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The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

The UNC Asheville Saber Club’s duels remain, moved to AC Reynolds Green

Elliott Jackson
Cooper (left) and Nick (right) duel on AC Reynolds Green on March 28, 2024.

Not so long ago, in our galaxy, there was a discussion containing jokes pertaining to testicular torsion, specifically by use of the Force. 

“When people first start out, you don’t know what’s full force and what’s not. You’re just used to hitting people with those plastic ones. These hurt a lot more,” said Cooper, a senior, a rapper, an avid collector of action figures and the president of the UNC Asheville Saber Club, whilst wielding his lightsaber purchased from UltraSabers, a custom made, combat-ready lightsaber service. “This is from UltraSabers. It’s a baseless saber. It’s just the light, no sound. You can get this in a mystery box for like $100.” 

Every Thursday night at 8 p.m, the club meets outside on the AC Reynolds Green, after being instructed to move from their previous location. On March 28, 2024, six members attended and engaged in two versus two and three versus three lightsaber duels. Two members were  accidentally hit in the groin, one of whom being Cooper. Out of over 200 hits to the groin, the other member says, nearly 50 of them have taken place at Saber club.

“There are accidents. That’s why you sign a form because you will get hit eventually. Even if it’s an accident, it’s still going to hurt. We have no stabbing, no jabbing, no crouching on the ground because you can get hit in the face,” Cooper said. “Don’t come here drunk or under the influence. Just to get the basic rules, you can just read the constitution we made.” 

According to Cooper, the club found its beginnings during his freshman year, between him and his friend who later became the club’s vice president. After class one day, they began dueling. In between duels, the other groin-impacted member rolls two dice, hoping to roll the same number on each. In a duel, a body hit is considered an immediate kill, while leg and arm hits eliminate them from use. Three hits to the arms and legs constitute a kill. 

“I own a lot of lightsabers. My friend and I said ‘hey, let’s fight with lightsabers,’ after class. He pulled up with another friend who had a lightsaber and we all started dueling,” Cooper said. “People started walking by and it was really cool. Something that’s never been done here. As the weeks went on, we made it a weekly thing.”

To Cooper’s right is Nick, a sophomore and the club’s adjudicator. His favorite lightsaber color is blue. He owns three of them. Cooper’s favorite color is blue as well, with purple being a close second. Nick grew up watching the “Star Wars” films, as did his mom and grandfather. The only thing to rival “Star Wars” in interest and knowledge, Nick says, is “Godzilla”, having seen each “Godzilla” film multiple times. The next night, following the Thursday night meet, Nick and friends went to see the new film, “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.” 

“I’m definitely a huge fan of Godzilla. The big ‘G’ is my number one,” Nick said. 

On Thursday night, igniting his lightsaber, a bright pink light crept up the plastic tube, followed by a Godzilla screech blasting from a small speaker on the side of the saber. According to Nick, while UltraSabers are effective, more expensive lightsabers are capable of modification or inputting of fonts, a term used to describe different sounds and lights either pre-programmed into the saber or put in by the user. For example, Nick says, Darth Maul’s two-bladed lightsaber can go upwards of $800. 

“Depending on the saber you buy and the technology that’s in it, it can get very expensive,” Nick said. “There’s an upgrade that has soundboardings, SD cards and all. That’s called a Xenopixel. It comes with several different fonts. You can also add more fonts into it. I have, I believe around 60 right now. Then there’s a higher quality called Proffie, which goes far deeper into customization. It’s a lot more expensive.” 

Cooper chimed in, providing information regarding a saber they just purchased. 

“Let’s put it this way. I have one I just got yesterday. It was $324. It was a lot of money,” Cooper said. 

To the left of Cooper is Jalill, a sophomore and club member. His favorite color lightsaber is green. Amongst the fonts on Jalill’s lightsaber are the “Power Rangers” theme song, “Pokémon” and their personal favorite, a “Ben 10” themed font, custom-made. Jalill and several other members wear gloves while dueling, some fingerless, others not. 

“Personally, I’m a lot newer than they are. I got into it during COVID, but I’ve always been into anything that’s just like a lot of lore or something I can learn about. I was into Pokemon a lot. Just things I can grab onto,” Jalill said. “We’ve had people join the club who haven’t seen Star Wars before and just have fun.” 

