As I watch my computer screen intently, Novastar duels ferociously with his light saber, mere inches away from slicing through arms, torsos and jugulars. Sounds like a scene from the newest Star Wars film, doesn’t it? You wouldn’t be too far off with that assumption…
Regular Guys or Jedi in Disguise?
So how does one just ‘become’ a Jedi, you ask? If anyone would know, its Matthew Carauddo and Mark Preader or, as they are also referred to, ‘Novastar’ and ‘Caine’. As you can see in the video above, these guys mean business. I recently got a chance to speak one on one with Novastar (Matthew) and pick his brain a bit about his life as a Light Saber Combat professional and had the pleasure of learning all about the path to Jedi-hood.
The first question that I found especially pressing was: How on earth does someone get involved in an activity such as Light Saber Combat? Although he has experience in Wing Chun Kung Fu, Jeet Kune Do, Jujitsu, Shotokan Karate and acrobatics, from 1999 to 2005, Novastar was solely instructing fencing classes, training as a fencer, participating in fencing competitions (both local & national) and was also working on local staged combat projects. He worked on everything from adult performances of Romeo & Juliet and Twelfth Night to children’s performances of Peter Pan and the Three Musketeers. Here is what Novastar had to say about his involvement in his hobby-turned passion:
Somewhere amidst all of the traditional staged combat and fencing, I was playing a Star Wars video game (Jedi Academy), enjoying it, and stopped to think: “You know… I’ve never really seen a *LIVE* performance with light sabers”, as opposed to fan films, fan fights, special effects, and the movies themselves. All of which contained (quite naturally) post-production effects, editing, special graphics, pyrotechnics and so forth.
I imagined that a live performance would not only be difficult, but also require props that could handle the punishment of hard strikes/live combat–with almost no room for error, as in live performance–even a small mistake can be catastrophic. In any case, with no budget, no real set space to perform in, no connections to Hollywood or LFL or whatever, I put my projects together.
It is obvious that his productions take a lot of work and effort to coordinate, but as seen in the video, the work is certainly worthy of the outcome. He even wrote, cast, choreographed, directed, produced and organized the projects, set up the venue assignments and logistics, recorded 90% of the vocal work, designed and mixed all of the vocals & sound. Of course, he had to do the video editing as well. Not to mention, building, maintaining and paying for the saber props! All of the work, time and effort that has gone into the many productions leaves me dying to know…You are a Star Wars fan, right?
Ironically, I am not what you would actually call a “fan”. I do not collect anything, I don’t really buy merchandise, read all the books, see all the trailers, play ALL of the games, know all of the places, techno-thingies, planets, etc. However, as far as FILMS are concerned, George Lucas has probably been one of the most interesting pioneers in the business that the last few decades have seen. Mr. Lucas pioneered new ways of thinking about/implementing modeling and animatronics in SW that simply hadn’t been seen before–in 1977. Or, at least, we’d not seen things done THAT WELL. Additionally, later came companies such as LucasArts and Skywalker Sound which have ALSO changed the way the industries look at video games and multi-channel sound.
Novastar’s productions are very much reminiscent of the original Star Wars films and it is obvious by his description of George Lucas’ work, that he has studied it closely. By day, Novastar is a fencing teacher for both children and adults. When asked if he ever incorporates his light sabers into his fencing instruction, he replied:
I do indeed teach saber fencing to youth and adults; I’ve been teaching about 12+ years now. Ironically, there is almost nothing about “movie/film/staged” combat that really aligns itself with sport fencing, although you do indeed “attack and defend”. The truth of the matter is, however, true martial arts with the sword (during real-time sparring) are FAR more quick & deadly than most anything you’d see in a film fight.
In essence, staged combat is one aspect of swordplay, and it’s not about realism–it’s about entertaining the audience, giving them the ILLUSION of a true battle, and portraying character and story. Which is fantastic! It’s a BEAUTIFUL part of “martial arts”. However, fencing is entirely different, and the techniques therein are meant to strike an opponent in (quite literally) a quarter or half-second. So, as “fantasy-breaking” as it may be – light saber combat in films and stage plays are rarely aligned with real-time sparring!
I can’t imagine how incredible it must be to get the opportunity to take Light Saber Combat lessons as a child. What a way to inspire an active (and geeky!) lifestyle in not only children, but adults too. I asked Novastar where he gets light sabers that can stand up to the wear and tear that his combat methods entail. I was surprised when he answered:
I build almost all of the L.E.D. (Light Emitting Diode) sabers that I use for performances, events, demos, parties, classes, etc. In fact, I’ve had a fairly integral part in the innovation of custom sabers (especially regarding what are called “sound fonts”) from about 2007 to the present time.
This guys really does it all! Not only does he fill the role of instructor, performer, innovator, producer and director, he also makes his own props and equipment. That’s not all, though. To add to his list of irons in the fire, Novastar has even released his very own tutorial DVDs that let people like me get an honest shot at learning a little bit about Light Saber Combat. I asked Novastar what inspired him, after everything else that he has going on, to create a DVD series as well. He had this to say:
In 2007, I filmed a very simple and basic staged combat tutorial. I released it in a limited form, to a certain & small niche of customers (although I’m re-releasing it soon!). However, I didn’t really have anyone to film with, nor anyone with the understanding and skills in staged combat that could help me. Somewhere between 2008 & 2009, I met Mark Preader (Caine), who owned a martial arts studio in Hollister, CA (West Coast Hollister Martial Arts), and I realized that he was close by where I lived at the time (San Jose, CA). Mark had already filmed what he had called the “Seven Forms of Saber Combat”, a series of personal forms showing techniques of manipulating the saber in the air as spins/twirls, cuts & slashes, and sometimes defensive actions.
It sounds as though what started as a low-budget hobby has really come full circle for Novastar and Caine with the production of their DVD. Along the way, they have touched thousands of lives with their videos, productions and teaching. If you are interested in learning more about their endeavors, please check out their website here.
Novastar and Caine were kind enough to give us a few of their tutorial DVDs to giveaway to our fans! Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming giveaway and a special video message from Caine and Novastar themselves!