and thought us girl-nerds could benefit from knowing how to throw one properly. Maybe we can begin to dis-spell that phrase being used for improper punches, yes?
Below is a paragraph of my contributed section of the article, and the little demonstration video I made for the purpose. Play safe! ~Prof. Jenn
We stage combatants are in the business of effective illusion, however, and as such don’t want to land our punches on anything solid. As a teacher of a teacher of mine once said, “Air don’t bleed” (1). Now we are not throwing “real” punches on stage or film, true, but it has to be an accurate illusion. As I always say to my stage combat students: we want to be safe first, but we also want to look awesome. A fake-looking punch is not awesome-looking, so I do think it is important for stunt fighters to know what it’s like to land a punch, so they know what it feels like and can thenceforth act it well. This, however, is where martial artists who begin stage combat come into issues. What they do in stunt fighting feels fake to them. Sometimes, they’d rather “just spar,” which is the worst thing you could do on film or onstage, for several reasons (2).
The main point, though: stage combatants want to a) be safe, i.e. never land a punch on their partner, and b) look as though they really have landed a punch on their partner.
1) Dale Girard, author of Actors on Guard, said this often as he taught/directed.
2) Real punches just don’t read to an audience: they’re not clear, they’re not easy to trace with the eye, they’re fast. A stage punch is really super-big, and the actor must indicate hugely. This is something no martial artist in his right mind would do. Stage Combat is about telling a story, not about fighting. Also, though we enjoy watching Jackie Chan hurt himself in out-takes, or hearing about the escapades of stuntpeople, getting hurt on the job is not anything anyone wants. Getting hit in the face is not an easy thing to take once, certainly not over and over, no matter how tough one is.