‘Star Wars’ fans become Jedi padawans at lightsaber school
A group of San Francisco "Star Wars" fans called the Golden Gate Knights meet weekly for a lightsaber combat choreography class. Jim Collum, foreground, and other students work on their lightsaber skills. (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)Link
Golden Gate Knights instructor Alain Block, left, and Gary Ripper, dressed as Darth Vader, demonstrate some lightsaber moves during a class. (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)Link
Student Aaron Cheng jumps over a lightsaber swung by fellow student Starshine Medeiros during a Golden Gate Knights class. (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)Link
Golden Gate Knights instructor Alain Block, right, leads a class. (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)Link
Golden Gate Knights instructor Alain Block demonstrates a move for his class. (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)Link
Gary Ripper, dressed as Darth Vader, walks past a Yoda doll during a Golden Gate Knights class. (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)Link
Sophianna Ardinger meditates after a Golden Gate Knights class. (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)Link
If you ever watched “Star Wars” and longed to wield a light saber of your own, you’re not alone, young padawan. A San Francisco “Star Wars” fan has created a combat choreography class for the Jedi and Sith weapon.
The class is the brainchild of Alain Bloch, a 32-year-old software engineer with a lifelong love of George Lucas’ epic space opera.
“There are a lot of really awesome costuming groups in the Bay Area, but there was no one that was doing reenactments of the lightsaber battles that you find in movies, which I find to be some of the most exciting parts of them,” Bloch told Hero Complex. “So I went around and was actually looking for somebody who could possibly teach me how to do this sort of choreography.”
Bloch found Matthew Carauddo, a fencing instructor and martial artist who works on stage choreography and teaches fencing in the Los Altos area, south of San Francisco. Carauddo was also a self-professed “Star Wars” geek and taught kids lightsaber choreography to supplement fencing, Bloch said. He trained Bloch, and then the pair founded Golden Gate Knights to bring more padawans into the Jedi order.
Two years later, the class meets weekly, with roughly 25 people (many in costume) slicing, jumping, spinning, parrying and meditating for three hours every Sunday. Classes cost $10 and are open to adults and teenagers accompanied by parents. Bloch refers children to Carauddo, who no longer teaches with Golden Gate Knights and runs his own classes in San Francisco’s South Bay area. For the last few sessions, Bloch said, he’s had to turn people away due to the space constraints of the dance studio where the group meets.
“We have people who have their own lightsabers and really want to learn how to use them and look cool flourishing them around,” Bloch said. “We have people who are into film who want to learn how to do some choreography for their film projects. And we have just a lot of people who are interested in fun weekend activities who want to come out and do something interesting. We have a lot of people are into ‘Star Wars,’ or at least curious about ‘Star Wars.’ And we have a lot of people come out on fun dates.”
Part of the appeal, Bloch said, is in the weapon itself. In the “Star Wars” films, the lightsaber is a sort of laser sword wielded only by members of the Jedi order and their dark counterpart, the Sith. It is, as Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke Skywalker in “A New Hope,” an “elegant weapon” as well as a symbol.
“The lightsaber is a very iconic element to ‘Star Wars,'” Bloch said. “It’s the sword. You see that in all sorts of stories and movies — it sort of represents this force of change. And there’s a virtuous element to the lightsaber; it’s made of light, and only those who are keen to the Force can wield it effectively. Since I was a kid, I wanted a lightsaber. It would be very symbolic of being a hero, in a sense. So a lot of people come to our class, and they kind of want to live out that childhood or maybe adulthood fantasy of being a Jedi knight, so our class is sort of a dream come true to them.”
The class has grown to the point that it’s self-sustaining, Bloch said, but he’s not going to be quitting his day job anytime soon.
“It’s just something I do on the side,” he said. “Only on the weekends I get to don my Jedi robes and feel the Force.”
For Los Angeles-based “Star Wars” fans who want to learn the ways of the Jedi, Bloch recommends classes held by the Saber Guild, or instructional DVDs (co-created by Carauddo and martial artist Mark Preader) for sale at www.sabercombat.com.
– Noelene Clark
Gallery produced by Bryan Chan.
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