The force awakens: French fencing federation recognizes lightsaber duelling as sport (VIDEOS)

The force awakens: French fencing federation recognizes lightsaber duelling as sport (VIDEOS)
Budding Jedi Knights looking to develop their fighting skills need look (Luke?) no further than France as the country’s fencing federation has recognized lightsaber duelling as an official sport for the first time.

Star Wars fans the world over have enjoyed wielding their own lightsabers and recreating the epic on-screen battles between good and evil in their living rooms, but now these troopers can show off their skills on the national stage after years fighting for recognition from the French Fencing Federation (FFE).

“We’ve managed to get geeks into sport, which is great, and sportsmen into the universe of Star Wars when some had not even seen a single episode of the saga,” Michel Ortiz, a referee at the national lightsaber tournament told Le Monde. The budding Jedi Knights, or Sith Lords, have exchanged the foil, epee and sabre used in the Olympic Games for LED-lit, lightsaber replicas.

The force behind lightsaber duelling is strong, and growing stronger all the time, as the sport currently boasts more than 1,100 licensees and 92 clubs across France.

The emerging competitive sport combines elements of cosplay, sci fi and fitness into one, and is aimed at getting a new generation off the couch and into the ‘Jedi Academies’ which have sprung up across Europe.  

Some lightsaber competitors have to settle for making the iconic lightsaber whirs and buzzes themselves while others can afford to fork out for the more expensive sabres which emit the sounds thanks to an in-built speaker system.

On the Dark Side of the budding sport is the rather steep cost, as much like Darth Vader’s own suit, protective gear can cost an arm and a leg, with the sturdy gloves, chest, shoulder and shin pads totalling somewhere in the region of €350 ($400).

Combatants fight in three-minute bouts within a circle and aim to strike each other on the head and body (5 points), arms and legs (3 points) or hands (1 point). The first to 15, or whoever has the most points after three minutes, wins. If both fighters reach 10 points, they enter ‘sudden death’ where the first to land a head or body strike wins.

A national lightsaber tournament outside Paris this month drew 34 competitors who fought hard in several thrilling bouts. But there could be only one champion.

“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 Ortiz.

While there are hundreds of budding Jedi Knights across France, the sport is still light years away from joining the Olympic Games proper.

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