The Flash may feature a lot of cool superpowers, but when it comes to fighting on DC TV, Arrow reigns supreme. Say what you will about the series, but the show has done an impressive job with its action scenes over four seasons. With the exception of Felicity, all the members of Team Arrow are out fighting crime in the field using their natural combat skills instead of special abilities. As you can imagine, a lot of work goes into making these fights realistic, and in Stephen Amell’s case, fight coordinator James Bamford had a specific regiment for training the series lead when the show was first starting.
While explaining how he initially got involved with Arrow as a stunt man, Bamford told TV Line how he was able to use Amell’s natural athletic ability to teach him how to fight for the show, despite the actor not having any previous combat training. He said:
So I started Stephen off with some basics, mainly from Filipino martial arts — Eskrima, Kali. I wanted to get his timing up, because one of the things I don’t like about a lot of the combat on television out there is they use full-beat, old-school John Wayne timing — which is like, ‘Beat, beat, beat.’ What I love to introduce is half-beat timing, which is ‘ba-bop, bop, bop, ba-bop, bop, bop.’ That’s my style and Filipino martial arts delivers that, so I immersed Stephen immediately in Eskrima hand work, stick work, hand-versus-knife, knife-versus-knife and so forth. I avoided kicking, because it takes years and years and a lot of stretching and conditioning to be able to teach anyone how to kick, let alone an actor within a two-week period. And he just embraced the training, he embraced me as his sensei, and he did anything I told him, basically.
So rather than go with the typical fighting beats seen in a lot of movies, Bamford opted to go with a different rhythm and eschewed kicking in favor of more practical moves from different martial arts. Granted, you’ll sometimes see characters like Diggle or Laurel kick one of their adversaries, but there’s nothing more effective than a classic punch…when you’re not shooting at an enemy with a bow and arrow, that is.
As far as showcasing the action, Arrow hasn’t always been great about showing the scenes off in shots, with quick cuts sometimes interrupting the flow. Fortunately, this Wednesday’s episode “Brotherhood” was also Bamford’s Arrow directorial debut, and the camerawork was spot-on in highlighting the action sequences, especially during the scenes when Team Arrow was taking on Damien Darhk’s Ghosts at the docks. Despite the addition of magic this season, and a few special abilities here and there, Arrow’s main draw on the action front will continue to be its fighting scenes. So if you’re looking for good ol’ fashioned fisticuffs, that’s your destination.
Arrow is taking a break next week, but it will return on December 1 for the second part of the crossover with The Flash. And following its midseason finale on December 9, new episodes will air in early 2016.