Written by Steve Munro
It’s a mild Wednesday evening in June at Sir Winston Churchill Square in downtown Edmonton. Small red tables and chairs spread out from Three Bananas Cafe around the outer edge of the courtyard, some occupied with people enjoying their coffee and conversation. At one end, people play ping pong on the portable table tennis tables, while another pair plays chess with oversized pieces on the giant checkerboard. At the south end of the square, a small group of people hang out and chat. Some stretch their arms and legs, and all are armed with a lightsaber.
Shortly after 7:00pm, Janine Waddell Hodder, the group’s resident Jedi Master and professional choreographer, calls the group together to get everyone organized and get training started. The younglings are separated from the adult padawan, and training begins. She starts by leading the group through their kata for warm-up. For those unfamiliar with the term, “kata” refers to a series of preset attack and defence patterns which a martial artist uses to demonstrate precision, accuracy and focus. Usually, this is part of the non-combat demonstrations in Karate and Tai-Chi. Janine explained the kata developed in this group as a common point of reference for everyone to learn and practice the common, core movements of lightsaber training.
Some lightsabers glowed faintly in the evening light, hinting at the designed blade colour, some hummed and buzzed from their built-in sound effects generators when swung and clashed against another weapon.
Soon after, the class broke up into pairs to continue practising and developing individual style and technique. The combatants circled around each other attacking, defending, side-stepping, counter-attacking, and parrying in the simulated give-and-take of Jedi versus Jedi combat, including simulated Force-chokes and Force-shoves. Some lightsabers glowed faintly in the evening light, hinting at the designed blade colour, some hummed and buzzed from their built-in sound effects generators when swung and clashed against another weapon. Periodically, two fighters would pause to discuss a particular strike and counter pattern, or the merits and flaws of a technique. Sometimes, the partners would recreate their last set of movements in slow motion, analyzing and repeating the most effective parts of their choreography.
During a break in the action, Janine filled in some details about the group’s membership and overall numbers.
“Tonight’s a slow night,” she explained. “This usually happens at the end of the school year. I usually get a lot more people…we have to break them up into groups…experienced regulars over there, somewhat experienced people here, beginners there, and the kids over there,” as she pointed to four widely dispersed zones in the square.
“We usually take up a lot more space here,” she continued, “We also do a short film at the beginning of September, where we have a huge melee involving everyone.”
Lightsaber training is sponsored by the Edmonton Arts Council and happens every Wednesday during the summer at Churchill Square. More information about the events can be found on the Edmonton Arts Council website.
Photo credit: Steve Munro
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