The force is strong in the Palm Beaches. It seems like everywhere you turn there is someone in a shirt depicting the battle between the Galactic Empire and the Rebellion, or perhaps even between the First Order and the Resistance. Tens of thousands of people even participate in cosplay events, where they dress as their favorite character, or as a character inspired by someone in the Star Wars universe, and gather at conventions to celebrate their geekdom.
For those individuals who want to take their obsession to the next level, there’s the Saber Legion. The Saber Legion began two years ago when some friends in Minnesota brought custom LED sabers to a barbecue, whacked each other with them, and had an idea. 🙂 Since that momentous day in the history of the universe, they have evolved into an international saber combat organization that combines the best aspects of martial art, sport, fitness, cameraderie, and the sci-fi fandom community.
“Our focus is combat dueling, and no experience is required, we can train just about anyone,” stated local charter representative Jared Graham. “That said, some of our members come to us with previous experience in kendo, fencing, HEMA, SCA, escrima, or many other disciplines, so our fighting ends up looking like swordfighting MMA… except with combat-quality LED sabers. Also note: our organization is completely equal and inclusive, and a TSL fighter is a TSL fighter, period.”
The sabers they use are steel or aircraft aluminum, with blades are made of polycarbonate, the same material as the older tonfa-style police batons. They’re available from lots of companies now, but the three most popular are Ultrasabers, Saberforge, and Vader’s Vault. Utilizing padding and armor from a wide variety of sports, the fighters attempt to find the most protection without sacrificing mobility, and most members customize it to resemble various characters.
“Becoming a member is simply a matter of finding and joining your local charter’s Facebook Group, signing a Hold Harmless waiver and a Code of Conduct agreement, and then coming to meets (which are scheduled and published via the Facebook Group),” Graham continued. “Age 16 and 17 may fight with a guardian’s signature and presence, but only at local meets; age 18 and over may sign for themselves and fight at both local meets and tournaments. There is no admission cost for meets (except in rare cases where facilities charge rent) and training is free, and at first we do have some loaner sabers and gear for limited use, but members who want to remain long-term, progress, and potentially compete in our international tournaments are responsible for getting their own sabers and gear. We assist with that too, however, advising what gear works best, and sharing sales and deals with our members from a variety of stores and websites.”
“We’re in the middle of something of a popularity explosion,” added Graham. “We have charters in more than thirty states in the US, and more in Canada, the UK, Australia, Japan, and Norway. We’re currently at about five thousand members, and our second annual tournament (to be held in Minnesota this month) has already confirmed sixty-four fighters. We also hold Championship Series events (invitationals for select fighters) around the US about five times per year. We were recently featured on ESPN’s May the 4th Be With You specials, and charters around the United States are being invited to conventions left and right.”
If you’re interested in finding out how to wield a “light” sabre, as well as more details about the organization, they are hosting a few events that you might want to check out in the near future.
“Here in South Florida (Fort Lauderdale / Miami), we generally get between 10 and 30 attendees per meet, which happens about twice a month, and we occasionally hold meets in Orlando and Tampa as well,” Graham concluded. “We’ll also have a table and be presenting a demonstration and panel on Saturday at the upcoming Supercon.”
As for us, we’re planning on covering the Florida Supercon, and look forward to seeing what the Saber Legion is all about. May the Force be with you!