DORAL, Fla. — They’ve seen all the “Star Wars” movies, studied the mythology, bought the cool merchandise.
Now they want to move like Jedis.
Lightsabers in hand, fans are meeting every other Saturday at Magic City Jedi, a new yoga-meets-dance class that incorporates “Star Wars” Jedi moves with martial arts. Think lightsaber combat 101.
The 90-minute classes, at I Am Equilibrium yoga studio in Doral, Fla., were launched by longtime friends Alfred Smith and Santiago Martinez, who believe South Florida needs a place where people can play-fight with lightsabers to escape the daily grind.
“We knew there was going to be interest because there are ‘Star Wars’ fans everywhere,” said Martinez, 38, an information technology manager at a Miami bank. “As old as the movies are, there are certain ideas and ways of behaving that can translate to real life.
“What kid doesn’t want to be Luke Skywalker or Han Solo? What kid doesn’t want to swing a stick like a laser? This is something that allows me to forget what is going on in my life and go into the class and live out a fantasy.”
Smith said he studied the choreography of lightsaber groups in San Francisco and New York City, then began developing his own curriculum with Santiago. Though long in the works, the December release of “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens,” the series’ latest installment, “put fuel to the fire,” said Smith.
“I have been following this for some time, lightsaber combat in general,” said Smith, 40, a yoga instructor and a director of marketing and e-commerce for Silver Airways in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “I am really into martial arts and combat choreography, and this combines both of them. And I’m a big ‘Star Wars’ fan.”
At the most recent Saturday class, 17 barefoot men, women and children lined up in rows before Smith and Martinez. Some students brought their own fancy toy lightsabers (the ones that light up and make electronic laser-like sounds), others used the class sabers made of PVC pipes wrapped in colorful pool noodles.
“Star Wars”-themed shirts were everywhere. A teen girl had one that read: “Physically, I’m here, mentally I’m in a galaxy far, far away.”
Before they could learn Yoda’s moves, however, the students had some meditation and yoga to do.
“This is balance, this is presence, attention,” Smith told the students as they performed the tree pose. “Throughout the movements and throughout the practice, you are engaged.”
The instructors then reviewed basic lightsaber defensive and offensive techniques.
With their dominant foot forward, students lurched their sabers downward to each side, and then up to the mid-section and eventually to the head.
“Imagine you are drawing an ‘S,”” Smith said, watching as the students practiced in pairs.
Like the fictional space knights on the big screen, they swung their lightsabers in a choreographed dance that is both combative and meditative.
Each lesson tied into some type of Jedi theme.
“A Jedi is always aware of everything, not just what they are focusing on but also their surroundings,” Smith said.
Although the instructors were serious, some of the wannabe Jedis in class giggled as they lifted their sabers and struck their partners. One student wore a GoPro camera on his headband to capture every step.
The students learned a move called “flourish,” when the person scurries forward or back while twirling the lightsaber like a baton, and how to “bash,” which is a fast forward attack that ends with a recoil.
“If you think of a snake, it’s a quick strike,” said Santiago, as he demonstrated the move. “Every ‘Star Wars’ movie starts with a bash … It’s a hit and pull back.”
A final meditation wrapped up the class.
Everyone ended the class with a smile (and a sheen of sweat).There were sore wrists and triceps from working with the sabers, but most agreed it made for a fun workout.
“You really feel like a Jedi,” said Valerie Villar, 26, of Kendall, Fla.,who attended the class with boyfriend Gerry Brenes, 29. “You have the sound going whenever you move it, so it’s just like the whole experience brought to life.”
“It’s a great opportunity to continue to live out that fantasy,” said Brenes, a Miami resident. “Just the sense of centering yourself and meditating.”
Victoria Diaz, 17, said she signed up for the class because she “wanted to learn how to become a Jedi, and this is the closest thing to becoming one.” She brought best friend Brittney Ellis, 18, to share in the combat experience.
“It’s harder than it looks in the movies,” she said. “The flourish was the hardest part. If you are not good with remembering sequences, it can be hard.”
The class was Frankie Andollo’s third.
“I can fly my nerd flag here,” said the 35-year-old information technology consultant in Coral Gables, who brought his replica of Luke Skywalker’s green lightsaber to class. He also wore a T-shirt from the new movie.
“You get sucked into the mythology,” said Andollo, adding that he’s seen all the movies and the animated series and has read all the “Star Wars” novels. He also owns two lightsabers.
“And now here I am, taking lightsaber classes … It provides an entertainment that is clean and fun. You can let go of your inhibitions and follow your instincts.”
©2016 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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