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The Life of a Professional Stunt Woman: Professional Development

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I have touched on training over the past few months, more specifically how important it is as a stunt performer.  I have not, however, indulged much in what I actually do as part of my training regime.  My day-to-day schedule is not anything extraordinary, so I will not bore you with that.   This month I’d love to share a little bit about what I was up to last month, specifically in regards to training, but need to segue into it in a way that makes sense.  I’d like to break it down in a way that everyone can hopefully take something away from and apply the thought process to any profession, not just stunt performers.

While there are many methods, styles and things to train, I like to break down my training into two types: maintenance training and growth training.  They are both pretty self-explanatory.  Maintenance training is training I do in order to maintain skills that I have accumulated and keep the strength and stamina that I already have (which is what I typically do when I’m really busy at work).  Growth training for me is not only learning but mastering and holding onto a new skill.  For me maintenance training is a necessity.  If you do not use certain muscles and hold on to certain skills, you lose them fast.  Growth training however is the really exciting part of my job.  I love learning and trying new things. Growth training is my kind of professional development, and I like to challenge myself to do some sort of professional development every year.

The Life of a Professional Stunt Woman: Professional Development

I apply the same thought process of training to my other career aspirations (writing, directing and producing) as I do to performing stunts, in that I can always know more, learn more, do more, be better.  This mental approach keeps me on my toes and keeps me from getting stagnant.  Even if it’s just a little one-day course that I’m taking to improve my skillset and/or resume, or spending multiple nights a week at a class to master something, I have always challenged myself even when I am super busy working non-stop to learn at least one new skill every year.  Mostly I try to find things to do near my home (although I have travelled to take stunt driving courses and to go scuba diving multiple times).  I look up courses that interest me, or I just pick a skill that I’d like to learn.  A few years back I took all of my safety and leadership courses, then I decided I wanted to learn aerial silks, two years ago it was jumping motorcycles and trails riding, last year it was Jiu Jutsu and freediving, this year it was Muay Thai and Krabi Krabong (and who knows what else, the year is only half way through!!!)

That was my really long segue into what I was up to last month.  After stunt coordinating five TV series back to back, I was well overdue for a mental break, and my body really needed to be more physical.  So, what did I do?   I took a professional development, or “growth training” trip of course!

Myself and a fellow stunt performer headed off to Thailand to train at one of the most well-known Muay Thai gyms for two weeks (I wish it was longer!!)  We committed to training as much as we could absorb and physically handle every day for two weeks, then rewarded ourselves with 2 days on another island to go for a few scuba dives and absorb some vitamin D.

I trained four to seven hours a day, depending on what classes were offered on each specific day.  The school was closed Sundays, so we found a wakeboarding cable park a forty-five-minute scooter ride away to train at our two Sundays.  I have wake boarded before, but not since I was a teenager, so I’m not sure if I get to consider that maintenance or growth training.   I suppose it would be considered both, as I’ve done the sport before, but have never hit ramp jumps or boxes on a wakeboard before.

I went into this training trip with the goal of improving my cardio and learning some solid foundation skills of a new martial art.   I came back having learned the basics of three martial arts: Muay Thai, Muay Boran and Krabi Krabong, as well as learning how to jump ramps on a wakeboard, and maintaining my open water scuba.  My cardio is way better than it was going into this trip, and my body feels good and healthy.  That is what I did last month, and I loved it.

I walked away with some great new skills, a refreshed mind, and a relaxed and strong body.

While my training trip, or professional development time may be extreme for many and not career applicable for most, I hope the take away is that constantly pushing your craft and taking time for yourself in a fun way is one of the keys to happiness.  I don’t want to say that any certain training (craft specific) will guarantee success, but I find that when you are happy, and prepared for opportunities that come your way, success usually follows.  So whether you lock yourself in your apartment for a “staycation” writing retreat, sign up for an acting intensive in New York, take a weekend producing workshop, or travel to Thailand to learn a new martial art (depending on what pushes you further along in your career or towards your goal),  I don’t feel any training or professional development is ever wasted.

Maja Aro

About Maja Aro

Writer/Director/Stunt Coordinator/Stunt Performer - Maja Aro hails from Britannia Beach, BC and has worked in the film and television industry for the past 14 years. Maja was a competitive athlete and went to school for fashion design. She started a career in fashion, and soon discovered the stunt industry and decided to switch paths. Maja’s stunt career has taken her all over the world, and garnered her many awards and nominations. In 2014 Maja started working behind the camera a bit more (although she still gets out and hits the pavement as a performer) as a stunt coordinator, and the following year as a writer/director/producer. Maja’s debut solo short film “Hoods” won the 2015 MPPIA short film award funding, screened around the world and won numerous awards. In her spare time Maja enjoys going on adventures with her husband Jeff. They have travelled with charities to Uganda and Nepal. Maja has recently been the stunt coordinator for: ABC’s Once Upon A Time, A&E’s Project Blue Book, FacebookWatch’s Sacred Lies, and Amazon’s Man In The High Castle.