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My Life as a Stuntwoman
(for a day…ok, 4 hours, but still)

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 the move).

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