Jedi communities have sprung up all over the United States, and although it may not be on the U.S. census yet, anyone interested (including this GammaSquad reporter) can go to the “Church of SciFi-entology” to hone your lightsaber skills. The New York Jedi is a group of lightsaber enthusiasts that offer a wide variety of Star Wars themed classes such as Jedi boot camp, one-on-one choreography, martial arts conditioning and lightsaber sequences. I caught up with Jedi Grand Master Flynn Michael to learn the basics of being a real life Jedi.
Flynn Michael, a tall, long-haired guy fit from his years of studying dance, martial arts and swordplay, is the entrepreneur you can thank for this relatively new sub-culture of Jedi geekdom. The Connecticut-born Grand Master and founding member of the New York Jedi is DJ and engineer by day, by night he leads a team of Jedi Masters who offer their skills with lightsaber stage and film combat. Having the students learn the techniques together “challenges them physically and mentally,” says Flynn. “It’s a bigger world of dorks.”
Stepping into their work space at DANY Studio, I spotted these guys almost immediately. As a first-timer, I was worried about connecting with these, most commonly labeled, freaks and geeks, but instead I found a family atmosphere. “It’s a very welcoming place,” says three-year-member Craig Page, who received hugs from nearly every attendee when he stepped into the studio. This made it exceptionally easy to learn the techniques for myself.
“Get the feel of your weapon,” says Grand Master Flynn, balancing his own saber on his index finger. “You should know how it’s going to act.” Once you get the natural, smooth movement down, you’re ready to learn the three most common hits found in just about every lightsaber choreography: the rebound, the follow-through and the lock.
These moves are probably the easiest to master. What most have difficulties with is the choreography taught to them by Flynn and Jedi Master Mike Zhang (aka Ebon Wing) who learned some of the official moves from Star Wars film choreographer Nick Gillard. Recently, the group worked on the official choreography to the opening sequence of Anakin’s fight with Obi-Wan on Mustafar in Episode III, complete with the 360-degree spins. The masters instruct their students to record their fights, especially if they plan on performing saber stunts at Comic-Con. It makes the learning and critiquing processes that much easier.
Develop Your Character
“It’s recommended that you write your own back story,” says Flynn. All of the Jedi Masters, Knights and most of the Padawans have there own character names, like Magnius, Rave or even Darth Jinduri. Some even take it a step further, like Shaddious who plays a vampire Jedi.
Flynn himself has created a Tibetan persona named Fuap R’Mah and his custom-made lightsaber is the ultimate weapon for this character. Aside from the authentic Sanskrit symbols inscribed at both ends of the hilt, the handle grip is decorated with a Buddhist prayer wheel, all of which cost over $300 to make. “Every time I twirl and spin my saber, I’m praying,” says Flynn. Most of the members with custom weapons receive them through The Custom Saber Shop, which conceals the large LED batteries that power the sabers within the poly carbonate swords. None, however, seem more unique than Flynn’s.
Craig Page (aka Rave) is one of the New York Jedi writers who composes character stories and adventures that allow members to interact on a fictional level and act out together in saber choreography. “The hardest part is not making your character immortal,” says Craig. “Nobody will want to play with you.”
Washington Square Park
When they’re not in class or practicing at home, some of the members can be found in Washington Square Park. New Yorkers often see them acting out new moves or developing old ones. According to Flynn, this outdoor space seemed to unconsciously become their new hangout after losing their rental space at 440 Lafayette a couple years ago.
Since then, the park hosts both weekly lightsaber events but the annual ones as well. Non-Star Wars fanatics gathered in 2009 with noodle-type objects they dubbed Jedi weapons and hit each other senseless, but this level of public event is considered amateur hour by the New York Jedi. “The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade is like our birthday,” says Flynn, which makes New York Comic-Con and Dragon-Con their Superbowl.
What many of the Padawans have to look forward to is what the masters refer to as “massive epic stage plays.” Close to 1,000 people stood in a huddled room at last years Comic-con just to get glimpses of Flynn and his knights battling it out. To the majority of the world, they may seem like your average D&D shut-ins, but in the universe of geeks, the New York Jedi are the equivalent to the quarterbacks and pop singers. “It’s a whole new level of dorkdom,” says Flynn.