For almost as long as Stage Combat has been recognized as an art form in the United States, there has been a combat program at Western Illinois University. One of the Founding Members and first Fight Masters of the Society of American Fight Directors, J.D. Martinez, was Professor of Movement and Stage Combat at WIU from 1979 to 1982.
Professor Martinez was instrumental in organizing the very first National Stage Combat Workshop, which was held in Macomb in 1980.
Over the years, WIU has continued to have a strong commitment to excellent stage combat instruction. Past professors and alums of WIU include SAFD Fight Masters JD Martinez, Ian Rose and Drew Fracher, Fight Director Paul Dennhardt, and Certified Teachers Paul Steger, Brian LeTraunik, H. Russ Brown, T. Fulton Burns, Jill Carlson, Gregg Lloyd, and Robert Westley. Certified Teacher D.C. Wright is the current Movement and Stage Combat professor at Western.
WIU has one of the more complete university armories in the country, boasting the weapons from every category the SAFD offers recognition in, as well as several additional weapon styles. Every semester a Fight Master from the SAFD is brought in to evaluate students in various weapon techniques. The combat curriculum is organized in such a way that any student taking combat classes three semesters in a row, and successfully passing their Skills Proficiency Tests, will be recognized as an Actor/Combatant by the SAFD.