Lightsaber dueling group promotes entertainment and positivity on campus


Karys Boyd

Photo of the founding members of BGSU’s Lightsaber Dueling Group

Karys Boyd, Reporter

Three BGSU freshmen amassed social media attention last fall for dueling with lightsabers on campus, leading to several choreographed, public performances and the formation of the group “The Lightsaber People.”

The founding members, Gabe Nelson, Luke Burky and Shawn Hammel, originally came together because of a shared interest in dueling, but over time became committed to promoting a friendly environment amongst members and providing entertainment for fellow students.

Q: How did this group start?

Nelson: “I’ve had lightsabers for a decent bit now and I’ve just ran into other people who end up having them. Initially, I was just doing unplanned free-dueling stuff with people. Eventually, I met these two fools, and we started the idea of doing a planned duel with actual choreography.”

Burky: “I saw [Nelson] dueling in front of the letters with another guy. I’ve always been super interested in ‘Star Wars,’ so I went online and got my first lightsaber off the internet and met up with Gabe. We started doing our thing, and I [had the idea], ‘Hey, why don’t we make something to script out?’ and eventually Shawn showed up.”  

Hammel: “I saw a YikYak talking about ‘the lightsaber guys’ by the letters, and I said, ‘Yo, I have a lightsaber,’ but I didn’t have it with me. So the next weekend, I ran home, got my lightsaber and waited. I stalked YikYak until the next time these fools were out there, and I went over and introduced myself.”

Q: How do you choreograph your shows?

Hammel: “I do all of our choreography. I found a YouTube video of a guy explaining how he wrote his choreographies using a numbered notation system, and I altered it to fit my preferences. When it comes to specific shows, sometimes we’ll have ideas for [different holiday specials]. A lot of it is based on what we think would be cool in the moment. The best way that I can describe [the process] is that it’s procedural. We do the first set of four moves, for example, then ask ourselves, ‘If I’m in this position, what should I do next that makes the most sense?’ and if it doesn’t feel right, we change it.”

Burky: “In terms of the actual moves, it’s based on physics. When I do a strike, I think about the momentum and where it’s going, how the blades would interact. And there’s only so much we can do without CGI. Unfortunately, we don’t have the Force.”

Nelson: “It’s just a continuous thing of us making up a couple of strikes, and then tweaking them until they feel natural to do.”

Q: Did you expect to get noticed?

Burky: “I think I speak for all of us when I say that we definitely expected people to stop and watch. We didn’t expect people to record us or to post us on public Snapchat stories or videos on YikYak.”

Hammel: “Our growth was very organic… The point [of the group] was to do really cool stuff and promote it… The most heart-warming thing that we’ve seen so far was when someone posted a video of us on YikYak with a comment saying, ‘This is why I love BG.’  It was so warm and happy.”

Q: What is your favorite thing about performing?

Hammel: “The choreography. We get to not only create something but create something that looks cool, feels cool and has a really cool vibe to it. I think that’s irreplaceable…The coolest thing was after our original show, where around 40 or 50 people showed up, when Gabe struck the final victory pose, the crowd went nuts. It’s safe to say that we all do it for the audience.”

Nelson: “I just like lightsaber combat. It just looks cool and for me it’s fun to do.”

Burky: “It’s an art.”

Q: What are some challenges that you have had to overcome?

Nelson: “The only major conflict was when I was initially free-dueling with another person. At the time, because it was just me and him, we were actually kind of trying to hit each other. He was a bit too aggressive, and he didn’t have as much precision with how he moved.”

Hammel: “He aimed for the person, not for the blade.”

Burky: “One of our rules for when we’re free-dueling is to aim for the blade, not the person because injury can happen. Gabe got his knuckle broken [by this guy]. We’re more concerned for the safety part, because getting hit with a blade hurts a lot.”

Q: What is one thing that people should know about The Lightsaber People?

Burky: “It’s kind of evolved past just lightsabers… If you want to join, feel free to. There’s a slight ‘buy-in’ because you have to buy your own saber, but we welcome anyone, even if you’ve never seen ‘Star Wars.’”

Hammel: “[To be wholesome] is the goal. We do put the work in to make sure this remains a wholesome community. We have guidelines, and we’ve kicked people out for breaking the rules.”

Nelson: “There are expectations [to follow our safety guidelines and promote positivity] because we do want to become an actual organization [on campus]. We actually have our constitution written up for when we get to that point.”