Western Fight Styles - The John Wayne Punch
Western style fight scenes can be traced back to a few influential performers like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chapman for their stunts and comic timing, but the classic style of fights can be attributed to John Wayne and the punch he would use.
How did his punch work?
Firstly lets remember for any punch or kick to work it has to be seen by the audience and it has to read on screen. If you throw punches and kicks on screen like you would in real life then it will be too fast and tight for people to see. Movie fighting is big and over the top, it just has to be and especially in the early days of filming when film speed was determined by someone turning a handle at a consistent pace to move the film through the camera and past the lens focal plane.
Back to the punch.
Any punch of kick has to move between the line of the lens and the person being hit. Think of a piece of string that you have to go through. The audience also needs time to see that the punch is coming . It gives them a chance to register and can also be used to create tension and drama. Try to think of fights as a way to increase more knowledge about the character and the story.
With the John Wayne punch you want to wind up big and raise your fist so the camera can see and then make a big swinging movement and turn your whole body to give the illusion of power. Make sure you punch through the string we talked about and follow through like you are falling off balance because the punch was so hard that no one could take it and that you can barely contain the power you have sent .
Then pull a determined face. Keep acting all the way through the punch and the end. Don't go stone cold face. That doesn't look like you are in the moment emotionally, but you can have a stoic look.
The person selling the punch or the actor being punched has to not look at the punch, unless its a character thing that they are suddenly surprised by the punch, but it's best not to look.
Then you keep your jaw open a bit and when the punch crosses through the string then whip your head allowing your jaw and cheeks to move. You can even blow out a little or spit water or fake blood. This make your cheeks wobble and creates more illusion of power. Then you want to lose some balance and catch yourself with your feet or spin to the ground. Just so much power.
You can both keep swinging back and forth until the winner stands victorious and the loser is so tired they can barely stand. In the westerns they would often end up in the dirt or a water trough for the animals.
So that is the classic John Wayne punch. If you want to learn more tricks and skills to creating action sequences then check out the tutorial section at www.actionmoviestartv.com
Keep on punching.
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