Learn Fight Choreography (How to film fight scenes PART 1)

Welcome to Part 1 of my article series on how to create your own realistic fight scenes!

I am writing this series from my personal experiences in the action film industry, as I attempt to breakdown the science of how to make your own fight scene and learn fight choreography! This is Part 1, links to the other articles in the series are below..
Part 2 >> Learning basic Fight Moves
Part 3 >> Selling hits and filming your first Fight Scene

Learning Fight Choreography and how to film your own fight scenes can seem like a daunting task.. but as with anything in life, if you go into it with an open mind and a willingness to “fail your way to success”, anyone can teach themselves the techniques to make a piece of badass action filmmaking!

Learn how to make, film fight scenes and learn fight choreography like in this image from The Raid.
The Raid (Clicking the images will take you to some cool fight scenes.)

When I started learning this stuff, I didn’t have anyone to teach me, so I hope this multi-part article will get you going in the right direction.. In this series of articles I will walk you through an overall approach, with future posts explaining more in-depth details.

So, let’s say our hypothetical question of this series is “how do I make a fight scene?”. Let’s break this down into several steps..

Watch and study a lot of fight scenes!! Everyone eventually develops their own flavor of what good action film making and fight choreography is. There are hundreds of different ways and styles to film the same story, so you should immerse yourself in as many different types of action films you can think of. My personal favorite sources of good fight choreography and action scenes as of now are The Raid, Tony Jaa’s Ong Bak, and of course the Jackie Chan movies that got me into stunts.

Another good set of resources to get your creative fight choreography and action scene juices flowing, are video games! For example after playing Batman: Arkham City for several hours, I started thinking in Batman’s fighting style. This principle translates to many other fighting games.. it is also the reason you see so many “live action” fight scenes being made as homages to the fans’ favorite characters.

Donnie Yen plays the chinese hero, IP Man. He is one of the better fight choreographers and performers, and his fight scenes result in some inventive and creative fight choreography.
Donnie Yen in IP MAN

Take notes! Go on, make a list of your favorite action movies.. now look them up on YouTube and find their respective fight scenes. Really study the performers and their fight choreography (use the youtube slo-mo feature or download the video and play it back on your computer), and observe your response to the choreography.

– Which moves catch your eye the most?
– What camera angles are used to sell the hits?
– Can you tell which moves are very technical?
– Given the chance, would you do something differently?

Pay attention to the camera work, see how the camera man interacts with the performances you are watching.. Write down your thoughts and observations.

“Just as a director who knows how to act will be able to create a believable story on the big screen, and the best actors are ones who can direct themselves.. so must you want to learn everything there is to learn about your subject matter.”

Now for this week’s ‘fight choreography homework’.. have a surf around YouTube and pick 3 of your favorite fight scenes. Then write an answer to each of the questions I proposed above.. or make up your own notes! The point here is to get you observing the choreography and breaking it down in your mind.

Here are some of my favorite fight scenes to get you started:
Jet Li – Unleashed
The Raid – Hallway Fight
Jackie Chan – Police Story 2 (playground fight)
Jackie Chan – Drunken Master (final fight)
Man of Tai Chi – Tiger Hu Chen
The Matrix Reloaded – Neo vs Seraph

Jackie Chan and Jet Li, both masters of fight choreography, finally verse each other in a fight scene from The Forbidden Kingdom.Jet Li and Jackie Chan fight in The Forbidden Kingdom

Until next time, stay safe and keep your chin up! Nothing in life is as hard as we make it seem. You are the only person who can influence and manifest your happiness 🙂

NEXT LESSONS:
Part 2 >> Learning basic Fight Moves
Part 3 >> Selling hits and filming your first Fight Scene

About

Rustic Bodomov is a Hollywood Stuntman and Stunt Coordinator, who shares his experiences in the action film industry. He also creates instructional and entertainment YouTube content under the name Rustic B

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  • PlatypusUnderground .

    solid tips! we always break down scenes in our favorite movies and write down notes for cool moves, then try to string those in with some of our own. can’t wait for the next posts in the series!

    • rusticb

      Thank you very much for reading, and I’m really glad you liked the article! Writing part 2 right now 🙂

  • Alfred Gomez

    This is great advice but it can be expanded to any storytelling medium; action cartoons, western slugfests, comics, and fights in non-action movies can add as much as the above examples.

    • rusticb

      I completely agree! Those examples just came to mind while I was writing the article.. but there are a lot of story-telling mediums whose style can be studied 🙂

  • Kevin Muyenge

    youre genius..im studying you