It’s hard to pin Amie Thomson into one category of athlete. It’s more that she’s just plain active, which is an understatement.
“When I’m filling out an online questionnaire and they say list your activities, I say, ‘yes’,” she says. “Anything and everything you can possibly work up a sweat doing. Running, biking, skipping, hopping, jumping, parkour, kayaking, canoeing, climbing, rock climbing, climbing trees, gymnastics, dancing, hiking, surfing, roller blading, ice skating, snowboarding, swimming fighting, boxing, muay thai, Brazilian jiu jitsu…”
She pauses and takes a breath.
Amie, 29, (who goes by IE) grew up on a 20-acre farm in New Gloucester and now lives in Portland. There was a lot to take care of and lots to keep her busy. She rode her bike, cared for the farm fowl, wrestled her brothers and defended classmates against bullies on the playground.
“I didn’t take any crap,” she says.
All she wanted to do was karate when she was little. At 13 her parents signed her up for a class and she soaked up every moment. She would often get disqualified during sparring for injuring people, though not on purpose.
“I love martial arts. Everything about it, the way it looks, everything.”
She also knew she wanted to be an actress at a young age. She performed in plays starting in second grade and was ecstatic to find out through a seventh-grade assignment that one could act for a living.
After high school graduation in 2001, she says, “I thought that I could acquire more skills out on my own, chasing my goals and dreams rather than being stuck in a classroom, struggling for a degree I never wanted.”
A year later, she was begging her brother to take her to his jiu jitsu class. Wearing him down a year-and-a-half later, she was only allowed to watch but was happy and hooked.
Brazilian jiu jitsu is a form of martial arts IE has been training in for nine years. It’s a form of street fighting or grappling. She explains that most fights end up on the ground and people don’t know what to do. That’s where Brazilian jiu jitsu fights start.
“I’ll do better being knocked over or taking someone down than I will standing up and trying to punch them,” she said.
To supplement her fighting skills, she started taking muay thai classes a few years ago. IE describes it as, “kickboxing, but not for wusses.”
A friend of her instructor signed her up for her first mixed martial arts (or MMA) fight at the end of September.
“The mixed part would be that I have basic karate/self defense understanding. Muay thai, which is the punching and kicking (the top game), and then the ground game, which is jiu jitsu. Mixing all those together with boxing, which I do too, that’s mixed martial arts. The goal is to have no weaknesses.
“I enjoy fighting because I don’t feel like I’m working out, so it goes by fast. That’s how I got into it. Plus it’s a good social thing. I hang out with my friends and we fight,” she says.
Feeling pressure about her lack of higher education, IE went to New York Film Academy in Los Angeles on the Universal Studios back lot for acting in 2006-07. Not even sure if her specific major existed, she only wanted to go to school if she could study movie acting, which she did. During the 12-week program, instructors talked about doing stunts. She always wanted to do her own stunts for acting and they explained the best way to do that was to go to stunt school.
After some online research, she went to Kahana Stunt School in Groveland, Fla., in 2009 for an eight-week course. Run by Kim Kahana Sr., arguably one of the best stuntmen in the business with more than 40 years of experience in the industry – he stunt doubled for Charles Bronson. (If you’re a quarterlifer and don’t know the aforementioned ’70s movie star, Kahana was also the stunt coordinator on the television show “Guts,” airing on Nickelodeon in the ’90s, among his many credentials.)
“Fighting and fitness is a huge part of the stunt school thing. Stunts are all about body control. Stunts are very technical,” she says.
An average day at stunt school would start at 7:30 a.m., beginning with a 3-mile run and obstacle course work. Then it would be onto the dojo for a few hours, followed by stunt training in the afternoon. This was the time to learn high falls (up to four stories), fight scenes (basically exaggerated fighting), all forms of rappelling, zip lining, car hits, stair falls and weapon training.
“It was intense. Lot of crying, lots of drama, lots of puking. I discovered that your body can take more than your mind can. I was like, yeah, yeah I know that, but I didn’t understand until I was there,” she says.
On the penultimate day of school, after jumping as high as the third floor of the tower, Kahana asked who wanted to go to the fourth story and jump. IE was the only one who volunteered in her class of nine. She traveled to the top of the old, creaky tower that had been in use since the ’70s. She had to wait for the wind to stop shaking the tower, making it safe to jump over the platforms jutting out from the lower floors and safely land in the air pads.
“When you’re up there 40 feet. You shouldn’t look down. Or be too cocky”
While at stunt school, IE was featured on the Treasure HD TV show, “I’ll Try Anything Once” that followed music writer Toure? around as he attempted different challenges, including attending stunt school. She also participated in a group fight scene and rappelled from a tree at a Fourth of July celebration in Florida to promote the school.
She hasn’t done any stunt work in Maine, nor has she met many people in the biz around here. Unlike movie sets of yesteryear, where a person would walk on and immediately find work, stunt people today have to be able to sell themselves and be marketable as a business. While IE will try anything once, she doesn’t actively look for work.
“I’m not that brave,” she says.
IE works as a landscaper, and between schooling out west and down south, worked on and off as a tour cater. It’s been very physical work, which is fine with IE, it keeps her busy and not bored.
She has been putting all of her effort into training for a few hours a day after work. “I could not go two days without exercising. I lose my mind.” She’s active every day, making up her own workouts on off days from fight training. In the winter she’s even more active, when landscaping turns to shoveling snow and with nothing to do but train indoors, without the option of beach days.
IE is also studying to be a personal trainer and still pursuing acting, most recently cast in the ensemble of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” at the Lyric Theater in South Portland, opening in September.
“I want to be an actress-singer-stunt person on film or in the theater. That would be the ultimate goal,” she says. “I could never do just one thing. Fighting is a huge part of me, as well, but I don’t think I want to do it professionally.”
Amie Thomson shows her range as an actress: Jumping from the
tower, above at Kahana Stunt School in Groveland, Fla. “Stunts are
all about body control,“ says Thomson, right.
Amie Thomson taking down host Touré while filming “I’ll Try
Anything Once” at Kahana Stunt School.