Lightsaber duelists square off near Paris. (Christophe Ena/Associated Press)

Lightsaber battles at the Olympics? It might still be a long time from happening, but not in a galaxy far, far away.

That’s because France’s fencing federation has officially recognized lightsaber dueling, placing it alongside the traditional disciplines of epee, foil and saber. No, the lightsabers aren’t actually like the ones wielded to lethal effect in the Star Wars movies, but the advent of the sport has given some a new hope, as it were, of pulling youngsters away from video games and into physical activity.

“With young people today, it’s a real public health issue,” Serge Aubailly, the federation’s secretary general, told the Associated Press. “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.”

Instead of containing plasma, the lightsabers being used for duels here on Earth are made from rigid polycarbonate — not to be confused with carbonite, eh, Han Solo? — with LED lighting and, in some cases, proper sound effects built in.

To ensure action that resembles what fans have thrilled to in the movies, as well as to distinguish the dueling from its more traditional cousins, rules require participants to point the tips of their lightsabers behind them before attempting to land blows. While doing so, they are temporarily immune from attack, leading to clashes marked by sweeping movements.

The duels use a scoring system in which strikes to the head are worth five points; to the arms or legs, three points; or to the hands, one point. Winners are determined by the first to notch 15 points, or whoever is ahead after a three-minute round. Alternatively, if both competitors reach 10 points, the duel goes to sudden death, with the first to land a blow to the head or body becoming the winner.

Fighters wear masks and body armor, with the lighting appropriately low, all the better to make the glowing lightsabers pop.

“We wanted it to be safe, we wanted it to be umpired and, most of all, we wanted it to produce something visual that looks like the movies, because that is what people expect,” a French tournament organizer told the AP.

The International Fencing Federation, the sport’s worldwide governing body, is keeping an eye on “how this new event progresses,” an official told the AP. “We are always watching new trends in swordplay,” the official said, “and we are interested in observing the development and adoption of it in the French Fencing Federation.”

It’s hardly the first instance of Hollywood inspiring moviegoers to engage in sword fights. In the past, films such as “Zorro” and “The Three Musketeers” have caused some to take an interest in fencing, but this time, the weapons of choice don’t bring to mind the term “swashbuckler” so much as “Skywalker.”

“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.”

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