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Young Jedi flock to Chile 'Star Wars' class

27 march 2011, 13:33
0
©AFP PHOTO/Martin BERNETTI
©AFP PHOTO/Martin BERNETTI
In a galaxy far, far away -- well, actually in a Chilean town -- a new generation of Jedi knights is mastering the arts of the Force in a class taught by two "Star Wars" fans.

The students, aged 6-12, are learning martial arts and meditation from William Berrueta, aka Master Qui Don Quan, in a course inspired by the sci-fi franchise that first captivated their parents' generation in the 1970s and 80s.

"May the Force be with you," the former Tae Kwon Do and yoga instructor, now clad in the kimono-like robe of a Jedi, says before leading his young Padawan in stretching exercises, meditation sessions and self-defense.

The class strives to impart the Jedi philosophy, which in the films allows Luke Skywalker to overcome the Dark Side of the Force, defeat Darth Vader and lead the rebels to victory against an evil intergalactic Empire.

"Aggression comes from the Dark Side. If you attack someone, you are an aggressor," says Sergio Angeloni, who goes by "Master Yoda", the name of the pointy-eared green creature who trains Luke in the ways of the Force.

"The Force should be used on the light side, solely for defense."

Of course, no timeless struggle between good and evil would be complete without the children's favorite part of the lessons: the light sabers.

Only the masters are allowed to handle the "real" light sabers -- $250 replicas with fluorescent lights bought in the United States -- which they use to demonstrate Japanese samurai sword techniques.

"The sabers are for demonstrations, not for duels or fighting," Berrueta says.

Berrueta got the idea for the camp when he took his son, then four, to a world-traveling "Star Wars" exhibition that landed in Chile in 2009 with some 200 props from the Lucasfilm Archives.

"We have seen the profound joy of embodying an authentic Jedi knight, a model of goodness, wisdom, nobility, courage and almost super-human abilities," says his blog advertising the school.

The Jedi's path is long -- with once-weekly classes at $75 per month leading to a "diploma" in no less than three years -- but the Force is strong in Quilpue, and the class size has doubled to 30 in its second year.

"I want to study everything about the Jedi... I want to be like Skywalker," says Christopher, 10.
Like Skywalker, he appears to have inherited the Force from his father.

"Ever since I was little, I have been a fan of 'Star Wars', like my son. I brought him here to learn all the disciplines," says his father, Danilo Flores.

Berrueta admits he faced some criticism and more than a little ridicule when he started the school, but he says there are similar programs in New York, Germany and Spain.

"With time, and given what the children here experience, perceptions are changing," he says.


By Miguel Sanchez

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