In Metz, around 60 lightsaber enthusiasts competed this weekend for the title of French champion – a first for this discipline.
"En garde… Ready? Fight!" In an arena eight meters in diameter, two fighters dance around each other, dodging and attacking.
Armed with a lightsaber about a meter long, each competitor tries to hit their opponent, each part of the body earning a certain number of points. To win, you have to be the first to reach 15 points or to have won the most points in three minutes.
Equipped with a breastplate, elbow pads, shoulder pads, knee pads, shin guards and mask, the "laserist" looks like a mixture of Samurai and CRS. A referee and two assessors ensure compliance with the rules, which particularly prohibit heavy strikes.
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"It's going very quickly," says Celine Marie Mercier, alias "Anxifera," catching her breath after her defeat against an opponent from Colmar. The 26-year-old – one of six women among the 60 competitors – has been training since 2018 in Lyon at a club where she met her husband.
"What I like about this sport is the passion around the universe (of Star Wars)," says Mercier, who works in the video game industry. "We practice a weapon which is basically fictitious and which has now become the fourth weapon of the French fencing federation."
A new hope: A European championship
In 2018, the French Fencing Federation recognized the lightsaber – popularized in George Lucas' science fiction saga - as the fourth official weapon, along with foil, saber and epee.
Much less dangerous than that of the Jedis, the sporting weapon consists of an aluminum handle and a long polycarbonate tube, lit by a colored LED. It can be green, blue, red... and emit sounds.
After only a few years of existence, there are now 183 clubs in France and around 2,300 members, a third of whom are women. Practitioners range from 17 to 45 years old.
That's an average age "that we try to rejuvenate because the children like it" notes Bruno Gares, president of the French Fencing Federation. He sees big things for a sport that, for now, France is "the only nation to have structured."
"We are working with the European fencing confederation to train other countries in the lightsaber to make it a European championship," he explains, with a secondary aim of targeting "the international federation so that it becomes a separate sport entirely."
Metz was selected to organize this championship because its club - called the Academie de la Force - is one of the most active, with around 50 members. The competition was open to everyone aged 18 or over, with no height or weight restrictions.
"It's a combat sport, and that's what attracted me more than anything else," says 18-year-old student Tom Bardsley, from Dunkirk. "The goal is to be in the final... but the main thing is to have fun."
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Video editor: Steve Chappell