On Saturday, December 12, at a yoga studio in Doral, a dozen barefoot people hold PVC pipes covered with foam. They break off into pairs and then swing their DIY weapons as hard as they can at each other. After a few minutes, they take a break. Their knuckles hurt.
It looks like they could be sword fighting, but they’re not. This is lightsaber practice. The group calls itself Magic City Jedi, and it’s one of just a handful of lightsaber combat groups in the world (others are in New York, San Francisco, San Jose, and the Philippines), some of which call themselves “The Society of Lightsaber Duelists.”
“It’s pretty much a bunch of Star Wars enthusiasts coming together to learn lightsaber choreography,” explains instructor Alfred Smith, whose day job is in marketing for an airline company. “A friend and I decided to start a chapter here, and we’ve had a good turnout already.”
Although Smith and his business partner, Santiago Martinez, have been Star Wars fans for decades, the lightsaber class has been about four months in the making. Smith learned the choreography by going to New York City and training with a lightsaber group there.
“Their group was really interesting and had a good number of students,” Smith says. “There were even some dancers there who were trying to learn to enhance their choreography with swords.”
Smith and Martinez planned a curriculum. At their first class, at I Am Equilibrium studios, they let students get familiar with using their makeshift lightsabers. The wannabe Jedis were taught proper stance (elbows in, feet comfortably apart). Students were advised to keep loose wrists and shown how to swing their lightsabers around — a move they call a flourish. They were also taught six offensive moves.
December 12 was their second practice. The class started with a three-minute silent meditation and then stretching. Smith and Martinez then reviewed the offensive moves from the class before and practiced them again. Then students learned defensive moves. Afterward, they broke off into pairs and practiced the moves on a partner. Some people kept a straight face the entire time, deep in concentration, but most students were giddy that they were actually fighting someone like in the movies.
“Right now, it’s just choreography,” Smith says. “Once the students learn a little more, we could try actual combat. They do that in the Philippines. It all depends what everyone wants.”
The instructors circle the room, giving advice on stance and poses. For about ten minutes, though, Smith hands off two lightsabers that light up and make swooshing noises. These are nothing like the ones from toy stores. These are high-end models that come in all sorts of colors and range from $54 to $479. Everyone agrees that this is their favorite part of the class. It’s definitely the most entertaining. While some students have lightsabers of their own, this is the first time they have ever fought with someone with a lightsaber in hand too.
“Don’t be afraid to swing hard,” Smith says. “Don’t worry — they won’t break!”
The next class is scheduled for January 9. Classes have been taking place once every two weeks, but if demand increases, they will hold classes every week and add different levels if necessary. The classes are 90 minutes long and cost $15 for the first class and $10 for every class after. They are held at I Am Equilibrium studios in Doral. For more information, find Society of the Lightsaber on Facebook.
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Jess Swanson is a staff writer at New Times. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and wrote briefly for the student newspaper until realizing her true calling: pissing off fraternity brothers by reporting about their parties on her crime blog. Especially gifted in jumping rope and solving Rubik’s cubes, she also holds the title for longest stint as an unpaid intern in New Times history. She left the Magic City for New York to earn her master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, where she spent a year profiling circumcised men who were trying to regrow their foreskins for a story that ultimately won the John Horgan Award for Critical Science Journalism. Terrified by pizza rats and arctic temperatures, she quickly returned to her natural habitat.