Who Am I?
Who Am I? What Do I Do?
The simplest answer is I move. To me everything is movement. I am a fight director and movement choreographer, I am a performer, teacher and student of life and the live arts.
Physically I have training in stage combat (all common weapons), physical theatre, dance, shaolin kung fu, kickboxing, and Chinese Indonesian kung fu, to learn more, just keep reading!
In 2011 I received my BFA from Niagara University in Theatre Performance with a minor in communications, which I concentrated on visual studies. The program at Niagara was in the style of both a liberal arts program and conservatory training. What this means is that I actually took about 8 classes a semester, as well as being artistically and technically involved in department productions. At Niagara I took classes in acting, Shakespeare (1 year acting, 1 semester literature), speech, voice, physical theatre, dance, theatre history, directing, and stage combat, which I took up a heavy concentration on and became a teaching assistant as I consistently attended all three courses offered my three years at Niagara. For the stage, I have trained in all the common weapons and theatrical combat styles including unarmed (various styles), knife, single sword, rapier dagger, staff, broadsword, sword and shield, small sword, rapier-dagger, found weapons, and even played around with frying pans!
During my time in university I developed an interest in martial arts and dance which I continued training in post grad. I consistently pursue development in contemporary dance, contact improv, and improvised dance, especially in a narrative sense. I have also earned a black sash in Chinese Indonesian Kung Fu or Liu Seong kuntao-silat. Post-grad, I attended Maling Shaolin Kung Fu Academy from 2013 to 2014 where I trained under shaolin masters, 4 to 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. I took classes in taiji (tai chi), shaolin basics, shaolin forms, sanda (Chinese kickboxing), shaolin acrobatics, applications (self defense), shaolin takedowns, baji, qigong (chi kung), conditioning, shaolin power training, power stretching, and stamina training. Weapons forms I studied were shaolin staff, Chinese broadsword (dao), shaolin straight sword (jian), spear (in a two person form paired with double short broadsword), and shaolin bullwhip.
I have also trained in fire eating and contact fire staff spinning, as well as black powder musket and cannon firing.
To inspire. I want to inspire everyone I teach, everyone I choreograph, direct, perform with and interact with. I want to inspire the world through movement and theatre. It's what I do.
My best memories are of seeing the positive influence I have had on others. At Maling Kung Fu Academy in China, when I was a senior student, a fellow from Belgium told me that I helped him a great deal during his stay, he said I hope you go on teaching when you get back home and continue a career in it, because you really made a difference for me. I remember another instance when a principal actor of a show I was working on, went to see a workshop production of my original movement show Face Everything And Rise, a man in his 70's, coming up to me after the show with a tear in his eye, and with a strong embrace saying Thank you.
I have been fortunate to have many inspiring people in my life, and I continuously make an effort to pass it on through my work.
Based on my studies of body and mind, I have found that the only way to know something is through experience, not belief, not assumption or concepts, but to live it and experience it. For one example- This is why I study martial arts if I want to teach stage combat. I am confident that there is no substitute for hard work, nothing more powerful than inspiration, and that if you want a performer or fight and movement coordinator who is dedicated to bringing powerful and thought provoking messages to life, then look no further. What I mean to ultimately say is- don't take my word for it, speak with me and work with me. I do not disappoint.
I founded Justin Mitchell Krall Live Arts as a personal business in 2011 after graduating with a BFA from Niagara University, but my story begins quite some time ago. When I was growing up, I played soccer, and I was terrible at it, although I very much enjoyed running around and kicking a ball. In high school, where many others discovered theatre, as did I, and I appreciated the physical presence on stage. I was inspired to learn the great Phillip Seymour Hoffman had graduated from my high school, and had the honor of meeting him my senior year. I have also been inspired by physical performers like Jackie Chan. In high school I found that I loved using the human body to communicate to the audience and fellow performers, via movement or otherwise. Although I also had a great interest in film, I decided to go to University for theatre and ended up at a local college. However it felt slightly too close to home and after a professor of stage combat visited for a workshop, I transferred to his university the next year with a feeling I would be interested in his classes among others in a conservatory style program.
My time at Niagara University began, and as soon as I dove into the stage combat classes I knew I wanted to pursue it as a career. There were three classes- unarmed, armed, and advanced. Only the first two were program requirements, but I asked special permission to enter the advanced class without the prerequisites. I told my professor this was a great interest of mine and I wanted to get as much experience in it as I could during my time at NU. He accepted me in the advanced class where, as I sophomore I worked mainly with seniors, many whom I suspected didn’t quite fancy my being in their class. I heard from another student I was one of only 4 students the professor had taught the advanced material to before the prerequisites. I felt honored. It was a challenge, but I picked it up fast with some effort and did very well.
In another instance when I told the professor I wanted to pursue this as a career, he told me to pick up a martial art as well. I did. Walking through the village of my hometown of Fairport, I saw a local kung fu school. I was not expecting to see kung fu in my little hometown, but investigated and after some email communication with the head teacher, I took up lessons that summer. I found myself working my schedule around class, and sometimes attended 10 times a week, meeting early in the morning and evening classes as well.
The system of Chinese Indonesian kung fu was called Liu Seong kuntao-silat. It was a self defense system that seemed to emphasize close quarters combat. I expected to learn some self defense, to be able to throw a punch or kick a better, and maybe become faster or stronger, more flexible and so on.... but I didn’t expect to gain a greater appreciation for all things movement, including dance. Taking up martial arts somehow informed every other movement and art I studied. I became more confident and enjoyed dance classes more, and realized the beauty in all movement. Kuntao-silat classes broke down movement in minuscule ways that I had never seen before. The first class I barely even learned how to punch, but I learned how to step, and it was like I was being taught how to walk all over again. There, I was able to study the fine details of movement no one even bothers to think about. I became more aware of what my body was doing at any given moment. Although it may seem like a stretch, I can honestly say I love dance because I study martial arts. I found myself practicing not just martial arts, but using that knowledge to explore contemporary and improvised dance, now, some of my dance friends in Buffalo have referred to me as the kung fu dancer.
Post-grad, I have taught workshops in stage combat and held positions as a fight choreographer. In 2013 I took a giant leap, with a great desire to continue my study of movement, especially in a martial sense, as to apply it to my career in fight direction and artistic movement-I moved to China to study at Maling Shaolin Kung Fu Academy for 1 year. At the academy I studied under shaolin masters, pushing myself, and being pushed harder than ever before. In many ways it was the most difficult year of my life, and as I look back, it will possibly be remembered as the greatest year of my life as well. I had a physical transformation, which was almost to be expected, but my mental/emotional (some might say spiritual) was another thing, not a guarantee, maybe not such a surprise either. I questioned everything about my life while I studied. Towards the end I was contemplating true being and what it meant to be honest, and even experiencing some insight on the matter.
This led me to even question the theatrical arts and my interest in them. When I returned home from China, I sat in on some acting classes, and saw everything in a new light. I could see the actors experimenting as they searched for truthful moments. I saw this as if it were a tangible thing. When it worked they created a bridge to the other performer, when it failed they put up a wall. I had never viewed performance with such clarity before and it astonished me. Through my studies I have become more critical of physical performance, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. During my time away, I have started and still working on a book, which is a collection of anecdotes and thoughts from my journey, with a primary theme being how the performing arts world can learn from martial arts. As a fight director, and a performer, being true to life in the physical world and emotional realm is absolutely imperative.
If you’ve read this far, know that this is not my whole story, but an overview at best. I’d be more than happy to share more, feel free to message me with any questions, and stay tuned for updates on my book and other projects. Currently, an article of material from my writings for the book is being published in the magazine The Fight Master published by the Society of American Fight Directors.