Lightsaber Guild builds community

Kris Long, Print Editor-in-Chief

Anyone walking through the Prentup Commons on a regular Monday afternoon at MHS West campus will be met with an irregular sight: 10 to 15 members of the Manhattan High Lightsaber Guild dueling Jedi-style amongst the lunch tables and other confused passersby, then stopping, grouping up and analyzing their form. 

The Guild formed last winter after some spontaneous lightsaber purchases by the club’s founders, and is currently registered with the school as an interest group. They meet twice a week; Monday meetings are open to all members and Wednesdays are reserved for council members (their thematic name for club officers).

“We’d been hearing about a lot of things like saber guilds, just around the United States, that had met together and done these types of things with cinematography, with choreography,” guild president Maverick Aggson said. “We were just like: we have this interest, we have the tools to do it, we have some of the materials, let’s put together a saber guild for MHS.”

At meetings, the members teach each other lightsaber fighting forms, which are a complicated matrix of seven basic forms and subgenres of teachings within each. They range from form two, based on fencing, to form four, an acrobatic style, and form seven, which was described by sophomore John Stafford as “dirty fighting.” Partners and groups of three then create dueling choreographies, which they perform for the group.

“We start [meetings] at about 3:05 right at the end of school when the freshmen come up, address everybody, talk about what we’re going to be doing today and then we’ll work on that until a certain period, usually we’re working with choreographies,” Aggson said. “[Then] we’ll have a group review. We basically will have everybody show off what they’ve been working on for the last hour and a half and we give them feedback as a group. We are able to make some really refined looking choreographies using that system.”

The guild takes more commitments than one might expect. Each member has their own saber, which costs between $50 and $200 if bought, or they create their own using pool noodles, PVC pipe and plastic wrap. It’s also a time commitment. 

“This takes up a lot of my time,” sophomore John Kyle said. “It’s kind of a community. It’s also just a good time, it’s fun with friends, it’s kind of a workout. It’s just a lot of fun.”

A club based on fencing, especially if the lightsabers are store bought and made out of hard plastic, comes with some safety concerns. To avoid this the council members make sure that dueling is intentionally planned and careful. 

“There have been a few injuries, but that’s because people haven’t been using control,” Kyle said. “But normally we try to stay away from injury by mapping it step-by-step and starting slow.”

Part of the group’s purpose is to raise money for charity. They are currently organizing a show expected for Nov. 17 that serves as a charity fundraiser where they will sell baked goods as concessions, as well as show off their skills. 

The club is also an important community to many of the members. 

“We are kind of a niche,” Aggson said. “People are going in with some martial arts experience, they’re going in with some of their knowledge from the movies and the shows and we’re sort of able to use this as a way to really get some passionate members to really put their best forward…  We really pride ourselves on that close knit community aspect of our club.”

The Guild is a unique opportunity for MHS students. It’s a place where anyone can be their atypical selves, especially if that eccentricity involves an unusual amount of knowledge of combat sports and ‘80s SciFi.

“Everyone’s pretty open and we all know each other pretty well,” Stafford said. “So I like it, because you can be yourself here.”