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Not a mind trick: Star Wars lightsaber dueling just became an official sport in France

By Benjamin Bullard
The Last Jedi Crait duel via official site 2019

Of all the ideas the rest of the world might want to adopt from France, we’re nominating this one to be next: making lightsaber dueling an actual sport — one that’s officially recognized by a sanctioning body.

The French Fencing Federation wants you to walk out with your laser sword, challenge your adversary with some Jedi trash talk, and then compel their surrender, preferably without using any Jedi mind tricks.

OK, maybe that’s the ambitious version of what’s really going on, but if letting your Star Wars imagination run wild is what it takes to, ahem, force a generation of sedentary kids off the couch and into action, the federation is all for it.

Via The Associated Press, the sport’s official French governing body has elevated lightsaber dueling to the level of a true competitive endeavor and granted this galaxy’s polycarbonate versions of the elegant weapons “the same status as the foil, epee, and sabre, the traditional blades used at the Olympics.”

Under the federation’s guidelines, the umpired lightsaber duels last three minutes each and take place inside a taped floor circle, with various types of strikes earning points that are tallied at the end of the duel. The guidelines are pretty rigid, but thankfully, there’s no room in the world of lightsaber dueling for a tie match. If all the talk of rules is boring, here’s a handy walkthrough of the basics:

Fighting in the dark definitely looks as fun as it sounds, but it’s really the organization’s way to promote the sport of fencing while encouraging young people to aspire to the kind of physical activity they’d otherwise only be watching actors carry out in the movies.

“With young people today, it’s a real public health issue,” federation secretary general Serge Aubailly explained to the AP. “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.”

Jedi fighting may be an official sport now, but sadly, there’s little chance it’ll be taking its place alongside the other classical sword-fighting sports in the Olympics anytime soon. It’s probably for the best, though: Keeping the rules on a match-by-match basis only feels like just the right balance between Rebellion-swashbuckling and Empire-efficient. Swoosh-swoosh!