Flying through the air while fighting swords, and head-butting a villain before doing a 270-degree fireman carry then flipping him onto the ground.
Still riding high on the Shang-Chi vibe after watching the movie three times, I was really excited to attempt some wire-work stunts and screen fighting.
There are two types of classes available for public at Sandbox – wire work and fight choreography. This is the first and only facility in Singapore to provide wire work classes, and the only school that has fight choreography for members of the public.
This firsthand experience was really eye-opening and unique. What I love about this is how you don’t require any martial arts background or experience, and all you need is a curious mind and a spontaneous heart.
Each class is about two-and-a-half hours long and you will focus on learning a fight sequence that you will perform at the end of session. Basically, the fight sequence is broken down into smaller parts that you will learn through the class.
The team at Sandbox is very professional and I felt safe at all times, whether I was hooked up on the wires, or “beating up” or “getting beaten up by" my partner. Everything is progressive, so that you are not thrown into something blindly.
As a bonus, when it is your turn to perform at the end, they will film it for you – a la Shang-Chi style – so you have a lovely souvenir to bring home. This is possibly your best chance to be an action hero and get some great content for Instagram or TikTok.
The mastermind behind Sandbox is Peps Goh, who works as an action actor and fight coordinator. With a background in various martial arts to coaching parkour and free running, Peps started doing stunt work for commercials and soon became an action actor for TV dramas.
Having been in the stunt industry for almost a decade, he has trained and worked with a number of foreign stunt teams over the years, from American to Taiwanese and Indonesian, and eventually opened his own brand of coordination services – Peps Goh Fight Design.
“The classes for public are intended to expose the masses to experience action for themselves, so that we can increase their appreciation for this art,” said the 27-year-old, who put in S$200,000 of his and his wife's money to build this place. This money was originally meant for their BTO flat!
“The bigger reason behind Sandbox is to be the change that we want to see.
“If we want to make better action, we need to train the actors more. So if we want to train the actors more, we’ll need a location to train them in. But if we want to rent a location constantly, it’ll cost a lot.
“And if it’ll cost a lot, productions wouldn’t want to allow rehearsals anymore and that means we wouldn’t be able to create better action unless we have our own location.”
Thus, beside the classes for public, Peps has two professional programmes – an action actors’ programme to improve their screen fighting skills and a structured mentorship programme to train stunt performers and choreographers for the betterment of the local stunt industry.
“If there is no proper avenue to train stunt performers and choreographers safely and progressively, there will be a drought of talents and opportunities over time," he said.
“This will cause a lower quality of supply that will lead to a decline in demand. And if this goes on, at some point our hopes of eventually producing action works that we can be proud of, would become nothing but a pipe dream.
“So the founding team at Sandbox has two goals – to push the envelope on the quality of action being done locally and match the Southeast Asian region in the next five years, and also to help nudge the stunt industry in a direction that would make it more financially sustainable for the performers,” Peps added.
Former TVB actor Alan Wan, who has starred in local productions like Faculty and The Last Madame, is currently attending the action actors’ programme at Sandbox.
“I wanted to level up on my training in general. Being an actor, I think it’s really important that we are overall rounded, not just on the acting criteria, but also being able to do our own stunts,” he said.
Local actress Tay Ying, who is also on the programme, added, “I come from a martial arts background but after taking on some action roles and trying screen fighting, I realised that it’s very, very different.
"When you’re fighting on screen, there are a lot of angles, techniques, and obviously there’s no contact, so it’s very important that we learn techniques so we don’t hurt our opponent – while looking good on camera.”
Sandbox also has other movement arts programmes by their affiliates for all skill levels, such as the circus arts, gymnastics, parkour and tricking.