The initial stages of the practice can be covered and completed relatively quickly. A few months of training is sufficient for most participants to start on their Level 3 Tournament Training. At Level 4 and beyond, the practice becomes a lot more like traditional martial arts, and it is at this stage that the content becomes high resolution, and progress takes years instead of weeks. We do not have formal gradings, but we do have a system for continual assessment. Each student has to be able to complete the level 1 and 2 syllabus as warmups at the beginning of any level 3+ workshop or class, and anyone that is unable to complete these exercises is taken back through the basics again, until they are able to demonstrate control, understanding and grace. This is to ensure a minimum standard for safety, as despite the friendly nature of the LED Sabre, it is still a practice martial arts weapon that can deliver significant damage if not used mindfully.
THE 7 LEVELS
"We teach a progressive seven level syllabus that takes the students from the very basics all the way through to a lifelong learning programme"
LEVEL 1: THE SABRE
The level 1 syllabus is the beginning of a journey into the art of the sword! Even the most advanced students will constantly return to the level 1 syllabus, to study and make corrections. It gives students the opportunity to hold and wield a sabre correctly, and establishes a solid foundation for all future exercises, beginning with:
- Basic Posture
- Two Handed Grip
- Basic Wields
- Basic Parries
- Head Cuts
- Lateral Cuts
- Basic Partner Exercises
- Mindfulness & Stillness
LEVEL 2: THE ROOT
The level 2 syllabus introduces students to the essential components of correct footwork and body alignment:
- Back Stance & Half Empty Stance
- Forward Stance
- Weight Transitions
- Walking Drills
- Pre-Combat Drills
- Hand & Foot Timing Principles
Level 2 contains many of the therapeutic methods of traditional Tai Ji Quan, and it’s ideal for recovery from illness and injury. Students with poor posture or compromised cardiovascular fitness will find the level 2 syllabus a practical supplement to their physiotherapeutic exercise routines.
LEVEL 3: THE ARENA
A level 3 student is permitted to begin exploring competitive sparring, using the techniques they have established in levels 1 & 2. There is no additional material introduced at level 3, except the tournament rules that competitors must abide by. It is designed to assess a students capacity to remain mindful under the pressures of open sparring, and to ensure that they are physically prepared for competition. The successful completion of level 3 is not based on victory or defeat. It is based on:
Students will also need to demonstrate the first section of The Form in order to complete their level 3 assessment, and upon completion they are allowed to enter tournaments and apply to join competition teams, formally representing the Academy.
LEVEL 4: THE GEOMETRY
A level 4 student should be familiar and comfortable with the basics and is now moving beyond sporting activity. From this point forward, they have to connect to the Martial Arts foundation and combat application of the syllabus. They need to be prepared for a much deeper course of study to achieve their goals.
Students are introduced to an additional range of cuts, parries and wielding techniques that allow fighters to flow seamlessly from one action to the next. This is achieved using the first 10 exercises of the 8 Spheres Geometry of Combat:
- The Eight Points of Cutting
- The Octagon of Defence
- The Linear Geometry Wielding Exercises
- Advanced Footwork
- Solo Form, sections 1-3
LEVEL 5: THE STAGE
Fight performance is where a student takes all that they have learned through competition and sparring, and begins to evolve into an artist capable of entertaining an audience!
Mastery of technique is absolutely essential, and performers are required to apply a state of mind which no longer sees their opponent as an enemy, but rather sees them as a partner, working together to create a spontaneous fight display. Working without a choreography can be dangerous, and requires rigorous training and discipline.
Students are encouraged to design their own outfits, made to a standard worthy of the stage, yet flexible and sturdy enough to withstand the pressures of combat.
Successfully completing level 5 qualifies a student to apply for inclusion in the display team. This process will typically take a novice student at least 2 years of training to achieve. Students are required to learn:
- Stagecraft & Mindfulness
- Cooperative Combat
- Solo Form, all sections
LEVEL 6: THE BODY
At this stage, to deepen one’s understanding of the kinesiology and biomechanics that form the basis for the external syllabus, it is advisable that students undertake a study of basic anatomy and physiology. This will require knowledge of:
- The Skeletal System & Major Bones
- Major Muscle Groups
- Biology of Muscle Fibres
- Functions of Tendons & Ligaments
- Insertions & Origins
- Actions, Agonists & Antagonists
- Aerobic, Anaerobic & Creatine Phosphate Fuel Circuits
- Nervous System
- Endocrine System
- Physiological Transformation & Timescales
These chapters are essential for any students that intend to customise the syllabus to fit particular needs, especially when dealing with learning difficulties, injuries or disabilities. They are also essential when creating bespoke programmes for athletes and competitors. They help to ensure a lower incident rate as well as accelerating recovery, because the student has a better understanding of which muscles and joints are involved in every technique, why injuries occur, and what each injury requires for healing.
LEVEL 7: THE MIND
By the time a student arrives at level 7, they should have been practicing stillness since their very first class! Students will learn how to manage their ‘fight or flight’ responses and to deal with panic before it starts to affect their ability to function.
