From Fitness to Fencing: Fans Learn How to Fight Star Wars Style

Jin di Giordano, Vallejo and Shawna Seth, San Francisco, practice a new technique at a Saber Guild event. Local lightsaber combat groups practice across the Bay Area and give Star Wars fans a unique workout experience.

Jin di Giordano and Shawna Seth practice a new technique at a Saber Guild event. Local lightsaber combat groups practice across the Bay Area and give Star Wars fans a unique workout experience. (Bianca Hernandez/KQED)

For fans of the blockbuster Star Wars series, swinging a lightsaber around the backyard was probably a fond childhood memory.

Now, thanks to the progression of technology and a burgeoning local combat community, some Bay Area fans get to learn to fight like their favorite characters.

“As a kid you throw around a lightsaber, playing around with it. As an adult, you find something like this, and it’s like you’ve found it,” says Michael Masangkay about finding lightsaber combat classes. “It’s just a pure joy, a pure enthusiasm. And it’s very infectious.”

Golden Gate Knight instructors Steven Steffen and Lee Thomason demonstrate the next moves in the sequence the class is learning. Though costumes are not required for the class, many feel create their own.
Golden Gate Knight instructors Steven Steffen and Lee Thomason demonstrate the next moves in the sequence the class is learning. Though costumes are not required for the class, many create their own. (Bianca Hernandez/KQED)

Masangkay is an instructor at LudoSport in San Francisco, one of several places in the Bay Area that teaches kids and adults how to use a lightsaber, or rather, the closest option they can get to the real thing. The sabers used in these classes aren’t something someone can pick up at a store. They’re made to be durable and safe to fight with, and they can usually only be found online.

“The technology has gotten a lot simpler, and it’s a lot easier for someone to actually build their own lightsaber than it was 10 years ago,” says Erich Bitonia, who builds his own lightsabers and uses them at lightsaber combat classes in the South Bay. “What’s cooler than walking around with a lightsaber?”

The handles are commonly made from aluminum, often customized to look like something seen in the movies. The blades are a polycarbonate tube affixed to the handle for safety. Some sabers are fancier than others — made to be lighter or have extra color options for the blade — while others can be much simpler.

Combat-ready sabers are used in classes like the one held by Golden Gate Knights. The specially made hilt and blade are made to be durable, but easy to fight with.
Combat-ready sabers are used in classes like the one held by Golden Gate Knights. The specially made hilt and blade are made to be durable, but easy to fight with. (Bianca Hernandez/KQED)

Each lightsaber combat class has its own spin, appealing to the wide spectrum of fans.

LudoSport, where Masangkay is an instructor, is more technical and teaches students a system that is reminiscent of fencing. All the students learn a fighting system, and many of them compete at tournaments.

Golden Gate Knights, also in San Francisco, focuses on choreography. This gives students, who often create costumes of their favorite Star Wars characters to perform in, a way to mimic the fights seen on screen.

“I first started wanting to go to these classes because I was cosplaying Star Wars characters and wanted to know how to pose and play around with a lightsaber,” says Jin di Giordano, who is now working on choreography for her favorite character in the Golden Gate Knights class. “A lot of people don’t even know this kind of thing exists.”

Members of LudoSport learn a system that can be used in class or in competition. The program exists internationally, but San Francisco was one of the first cities in the U.S. to get a LudoSport class.
Members of LudoSport learn a system that can be used in class or in competition. The program exists internationally, but San Francisco was one of the first cities in the U.S. to get a LudoSport class. (Bianca Hernandez/KQED)

In the South Bay, there is Lightsaber Team, a combat choreography and fitness group, offering fans who want a workout a chance to learn moves and stay fit.

Also in the South and East Bay, the local Saber Guild chapter offers classes that teaches choreography. Guild members have to create a costume that meets certain standards since the group is Lucasfilm-sanctioned, but non-members with no costumes can still go to lightsaber classes.

Lightsabers light up the night as students wrap up a Saber Guild class.
Lightsabers light up the night as students wrap up a Saber Guild class. (Bianca Hernandez/KQED)

Masangkay says that the movies and lightsabers bring people in, but something else keeps them coming back.

“What keeps them here is the sportsmanship, the evolution of your skills, the challenge and the friendships people build,” he says.

From Fitness to Fencing: Fans Learn How to Fight Star Wars Style 31 December,2017Bianca Hernandez

  • Ferd Terado

    Don’t forget about The Saber Tribe https://www.sabertribe.com/. We’re located in the San Mateo/Foster City area, CA. We focus on developing highly technical skills for dueling so we teach correct body mechanics, footwork and fitness. We’re currently accepting new members! ^_^

Author

Bianca Hernandez

Bianca Hernandez is an Interactive Producer at KQED. She has produced at KGPE, KSEE24 and Sierra Magazine. In 2011 she received an undergraduate degree in Journalism and Anthropology from CSU, Chico . She earned a Master’s from the University of Southern California in 2013, where she completed a documentary on teenage farmworkers. She is an avid Jane Austen fan and takes lightsaber combat class for fun. You can reach her at bhernandez@kqed.org or @bookhoarding on Twitter.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor