MAPLE GROVE, Minn. (WCCO) — Star Wars isn’t just a series of blockbuster movies, it’s also becoming a popular sport.

And it’s all thanks to a group of Twin Cities fans. Once a week, members of the Saber Legion meet to show off their martial arts and light saber skills.

“It probably takes me 15 minutes to get all geared up. There are a lot of layers,” said Charley Cummings.

For Charley, what he’s about to do is well worth the time and the layers.

“These are actually street hockey pads. A lot of us wear lacrosse gloves. I wear lacrosse gloves. Things like that,” said Charley, who also wears gear around his midsection to avoid injury. “It’s in a sense to protect us big, round guys. Keep the love handles safe.”

He’s keeping his love handles safe from a fighter armed with a light saber.

“We are a sport dedicated to the iconic weapon called a light saber,” said Terry Birnbaum.

Terry is the co-founder of the Saber Legion, an international combat organization that began three years ago in Robbinsdale.

“That started in my backyard. And then from there we started meeting in parks, we started growing,” said Terry.

They now have more than 30 charters and close to 6,000 members worldwide. It’s like a Star Wars fight club with rules.

“Our objective is to hit each other within the bounds of the Saber Legion,” said fighter Ryan Kappes.

That means the padded areas. Each hit is worth a point. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tap or something a little more powerful.

The throat and the groin are off limits. In tournament style, the first fighter to 10 points wins. In the championship series, they can fight for 15 minutes.

“Adrenaline kicks in and it takes you to the next level. It’s very, very, very intense,” said Terry.

“It’s like an electricity. The hair stands up on the back of your neck,” said Charley.

The blades are made out of the same material as police batons. And the hilts are made out of aircraft aluminum.

And the fighters, well, they come from all kinds of different backgrounds. It just so happens that the force is a little stronger here than at their day jobs.

“I work in U.S. Bank, crisis management,” said Charley.

“I’m a creative director for an advertisement agency,” said fighter Mike McDonough.

“Basically, I’m a zookeeper for sharks, turtles, that sort of thing,” said Ryan.

“And I’m a butcher,” said Terry.

The common denominator is a Jedi-like drive. Some guys have a Kendo sword fighting background, while others specialize in Bartitsu.

“Bartitsu is from Europe and Kendo is from Japan. So just seeing the two worlds collide, but with a light saber,” said Terry.

They’ve been featured on ESPN and their goal is to give people who maybe aren’t the best athletes a chance to embrace competition and thrive.

Like Charley says, everyone knows Star Wars and everyone loves it. But these guys get an opportunity to live it.

“I really think we are in the golden age of nerds, right? You used to be, yeah, I’ve seen Star Wars. But now you can proclaim it. It’s a lifestyle for people,” said Charley.

The team practices at USA Karate in Maple Grove.  They will compete in the 3rd annual Saber Legion tournament in Las Vegas in August.

See more information about the group on The Saber Legion Facebook page.

Check out The Saber Legion on YouTube.

John Lauritsen