The lightsaber is perhaps the defining image of the Star Wars series, and fencings top brass are hoping it can do for the sport what the Hunger Game did for archery
The Hunger Gamesgave Olympic archery a big boost, with thousands of kids taking up a bow and arrow to be more like Jennifer Lawrence.
So with another generation of Star Warsfans being raised on The Force Awakens, will we consider more people taking up fencing? The lightsaber an elegant weapon for a more civilized age is the defining image of the Star Wars series. Even the much-maligned prequels had plenty of lightsaber highlightings. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan v Darth Maul. Mace Windu disposing of Boba Fetts dad. Yoda flipping through the air to show his stuff. The climactic finale of Obi-Wan v Anakin.
And the flashy combats do indeed bringing a few more people to fencing instructors such as 2008 Olympic medalist Tim Morehouse, who has recently opened a fencing club in addition to his nonprofit program Fencing in the Schools.
Weve had people emailing every day, Morehouse said. A lot of periods, a kid cites Star Wars. Theyre at home breaking things, and their parents want to get them somewhere where its legal.
Internationally, person in the fencing world is trying to unite the worlds of steel and light. The organizers at the last fencing World Championships in Moscow paid homage to the glowing swords with an elaborately choreographed exhibition duel, though the music didnt fit.
Fencing has been a successful athletic in the USA in the past decade. In 2004, Mariel Zagunis and Sada Jacobson violated a 20 -year medal drought with gold and bronze in womens saber, then took gold and silver in 2008 while team-mate Becca Ward completed the sweep with bronze. That trio also took bronze in the team event, while Morehouse and the US mens saber fencers took silver. US girls also have taken a team foil silver in 2008 and squad epee bronze in 2012.
At the grass roots, USA Fencing has a solid membership base. The competitive membership ranks have been consistently in the 20,000 – to 22,000 range in recent years, while total membership has blossomed to more than 33,000 with a new non-competitive membership offered since 2012 that includes after school programs and introductory classes.
And the Star Wars tale continues to inspire new fencers of all generations, even when theres no new movie in theaters, says Bob Bodor, USA Fencings membership services administrator. Star Wars has always been a valuable recruiting tool for the sport, Bodor said. Club administrators, the first line of recruiting in the fencing community, have long sought to capitalize on the lightsabers popularity.
One club specifically sought to attain the most out of the release of The Force Awakens. The Maryland Fencing Club replaced its annual Christmas party with a lightsaber tournament.
Not that lightsaber dueling seems a lot like fencing beyond the general concept of battling with long objects. Star Wars cast members train in the Japanese martial art of kendo, in which fighters use both hands to exert bamboo sticks with the occasional acrobatic flourish befitting a Jedi.
A realistic fencing bout wouldnt offer up the drama George Lucas and JJ Abrams are seeking. A point in a saber bout typically lasts three to five seconds, with the occasional 15 -second epic.
And Morehouse would like his chances of success if someone came at him swaying a lightsaber over his or her head. They would be done in under one second, Morehouse said. I would have defeated them.
But despite the kendo influence, fencers played a big role in the Star Warsseries. The late British fencer Richard Bonehill played several roles in The Empire Strikes Backand Return of the Jedi while his countryman Bob Anderson, who choreographed the gold standard of fencing scenes in The Princess Bride, was the man behind Darth Vaders mask in his showdowns in Empire and Jedi.
Besides its a light saber . Not a light stick. The name is well-chosen unlike the foil and the epee, the saber can score a phase in fencing with any portion of the blade. A light-foil or light-epee would imply that a strike with the side of the beam of light wouldnt hurt, which several Star Wars characters with missing hands or arms would dispute.
And its not as if Jennifer Lawrence perfectly simulated competitive archery in The Hunger Games. Her develop with with Olympic archery medalist Khatuna Lorig paid off, but Hollywood always tweaks something. An Archery 360 analysis praised Lawrences posture and release but said her grip needed run. But if your arrows explode, accuracy is a little less important than it is in the Olympics.
Besides, technological accuracy isnt always crucial for nine-year-olds. Morehouse insures plenty of children who dont mind the differences between the Star Wars galaxy and this one. We have a lot of kids who are super-stoked to be fencing and swordfighting even if its not exactly like in the movies.
Star Wars prequel casting member Samuel L Jackson has, following the traditions of dueling, flung the gauntlet at the present casting, saying they need to go to lightsaber opposed school.
Maybe Morehouse can help.
If youre into swordfighting, come along down to fencing, Morehouse said. Youll have a good time. You dont get into trouble for reaching people with stuff in fencing.
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