Black Knight Stunts Team
by Melissa Randle
Week 1 - The knuckles.
Week 2 - The elbows.
No, this isn't the beginning training schedule of
a list of deadly contact points on the human body. It's the location
of each week's battle scars as I recently spent a few hours gaining
insight into the rigors of stunt training. But let's start at the
beginning, so you understand the how and why.
My love of movies is what drew me to this industry--that and my
secret desire to become the next kickass female action hero like
the adventure seeking Angelina Jolie as Jane Smith (Mr. &
Mrs. Smith) & Lady Laura Croft in the Tomb Raider
films, or the double gun toting liken-killer Kate Beckinsale (as
Selene in Underworld), or Sigourney Weaver with her nerves
of steel as Ripley in the Alien franchise, and I'd be reminisce
if I didn't admit that I still get goose bumps watching Linda Hamilton
get ripped doing military chin ups in Terminator 2 (or even
Demi Moore in G.I. Jane
the list goes on & on).
So as a closeted adrenaline junky, with a "need for speed"
I immediately contacted Master Nils Onsager, stunt and fight
coordinator for the Atlanta-based Black Knight Stunts team, after
a fellow actor mentioned joining recently. I eagerly jumped at the
opportunity to audition for the team despite being forewarned of
the physical challenges that lay ahead. I'm not too proud to admit
that I wasn't prepared or that, while being in what I considered
decent physical condition, it had been a couple of years since I
followed a rigorous workout schedule. Nor did I possess the physical
discipline gained from studying martial arts or the flexibility
acquired from gymnastics conditioning. But I felt confident that
my enthusiasm, above all else, would compensate for my lacking abilities.
So, it's the big day & I'm a nervous wreck. Maybe I was kidding
myself and should have heeded the cautionary warnings from others
when I shared my plans. Whatever the case, I had to see it through
and refused to let fear bind me. The fact that the other auditionee
didn't show up wasn't comforting to my growing anxiety, but I patted
myself on the back since I had at least conquered that task--and
then again, after completing the sort of warm-up exercises I had
anticipated. However, what I hadn't prepared for was the multiple
"drills" of various exercises. Individually I'm confident
I would have handled them quite well. However, coupled together,
the repetitive front/back rolls, somersaults, front/back flips,
one shoulder rolls etc., broke through my budding "action hero"
shield of enthusiasm and revealed my achilles heel - the inability
to breath simultaneously while doing all of these things. (Can you
say cardio aerobics? I can now, but I sure couldn't then.) I persevered
with about a 1:2 ratio compared to the more skilled member's ease
of accomplishing each task (shoulder rolls excluded, since I spent
more time praying I wouldn't break my neck, than actually performing
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