Thomas Usher, centre, instructs students on locking swords (contributed photo).

Red Deer’s Thomas Usher teaches swordfighting, with flourish

RDC instructor will teach techniques at national fight convention in Calgary

Want to learn to fight like a Jedi?

Red Deer’s stage combat master, Thomas Usher, will be giving intermediate and advanced lessons from July 1-21 at the Fight Directors of Canada National Training Convention at the University of Calgary.

Actually, the Red Deer College theatre instructor will be teaching how to stage fight with a two-handed German broadsword from the 1500s — but it’s the same skill used by Japanese Kendo masters, and depicted in various Star Wars movies.

“It’s the same moves as with a lightsabre. Whenever you’re fighting with something that’s long, it’s the same basic technique,” said Usher, a top-level certified stage fight instructor, who’s also artistic director of Prime Stock Theatre that produces Bard on Bower in Red Deer.

Besides wielding the weighty weapons favoured by German knights, Usher will also be teaching how to handle a slim, pokey blade — the French smallsword.

These delicate but deadly rapiers were used by lace-clad gentlemen during the 1700s. They were so hugely popular in duels they eventually had to be outlawed. “All those rich, young dandies were killing each other off, they were losing a whole generation!”

Smallswords are poked at vital organs, said Usher. The trick, as with all stage combat, is to make these actions look authentic, while keeping participants safe from injury. Theatrical combat requires enacting an illusion of danger, said Usher.

“You are not directing your force at your opponent, but rather beyond them.”

But knowing the right fighting style is only half the battle — he feels actors must make the audience believe the tension and danger are real by conveying the exhaustion and effort of combat.

Usher started learning stage fighting techniques from his mentor, J.P. Fournier in 1990. The veteran fight director/choreographer who holds a Lifetime Achievement Sterling Award for his theatrical contributions in Edmonton, learned his craft from another master — the late Patrick Crean was a double for Errol Flynn in Hollywood, and later worked for the Stratford Festival in Ontario.

Usher grew up in Edmonton, mesmerized by swashbuckling tales, like Richard Lester’s Three Musketeers movies of the 1970s. “The fights were so flamboyant and larger than life. There was a debonair, joie de vivre to them that was almost poetic,” he recalled.

Usher feels stage combat skills expand upon an actor’s physical capabilities to tell a story. Like music or dancing, there’s a beat and rhythm to stage fighting. “It’s a non-verbal dialogue that takes a lot of an actor’s resources.”

Anyone interested in learning more can visit www.fdc.ca.

lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

Just Posted

Flu cases steadily climb in Central Alberta

So far the number of Central Albertans admitted to hospital with the… Continue reading

CP Holiday train makes stops in Central Alberta

The popular train will feature entertainment from Colin James and Emma-Lee

Auditor general flags Royal Military College for costs, cadet behaviour

The Royal Military College of Canada has taken another blow to its… Continue reading

After death of 8th child, Ikea relaunches dresser recall in U.S and Canada

NEW YORK — Ikea relaunched a recall of 29 million chests and… Continue reading

Red Deer agency supporting for LGBTQ2S+ youth

New report on LGBTQ2S+ youth from the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate

VIDEO: Replay Red Deer: Nov. 19

Watch news highlights from the week of Nov. 13

Innisfail girl goes missing again

RCMP are looking for a missing Innisfail teenager. Taylor Lapointe, 15, was… Continue reading

Red Deer Christmas Bureau to help 1,300 children this year

Demand is high, but Red Deer always provides

CP Holiday train makes stops in Central Alberta

The popular train will feature entertainment from Colin James and Emma-Lee

Kittens rescued after allegedly being tossed from vehicle

Couple finds abandoned kittens new home through Facebook

VIDEO: ‘Party bus’ goes up in flames in Vancouver

Fire crews responded to the late night blaze

Chicken crosses B.C. road, stops traffic

Rooster makes early morning commuters wait in Maple Ridge

Red Deerian honours her brother who died in a motorcycle collision

Houaida Haddad is encouraging Red Deer residents to donate blood

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month