Stage combat in the middle school curriculum

by Catherine Rankin | 30 September 2020 | Posted in: Curriculum


When my colleague Carrie Grev and I were looking to reinvent our middle school classes we were discussing ways to increase the uptake of boys in Drama and the thought of adapting a physical theatre unit into one that focussed on stage combat as a part of devising looked promising.

I used hand-to-hand combat when teaching Commedia but really got into stage combat in the last five years when I was directing a middle school devised version of Peter Pan. For me it is a combination of my two loves – physical theatre and dance. My first introduction to the skills and theory of stage combat was an ISTA master class eons ago by Pete Benson (Thanks, Pete). I wanted to expand my knowledge and see if it was possible to incorporate it into the curriculum so I undertook master classes with Scott Witt of Combat Circus to develop my skills.

Based on workshops, books and internet resources I created a six-week unit that was divided into two main sections. The first section was establishing the rules of the course as well as the skills behind hand-to-hand combat. The second part looked at stick and sword fighting.


Our school works with concept based teaching – Understanding By Design (UbT) and it is all documented using the online curriculum planning system Atlas Rubicon. The first thing we have to do is give a unit summary and understandings – so here they are…

Unit Summary
This unit looks at devising a piece of theatre through stage combat.

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