SOUTHINGTON - Performers from the Granite State Saber Academy clashed in theatrical lightsaber duels Saturday at the Southington Library, putting on an acrobatic and entertaining show for “Star Wars” fans of all ages.
The Nashua, N.H., academy, run by J.D. Lauriat, performs using a mixture of martial arts and stage choreography at high schools, theaters, conventions and fairs and offers lessons to people interested in learning the techniques.
“It’s basically nerd fitness,” said Lauriat.
The performance began with Lauriat and Dom Rosso, Dan DuBois, Peregrin McDermott, Adrian Johnson and Kristal Terpstra clashing blades, blocking and spinning, advancing and dancing around each other in a grand melee of simulated combat.
One performer wielded a double-bladed lightsaber “staff” like that used by Darth Maul, another used Kylo Ren’s claymore-style saber, another used a short blade in a reverse grip similar to Ahsoka Tano from “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”
Some performers simulated Force powers such as “Force push,” throwing themselves to the ground when hit, and others upon besting their opponents held their sabers to their throats and demanded that they yield.
An audience of about a dozen parents and children gathered around to watch and applaud.
Following the initial demonstration, Lauriat explained the different elements that comprised the show.
“We teach theatrical combat like you see in movies,” he said. “These battles have steps which are rehearsed over and over again like a singer practicing songs.”
Lauriat then showcased “Katas,” which, in martial arts, are a series of movements performed again and again until they become second nature. Each step in the Kata is a strike or a block.
Another demonstration was then held, which Lauriat explained was a “Bankai,” showcasing how the attacks and blocks of the Katas were used in combat.
Finally, Lauriat explained how safety was paramount with his academy and how performers always stopped their strikes outside of an imagined box surrounding each person. They would move as though they were blocking to defend themselves, but they were never actually in danger.
“These aren’t opponents - they are friends,” Lauriat stressed.
Sarah Kastner, watching from the crowd while dressed as the “Star Wars” character Rey, called the performance “very nice.”
“I’ve done a lot of martial arts demonstrations,” she told Lauriat. “I’m trained in Shobayashi Shorin Ryu.”
“It was very cool. I’ve never seen anything like that before,” said Amy Barron, who brought her 8-year-old son, Ryan, and her 11-year-old son, Brayden, to watch the performance. Brayden was later taught some of the lightsaber Katas by one of the performers.
Mandy Lane, her husband, Geoff, and their 7-year-old son, Grayson, also enjoyed the performance.
“It was very educational,” said Lane. “I like that they showed us how they put it all together and how they kept everyone safe.”
“It was awesome,” said Grayson, who noted that a costumed Darth Vader who had shown up for the event gave him a “thumbs-up” for his Darth Vader shirt. Vader was accompanied by someone in costume as his grandson, Kylo Ren.
Kendra Burgos smiled as she watched as her 11-year-old daughter, Aydia, take pictures with Vader and Kylo Ren. She was also dressed as Rey.
“I’m a big ‘Star Wars’ fan, I just started two years ago,” said Aydia.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.