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Lightsaber duelling now an officially recognised competitive sport in France

The fencing federation hopes this will encourage young people to exercise.

Lightsaber duelling now an officially recognised competitive sport in France

(Photo: AP/Christophe Ena)

The French Fencing Federation has officially recognised lightsabre duelling as a competitive sport, elevating the iconic sci-fi weapon to the same status as the fencing blades of the foil, epee and sabre.

“With young people today, it’s a real public health issue. They don’t do any sport and only exercise with their thumbs,” said Serge Aubailly, the federation's secretary general, to the Associated Press.

“It’s becoming difficult to (persuade them to) do a sport that has no connection with getting out of the sofa and playing with one’s thumbs. That is why we are trying to create a bond between our discipline and modern technologies, so participating in a sport feels natural.”

READ: Medieval fencing cuts a common ground for fans from all walks of life

Lightsabre duelling sees competitors slashing, feinting and stabbing in organised, three-minute bouts.

While the LED-lit, rigid polycarbonate lightsaber replicas can’t slice a Sith lord in half, some models emit a low electric rumble remarkably similar to the ones wielded in the blockbuster film series.

A national lightsabre tournament held outside Paris this month drew 34 competitors. It showcased how far the sport has come in a couple of years, thought it remains light years away from becoming mainstream.

Combatants fight inside a circle marked in tape on the floor. Strikes to the head or body are worth five points; to the arms or legs, three points; on hands, one point. The first to 15 points wins or, if they don’t get there quickly, the high scorer after three minutes. If both fighters reach 10 points, the bout enters “sudden death”, where the first to land a head- or body-blow wins, a rule to encourage enterprising fighters.

Blows only count if the fighters first point the tip of their saber behind them. That rule prevents the viper-like, tip-first quick forward strikes seen in fencing. Instead, the rule encourages swishier blows that are easier for audiences to see and enjoy, and are more evocative of the duels in Star Wars.

“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 Michel Ortiz, the tournament organiser, to AP.

Source: CNA/bk