Theatre students swashbuckling certified

Isabella Delgado takes the Society of American Fight Directors certification in single sword fighting test. She and 12 other College of the Mainland theatre majors successfully passed to earn stage combat certifications.

Thirteen College of the Mainland theatre majors are now armed with certifications in single sword fighting after excelling May 4 on double-edged tests.

Yes, there is a national certificate—issued by the Society of American Fight Directors—for actors who train in sword fighting on the stage or in the movies.

“Maybe your character is a former boxer or ninja or pirate. Stage fighting helps you tell a better story,” said theatre major Jalil Toussant, of Dickinson. “Working with professor H. Russ Brown is a lot of fun. We know how to make our acting partner look good but keep it completely safe.”

Performing iconic scenes such as duels from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” students showcased their acting and sword fighting abilities and earned certifications from the Society of American Fight Directors. Mark Guinn, one of 16 Fight Masters with the Society of American Fight Directors, judged students’ swashbuckling skills in six scenes to award them certifications.

“It’s a giant workout session. It was a lot of sweat, a lot of movement of your feet and body. We’re exaggerating pain. Plus, you learn counter moves in self-defense,” said Toussant. “It’s a free class for theatre majors and you get to use swords. Why wouldn’t you do it?”

Many COM theatre majors previously earned unarmed and knife fighting certifications with the Society of American Fight Directors.

Brown, a nationally recognized Certified Teacher with the Society of American Fight Directors, introduced stage combat training to the COM Associate of Arts Theatre Program when he came to COM in 2015. COM is one of only four colleges and universities in Texas to offer this level of training.

“Stage combat certification makes students better physical storytellers and more marketable as actors,” said Brown. “To qualify for the Society of American Fight Directors test, students must train a minimum of 30 hours in each weapon style with a Society of American Fight Directors certified teacher. We focus on elements such as the weapon’s historically martial application, the mental and physiological effects of a life-or-death struggle and a list of requisite weapon techniques. It’s all for the purpose of portraying violence on the stage that is safe but dramatically effective.”

This semester students practiced cuts, thrusts and parries each week as Brown coached them.

“You have to duck really fast and it looks like you’re going to get hit,” explained Isabella Delgado, a theatre major from Texas City. “It’s a huge adrenaline rush. For the test, we had a set number of cuts and parries to include, and we were judged on how well we did it.”

Delgado plans to earn an associate degree in theatre and eventually go to law school.

“Acting helps one build stage presence when you speak to a jury in court you have to persuade them,” said Delgado. “I was a little shy before this, but after H. taught me how to act, I feel a lot more confident.”

For more information about COM theatre classes in acting, technical theatre, musicals and stage combat, visit or call 409-933-8544.

View footage of students taking a stage combat certification at Testing.mp4?dl=0.

Jalil Toussant, left, and Tyler Fayad battle in a scene from “The Princess Bride” judged by Mark Guinn, one of 16 Fight Masters with the Society of American Fight Directors.

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