I watched a Star Wars special where Luke Skywalker himself was explaining how those great fight scenes with Light Sabers came about. From the Star Wars creator George Lucas himself, I learned that he used Kendo as the basis for all the fight scenes with Light Sabers.
Kendo is a form of martial arts developed by former Samurai to keep their skills sharp when their official services were less in demand. The Kendo movements I watched in this special harkened back to many of the movements I learned and taught in Tai Chi and Qi Gong.
While each form of martial arts has its own unique movements, from my own observations as one who works with bodies, there is a basic premise which permeates all of the martial arts. The common characteristics are a firm stance, knees bent and deliberate movement.
Tai Chi has some of the same basic forms of movement as Kendo. But unlike Kendo, Tai Chi is comprised of defensive martial arts moves performed in slow motion. Why is this so? Because the people who created it realized that as a precursor to fight training, one should learn balance, and they also had to create muscle memory of each of the movements.
In Tai Chi, as well as other forms of martial arts, it is important to really feel where your body is in space, in relation to other objects around you. Tai chi teaches one how to breathe with the move and how to push force through the feet and legs.
In yoga classes you often hear teachers telling their students to be grounded in their legs and feet. What they mean is to not separate your movements into lower or upper body. Your legs should be bent, not locked. Soft knees let you use your muscles rather than thrust through the joints of the knees and hips. When performed correctly you push through the feet and legs in such a way that the small muscles in your feet are strengthened and the Achilles tendon is stretched.
Watching the instructors work with the actors, walking them through the movements, first for Kendo, then for the fight scenes in Star Wars, I noticed more acutely how they are rooted in the martial arts. I also appreciated a little more, the extra flourishes that were added to make those light saber duels more fantastic.
I am not necessarily a huge fan of fight scenes that go on forever, like some of the Star Wars scenes do, but I will watch them differently now..
Tai Chi, Kendo and Star Wars!!
Life is funny sometimes.