The Force Awakens Anew . . . . in France!?

Alonzo Arostegui, Staff Writer

You don’t need to be a die-hard fan to know that Star Wars is one of the most influential science fiction series in all of pop culture. Millions of people from across the world have connected with this series and its characters in a way that few others could. While the series has many recognizable aspects that have spread across pop culture, its most iconic trait is the lightsaber. These glowing plasma swords are easily the most widely recognized feature of the sprawling space opera, even among people who have never seen any of the movies. Many fans (myself included) spent hours of their time swinging around toy lightsabers in their room, silently praying for the day when we could become something close to the Jedi and Sith of Star Wars. And, thanks to the efforts of the French Fencing Federation, that dream may be closer to reality than we think.

On February 18, the Associated Press reported that the French Fencing Federation has officially recognized lightsaber dueling as a competitive sport by making it a sub-class of fencing. As soon as I became aware of this news, I could almost sense the collective cries of joy from Star Wars nerds like myself resonating through my soul. Finally, the dream of swing around these glowing sabers of destruction like a deadly ballerina seemed possible! Even more exciting than the hearing news itself was seeing the amount of support the French Fencing Federation was putting behind the newly minted sport.

Not even a month after the news was broken, the French Fencing Federation has been hard at work turning lightsaber dueling from a fancy light show into a professional sport. Rules for dueling have been modified from fencing to better fit the flamboyant combat often associated with duels in the movies: Matches last a maximum of 3 minutes, take place in a circular field, points are only awarded for strikes that begin with the fighter swinging their lightsaber behind them, and duelists use LED-lit, polycarbonate lightsaber replicas with sound chips as weapons while wearing full body armor for protection. Fencing clubs across France are already being given these mock-lightsabers to train with and the Federation has begun training a line of professional lightsaber instructors. Additionally, a professional lightsaber tournament is planned for later this year, with the Federation simultaneously announcing plans to bring lightsaber dueling to the Olympics!

Now I know that, to the average person who isn’t a Star Wars fan like me, this may seem a bit like unwarranted overkill. They may be thinking, “What’s the value in making something from a series about magic space wizards and planet destroying 8-balls into a real sport, especially when this seems like it primarily appeals to those who are fans of the movies?” I hear you random average person, and I want to try and prove to you that there is far more value to this development than you may think.

To start off, the idea of making lightsaber dueling a competitive sport isn’t really that far-fetched. Sword-based sports, such as fencing and kendo, have been around for thousands of years. Having a sports federation that is in charge of overseeing these types of sports, just like the French Fencing Federation, makes a lot of sense when you think about it. And to those saying that lightsaber dueling is too silly to be an Olympic sport, I ask you this: If curling can be an Olympic sport, why should glow-sword kendo get snubbed?

However, above all else, the possible health benefits of promoting lightsaber dueling should be the main reason why more people should support its spread across the world. It is no secret that obesity is a worldwide epidemic, an has been for decades. According to the World Health Organization, worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975, with over 650 million obese adults and 41 million obese children recorded in 2016. This epidemic level escalation has been encouraged, at least in part, by the availability and appeal of sedentary activities like TV and video games. Lightsaber dueling as described by the French Fencing Federation would be an exercise-focused sport with enough discipline that it can appeal to both those desiring a casual and intensive exercise experience. But, what would give this sport a greater appeal than others is its connection to Star Wars. Imagine showing a random group of kids a selection of duels from the Star Wars movies, and then telling them that they could learn how to do that if they lived in France. You can bet you bottom dollar that most of those kids would be begging to get on a plane after hearing that.

In conclusion, the creation of lightsaber dueling as a sport is a positive sign for both fans and onlookers alike. With Disney’s new movies exposing the Skywalker Saga to a new generation of kids worldwide, the time is ripe for lightsaber dueling to go from fantasy to reality.

Let’s bring a galaxy far, far away to our kids today.