When we first caught word that San Francisco had its very own lightsaber training school, two thoughts popped into our heads: First, "Ha! Look at those nerds!" Followed by, "...so where can I learn how to wield a lightsaber?" To investigate what it takes to become an amateur pretend Jedi, we spent an otherwise sunny Sunday afternoon swinging LED-equipped swords around a dimly lit SOMA dance studio.
Learning the lost art of lightsaber play should require at least some Yodaesque effort on the part of the student. so you'll have to make a short pilgrimage through some shady blocks from the Civic Center BART station to Studio Garcia, tucked down an alleyway off Eighth Street in SOMA. (Luke Skywalker had to go all the way to Dagoba, remember. San Francisco, thankfully, tends to have much better weather.)
After meeting your instructor — in our case: Golden Gate Knights organizer Alain Bloch, dressed in full Obi Wan getup — first timers get to take their pick of lightsabers. Just as there are people who have spent days studying fight choreography from a movie that is a quarter of a century old, there are plenty of people who have spent countless hours building real versions of the fictitious weapons by hand for the sole purpose of looking neat while they duke it out on the floor at Sci-Fi conventions. And may the force be with all of them. There is really nothing quite like swinging around a glowing laser sword* as your excuse for Sunday afternoon physical activity.
As for the class? It's a three-hour-long hybrid of an introductory yoga class, live action role-playing and dance lessons. Like a first time deal at a yoga studio, a class at Golden Gate Knights is designed to help the student get over that barrier for the practice. In the case of this incredibly nerdy but altogether satisfying sport, that barrier is really just the price of a lightsaber and a practice partner. The number of people who want to spend time pretending like they are Luke Skywalker ranks significantly higher than the number of people willing to spend significant portions of their paychecks on toy swords and custom tunics. Some people just have different hobbies, is what we're saying.
Instruction begins with some light stretching and calisthenics. You'll probably feel pretty goofy doing calisthenics led by a man in a cloak and tunic, but then again you're also not the one wearing the cloak and tunic. After warm-ups, you'll be twirling, swinging and flipping your lightsaber around for a solid hour. If that sounds intense, it really isn't.
After warmups and saber-handling basics, attendees get to spend the last hour or so of class going through choreographed motions and crossing swords with an opponent. (Or, more accurately: the friend you convinced to come with you.) The thrill of getting all up in someone's face while lit by the green glow of a lightsaber is pretty much the only reason we all showed up in the first place, so after a few tries getting the steps and saber swings timed right, we found ourselves completely lost in an imaginary duel with fellow classmates. Really, the hardest part of the whole class is trying to avoid making embarrassing lightsaber noises with your mouth.
Finally, class ends with everyone seated on the floor with the lights out for a five minute meditation session by saber-light. It's geeky, sure, but at no point did the class ever feel like the instructors or our classmates were taking this too seriously. By which we mean: no one was complaining about Jar-Jar Binks or cursing George Lucas for introducing Ewoks. (At one point, chief Jedi in charge Alain even asked if his tunic made his butt look big.) More than a Star Wars event, lightsaber classes are one of those things San Francisco is so frustratingly good at: using grown-up budgets and know-how to indulge in long-lost childhood whims.
Classes are taught Sundays at 12 p.m. at Studio Garcia, on 19 Heron Street in SoMa. RSVP is recommended due to increasing popularity. Check out the Golden Gate Knights website or Facebook page for more info.
*And, to be clear: these things are fairly substantial. You'd have an extremely difficult time slicing off someone's hand with one, but you could probably leave a nasty bruise if you accidentally clocked your sparring partner with it.