We've discussed this in comments in a number of different topics, and it's come up time and again, so we should explicitly cover this:

Are questions about stage combat (or re-enacting [Ren Fair, SCA, Civil War?], etc.), even if the intent is to adapt a martial art to stage combat, on topic?

  • An expansion to the question (or perhaps a different discussion, I'm not sure) is the use of martial arts in other forms of 'staged' combat rather than just 'stage' combat, i.e. SCA, etc.
    – Chuck Dee
    Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 16:13
  • I'll clarify. I'd intended the inclusion of those under "Re-enacting"...
    – stslavik
    Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 16:57
  • Adding staged combat (as in SCA) I think changes the scope of the question, especially as western martial arts were declared on topic.
    – Chuck Dee
    Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 17:05
  • 2
    This whole question was a question of scope, and I'd intended the inclusion of those things when I'd mentioned re-enactment. Some reenactments use genuine western recreation of martial arts. We'd determined at some point that legitimate revival attempts would be covered. We're just meaning... like... re-enactment with more regard for the appearance than the accuracy (Like you might see in Live Action Role Playing).
    – stslavik
    Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 18:26
  • Ok... that makes sense. I'd not seen the other thread, so I apologize for re-hashing that. If it's already been addressed, that satisfies me. :)
    – Chuck Dee
    Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 19:44
  • Stage combat has a more-or-less technical meaning coming from theatre. I'd argue it's less "like you might see in Live Action Role Playing", which may or may not qualify here (rpg.SE seems to have that one covered for many of the ones less likely to be accepted here), and more like "what you might see in hamlet." The discussions need to be kept separate. Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 22:08
  • Especially for SCA, which is not "reenactment" but "recreation." Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 22:09
  • @DavidH.Clements: In either case, there are SE's for both.
    – stslavik
    Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 23:15

4 Answers 4


It seems to me that there are other Stack Exchange sites and proposals which would be a better fit for this topic, such as Theatre.

Martial Arts, as so far defined, seems to be: "Martial arts are extensive systems of codified practices and traditions of combat that are practiced for self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness, as well as mental, physical and spiritual development." (Strikethrough denotes a proposed elimination.) On this basis alone, I see no reason that stage combat even fits under the definition of martial arts, nor do I see any reason that we should cover other artistic endeavors, such as authors writing martial arts scenes, nor painters attempting to paint them.

Stage combat is fiction; even when the moves look to be genuine, they're often exaggerated for the effect of showing up well. Most martial artists training in any depth for personal protection will emphasize making movements smaller, not bigger, so as to hide intent. I know for a fact that my martial art does not show up well on stage or screen; it's not flashy and it doesn't entertain.

I believe that personal involvement in competition should be as close to entertainment questions as we tread.

  • 1
    How many of us are film or stage directors? Therefore how many of us should be advising on how to execute "martial arts" in a stage setting? The answer to both of those questions is probably zero.
    – slugster Mod
    Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 3:09
  • I don't think you can eliminate the mental, physical, and spiritual development aspects of martial arts. To me, it's all those things. I don't practice for self-defense or competition. I originally started doing it for health, but martial arts is more to me than just that.
    – user15
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 18:20
  • Good point. I suggest adding it to the definition wiki here.
    – stslavik
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 18:28

Like what we discussed with Lion Dancing: how does staging fake fights help with one's growth in martial arts?

Some possible examples: Classical Chinese opera. Korean masked dances might hide something interesting. Capoeira. I think some variants of Silat have ritual dances in between rounds within ritual duels. Some arts train acting / theater as methods for stealth. Etc.

The point is that it does not matter whether someone has the expertise or credentials to offer advice on stage fighting since we're looking for ways to grow our chosen martial art. Turn the question upside-down and I say it is on-topic.

"All strikes do not hit or are exaggerated, and many of the more intense moves are controlled by the victim." <-- In context of say, teaching children, exaggerating moves and safe movements would be important.

Update: Personally, I think the original question is off-topic. The original question is asking for turning martial arts into theater. If it were the other way around, turning something from the stage into martial arts (protection of self and others), then I think that's acceptable.

"How can I adapt stage fighting techniques for teaching martial arts?"

"How can I use exaggeration to demonstrate subtle techniques for students/kohai?"

"How can I use method acting to train intention?"

"How can I use exaggeration to deliberately telegraph a feint?"

