WASHINGTON (CIRCA) — Lightsaber dueling is no longer something limited to a galaxy far, far away, now that the French fencing league has officially incorporated the sport into its federation.
The French Fencing Federation will now give the iconic "Star Wars" light saber the same recognition as the traditional foil seen in classic fencing. While amateur lightsaber dueling has been a popular pop culture phenomenon for years, the federation also hopes giving it an official status will have a more practical effect.
"With young people today, it's a real public health issue. They don't do any sport and only exercise with their thumbs," Serge Aubailly, the federation's secretary general, told The Associated Press. "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."
Lightsaber dueling may sound like fantasy, but its practitioners are serious about the sport. Modern-day Jedis adhere to a set of rules, use specified equipment, and participate in major tournaments. At the center of it all, of course, are the swords themselves. Instead of the deadly, plasma-beam swords wielded by the Jedi and Sith, duelists use weapons made of polycarbonate, LED lights and aluminum. Weapons vary from simple to elaborate, with some that include microchips that allow for the classic "whooshing" sounds seen in the Star Wars movies.
The rules of the sport are what make it both physical and entertaining.
"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, a tournament organizer.
Practitioners start their bouts inside a circle marked by tape on the floor. The goal is to accumulate 15 points as quickly as possible by successfully striking an opponent. Blows to the head and body are worth five points, arms and legs are worth three, and hands are given one. If neither duelist achieves the required score in three minutes, the highest score wins. But if both get 10 points, the fighters enter "sudden death," where the first blow to the head or body wins.
But what makes the sport truly unique is the rule requiring fighters to point the tip of their weapon behind them before striking. This prevents the opponents from engaging in the quick strikes seen in traditional fencing, forcing them to engage in the hack-and-slash moves audiences see in the movies.
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