By Jona Jaupi
Photo courtesy of Randychiu.
If you were a child of Generation X, chances are you wanted to be a lightsaber-carrying Jedi when you grew up. While that dream might seem dead and buried to many, it is no longer unobtainable.
Thanks to Flynn Michael, the creator of the New York Jedi Club, anyone who wants to get in touch with the Force–or just get a fun workout–can do so by signing up for one of his weekly classes located in downtown Manhattan.
New York Jedi, which has been around for 10 years now, initially began as a performance idea in 2005 for Greenwich Village’s annual Halloween Day Parade.
“I like performing, I like dressing up in costumes,” Michael, tells BTR’s Zach Schepis on Third Eye Weekly. “So, I started teaching classes and from there it just kind of snowballed.”
Since 2005, the club has expanded on an international level, exemplifying the rapidly growing fantasy-inspired subcultures that thrive around the world. Beyond New York, Jedi club communities have emerged in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, Singapore, and other parts of Asia and Europe.
“Wherever you are, I guarantee there are people out there playing with lightsabers but they don’t know you’re out there,” Michael jokes.
The philosophical approach behind the Jedi culture, as Michael explains it, is to find one’s inner hero and overcome defeat through a code of honor, as depicted in the original Star Wars saga. The teachings of New York Jedi resonate with those of differing martial arts.
“I’m forced to believe in the Force,” Michael, who has been practicing Buddhist mediation for close to 20 years now, states.
The classes taught at New York Jedi incorporate instruction from practices such as fencing and samurai sword fighting. The idea is to combine the fantasy teachings of the lightsaber with real-life warrior training. All of those lessons, Michael explains, share the same inherent honor code as practiced by the Jedis.
“I mean people are doing stuff in their own avenues but it is the same art, it is all the same moves, it is just where you’re making the landings that are different,” he says.
Photo courtesy of Flynn Michael.
According to Michael, prior to the New York Jedi Club, there was no organized collection of people formally teaching the ways of the Jedi. However, nowadays over 300 clubs function around the world, including ones that specialize in stage combat, official costuming, and lightsaber sparring and training.
Jedi clubs are only one of the many fantasy-inspired subcultures emerging throughout the globe. Anime, for example, was initially embedded in only Japanese culture, but it has expanded internationally. American events like New York City or San Diego’s Comic-Con festivals welcome people to dress up as their favorite fantasy or anime characters.
The overlying social phenomenon is explained by Susan J Napier, a Tufts University Professor of Japanese Studies, as having resulted from “ubersubculture of fandom,” a term used to describe devout fans who organize around popular television shows or books. The most famous example, according to Napier, is the “Trekkies,” the prominent Star Trek fans.
In today’s day and age, the internet has undoubtedly played a pivotal role in furthering the emergence of these subcultures.
“Mass culture allowed for individuals to develop a variety of new interests, while the Internet offered them opportunities to meet and bond with other, like-minded individuals,” Napier wrote in her article, “Peek-A-Boo, Pikachu.”
The New York Jedi club has successfully put Napier’s theory into practice, utilizing the internet as an essential tool to increase the fanbase. The fact that they constantly have to expand into larger classrooms shows just how invaluable of a tool Facebook continues to be, Michael explains.
“I think we all have a passion about something, we have the natural inclinations to seek out the pure form of the thing that we love,” Michael says. “I am more than honored to be able to be teaching people on how to be lightsaber practitioners.”
Trekkies, Jedis, or Sailor Moon cosplay personalities show the ways in which enthusiastic fans are successful at adapting their fantasies into reality. Though they’re these particular subcultures are established, the possibilities are endless for other “ubersubculture” opportunities. As the popular Star Wars phrase goes, “May the Force be with you!”
For the full interview tune in to Third Eye Weekly.