Saturday, October 30, 2010

Alex O'Loughlin is Not Afraid of a Good Fight

By Pam

I’ve often heard Alex O’Loughlin say he performs most of his own stunts.  I wondered how he was able to master some of the stunts he has done, particularly in a fight scene.  How does one throw a punch and not hit someone, let alone take the punch and appear as though it hurts?  Is it just good acting?

Alex, as you may know, attended NIDA where he received a Bachelor in Acting.  The acting course is three years long and includes classes such as acting techniques, accents, movement and relaxation methods.  In addition, stage combat is offered as a several week course.  The Sydney Stage Combat School is called in for this purpose.  They instruct the acting students in unarmed combat and single sword combat.  Since Alex would have to be cast in a period film for us to see his swashbuckling skills, I will concentrate on unarmed stage combat for now.

Stage Combat is the practice of creating the illusion of physical combat for theater, film or television. 

 When a script calls for a physical fight stage combat is employed. The primary objective of stage combat is to create a visual and auditory picture which gives the illusion of ‘real fighting’, with the overriding concern being that no one gets hurt.  Stage combat can include any form of choreographed violence.  It all depends on the dramatic requirements of a script and the creative choices of the Director and Fight Director.  The combat phase of a rehearsal is referred to as a ‘fight rehearsal.’

Choreography is typically learned step by step and practiced at first very slowly before increasing to full speed. It is preferable for actors to have as much training and experience as possible. A ‘fight call,’ or a brief rehearsal before the fight is performed, is to increase muscle memory and produce more effective dramatic action.

Here are the common Stage Combat techniques actors are taught:*

Stance  A sturdy stance is important at the outset of any fight sequence

Distance  Use your arm's reach to gauge the proper distance from your partner.

Targeting  You have both an illusionary target and an actual target.

Right Cross Punch
  Make eye contact with your partner before performing the right cross punch.

React to Right Cross  Put your entire body into it when you react to a right cross punch.

Adding the Knap  A knap is a method of making sound to add effect to a staged punch.

Slap  There are a variety of different slaps you can use in stage combat.

React to Slap  The reaction should indicate that the slap moved from low to high.

Stomach Kick  Your partner will indicate where s/he wants your foot to make contact for the stomach kick.

React to Stomach Kick  Good reactions are important for stage combat to have the illusion of reality.

Uppercut  Your actual target is about six inches from your partner's chin for the uppercut.

Reaction to Uppercut  A dramatic reaction will really sell the stage combat uppercut.

Pace, Fall, Finish  When falling in stage combat it's important to remember safety.

Alex was trained in Stage Combat, while at NIDA, by Kyle Rowling, Director of The Sydney Stage Combat School.**  I contacted him and he had this to say about Alex:
“I do remember teaching Alex… he did do several weeks of Stage Combat training in Unarmed and Single Sword…I knew he would go far. You can always tell a lot about an actor from the way they perform in a Stage Combat class. Stage Combat requires a huge amount of commitment, discipline, control and above all care and respect of your partner. These are also the main attributes that make a great actor. Alex had all of these and more. I'm very glad he is doing so well.”
I’m glad, too, Kyle.  His total commitment to his craft makes his success well deserved. His level of commitment to stage combat is evident as I watch him in action as Steve McGarrett in the new Hawaii Five-0.

** Kyle Rowling is a professional Actor, Director, Weapons Master and Fight Director. He has twenty-five years experience in various Martial Arts including Chinese and Japanese styles and has been working as a Fight Director for over a decade. In that time he has trained, choreographed and performed Stage Combat for STC, Opera Australia, Ensemble Theatre, Belvoir St, Marion St, Bell Shakespeare, the David Atkins Group, Sydney Shakespeare Globe and many more. He also teaches and choreographs regularly at most of Sydney’s top acting institution including NIDA, VCA, the Actors College of Theatre and Television, the Actors Centre Australia and The Australian Theatre for Young People.  Kyle’s Stage Combat and performance skills have also secured him work in many theatre and film productions including Star Wars  EP II and III as Christopher Lee’s fight double, Eric Bana’s personal weapons trainer for Troy, fight director and performer for the 2000 production of Pan at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre and the 2001 New York tour of STC's The White Devil.


  1. Extremely cool background info on O'Loughlin and his role as McGarrett. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the info. You did some great research there!!

  3. thank you for that most informative article!!!
    Loved the episode last night!!
    Iam a huge Alex O fan, have been since Moonlight!!!
    Please continue the great work!!!

  4. Thank you Pam for a most interesting article. It's so cool that you spoke to Alex's combat instructor. it must have been a fun conversation.

  5. wow nice information. thank you very much.
    i love alex so much im a big fan :D
    in moonlight he was really sexy but in hawaii five o omg there is he zo hot!

  6. I heard an actor once say that a fight scene is like a dance. Well we all know Alex is a good onscreen fighter but I have never really seen anything about his dancing skills anywhere. Is he a good dancers?