The more I teach, choreograph and perform dramatic combat, the more I reflect on the beginning of my own training. Even before I began at the Guildford School of Acting (now GSA Conservatoire) one of the things I was most excited about was the fact that it offered all three levels of examinations spread over the three years of training. As I grew up with a mix of competitive Tae-Kwon-Do, recreational Jiu Jitsu and a rough primary school, I knew a little bit about the world of conflict and I was very keen to learn how to put it on stage and screen.  I was very lucky to have some wonderful mentors and I really wanted to be one of the best.

When I work with students now it makes me smile over their first few days as I watch them go from ‘yes, I will master this in a week’ to ‘….my, this is very intensive’ to ‘……………. How am I going to get through this’ and ‘WILL I PASS???’ I watch as they pick up a sword for the first time as a beginner barely knowing how to hold it (I wouldn’t go as far as what end to hold it but sometimes it isn’t far off). The first few days are always the hardest, and I always tell my students that it’s okay to be frustrated and doubtful, as long as we keep moving past it.

Usually by day three I tell them this little story…

My first term assessment was coming up and my partner and I had worked very hard and thought we had it together… when the assessment came I don’t even recall a single thing going right. I mean, it must have, we got a C, but in my overly competitive mind a C was the equivalent of the world ending.  I remember approaching my teacher and his assistant and asking, through tears … yes…actual tears…’Excuse me Andy, but even with this assessment will I still be invited to do the Advanced level in third year?’

…Please remember the following facts.

…This was first term…first assessment…first year….I know, I know, I am shaking my own head at myself right now.

Andy and Katie both looked at me with very bemused looks and said ‘yes, I think you’ll be okay.’ They could have brushed me off as a mildly hysterical first year, but they took it instead for a sign that I cared.

I tell this to my students, especially on intensives where they are cramming a whole year into a set amount of days. Usually about day two when they really see the mountain that they are climbing for the first time.

Yes, it’s hard.

Yes, you will struggle.

Yes, you may even feel like it’s terrifying.

But remember…even I cried…and I now do this as a profession.

So, have your cry, because every Warrior cries sometimes…it means they care.

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