This is achieved by studying the traditional Qi Gong independently, and these practices are then transplanted back into combat and display fighting. At this stage, the focus of training is the development of one’s awareness, and the ability to tune out all irrelevant influences, distilling the mind to the immediate circumstance and environments both internally and externally. The syllabus includes:
- Sitting Meditation
- Standing Meditation
- The Eternal Spring Qi Gong
- Push Hands
- Wu Shi Tai Ji Xuan Xuan Dao, with steel
THE COMBAT SYSTEM
The Silver Sabres Combat Academy teaches a comprehensive syllabus with seven levels of content. The syllabus is derived from the traditional internal art of Wu Shi Tai Ji Quan and explores the language of a two handed double edged longsword. The martial art is a ‘system’ based on anatomy and does not teach any particular ‘style’ of combat. It is a scientific endeavour to identify and study the many variables of armed engagement, and allows each individual to discover their own nature and forms of expression. It is explored through four distinct aspects:
TRADITIONAL MARTIAL ARTS
All Levels: 1-7
A lineage preserved and handed down carefully, generation after generation, in order to preserve many lifetimes worth of refinement. Some concepts have taken centuries to emerge, and much of the syllabus is beyond the ability of any one person, in any one lifetime, to create independently. We all stand on the shoulders of giants. We preserve what cannot be replaced, and we study what has been established in order to share it with future generations.
All Levels: 1-7
Mindfulness is the ability to consciously choose your point of focus, and to exist in the here and now. This is what allows a competitor to be aware of their opponents movements and to react to them in real-time. It is cultivated through focussing on perfecting technique, and becoming aware of the breath (Qi Gong). It is the ultimate goal of the holistic journey offered by the Silver Sabres Combat Academy.
MODERN COMBAT SPORT
Level 3: The Arena
No martial art is complete without a means of pressure testing its students. We cannot develop our art to a functional level unless we are placed in uncomfortable situations, and this is why we insist on competitive engagement. This requires the development of a set of rules and the establishment of a body of professional referees and officials. We do not use weight categories, gender divisions or any other means of balancing the combat. Everyone fights everyone. No one is excused.
Level 5: The Stage
The ultimate goal for many of our participants is to get dressed up in their costumes and to soar across the stage surrounded by glorious arcs of light! Here at the Silver Sabres Combat Academy we pride ourselves on never using any choreographed routines! Every single second of excitement is a spontaneous moment shared between performers and audience. No fights are ever repeated twice, no one knows how any fight will end, and the only way to safely pull off such a feat is to have genuine combat skills! Display fighting is level 5 and only becomes available to those combatants that have successfully demonstrated the ability to fight in tournament, with excellent technique and absolute grace under fire. Accept no substitutes, beware of cheap imitations…
THE SEVEN FORMS OF LIGHTSABER COMBAT
Many members of the LED Sabre community enjoy the official fandom descriptions of the ‘Seven Forms of Lightsaber Combat’. These forms were created after the filming and choreography of the prequel trilogy, and as such helped to add to the back-stories of the characters that were said to be employing them. Whilst this makes for an excellent plot driver and adds richness to the world, it presents a huge challenge to any study of the movements. The simple reason for this is that so many actors, performers, stunt people, choreographers, directors, editors, special effects artists and countless other creatives and professionals have all been involved in portraying these forms, that it is impossible to ever achieve any consensus on what each form actually is!
Ultimately, each school will have their own interpretation of the forms, and come up with their own training methods to reflect that interpretation. We believe that this may lead to unnecessary confusion, and as a result we at the Silver Sabres Combat Academy have elected not to reference these forms when it comes to delivering our syllabus. This incredible planet already has countless beautiful authentic forms and there is no reason to replace any of them! Once lost, the art is gone forever. It makes much more sense for us to preserve it carefully first, and then dress it in the language of the fandom later when it suits our purposes!
To this end, we have decided that in any discussion of the Seven Forms of Lightsaber Combat, we at the Silver Sabres Combat Academy would rather discuss the mindset and spirit of those forms, rather than the kinematics, kinesiology, techniques or applications. With this in mind, our position on the Seven Forms of Lightsaber Combat is as follows:
FORM 1: SHII-CHO
Generic Sword Art
This is the traditional use of a two handed steel sword, used primarily for chopping and slicing and in the context of battlefield combat, with multiple opponents in all directions.
FORM 2: MAKASHI
This is traditional fencing, small sword, side swords, rapier or Jian style combat. It is focused on duelling a single opponent, with a single handed style, using linear footwork and attacking with thrusts and small circle cuts.
FORM 3: SORESU
This form focuses on outright defence, with the focus being survival rather than victory. Perfect for delaying tactics, or to hold the line whilst waiting for reinforcements. Typically this form only uses attacks if they are available for free at no expense to ones personal safety. (One of the best weapons for training Soresu is actually the Bat’leth…)
FORM 4: ATARU
Devoted to outright offence with the intention of finishing the engagement as fast as possible, this form is the most dynamic of them all. Suitable for parkour experts, wire-workers, gymnasts and acrobats, it requires special effects and equipment in order to be demonstrated sincerely in any live action.
FORM 5: DJEM SO
This form is similar to form 3 in that it starts as a defensive mindset, but with the intention of returning any intercepted incoming attacks back to the opponent. As such, it is not actually defensive but rather it is a counter fighting form. Patience and aggression balanced perfectly, the hunter awaits the enemy’s mistake, even baiting them into it.
FORM 6: NIMAN
Combination of Earlier Forms
A combined form, which we in the Silver Sabres Combat Academy teach as a blend of forms 1,2,3 & 5. This is the only honest place to give our entire syllabus a home, because it’s the only form that allows for a student to progress from beginner to combatant within a few years. It’s also the only form that genuinely allows a student to switch seamlessly between strategies without contradicting the principles of the form they are supposed to be representing.
FORM 7: VAAPAD
‘There is no form for anarchy. This level of study represents a perfect synthesis of mind, body, and spirit, and each student has to discover their own version for themselves. It will take a lifetime and it will never be complete.’