The Force can be with you, too, with lightsaber training

By Tom Moore

Contributing Writer

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The form that Anna Faulkner uses for light saber training are based in real-life techniques.
Photo by Tom Moore.

Buzzzzz! Zap, zap, zap. And a dazzling display of lights. Lightsabers crash together, as dark figures in hooded robes that shroud their features duel it out to the death. The mighty blades clash, again and again in a dazzling display of blue and green.

But wait — this is 2016, and the galaxy is the Milky Way, and the planet is Earth.  This may seem to be the wrong place and time, but the two figures are real, as are the lightsabers.

The figures belong to husband-and-wife team Desso and Anna Faulkner, and they conduct lightsaber training at Hitzman Optimist Park from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday. They have been training hopeful Jedis for nearly two years now. Combined with yoga, they say the training is a great way to increase strength, flexibility, and all around physical fitness.

“It’s a lot more fun than a treadmill or stair climber,” Anna Faulkner said. “I get to work on my strength, cardio and stamina, and get good, balanced workout, while indulging in one of my favorite movie sagas of all time.”

The training is free, and all the information about it can be found on their Facebook page. If you haven’t built your own blade, light sabers can be found online. “Just go to the ‘build your lightsaber’ section at the top of the page, and follow the on screen instructions,” Anna Faulkner said.

“A basic dueling blade can be had for as little as $80, give or take,” Desso Faulkner added.

“If you are just starting out, wear loose clothing, comfortable shoes, and gloves to protect your fingers and hands. Also, men, wear a male guard.  I always do,” Desso Faulkner said. “I learned that one the hard way.”

The form the Faulkners practice is Form 3, or “Soresu,” the Way of the Mynock, which is stylistically similar to aikido in that it’s more of a defensive and nonaggressive style. It’s also the same form (but not the only) practiced by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars” movies.

“A year and a half ago, Desso and I wanted to improve our workout routine, and started offering lessons in lightsaber training,” Anna Faulkner said.

“It’s all about forms,” she said, displaying a dizzying set of foot and blade work. Granted, there weren’t the leaps, spins and kicks of the movie, but what she lacked in choreography, she made up for in sheer style and grace. It was reminiscent of the scene in the “Phantom Menace” prequel, when Qui-Gon and Obi wan were fighting Darth Maul.

“Kids, don’t try this at home,” she said, eyes twinkling. “This is after nearly two years of teaching this form, and I am far from a master. I work hard every day to keep my core strong, and myself in the right head space so I can do this.”

Despite her warning, kids are trying it at home, and enjoying it. Enrollment is up, and keeps rising, in no small part to a Pensacola News Journal article last month.  Expounding on the new types of cardio workouts that were becoming popular, the News Journal stumbled upon the Faulkner’s unique workout as an opportunity for a way to add LARPing [Live Action Role Playing] to your repertoire of more conventional workout routines.

The control, the technique, even the form is real. The art is loosely based of the ancient martial arts of Kendo, which uniquely lends itself to the exercise.

“I did not adapt it,” Anna Faulkner said. “Desso and I use the forms, or ‘katas,’ that have been developed over the past eight years by the Tereprime Lightsaber Academy, which adapted it from the training Mark Hamill began in the middle of ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ and the techniques he mastered in the ‘Return of the Jedi.’ That is the foundation upon which all the other was built, and what has become lightsaber form and technique we have today,” she said.

This is because Kendo, unlike other types of the martial arts, was developed to add the use of a wooden staff or sword to its katas, or forms.

“It’s perfect for Jedi training because blade work is already built into the training,” Desso Faulkner said. “All you have to do change out the sword or staff strokes to that of the light saber.”

So, the Star Wars Universe may be a time long ago in a galaxy far, far away, but Jedi and Sith can be trained right here in Pensacola in the Hitzman Optimist Park by Jedi Masters Anna and Desso Faulkner.