Certification Levels


Membership at the Associate level is opening to anyone who is interested in joining FDC. These are non-certified members of FDC. This membership allows you to vote at the Annual General Meeting (AGM), a public profile, submission of articles or other media to fdc.ca and discounts from many FDC events.


The first level of certification is considered to be essential for all professional actors. The Basic Actor-Combatant is competent in the weapon systems at this level, and above all, safe.

The candidate must complete a course with a certified FDC Instructor (or higher) with a minimum duration of 60 hours.

The weapons at this level are:

  1. Unarmed
  2. Sword
  3. Quarterstaff


Unarmed combat is the most often used fighting in any performance. This includes falls, slaps, hair pulls, chokes, among others. Basic Unarmed also includes punching in the context of an untrained character.

High emotion drives these ordinary people to violence, so it is a great starting-point for actors.


Generic swordplay may be taught using a variety of swords, most commonly epee blades. FDC insists on blunt metal swords. The style is ahistorical, but may be characterized as “swashbuckling” or “sabre-like”. It is, however, based on proper fencing concepts and forms a foundation for historical styles studied later.


Quarterstaff fights are less common in professional theatre, but the skills learned in staff class are highly transferrable and pave the way for further advancement. Training in quarterstaff from the beginning gives the actor the challenges of a long weapon, using two hands simultaneously, and judging different distances.


The second level of certification begins a study of historical fighting styles in broad strokes. The Intermediate Actor-Combatant is skilled in the weapon systems at this level, and always safe.

The candidate must complete a course with a certified FDC Instructor (or higher) with a minimum duration of 80 hours.

The weapons at this level are:

  1. Martial Arts
  2. Smallsword
  3. Longsword
  4. Rapier & Dagger

Martial Arts

The instructor will teach from experience several martial arts styles and how to combine them. Usually, this will include at least one “hard style” including hand strikes, kicks and blocks, and one “soft style” which incorporates throws, joint locks and pressure points.


The latest evolution of the duelling sword was the smallsword, a light thin blade that was mostly a thrusting weapon. The ability to manipulate such a light and fast weapon with precision and safety is challenging.


Called by many names through the ages, the zweihander, two-handed sword, bastard sword… it has a long, wide, flat blade and is used for cutting and thrusting.

Rapier & Dagger

The coordination of two hands with two different weapons is a special challenge. With a long rapier in the dominant hand and a dagger in the other, the actor learns the schools of defense that figure in some of the most exciting stage fights.


The final level of certification for performers refines and perfects the actor’s skills and knowledge. Fight Directors Canada only awards Advanced Actor-Combatant to those candidates who appear flawless, fast and unfailingly safe.
The candidate must complete a course with a certified FDC Instructor (or higher) with a minimum duration of 100 hours.

The weapons at this level are:

  1. Weapons in Eastern Martial Arts
  2. Advanced Smallsword
  3. Longsword & Companion
  4. Rapier & Companion
  5. Found/Environmental Weapon

Advanced Martial Arts

There are hundreds of styles of martial arts, and at this level, the performer is expected to understand many complicated varieties. Most importantly, the use of traditional weapons in those arts becomes part of the choreography. This may include: katana (bokken), kali sticks, nunchaku, sai, chinese broadsword, cane, or any other the instructor chooses.

Advanced Smallsword

The speed of the smallsword is pushed to the performer’s limit at this level. Multiple feints, long sequences and ultra-precise targeting will be tested.

Longsword & companion

Visibility is a major challenge for this weapon combination. The actor will also master the different ways of using a shield for defense and attack.

Rapier & Companion

A rapier in the dominant hand is now accompanied by an unorthodox weapon in the other hand. The instructor will choose: Rapier & Cloak, Rapier & Hat, Rapier & Lantern, or Case of Rapiers (twin rapiers).

Found/Environmental Weapons

The object used as a weapon instead of its intended use can be a source of comedy, or a sign of frantic desperation. The actor must be aware of the behaviour and limitations of those objects, and their use to optimum effect in a scene.