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Finsbury Park company’s ‘light sabre’ fencing gets nerds into martial arts

PUBLISHED: 15:01 14 April 2016

Light Sabre fencing classes at the Wu Shi Studio

Light Sabre fencing classes at the Wu Shi Studio

Archant

At the back of a studio in Finsbury Park, a group of children wearing masks are duelling with colourful fluorescent swords.

Light Sabre fencing classes at the Wu Shi StudioLight Sabre fencing classes at the Wu Shi Studio

But this is no Star Wars convention. Known as “LED sabre”, it’s a version of fencing that combines historical long sword techniques and martial arts practice.

Light Sabre fencing classes at the Wu Shi StudioLight Sabre fencing classes at the Wu Shi Studio

And this studio, at the Wu Shi Taiji Quan and Qi Gong Association in Blackstock Road, is where it all began.

Light Sabre fencing classes at the Wu Shi StudioLight Sabre fencing classes at the Wu Shi Studio

A senior in the association, Tai Chi instructor Faisal Mian, first came up with the idea two years ago.

Light Sabre fencing classes at the Wu Shi StudioLight Sabre fencing classes at the Wu Shi Studio

“One of my students turned up to class and asked if I could help teach a Jedi workshop for a drama school,” Mian told the Gazette. “Then she pulled out an LED sabre and said: ‘Here you go’. I had no idea they actually existed until that point – despite spending years studying swords.”

Light Sabre fencing classes at the Wu Shi StudioLight Sabre fencing classes at the Wu Shi Studio

The sabre turned out to be exactly what he’d been looking for: “For many years, I’d been looking for a way to fence without using steel or wood – for which you either have to wear so much armour that you can’t move naturally any more or else someone is going to end up in hospital. So, as a practice tool, this is absolutely ideal.”

Light Sabre fencing classes at the Wu Shi StudioLight Sabre fencing classes at the Wu Shi Studio

Inspired by the sabre, Mr Mian, a Star Wars fan, decided to launch his own classes as a way to get children more interested in martial arts, and set up the “Silver Sabres Combat Academy” with fellow instructor Nick Musson.

Although the swords are inspired by the epic film series, Mr Mian is keen to stress they’re not really light sabres. “The fictional device it emulates belongs to Star Wars, but we use LED sabres as a functional educational device to teach traditional sword arts,” he explained.

Last month, this new discipline was officially certified by British Fencing, the organisation that governs Olympic fencing in Britain. This means that other teachers can now train children and young people to use LED sabres by completing the new coaching programmes.

“The benefit of using LED sabres is that we can teach children at a much younger age – and that’s what we need,” said Mr Mian.

The classes attract children and adults alike, and they don’t have to be super-fit. “We get nerds, geeks, dorks. They’re the kids who play Minecraft and read comics - and they’re a lovely crowd,” he said.

“We don’t arrange fights according to weight, age or gender. Everybody gets a shot at everyone else. And we fight to one conclusive hit – so even if you’re really good, if you blink at the wrong time you’ll get hit by an eight-year-old girl.”

Most importantly, it’s fun.

“Sometimes we hold classes for parents and children and the parents get to say ‘I am your father!’”

Children are also encouraged to design costumes, while the adult team all fight in robes and hoods – and even fight in the dark for dramatic effect.

It’s early days, but Mr Mian has high hopes: “British Fencing wants us in every university and school so we can engage with kids who aren’t otherwise interested in sport.”

For more information visit the Silver Sabres Combat Academy website.

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