Growing up, I surrounded myself with nerd culture and science fiction. I always wanted to be like the heroes I saw in movies, on TV, and in video games. I wanted drive the Batmobile, catch Pokèmon, and wield a lightsaber. If you are anything like me, you have probably wanted to do some of these things too. Now, you totally can! Well, you can do the last one at least. Right here in Western New York, you can learn to use a lightsaber.
The American Force Academy (AFA) in North Tonawanda is a school for lightsaber combat specialists where you acquire all the techniques of a true master. It will allow you to finally live your nerdy science fiction fantasies.
The AFA combines several forms of martial arts and combat styles including Western Fencing, Asian Stick Fighting, European Longsword, modern dueling tactics, and more. It can be a physically demanding activity to take part in, but it is something that anyone can do with enough training, practice, and time. Over time, anyone who continually takes part in their classes will see how much the effort pays off. The American Force Academy provides a safe environment for people to make mistakes and improve at their own pace.
Although the duelists really put up a fight, they always make sure to use control, in that they are not swinging to hurt their opponent. Like other martial arts academies, the club wants to practice the combat as safely as possible. The lightsabers used are obviously not made out of light. Rather, they are made out of a harder plastic. Thankfully, they are extremely sturdy and don’t break easily. However, if misused, they can actually hurt. It is heavily recommended that participants wear protective gear such as lacrosse gloves, fencing helmets, Motocross jackets, etc. As far as equipment goes, there are class sabers that students can use, but it is recommended people eventually get their own.
There are multiple kinds of sabers used for dueling in the class. Some are longer and held with two hands, and others are shorter and meant for dual-wielding. There are plenty of different hilts a saber can have as well. Those looking to take classes, and take part in duels, are able to try out different sabers to find which ones they are most comfortable wielding.
There are also various forms of saber combat. Students learn a different form at each level of their training. For example, Level 1 handles the more standard two-handed style combat, while Level 4 introduces dual fencing tactics in which the duelist holds two sabers. Level 1 teaches the basics, while Levels 4 and 5 are more focused on parrying and countering. There is also a large focus on philosophy and meditating. This is not just a physical activity, but a mental one as well.
By attending classes, you will learn about all the different kinds of sabers and combat styles. You will also learn about the different Dulons. “Dulon” is a term used to describe Lightsaber movements and maneuvers placed within a specific sequence. A lightsaber Dulon is utilized as a way to practice footwork, striking methods, postures, and combat maneuvers. Each Dulon has their own specific philosophy and methods of application. The practice of a Dulon helps students to fully understand the concepts and expressions of the Dulon itself, which will lead to enhancing their training.
The American Force Academy does step out of their school for special events. You may see them at Buffalo Comicon, Nickel City Con, and other conventions. This is a great way to interact with them and see some of what they do before you join a class. You can also see them in action at their YouTube channel.
The American Force Academy took something only seen in movies, and brought it to life. This is an idea that I find extraordinarily exciting; taking something that was only thought of as fantasy and making it real. Maybe there are ways of bringing other things to life if we put our minds to it, like customizing a car to look like the Batmobile, or building a usable version of Captain America’s shield. I have always wanted to duel with a lightsaber, and the AFA has provided the opportunity to live out that dream.
The American Force Academy hosts their classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights and on Sunday mornings. Classes are for adults only. For more information on the American Force Academy, feel free to visit their website here:
You can also find the academy on Facebook.