Game of Thrones might have been off our screens for a couple of years already, but its cultural impact will likely not fade away so easily.
A spin-off show is in the offing; Indiewire confirms House of Dragon is due to start in August, which should keep fans happy. Before that, how many shows have already been billed as ‘the next’ Game of Thrones? The Last Kingdom is certainly one; despite Fiction Horizon suggesting it had a smaller budget, it still isn’t far from the quality HBO’s masterpiece offered. It also had a much better ending, which we won’t spoil, just in case!
Much of the fight sequences in Game of Thrones revolved around swords, which is the overriding theme when you turn to video games featuring the show’s branding and themes. Telltale Games released an episodic series on home consoles featuring the swordplay, and like The Last Kingdom, other titles have sought to add to the experience without being dedicated Game of Thrones titles.
That’s evident in games such as This War of Mine, focusing on the besieged citizens of a city, not unlike King’s Landing during wartime.
Among the Foxy Bingo Slingo titles is a game called Slingo Fire and Ice, which is another Game of Thrones clone, even featuring music close to the show’s iconic theme tunes.
Of course, there are plenty of titles dedicated to the show, such as Game of Thrones Beyond the Wall, which has you fighting with swords as the Night’s Watch, defending the wall. Whether directly related to the show or aping their themes and music, it remains popular, and those memorable fight scenes have a lot to do with that.
Whilst swordplay was a big part of the show, there was also a heavy element of martial arts, and with such a lavish budget and large digital media reach, no expense was spared in training those who needed it for vital fight scenes.
Fewer scenes were as vital as The Long Night, when the Night’s Watch was called into action, along with much of Westeros, to fight off the threat of the White Walkers.
One character who played a vital part was Arya Stark, portrayed by Maisie Williams. She killed the Night King with a blade but trained in a little-known martial art to add gravity to her fight scenes.
“Kali is a style we drew from,” Game of Thrones stunt coordinator Rowley Irlam confirmed. “My team comes from a very wide background of martial artists and weapons experts, so we draw from all the styles we possibly can. Filipino stick work is definitely one of them for this piece, as is double sword work.”
Indeed, when Arya’s spear is separated into two sticks, her off-screen training is evident for all to see. “When it comes to double stick work, [it’s] the Filipino martial art,” added Irlam. Once her spear is split into two sticks, he says, “the nearest weapon is the Kali sticks. You draw from all styles, and you try and incorporate them.”
Kali is an alternative name for Eskrima, an ancient martial art originating in the Philippines. It isn’t unusual for celebrities to train in it ahead of their films: Denzel Washington (The Book of Eli), Daniel Craig (Quantum of Solace), and Matt Damon (every Jason Bourne movie) have also spent time learning the art.
That isn’t the only instance of martial arts used within Game of Thrones filming. In the episode titled The Mountain and the Viper, one scene pits Oberyn Martell against the gigantic Gregor Clegane.
Pedro Pascal was the smaller of the two, and to add realism to the scene, he spent time training with a Los Angeles-based wushu master. The fight flowed wonderfully, and the smaller man triumphed briefly.
Other scenes play on certain martial arts, and when Brienne meets the Hound, it descends into a Queensbury Rules boxing match, which is ridiculous given they both have daggers on their hip. However, one cannot mark a show down purely for using artistic license to create a better scene, nor criticize realism when dragon eggs are being hatched in other scenes.
That said, martial arts played a crucial role in making some of the iconic fight scenes possible, and in almost every one, it allowed the smaller combatant (Arya, Oberyn) to beat a much bigger opponent (The Night King, Gregor Clegane). We’ll ignore the bit where Gregor crushes Oberyn’s skull immediately afterwards!