Lightsaber duelling now a sport...in France

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Lightsaber duelling now a sport...in France

Post by mr friendly guy » 2019-02-19 05:04am

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-19/ ... t/10824044
Lightsaber duelling becomes a sport, as French fencing officials give it official status
Posted about 10 hours ago

Master Yoda, dust off his French, he must.

Key points:
Fencing is a combat sport that has been part of the Olympics since the first modern Games in 1896
Normal fencing involves three disciplines — the foil, the epee and the sabre
The French fencing federation has added a fourth discipline, making lightsaber duelling a competitive sport
It's now easier than ever in France to act out Star Wars fantasies, because its fencing federation has borrowed from a galaxy far, far away and officially recognized lightsaber duelling as a competitive sport, granting the iconic weapon from George Lucas' saga the same status as the foil, epee and sabre, the traditional blades used at the Olympics.

Of course, the LED-lit, rigid polycarbonate lightsaber replicas can't slice a Sith lord in half.

But they look and, with the more expensive sabers equipped with a chip in their hilt that emits a throaty electric rumble, even sound remarkably like the silver screen blades that Yoda and other characters wield in the blockbuster movies.

Plenty realistic, at least, for duellists to work up an impressive sweat slashing, feinting and stabbing in organized, three-minute bouts.

The physicality of lightsaber combat is part of why the French Fencing Federation threw its support behind the sport and is now equipping fencing clubs with lightsabers and training would-be lightsaber instructors.

Like virtuous Jedi knights, the French federation sees itself as combatting a Dark Side: the sedentary habits of 21st-century life that are sickening ever-growing numbers of adults and kids.

"With young people today, it's a real public health issue. They don't do any sport and only exercise with their thumbs," says Serge Aubailly, the federation secretary general.

"It's becoming difficult to [persuade them to] do a sport that has no connection with getting out of the sofa and playing with one's thumbs.

"That is why we are trying to create a bond between our discipline and modern technologies, so participating in a sport feels natural."

Jedi heroes used as lure for new fencing fans
In the past, the likes of Zorro, Robin Hood and The Three Musketeers helped lure new practitioners to fencing.

Now, joining and even supplanting them are Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader.

"Cape and sword movies have always had a big impact on our federation and its growth," Mr Aubailly says.

"Lightsaber films have the same impact. Young people want to give it a try."

And the young at heart.

Police officer Philippe Bondi, 49, practiced fencing for 20 years before switching to lightsaber.

When a club started offering classes in Metz, the town in eastern France where he is stationed for the gendarmerie, Bondi says he was immediately drawn by the prospect of living out the love he's had for the Star Wars universe since he saw the first film at age seven, on its release in 1977.

He fights in the same wire-mesh face mask he used for fencing. He spent about 350 euros ($555) on his protective body armour (sturdy gloves, chest, shoulder and shin pads) and on his federation-approved lightsaber, opting for luminous green "because it's the Jedi colours, and Yoda is my master."

"I had to be on the good side, given that my job is upholding the law," he said.

Bondi awoke well before dawn to make the four-hour drive from Metz to a national lightsaber tournament outside Paris this month that drew 34 competitors.

It showcased how far the sport has come in a couple of years but also that it's still light years from becoming mainstream.

The crowd was small and a technical glitch prevented the duellers' photos, combat names and scores from being displayed on a big screen, making bouts tough to follow.

But the illuminated swooshes of coloured blades looked spectacular in the darkened hall.

Fan cosplay as Star Wars characters added levity, authenticity and a tickle of bizarre to the proceedings, especially the incongruous sight of Darth Vader buying a ham sandwich and a bag of potato chips at the cafeteria during a break.

French officials keep it 'like the movies'
In building their sport from the ground up, French organisers produced competition rules intended to make lightsaber duelling both competitive and easy on the eyes.

"We wanted it to be safe, we wanted it to be umpired and, most of all, we wanted it to produce something visual that looks like the movies, because that is what people expect," said Michel Ortiz, the tournament organiser.

Combatants fight inside a circle marked in tape on the floor. Strikes to the head or body are worth five points; to the arms or legs, three points; on hands, one point.

The first to 15 points wins or, if they don't get there quickly, whoever is the higher scorer after three minutes.

If both fighters reach 10 points, the bout enters "sudden death," where the first to land a head or body blow wins, a rule to encourage enterprising fighters.

Blows only count if the fighters first point the tip of their saber behind them.

That rule prevents the viper-like, tip-first quick forward strikes seen in fencing. Instead, the rule encourages swishier blows that are easier for audiences to see and enjoy, and which are more evocative of the duels in Star Wars.

Of those, the battle between Obi-Wan and Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace that ends badly for the Sith despite his double-bladed lightsaber is particularly appreciated by aficionados for its swordplay.

Still nascent, counting its paid-up practitioners in France in the hundreds, not thousands, lightsaber duelling has no hope of a place in the Paris Olympics in 2024.

But to hear the thwack of blades and see them cut shapes through the air is to want to give the sport a try.

Or, as Yoda would say: "Try not. Do! Or do not. There is no try."
Wonder who makes the lightsabers. There are several companies in the US eg ultrasabers that customise lightsabers for duelling. They obvious need a few rejigs to put in the sensors.
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Re: Lightsaber duelling now a sport...in France

Post by LaCroix » 2019-02-19 05:09am

Cue HEMA Longsword practicioners flocking towards this, and Liechtenauer becoming the official jedi code :D
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Re: Lightsaber duelling now a sport...in France

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2019-02-19 03:42pm

Cool. A sport (besides kayaking, which is awesome) that actually really appeals to me.

