Sunday, July 21, 2024

Mexico City Jedi schools teach chilangos the art of the lightsaber

For five years, the Jedi Knight Academy in Mexico City has been teaching fans of the “Star Wars” movie franchise and others how to properly wield a lightsaber.

Some of the participants want to learn it just for fun.

Woman posing in a fencing stance with a blue lightsaber in a public courtyard in Mexico City at night.
Mexico City resident and Jedi Knight Academy member Michel Cajigal strikes a pose with her lightsaber. (Jedi Knight Academy Mexico City/Instagram)

Many are members of the Mexican chapter of a Star Wars fan club who want to be at their Jedi Master best when it comes time to conquer the galaxy — or in case there’s another Star Wars Parade in Mexico City like there was in 2022.

And some are sharpening their Jedi techniques in order to compete in lightsaber dueling — an actual sport recognized by the French Fencing Federation in 2019 (as part of an effort to get youngsters up and away from their computer and phone screens, but that’s another story).

So, four times a week, the Jedi Knight Academy turns a public area in Mexico City’s Coyoacan neighborhood into a virtual battle zone, with colorful, luminescent swords slashing through the air and combatants bounding to and fro.

The events frequently attract curious onlookers.

“When students arrive, some of them drop the saber,” Jedi Knight Academy instructor Ulises Vázquez told the Associated Press. “They don’t know how to handle it properly. But with the passing of time, you see them grow.” 

The three-hour classes generally start with meditation and a warmup, after which the students learn different moves that they perform repeatedly in pursuit of Luke Skywalker-style perfection — or that of his father, Anakin Skywalker (a.k.a Darth Vader). More advanced students wear protective equipment that looks like a galactic fencing uniform.

In Mexico City, Star Wars fans prepare to duel like Jedi knights

Four nights a week, Mexico City’s Jedi Knight Academy holds its lightsaber classes outside in a public space in the capital.

The sabers, which are made of ballistic-grade polycarbonate, are illuminated from within by a rainbow of colors.

Many of the lightsabers being used by Jedi Knight Academy padawans are designed and manufactured nearby at KTSR Sabers, a Mexico City company that sells lightsabers and helmets for cosplay and exhibition combat dueling. KTSR Sabers even does repairs and upgrades. 

Some of their products are also used by students at another school teaching lightsaber techniques —and, no, it’s not “in a galaxy far, far away.” 

The multidisciplinary Quetzal Combat Academy, founded eight years ago by Ricardo Jocksan Mejía Malvárez, is also in Mexico City. There, students learn the arts of the Jedi Knights or Sith warriors as seen in the 12 movies of the “Star Wars” franchise.

“I started with tae kwon do, then karate, ninjutsu, kenjutsu, HEMA and Olympic fencing,” Jocksan, 33, told the newspaper El País. “Those are the basis of everything we see in Star Wars. For example, the Shii-Cho form [of Jedi combat ] is based on a two-handed sword, be it a katana [a Japanese sword], a Korean saber, a ninjatō [used in feudal Japan] or a two-handed HEMA sword [the moniker for various weapons used in Historical European Martial Arts].”

On Thursday, Quetzal students will be participating in a lightsaber combat exhibition at a Pride Month Diversity Fair at Plaza Manuel Tolsá in central Mexico City (two blocks from the Palacio de Bellas Artes).

Quetzal’s advanced lightsaber students and instructors — including Jocksan dressed in an outfit inspired by the “Star Wars” baddie character Kylo Ren — also performed a choreographed routine for a “Concierto Galáctico” at the Ollin Yoliztli Cultural Center.

The concert occurred last month one day before International Star Wars Day, which is on May 4, of course. 

Uh, why hold it on May 4? 

Members of the Mexican Garrison of the international Star Wars fan club, the 501st Legion, can certainly tell you why: “May the Fourth be with you.”

With reports from El País, Associated Press and Screen Rant

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