Lightsaber training brings Star Wars to the suburbs

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For one man, a childhood love of all things Star Wars is the influence behind Australia's first lightsaber academy - teaching the ways of the Jedi to a diverse group of people.

It may be a small coastal town, but the force is strong in Tuggerah.

The town is home to Australia's first lightsaber academy, Sons of Obiwan, teaching the ways of the Jedi to all who wish to learn.

Sons of Obiwan founder Luke Boyton told SBS News opening the academy was the realisation of a long-held childhood dream.

"Star Wars showed me how the world works," he said.

 

"It's more than a science fiction film, If you look behind it and see the mythology that is used behind it. It's actually a very deep film."

Mr Boyton, a former special needs teacher, instructs his students on the art of stage combat.

His students include a group of people from disability service Life Without Barriers.

"When they come here they learn about themselves, they learn about working with others, so in a special needs environment it's setting some very high goals for anyone with special needs, but at the same time it's giving them life skills," he said.

One of his Life Without Barriers students, Fiona Tsang, suffers from cerebral palsy.

The lightsaber academy "is like an escape from my own reality", Fiona said. 

"It's a community where I can finally be my nerdy self and not be judged by anyone," she added.

Life Without Barriers' Amanda Hancock helps Fiona during the class and said it was also a form of exercise for her.

"Even getting Fiona to do exercise with her hands is sort of like occupational therapy in a way," she said.

"We're having some fun."

Volunteer instructor Chad Bennet says the unique brand of stage combat taught in the classes includes some Japanese martial arts and some Italian long sword fighting. 

"Basically what we do is we teach you to fight but not actually hit each other," he said.

"Martial arts is very you-and-an-opponent, while in theatre combat it's very you-and-a-partner."

Mr Bennett, who has a background in martials arts and the US military, said he enjoyed helping people to develop new skills.

"It's almost like a dance," he said.

"You both learn the choreography and you guys work on it and work on it and in the end it turns into this amazing looking thing."

Mr Boyton said the academy allowed people to be themselves.

"The whole point of coming in here is we've set our own world up here where you can come in and have fun and let the world slip by and just have fun and learn something," he said.

"It's about normalising them being themselves. 

"Do. Or do not. There is no try."

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