Charles Dion moves slowly around the imaginary ring.
Dressed head to toe in a Star Wars-like Jedi cloak, the 21-year-old junior shouts into his bullhorn his judgment to a duo sparring with their lightsabers.
“That’s a point.”
“No, no, that was on the knuckle.”
“Score, that’s match!”
It’s the first tournament of the semester for Beacon College’s Lightsaber Club, a student-run organization that has seen its membership grow consistently since it debuted early last year.
“We had one meeting where 44 people showed up,” Dion said. “That was enjoyable. We were not expecting that because we were just going with the flow.”
At this particular meeting, about 40 people showed up to cheer on the 24 students entered in the club’s opening tourney.
It’s a huge jump from the eight to 12 people, on average, who showed up at the meetings last year.
A New HopeThe idea for the Star Wars Dueling Club came to Dion a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away OK, so actually, the idea struck him as Dion, while considering his college options, watched a recruitment video.
In a small portion of that video, he recognized a video game shown in a small clip as “Dragon Ball Xenoverse.”
“I remember seeing these people playing a game I love to play,” he said. “I never got to have that. I was given the idea that I can be who I really am here and show my passions, whatever they may be.”
The group meets monthly, with the club providing lightsabers to those who do not have their own.
Dion and other organizers recently raised $500 to help provide tools for the club.
“My main goal is to make anybody who attends feel that they could be included, whether they have a lightsaber or not,” he said.
At their inaugural meeting this year, as the duelers circled each other, jabbed, parried and blocked, Kyle Close kept close watch.
Close, the college’s assistant director of intramurals and recreation, has become an adviser to the club.
A “Star Wars” fan himself, Close said he appreciates the club members’ initiative in growing the club.
“They are way more creative than I would ever be to create this,” he said. “They are taking it and running with it.”
Most college campuses have intramurals, sports teams and small clubs.
However, at Beacon College, the ability to find a group of people you can identify with brings an added importance.
It matches up with the school’s mission, which is to serve the educational needs of students with learning differences.
The Lightsaber club does that for students who face the added challenge of trying to be more comfortable with their niche interests.
“This is one of those things, like a book club, that forms because of a common interest,” Close said. “A lot of these students are trying to find where they fit in.”
That is exactly the situation for Joshua Hansen, who learned about the club last year.
The 21-year-old says it’s the mystical arts, the variety of characters, and the ability to relate to them that launched his interest in the intergalactic space western’s universe created by George Lucas in 1977.
“I have been a big fan of ‘Star Wars’ most of my life,” said Hansen. “When I learned about this club, I knew I had found a community where I could be me.”
The lessons learned from the club go far beyond learning how to wield a sword or talk “Star Wars” with friends.
The club has also taught Hansen some crucial social skills, as well.
“This club has helped me figure out how to establish a social life,” he said.
Birth of a Jedi
Dion grew up in Arizona with a deep interest in fantasy stories. From “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Princess Bride” to “Star Wars,” he became a fan of swordplay and combat.
In the deep summer heat of Tucson, Arizona, Dion would spar with his father and two brothers, initially using NERF swords.
The interest was essentially inherited from his father.
“It eventually got to the point where I would be practicing every day and fighting them would be unfair,” Dion said with a laugh.
As he arrived on campus two years ago, he decided he wanted to create the club.
It took him a semester to figure out the structure but he launched in the spring of 2022.
Armed with an enthusiastic stable of five other student officers, it has become a way to share his interest in swords with others.
The mechanics of sparring are, understandably, like the sport of fencing, except there is no limited boundary.
Competitors line up across from each other and try to make contact with the opponent with their light sabers on their torso, arms or legs.
Despite the similarities to fencing, however, Dion said dueling has more similarities to two other activities when it comes to necessary skill sets.
“It’s like playing football and chess at the exact same time,” he said. “There is something about getting that checkmate in dueling that is amazing.”
Almost like blowing up a Deathstar.