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In the Madrid cradle of lightsaber duels

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In the Madrid cradle of lightsaber duels

When Venus Yepes, 22, arrived home after a trial class, she blurted out to her mother: “Mom, I signed up for a lightsaber combat academy.” Her mother thought she had “gone crazy.” But she wasn’t. She was very serious. What Yepes signed up for is called Ludosport, a combat sport that combines elements of martial arts and fencing with a focus on the use of movie-inspired lightsabers. Ludosport Born less than 20 years ago in Italy, but he arrived in Spain in 2015. It has had such an impact in the country that Spaniards are already leading competitors in this sport: in the last World Cup, which was held in Paris, a Spaniard was proclaimed champion for the first time, Carlos Jiménez, who is one of those who runs Ludosport Atlas, the academy of this sport in Spain.

Competitors insist on stopping reducing the sport solely to its relationship with the Star Wars saga, even though it is a source of pride and an incentive to practice it. «Our goal is to be the CrossFit of the future. 10 years ago people thought it was strange that people lifted truck wheels, but now everyone knows it,” says Esther Lancha, teacher and current women’s world champion.

Ludosport training, a real lightsaber combat discipline that mixes a great diversity of
Ludosport training, a real lightsaber combat discipline that mixes a great diversity of Alberto R. RoldánPhotographers

It is 7:30 p.m. on a Monday in March and it is quite cold in a warehouse. Miguel Fleta street in Madrid. A Ludosport class is about to begin and the athletes are rushing to warm up. After the previous technical explanations, they are ready. “Well, let’s play,” exclaims the instructor Lancha, just before the light and sound show begins.

Victor Capdevila, 22 years oldExplain: «As the weapon is associated with the Star Wars saga, “People tend to think it’s choreographed, but it’s completely real.” This young man is from Tenerife and came to Madrid to study Dramatic Art. Being passionate about Star Wars movies, he came across an advertisement about Ludosport while browsing the internet. And since he took his trial class in October 2019, he has not stopped practicing it. Capdevila considers that, perhaps a few years ago, “The geekiness did generate some rejection.” But “geek is cool today.”

Ludosport training, a real lightsaber combat discipline that mixes a great diversity of
Ludosport training, a real lightsaber combat discipline that mixes a great diversity of Alberto R. RoldánPhotographers

The sport was born in 2006 in Italy and arrived in Spain in November 2015. «It is still a very early sport. “We are still in the expansion phase,” says Capdevila. José Campos and Carlos Jiménez brought him to Spain, first to Madrid and then to Barcelona. And, with the increase in enrollment over the years, Ludoport Atlas was created, which is the national academy that brings together all the schools found throughout the Spanish territory. Lancha is one of the teachers and coordinates all the academies nationwide. «There are about 2,000 competitors around the world. In Spain there are already more than a thousand of us. This year we have managed to overtake the Italians: both because we have a Spanish champion and in terms of the number of athletes,” says Lancha.

To know this sport, you first have to go to the most basic things. The space where it takes place is a circular arena eight meters in diameter, for which there is still no specific terrain set, but which is usually the parquet or synthetic floor of the sports halls. To practice it you need a sword, a central element of the game. This must be approved by the Italian school: among other features, it must have light and sound. Juan Manuel Muñoz, aeronautical engineer and student at the Ludosport school in Madrid, is the designer. “As there were stock problems and I wanted one, it occurred to me to come up with one.” He got to work and has managed to design a saber in two years which is the one now used in Spanish academies. The saber can go from 300 to 450 euros, But to practice the sport it is not necessary to buy one, since the Ludosport Atlas academies have sabers for all students. Once, we have the terrain and the sword, the only thing missing is the clothing. A tunic and a sub-tunic are worn, the colors of which vary depending on the rank or level. No protection is used, except for gloves and, optionally, glasses or a shell.

Now, what is a Ludosport match like? The objective is to deliver three fatal blows to the opponent, also called “oh”, by the sound that is emitted when achieving it. The other type of blow is the “ih” (also its onomatopoeia), which is a way of wearing down the opponent. The latter is the one that impacts the rival from elbows to hands and from knees to feet. The rest would be fatal blows, with the exception of thrusts – a blow with the tip of the saber – and blows to the face, which are not allowed.

Ludosport training, a real lightsaber combat discipline that mixes a great diversity of
Ludosport training, a real lightsaber combat discipline that mixes a great diversity of Alberto R. RoldánPhotographers

Regarding the technique of the sport, There are seven styles or forms of combat. Each of these forms, composed of a series of movements that have the objective of delivering a blow to the opponent, requires an approximate time, depending on the student’s ability, of one year to master it. These techniques draw on other martial arts or combat sports. «For example, form 1 looks like kendo, for its two-handed grip; form 2, to sports fencing », explains Capdevila while he holds one of the sabers. The sixth and seventh forms are not yet known: “It has not yet been developed by the founding masters of the sport, who are Italian.”

The saber is made of polycarbonate and an impact can do quite a bit of damage. «It is a sport based on respect. It is also self-declaration. “Each one recognizes the impacts they have received,” Yannick Santa Cruz says he has a bruise under his eye after a training accident. Therefore, although the referees are themselves, there are also two external referees. There are four types of cards: the notice; yellow, which gives the point to your rival; red, which gives the rival the fight as won; and the black one, which implies expulsion from the competition for a lack of respect or intentional attack.

One of the attractions of Ludosport is the holding of international competitions. The last World Cup brought together the 64 best in the world and, for the first time, a Spaniard, Carlos Jiménez, emerged champion. That has attracted people to the sport, such as Alicia Rodríguez, 26 years old, who has been there for a year and wants to competeor David Díaz, who with only 16 years in school they believe he can “become world champion.”

Despite the growth and having opened twelve centers in Spain in one year, Ludosport recognizes that there is still a need for sponsors, especially for the ambitions it has. «Our ambition is, first, to be in all the provinces of Spain. Then, continue growing internationally and be taken into account. And he concludes: “If break dancing has been an Olympic sport, why not Ludosport.”

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