We Tried This: Hawai‘i Saber Academy
Unite with these Star Wars geeks every week at a lightsaber class.
Editors’ note: The HONOLULU Magazine staff is always excited to try new things. With this web series, we bring you activities as we try them for the first time—a new one every month.
You don’t need Star Wars Day (May the 4th Be With You) to celebrate your love for all things Star Wars. A group of Star Wars fans meets once or twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) for a lightsaber fitness class at the Hawai‘i Saber Academy. They spend at least two hours each week dueling with glowing lightsabers in the CrossFit O‘ahu gym.
Owner and instructor Keith Mylett started teaching classes in November 2015 just in time for the debut of the saga’s seventh film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Mylett was inspired to open the academy after watching online videos of lightsaber combat tournaments in Italy and Singapore. “It looked like so much fun,” Mylett says. “I noticed there were these websites that sold lightsabers, so I went ahead and ordered like 10 of them.”
PHOTO: AARON YOSHINO
It didn’t take much time for Star Wars fans to discover his classes. “Students just found me right away,” he says. “There’s definitely a lot of interest.” Between 8 and 15 people attend classes each week. Mylett teaches lightsaber combat on Tuesdays, and instructor Nathan Young teaches fight choreography on Thursdays. If there’s enough interest in the future, Mylett wants to separate the beginners and advanced students. You don’t need a background in fencing to learn how to wield a lightsaber. “Once they get the trust and control, anybody can do this,” Mylett says.
Unlike martial arts and kendo, you’re playing with lightsabers, without hurting your opponent. “My goal is to get people where we can play each other and have it look like an epic battle,” Mylett says. Ready to unleash your inner Star Wars geek? May the force be with you.
1. WHO MIGHT BE INTERESTED?
PHOTO: AARON YOSHINO
Everyone who attends class is a Star Wars geek. It’s totally OK to geek out with other Star Wars fans. In fact, it’s encouraged. Don’t worry, no one will judge you at the Hawai‘i Lightsaber Academy. Buff Haars is a regular who attends class every week. She even practices outside of class. The force is strong with this one.
2. WHAT TO WEAR
You’ll get sweaty, so dress comfortably in workout clothes. Got a Star Wars T-shirt? Wear it with pride. When you advance your skills, you can upgrade to cool Star Wars-looking outfits with the Hawai’i Saber Academy emblem.
Don’t own a lightsaber yet? You can borrow one of Mylett’s 15 LED glowing lightsabers. They come in red, blue or green. Each lightsaber weighs between two and four pounds. These aren’t cheap plastic toys. The price starts at $100. If you want a lightsaber that make cool sound effects (power-activation humming and battle-clashing sounds), expect to spend almost $1,000 for one. Haars spent $950 on her double-bladed lightsaber.
4. HOW WE FELT (BEFORE)
A lightsaber class? I didn’t even know it existed! How cool. I asked my friend Ryan Kawamoto, a huge Star Wars geek, to join me.
5. HOW WE FELT (AFTER)
Photo: Aaron Yoshino
I learned I’m not very coordinated. Much like dancing, there’s a lot of footwork involved in lightsaber combat. You engage with your partner in a dance with lightsabers. Surprisingly, it’s a really great upper body workout.
Pay attention to the instructor and follow the rules. No crotch shots.
Play safe and enjoy the game. “It’s really not about winning,” Mylett says.
Learn to read your opponent and anticipate their next move. “Once you start trusting your opponent, you can get a lot more elaborate,” Mylett says.
When someone is coming at you with a lightsaber, just tell yourself, “I’m not afraid.” Fear is the path to the dark side. Mylett says learn to control your fear to prevent irrational movements that can hurt someone.
To quote Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
$20 per class (bring your own saber), $30 per class (drop in), $95 per month (saber provided), $75 per month (bring your own saber), Ages 13+, Tuesday and Thursday, 8:30–9:30 p.m., 556 Reed Lane, precisionparkour.com/p/saber-classes.html
Read More Stories by Diane Lee