Celebrating the Winter Lights in Downtown Ithaca

On Friday the 13th Ithaca Sabers hosted an event on the Ithaca Commons as part of the city’s inaugural Winter Lights Festival.  That makes perfect sense to me as what could be more festive than a few dozen lightsabers sabers swinging through the air?  From 5-8 pm we set up a booth where passersby could learn more about the quickly growing world of Lightsaber Combat and check out the sorts of sabers and safety gear that we use.

Visitors of all ages could also take a free mini-class in which they learned the basic strikes and parries used in our system of fencing.  The crowd really got into this and we soon had over a dozen new Younglings going through their paces despite the sporadic drizzle of rain.

The students of Ithaca Sabers also put on a demonstration for the crowd walking them through the basic pillars of the Terra Prime Light Armory (TPLA) system of Lightsaber Combat, and demonstrating some of the basic drills that we use in our classes.  Topic covered included the first four forms of Lightsaber Combat, two-personal exchange drills and a bit of exotic weapons work in the form of the saber staff (always a crowd favorite).

The big event of the evening was an invitational lightsaber tournament fought between students of several local lightsaber clubs (Ithaca Sabers, The Gathering of Sabers in Syracuse, Synergistic Martial Arts (also in Syracuse) and the Fingerlakes Ludosport Academy in Elmira). By this point in the evening things had gotten distinctly chilly, but the city provided us with all the free hot chocolate we could want, and there is really no better way to keep warm than three minute rounds of competitive fencing.  By about midway through our bracket everyone was glad for the cool breeze.

This tournament was played using the international ruleset designed by the French Fencing Federation (FFE).  The FFE grabbed headlines earlier this year when they proclaimed Lightsaber Combat to be an official (government backed and regulated) sport in France, putting it on the same level as more traditional fencing disciplines such as foil, epee and saber. Rather than being a simple “first touch” system, this ruleset attempts to eliminate double hits and encourage more sophisticated exchanges by employing a right-of-way rule and the same sorts of “arming” protocols seen in some European stick fighting traditions.  From an educational standpoint these two rules encourage new fencers to use their parries and defensive footwork rather than simply rushing headlong into any opening which they see.  Spectators also appreciate the longer volleys and more “cinematographic” nature of these bouts.  

Ithaca Sabers is part of the TPLA (Terra Prime Light Armory) network which has partnered with the FFE to offer certifications and training in this rule set in the United State.  Anyone interesting in learning more, or getting certified either as a fighter or referee, should watch this space as we will be holding workshops and certification tests in either late January or February of 2020 (weather permitting).  Feel free to contact us for more details on either the FFE system or the upcoming certifications.

It was wonderful to have an opportunity to preview this material in a public exhibition and tournament.  We cannot say enough about how great it was to work with the festival’s organizers who provided us with both a PA system and the grand prize for the tournament winner (a brand new “mystery box” saber from Ultrasabers). Thanks also go to our students and everyone who came out to support us. Congratulations to Rob Zollinger, who took first place in the tournament. We cannot wait to do it again next year!

You can also read more about this event in the local news.

Rob with his new prize saber. Congratulations!

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