Lightsaber dueling has become an official sport in France

By Sophie Lewis

/ CBS News

The force is getting stronger in France, where the French Fencing Federation has officially recognized lightsaber dueling as a competitive sport. According to the AP, the federation has given the iconic "Star Wars" weapon the same status as the traditional blades — the foil, épée and saber — and competitors can now begin to train like Luke Skywalker.

The LED-lit, rigid polycarbonate lightsaber replicas used in competition won't be able to cut an opponent in half, but they do look, feel and sound pretty similar to George Lucas' version. The federation is now providing lightsabers to fencing clubs and training lightsaber instructors in the ways of the Jedi.

Competitors battle during a national lightsaber tournament in Beaumont-sur-Oise, north of Paris. Christophe Ena / AP

Federation secretary general Serge Aubailly told the AP he hopes the popularity of Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader will draw more young people to fencing. "Cape and sword movies have always had a big impact on our federation and its growth," Aubailly said. "Lightsaber films have the same impact. Young people want to give it a try."

The new sport will be governed a new set of rules, some of which are more typical of fencing than others. Fighters still need to wear masks and armor for protection, but matches take place inside a circle taped on the floor rather than a rectangular strip. Five points are awarded for strikes to the head or body, three points for the arms or legs, and one point for the hands. The first to reach 15 points — or the highest score after three minutes — wins the match. "Sudden death" occurs if both fighters reach 10 points; in this case, the first to strike the head or body wins. To add to the entertainment value of the fight, strikes are only awarded if the fighter firsts swings their lightsaber behind them as they do in the films.

The Dark Side that the federation is fighting is the childhood obesity epidemic and the popularity of more sedentary video games. "With young people today, it's a real public health issue. They don't do any sport and only exercise with their thumbs," Aubailly told the AP. "It's becoming difficult to [persuade them to] do a sport that has no connection with getting out of the sofa and playing with one's thumbs. That is why we are trying to create a bond between our discipline and modern technologies, so participating in a sport feels natural."

First published on February 19, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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