by Craig J Page
“Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.” - C.S. Lewis
February 19th, 2009. I walk in to the Roy Arias studios in Hell’s Kitchen. I find myself in a small studio, maybe 40x40. A handful of us are in the room. Maria, our instructor, warms us up with some stretches, and then goes in to a sword form.
She explains that this sword form was developed based on the first of Seven styles of Lightsaber Combat that was developed in the Expanded Universe of Star Wars. She said it was built by one of their own, based on his own experience with martial arts and exploring the (admittedly vague) descriptions. What we were learning was built for the lightsaber.
I was immediately hooked.
Ten years later, I look back on what made me join this group. Why learn lightsaber stage combat? Why take up a saber, put on the robes, and go on the stage?
I think this is a healthy question to ask. One of the things many people tend to forget is that we’re (well, most of us) are aware of how crazy this all is. We’re playing around with glowing sticks pretending to be in a highly trademarked and copyrighted Intellectual Property that none of us can never claim any sort fiscal ownership of. There are better ways of getting exercise, there are other martial and physical arts to partake. Hell, why not do the Renn Faire circuit.
Why the lightsaber?
I can’t speak for everyone, but my background covers the three major types of people we often see in class. I have a black belt in JiuJitsu, I was involved in college theater, and I’m a massive nerd.
Martial artists often look at the lightsaber as an interesting thought experiment. They take the styles they study and try to translate it to a weapon which is all cutting, with no flat-of-the-blade to aid in parrying, blocks, or blade control.”
The creatives, the actors and writers, see it as a means of how to tell a story. This is a tool of a Much Bigger Story. Every one knows a lightsaber, everyone knows the kinds of stories that have been told with them. What else can we tell.
And then there are the nerds who look at what they have in their hand and get to gush that for one second they have a LIGHTSABER in their hands. Lets not kid ourselves. Anyone walking in to the room and wanting to take any business a glorified maglite takes center stage is, in some form or another, a massive geek. I’ve met people who, after a few months of working within some of the various groups, come to terms with the fact that they were a closeted nerd.
I was one of them, grew up never having the outlet. This group gave me that outlet and the comfort and trust to let me be that. And since then, I’ve seen the community grow. The Star Wars fandom is tens of thousands -if not more- and filled with groups of various stripes and focuses. You want a group that could field strip an X-Wing? They got it. Droids? Done, and getting better with every year. You want Stormtroopers and Mandolorians. When and where you need ‘em?
This community grows and maintains because Star Wars is so much a part of our cultural consciousness. There’s a reason we’re not doing groups on Tron, Gun Kata, Gym Kata, or any other fictional fighting style or world. Four generations of children have been playing with broom handles making humming noises with ever swing. When those lightsabers turn on, everyone sees them. Everyone knows.
And I think there is something to be said in those brief moments, when you’re in the costume, when you’re lighting up the saber. There are those brief moments where part of you forgets that you’re some kid on the street of new york doing something really geeky with their friends and start thinking for one second you’re really doing it. In role play, they call that sensation Bleed, and it can be very powerful. But what makes doing stage combat so worth it is that we can take that sensation and share it with an audience.
If we, for even a brief second, make you think that Lightsabers are real and that there are Jedi and Sith (and Rogues as well) to wield them, then we’ve succeeded in our job. And it is those moments that I come for, and it’s those moments where I stay. That’s old magic, as far as I’m concerned. We might as well share it.
Craig Page is a Bronx-born, Jersey City-based writer and role playing game designer. With ten years experience in the lightsaber stage combat community, Craig is a noted authority on the Seven Forms of Lightsaber Combat, and maintains his own blog The Snark Side of the Force. When not discussing lightsabers, he can be found posting fiction on his Patreon page.