On Thursday night, the six members followed duels with conversations based in Star Wars lore, spanning across films, books, video games and shows. Cooper says one of his favorite fights is in “The Phantom Menace,” where Darth Maul battles Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi Wan Kenobi. For Nick, it is the fight between his favorite character, Darth Revan and Emperor Vitiate from the “Star Wars: The Old Republic” video game. For Jalill, Ahsoka versus Vader, from the television series “Star Wars Rebels.” 

“Something your average Star Wars fan probably wouldn’t know is Darth Revan basically made Darth Malak his little bitch by chopping his jaw off. That’s something that a lot of people don’t know,” Cooper said. 

Some members practice choreography, recreating moves from their favorite fights. The bright lights of the lightsabers shine different colors, some glow rainbow. In some disagreement regarding a minigame, the dice throwing and crotch affected member grows frustrated, although they ultimately decide to work out the game’s logistics at another meeting.  

“We do have general rules written down, but for some of our mini games, they’re not written down. Most people are regulars so they remember them. Most of our mini games, we’re still tweaking with them. So if we decide something needs to be changed for the better, and for the safety of everyone we’ll announce it and do our best to make sure to follow it. So we do have rules and everything,” Nick said. 

While the spirits and energy were vibrant on Thursday night, the club’s comradery was threatened in the spring semester of last year. According to Cooper, accusations were cast upon a former member, destroying their reputation and tarnishing the club’s image. The accusation? Consumption of child pornography by one of the group’s members. 

“I will break it down. We used to have a member who is not at this school anymore. We used to have a member and he was a part of the anime club. A certain person didn’t like him and made up a bunch of stuff and he got kicked out. Then he joined our club, which was not an official club at the time, by the way. It was just a bunch of guys,” Cooper said. “He was afraid of getting beat up and shit like that. I mean one night it was just me and him. People started leaving club and then we got mobbed by like 20 fucking people, protesting. It made me lose my cool. We had to get the cops involved, then we had to go to the dean of students. We got it worked out.”

A video was posted on the club’s Instagram account, formerly known as “the Jedi Council,” where Cooper denounced the allegations, while waving around a blue lightsaber. A comment on the post, taken from a screenshot provided by Cooper, read: “I don’t think the jedi council nor any sith would approve of someone consuming cp but that could just be me.” Others posted on Yik Yak. One screenshotted post read: “kill your local pedophile.” 

“They started blasting us, saying that we protect pedophiles, blah, blah, blah,” Cooper said. “The video was basically a response to all of the incognito Yik Yak shit. I’m not afraid to put myself on a video to basically say ‘nothing happened, stop posting that we’re fucking protecting pedophiles, because it’s not true. If you come to our club, don’t bring up that shit. If you have your own personal reasons why you don’t like somebody, deal with them on your own time.’ That was the basic theme of the video.”

Nick provided their insights to the conflict, although they themself were not involved with the club at the time.  

“One of them said genocide is the path to glory. When they think they’ve seen something wrong, they want to fix it and they won’t give up. It can be good in situations. If there was actual evidence against the guy, I could fully understand what they were doing,” Nick said. “While they didn’t have any evidence of a guy they drove out of the school, we have evidence basically full-on committing crimes. We don’t want any drama to happen again, because it has been taken care of, but in case anything does happen again, we have evidence of what they did. It’s just a bunch of bullshit, really. As the adjudicator, if anything does come up again, we have people and the processes to handle it.” 

Jalill joined in, sharing their perspective. 

“He left because his reputation was tarnished so bad,” Jalill said. “I still check on him occasionally to see how he’s doing. He’s still going to college, just not here.” 

Following the controversy, Cooper says, another Star Wars club was created to rival theirs, called the Mandalorian Clan. According to Nick, however, the club didn’t last. In describing the “failed” club’s creator, Jalill referred to them as a “Social Justice Warrior.” An interview request was sent to this individual, but ultimately denied. 

“We’ve had to ban three people from our club before we even were officialized. That’s why the Mandalorian Clan was started basically, just to rival this.” Cooper said. 

It’s been almost a year since the conflict. The club remains up to the same old activities, according to Cooper. He hopes for the club to continue doing what it does best: providing Star Wars themed fun for participants, exempt of allegations regarding potential pedophiles. To quote Obi Wan Kenobi in the 1980 Star Wars film, “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Don’t give in to hate. That leads to the Dark Side.” 

“I think it’s important to know that this club, while you know, we do take it seriously, we also want people to have fun. For instance, if you’re having a hard day or you want a break from homework, this is a great opportunity to just have fun and get to know other people,” Cooper said. “I always liked the light side of the force better. I would say the dark side does have quite some tempting characters, but I always go towards the light side.”

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