SOUTHINGTON - The Granite State Saber Academy clashed blades in theatrical lightsaber duels Saturday at Southington Public Library, putting on an acrobatic and entertaining show for “Star Wars” fans of all ages.
The academy, run by J.D. Lauriat, performs with a mix of martial arts and stage choreography. They perform at high schools, stage productions, conventions and fairs and offer lessons to those interested in learning the techniques.
“It’s basically nerd fitness,” said Lauriat.
The performance began with Lauriat along with Dom Rosso, Dan DuBois, Peregrin McDermott, Adrian Johnson and Kristal Terpstra clashing blades, blocking and spinning, advancing and dancing around one another 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, while another used a short blade in a reverse grip similar to Ahsoka Tano from the “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 composed 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 different “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” and showcased 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 invisible 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, a woman watching from the crowd while dressed as the “Star Wars” character Rey, said it was a “very nice” performance.
“I’ve done a lot of martial arts demonstrations,” she explained to 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 showed up for the event also 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.