Martial arts studies has entered a period of rapid conceptual development. Yet relatively few works have attempted to define the ‘martial arts’, our signature concept. This article evaluates a number of approaches to the problem by asking whether ‘lightsaber combat’ is a martial art. Inspired by a successful film franchise, these increasingly popular practices combine elements of historical swordsmanship, modern combat sports, stage choreography and a fictional worldview to ‘recreate’ the fighting methods of Jedi and Sith warriors. The rise of such hyper-real fighting systems may force us to reconsider a number of questions. What is the link between ‘authentic’ martial arts and history? Can an activity be a martial art even if its students and teachers do not claim it as such? Is our current body of theory capable of exploring the rise of hyper-real practices? Most importantly, what sort of theoretical work do we expect from our definition of the ‘martial arts’?
How to Cite:
Judkins, B.N., 2016. The seven forms of lightsaber combat: hyper-reality and the invention of the martial arts. Martial Arts Studies, (2), pp.6–22. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18573/j.2016.10067