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The force awakens in France as lightsaber duelling becomes official sport

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By Lindsey Johnstone  & AP
Duelling takes place in the dark with replica lightsabers
Duelling takes place in the dark with replica lightsabers   -   Copyright  AP

The French Fencing Federation (Fédération Française d'Escrime) has officially recognised lightsaber duelling as a competitive sport.

The iconic weapon from a galaxy far, far away now has the same status as the foil, épée and sabre, the traditional blades used at the Olympics.

The LED-lit, rigid polycarbonate lightsaber replicas may not be able to slice a Sith lord in half, but they look and sound remarkably close to what Star Wars fans see on screen.

Lightsaber manufacturer Christian Levieuge said: "We have some very basic ones which are just with on-off buttons, with different colours or shapes. But there are much, much, much improved weapons which can have sounds, blade effects."

The fencing federation is now equipping fencing clubs with lightsabers and training would-be instructors in the ways of the Force.

Duellists compete in intense three-minute bouts of slashing, feinting and stabbing. The physicality of lightsaber combat is the reasoning behind the federation's support of the sport. Like virtuous Jedi knights, it sees itself as combatting a Dark Side: the sedentary habits of 21st-century life.

Police officer Philippe Bondi, 49, practised fencing for 20 years before switching to lightsaber duelling. When his local club in Metz club began offering classes, as a lifelong Star Wars fan Bondi couldn't resist.

"Points are awarded depending on where the blows land: five points for the head, three for the legs. The first to 15 points wins," he explained.

He fights in the same wire-mesh face mask he used for fencing and spent around €350 euros on his protective body armour (sturdy gloves, chest, shoulder and shin pads) and his federation-approved lightsaber – opting for luminous green, also the preferred shade of both Luke Skywalker and Jedi master Yoda.