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Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023

Taking Risks With The Force

A year ago, Walt Disney Co. acquired the rights to the legendary “Star Wars” movies, and though the studio is not expected to release a new installment until 2015, one Burbank fencing studio is already riding the Jedi force. Tim Weske, 56, is the owner of Swordplay Fencing Studio Inc., where he teaches fencing and runs a “Jedi Academy” class that helps attract children to the sport. “For children younger than seven, they are developing in such a way that fencing is too difficult for them to understand and do,” said Weske. “(We) trick them into fencing in a Jedi Academy – they do fencing movements, but do it as a Jedi to understand it, and not with heavy equipment.” But riding the force could be trickier than all that, given that Disney spent $4 billion to acquire Star Wars creator George Lucas’ Lucasfilm Ltd. Consider that last month Warner Bros. in Burbank sued Whimsic Alley, a Miracle Mile shop that sells wands, books and other objects related to Harry Potter, claiming the store infringed on its valuable intellectual property. But Weske is not worried that Lucasfilm will bring down its wrath on his studio, which operates at 416 S. Victory Blvd. and at a second location in Granada Hills. In New York, Flynn Michael has been running New York Light Saber and the New York Jedi Academy for several years without any problem. In order to avoid intellectual property issues, Michael calls the weapons in his academy by the two words “light saber” instead of the one word “lightsaber” used in Star Wars books and other memorabilia. He notes the saber is a classical weapon in fencing. “We have 15 to 20 regular students, and we don’t adhere to Lucasfilms’ official costumes,” Michael said. Weske is optimistic he won’t have any problems with Disney, despite his reliance on the Star Wars name to attract students to his Jedi class, which averages 40 students and costs $17. The cost covers both the instruction and equipment, such as a light saber and paintball masks. Children also learn the “way of the Force” by having to keep a Jedi journal. “We’re not selling any Jedi merchandise. We take a kid and let him live his fantasy. We let them get involved with Star Wars; it keeps the dream and fantasy alive,” he said. So far, no word on whether the Disney empire agrees. The company did not return repeated calls for comment. – Jacquelinne Mejia

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