"How do I obfuscate my martial techniques with acting techniques to demonstrate reasonable self-defense in a court of law?" (Though this strays into legal issues so probably not a good question)

  • The discussion so far has been trending towards dances etc are off topic unless they can be shown to be an integral part of the art. Phrasing is important: "Does this dance contain [xyz] hidden moves?" could be considered on topic, "Should I do [abc] move in my Lion dance?" would tend towards being off topic.
    – slugster Mod
    Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 12:33
  • 2
    Capoeira is really not a "dance" when you understand what it is going on. It has components of that, but it is more of a martial art that incorporates elements of dance, rather than the other way around. Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 16:52
  • @DavidH.Clements I know that. Or more precisely, it uses dance to enhance the art, rather than using the art to enhance the dance. Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 17:02
  • @slugster "integral" is not a very good way to describe this. You are arbitrarily drawing the line, which leads to Functional Fixedness (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_fixedness). Functional Fixedness is good for beginners but there comes a time when you're looking at how to use something, not look at what something is. Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 17:05
  • 1
    @slugster What's the purpose of the Martial Arts stack exchange? Stack Exchange wants a Q&A site that has the best answers so they can have good ranking and good SEO. That is not what we are here for. We're here to grow in our skills. The tool, venue, and format of helps us achieve that. Facts helps us towards that goal. Expert answers helps us towards that goal. We're not here to be right. We're here to help us learn martial arts. Integrating something is something the practitioner does, it is in no ways objective. We use objectiveness, we don't become objective. Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 17:06
  • 1
    I worry we're trending away from stage fighting and onto dancing and how it relates to lion dance and capoeira. In the case of embu (performing for demonstration), we are genuinely using a martial art, but even questions about that would better be limited to tips for arranging those demonstrations or the like. If we're looking to make a martial art flashy for a stage show, to exaggerate movement for entertainment, then we're getting away from the definition of martial art, are we not? We're talking context; in what context is this on topic?
    – stslavik
    Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 19:11
  • " If we're looking to make a martial art flashy for a stage show, to exaggerate movement for entertainment, then we're getting away from the definition of martial art, are we not? " <--- I agree. We're talking about the protection of self and loved ones. Sometimes flashy stuff makes for good distraction, but most of the time doesn't have much to do with protecting life and way of life. Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 22:00
  • We've also discussed before the inclusion of combat sports, and to a lesser degree the inclusion of arts practiced for neither, but for spiritual/psychological development (Tai Chi for Health, versus Taijiquan as a defensive form). I'm not trying to make it strictly about martial arts as one aspect, but at a certain point it stops being martial arts; we should concern ourselves with where stage fighting stops being martial arts.
    – stslavik
    Commented Feb 24, 2012 at 0:24
  • @stslavik functional fixedness, man ... but whatever. Here lies another limit for this community. Commented Feb 24, 2012 at 3:08
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    @Ho-ShengHsiao We are martial artists. We're not limiting the community but strengthening it by stripping away the chaff to expose the wheat. There are other communities in SE, of which many of us are members, that will better fit certain questions. We're not equipped to be everything for everyone. But Stack Exchange as a whole can be. I agree wholly to your update. Acting is a part of martial arts; stage combat is, however, theatre.
    – stslavik
    Commented Feb 24, 2012 at 16:48

I largely agree with Ho-Sheng Hsiao. I think that the original question, as asked, is relatively problematic, and while I recognize the need to not let us branch too broadly, I am uncomfortable with the idea that the purpose of the practice matters relative to what the practice is. So if you are practicing taekwondo for money as a combat sport, I don't see that as different (for the purpose of this site) as practicing for fitness, as practicing for self defense, as practice for self-discipline or personal improvement. You are practicing a martial art. "Why" is not as important. I think that a "martial arts SE" can be somewhat broader than simply the question of "things that go into specifically traditional martial arts."

So while I don't think stage combat, as a genre, is appropriate here it is easy to imagine stage-combat questions that might be appropriate. So long as they focus on the martial art side and not on the acting side.

Asking how you adapt a martial art to the stage is going the wrong direction. But asking something along the lines of "we are trying to make this stage combat scene (insert youtube video or EWMN schematic) look like a more realistic fight, what can we do?" could very well be on-topic.

  • 1
    Interesting... I see your point. So long as it's heading back toward and not away from the martial arts aspect, it's topical, but not in the other direction. I can get behind that.
    – stslavik
    Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 17:15
  • I think that's a good idea as well.
    – user15
    Commented Mar 27, 2012 at 18:22

I believe talking about stage combat would give better answers on this Q&A site. When you want to emulate a certain fighting technique, there are visual differences on how you stand, throw a punch, and kick.

The advice that could come out of this site would give someone more detail in how a move is done, or what happens to your opponent when you hit him in a certain way.

I know some will complain that you don't know stage combat, and due to that lack of knowledge, not be able to help; what you can do is help with the visualization of a move, the body mechanics required, and what about that move makes it hurt someone (which means you know what to alter).

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