I wonder if someone will (or already has) tried to develop the various canonical lightsaber styles into actual practice (granted I don't think you could do Vaapad, as it relies on channeling the Dark Side).

And yeah, they should make lightsaber duels an Olympic sport. The Olympics are a tremendously wasteful, horribly corrupt farce anyway- at least this way they'd be more fun.
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Re: Lightsaber duelling now a sport...in France

Post by LadyTevar » 2019-02-19 07:07pm

Kyberlight Sabers is also duel-ready.

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Re: Lightsaber duelling now a sport...in France

Post by Gandalf » 2019-02-19 07:13pm

Assuming that the initial base of participants will be SW fans, and fencing fans, I wonder how long it'll be before the SW fans complains the fencers aren't taking the SW side seriously enough and vice versa.
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Re: Lightsaber duelling now a sport...in France

Post by aerius » 2019-02-19 08:37pm

The Romulan Republic wrote:
2019-02-19 03:42pm
And yeah, they should make lightsaber duels an Olympic sport. The Olympics are a tremendously wasteful, horribly corrupt farce anyway- at least this way they'd be more fun.
Cheerleading has provisional status as an Olympic sport, I would not be surprised if lightsaber duelling makes its way in there as well.
Gandalf wrote:
2019-02-19 07:13pm
Assuming that the initial base of participants will be SW fans, and fencing fans, I wonder how long it'll be before the SW fans complains the fencers aren't taking the SW side seriously enough and vice versa.
We'll just have to settle that with a duel where the first one to get a hand cut off loses.
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Re: Lightsaber duelling now a sport...in France

Post by madd0ct0r » 2019-02-20 03:12am

"Blows only count if the fighters first point the tip of their saber behind them."

That is a very elegant rule i think.
Im assuming you cant store it by spinning saber around hand and then lunging?
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Re: Lightsaber duelling now a sport...in France

Post by LaCroix » 2019-02-20 06:01am

The Romulan Republic wrote:
2019-02-19 03:42pm
I wonder if someone will (or already has) tried to develop the various canonical lightsaber styles into actual practice
They might try, but this won't do them any good - these are designed to look cool in a movie, but are highly impractical in a fight (spinning is a really good way to get hit in the back). Most likely, people will adopt Longsword(without the half-swording, obviously :D) and Kendo techniques.

It will be a bit more dynamic than usual Longsword, since the rules remove stabbing and draw-cuts from the repertoire, so we get less of the close quarter stabby-wrestly type and more showmanship.

It would most likely look a lot like the first part of this choreography, without the halfswording and wrestling parts


I kind of disagree with the rules, as a shot to the leading arm should be a lot more valuable than just one point - it would be a fight ender, just like the movies established. I see why they want to make arm-swiping less viable to encourage solid hits, but it feels kind of an antithesis to what we know about the established fights.

Just as well, I hope they refine it to include kicks, bodychecks and disarmament (with follow-up "sudden death" blows) in the rules, too, to make it more dynamic by allowing different strategies to be employed (stand off and long swipes/close and spinny cuts/disarming and one-shotting/etc). The precedent for those are in the movies, as well.
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Re: Lightsaber duelling now a sport...in France

Post by SpottedKitty » 2019-02-20 07:37am

The Romulan Republic wrote:
2019-02-19 03:42pm
I wonder if someone will (or already has) tried to develop the various canonical lightsaber styles into actual practice (granted I don't think you could do Vaapad, as it relies on channeling the Dark Side).
Aww... does this mean neat stuff like force chokes, lightning, and running across the ceiling are also off the list of legal moves...? 8)
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Re: Lightsaber duelling now a sport...in France

Post by Esquire » 2019-02-20 10:04am

I don't know, for me the silliness of the rules outweighs the initial 'lightsabers? Cool!'. I think they're going to get a lot less crossover from fencing, at least, than you might expect.

EDIT: Yes, I realize FFE wants it to work for publicity reasons, but everything else the national fencing organizations have tried in this vein have been massively unpopular failures, so I predict the trend will continue.
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Re: Lightsaber duelling now a sport...in France

Post by Lord Revan » 2019-02-20 12:45pm

The Romulan Republic wrote:
2019-02-19 03:42pm
I wonder if someone will (or already has) tried to develop the various canonical lightsaber styles into actual practice (granted I don't think you could do Vaapad, as it relies on channeling the Dark Side).
IIRC form 7 doesn't so much channel the dark side as it channels natural aggression and thrill of battle, which for a jedi is possible path to the dark side.
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Re: Lightsaber duelling now a sport...in France

Post by Sidewinder » 2019-02-22 12:42pm

Isn't this just kendo, with fancy shinai/bokken substitutes? Or will the organizers authorize the use of special quarterstaffs, so those cosplaying as Darth Maul can duel those cosplaying as Jinn/Kenobi?
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Re: Lightsaber duelling now a sport...in France

Post by Elheru Aran » 2019-02-22 12:47pm

Sidewinder wrote:
2019-02-22 12:42pm
Isn't this just kendo, with fancy shinai/bokken substitutes? Or will the organizers authorize the use of special quarterstaffs, so those cosplaying as Darth Maul can duel those cosplaying as Jinn/Kenobi?
I believe they do allow the light-staff option in some parts of the saber-fencing world, yes. Not familiar with it myself but fairly sure I've seen it happen on Youtube.
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