MILLENNIUM ACADEMY IN KANSAS CITY
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Black Belt Shakespeare by Chief Johnson

My son Darian is starting his senior year at Missouri State University, which means he is starting to make life plans. He is an Acting major and faces two big decisions: what to do next (work or grad school) and where to do it at (New York, LA, or London). While discussing this big move, we reflected a little on life and how our experiences shape us and prepare us for the future. Choosing a career in acting is risky - there are so many reasons that an actor won’t get a part, and many of them have nothing to do with their acting ability. It might be that you are too tall, too short, don’t have the right “look”, lack chemistry with costars, too old, too young, or just for no reason at all. That means that actors try to learn anything that gives them an advantage.

 

Darian and I started together at Millennium shortly after moving to Kansas City and a few years later we had our 1st Kukkiwon test together. In his junior year of high school he made the decision to dedicate all his time and energy to theater and eventually moved off to college to become an actor (his nickname is “Kid Shakespeare”). While debating options I posed the question “I know that you invested a lot of time and energy into Tae Kwon Do and that you loved doing it because it was fun and challenging, but do you think it helped you in becoming an actor?”

 

His reply “Absolutely, probably more than I ever realized.”

 

The conversation that followed was truly eye-opening and reminded me of some valuable lessons. Here are his top 5 ways that Tae Kwon Do helped him become a better actor:

 

1. Stage Combat: A lot of plays require their actors to be trained and certified in stage combat because in a live show you can’t call a stuntman on stage to take your place during a fight scene! So you are simulating a fight on stage – the punches are real but controlled, just missing the body (similar to one step sparring). You are being thrown to the ground and know how to back break fall or shoulder roll safely (tumbling). The rhythm of kicking and punching and blocking and countering is quick and fluid (sparring). You are using knives and other weapons (weapons, self-defense). These techniques are often seen in martial arts movies, but almost everything we watch has some kind of fight or falling scene, even comedies. Darian can walk into an audition and throw a tornado kick, flip over a couch, or swing nunchaku - pretty impressive.

 

2. Vocals: An actor has to be able to project their voice so that everyone in the audience can hear them; something you learn first with kiyap, then by counting for the group, and later by being a class leader. Many actors in musical theater know that the first thing you learn in singing lessons is how to breathe deep, from your diaphragm, and later to control your breathing when trying to dance and sing at the same time (we learned these through deep breathing techniques and sparring).

 

3. Practice: You can’t just show up to rehearsals and think you will be ready for opening night. You can’t just come to class twice a week and expect to be ready for belt test or show up for the Annual Tournament and hope to win 1st Place. To be truly prepared you have to practice. Practice on your own and practice often until it becomes muscle memory.

 

4.Focus: Actors call it “getting into character”, the time right before they walk onstage where they shift focus to their role and the show – nothing else matters. Tae Kwon Do teaches you how to shift quickly into complete focus and ignore the audience, other classmates, and even that itch on your nose. Before class or during break we can goof around and socialize, but as soon as Master walks on to the floor you make an instant focal change to be quiet and attentive. We shift focus in many ways, but especially before important and/or potentially dangerous events that require full attention: we “get into character” before class and sparring (bowing), before forms (junbi), and before breaking (deep breathing and kiyap).

 

5.  The last (and most important) one I’ll let you find for yourself. Go to Darian’s website and look at his resume; read the “special skills” section and pay attention to the very last item. I think you’ll agree.  https://dbengston.wixsite.com/darianbengston/resume



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