Stuff You Need: Footwear

Let’s take a quick break from workouts and technique, and talk equipment (just in case you need to order something before the start of the workshop). After gloves, one if the most important pieces of personal equipment is footwear. For training situations, simply wear something that offers a good grip on the floor, generally sneakers. If you prefer barefoot shoes or dance shoes, check with your instructor, as some prefer that you don’t use them in a stage combat class (for the record, I’m a fan and you’ll often find me teaching in my barefoot shoes).

As you progress in your training and get more and more opportunities to perform fights in shows, you’ll want to find some period-specific shoes, particularly heels. You never know when you’ll be asked to do a sword fight in them. This is often a surprise for men! Less so for women, but it’s still an adjustment. For heeled shoes that you can fight in, I suggest ballroom dance shoes. For men, google a Cuban-heeled shoe like these, or even any quality dress shoe with a heel. For women, you might like a ballroom shoe, any high-heel that will stay on your foot, or, my favourite, a ballet teacher shoe with a heel. These are both great for smallsword.

Now try your lunges in this different footwear. Start with a shorter lunge. Place the whole foot down and/or lead with the toe. Be mindful the first several times you lunge in a high-heeled shoe! If you try to heel strike, you may very well find yourself in the splits.

Meanwhile, it’s extremely useful — I daresay, necessary — to purchase footwear that can pass for many periods. Look for something simple and black with a good tread, particularly if you are doing outdoor performances. My Son Of Sandlar boots were purchased in 2004 and are still going strong: well worth the investment. Designer and directors in smaller companies often don’t have the budget to provide appropriate footwear for the entire cast or are sometimes unaware of how crucial good footwear is. Better to give them the option of reliable boots that you know work for you, than to be surprised with something that doesn’t fit or has no traction.

For FDC certification, costume is not required. If you choose to wear costume or footwear other than your normal training shoes, you MUST make time to rehearse in them. I encourage my students to spend the entire week leading up to the test working in the shoes in which they’ll perform. By the end of the workshop, you’ll be exhausted, and busy working the technique and rehearsing the acting of your scene. You don’t want to be distracted by new elements. Bring them into rehearsal earlier, and you can use them as elements to enrich your character development, and to inform your exploration of the martial art.

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