The French fencing federation has officially recognised lightsaber duelling as a competitive sport. The federation has made this unusual move in an attempt to make the sport more appealing to a younger generation, designing rules to make sporting matches every bit as visually appealing as their big-screen counterparts.
Participants will be required to use an illuminated weapon, although they’ll have to settle for a “blade” made of polycarbonate rather than the magnetically-contained plasma of the films, though participants will still need to wear masks and armour to protect themselves during matches.
The sport of lightsaber dueling has more additional rules than normal fencing, which have been designed to improve its aesthetic appeal. For example, the point of the lightsaber needs to reach behind each fighter before they attempt a hit on an opponent. The intention is to make fights consist of large sweeping motions as seen in the films rather than the quick stabs of the blade you see in other forms of fencing.
Otherwise, the sport’s rules are more typical of fencing. Points are awarded depending on where the blade (or saber) makes contact (hitting the head or body gets you five points, hitting the arms or legs gets you three, and contact on the hands gets you just only one point), and the first person to reach 15 points wins. If the duel hasn’t concluded after three minutes, then the person with the highest score automatically wins the match.
“With young people today, it’s a real public health issue. They don’t do any sport and only exercise with their thumbs. That is why we are trying to create a bond between our discipline and modern technologies, so participating in a sport feels natural.”
– Serge Aubailly, the Federation’s Secretary General
In years gone by, the likes of Zorro, Robin Hood and The Three Musketeers helped inspire new practitioners into the world of fencing. Now you have modern day icons like, Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Rey, Darth Maul and Darth Vader joining them.
“Cape-and-sword movies have always had a big impact on our federation and its growth,” Aubailly says. “Lightsaber films have the same impact. Young people want to give it a try.”
– Serge Aubailly
So far there has been no talk about lightsaber duelling in the 2024 Paris Olympics. But maybe one day, years from now (when the technology is there) we’ll be able to see real lightsaber duels during these tournaments.