Improve Your Lightsaber Battle

It’s the most wonderful time, of the yearrr…. *cough cough*, umm, excuse me… This year, as we approach Star Wars Day, it is an especially fun year in our household. I currently have a 2-year-old and this 2-year-old already loves Star Wars. She can confidently name characters that many in my family cannot and loves to play with her toy lightsaber. All that to say, recently my wife and I decided that it was time for her to have her first watch-through of the movies. After some debate, we decided that a chronological watch-through was the way to go, although it meant starting with Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Now, I will say that I don’t hate this movie as much as some people, but it has never been a favorite. However, after watching it again, I’m always struck by how good the final sequence is. In fact, I’d argue that the lightsaber battle where Obi-wan and Qui-Gon are against Darth Maul, is the best in the series.

Unfortunately, that’s where my hang-up is. After watching and writing about The Empire Strikes Back for Star Wars Day last year, I couldn’t help but watch these final scenes with a more critical eye. Last year, I really let Luke have it for skipping out on his training. This year won’t be all bad though. There are a couple of critiques that I will have for the Jedi, but I also have some praise as well. Let’s get to the good stuff.

(Obligatory spoiler warning here. This movie, although not as old as last year’s, is still 23 years old, so I don’t feel too bad about these reveals…)

Rotator Cuff Strengthening

Near the end of the movie, Jedi Qui-gon Jinn and Obi-wan Kenobi are approached by the Sith Lord Darth Maul. A lightsaber battle begins and the first sequences are pretty evenly matched (although you’d think that the Jedi were never told that someone might try to kick them). The 3rd scene where we see this fight is where my first problem comes in. Darth Maul is between the Jedi when he pins Obi-wan’s lightsaber to the floor. Obi-wan is unable to get his blade up in time and takes a swift kick to the face (this is the 3rd kick Maul lands). The problem here seems to be some shoulder strength and stability. If Obi-wan had worked his rotator cuff a little more, he wouldn’t have been compromised by a pinned lightsaber.

(To strengthen your rotator cuff, lay on your side with your top arm on top of your body. Bend your elbow 90 degrees and let your forearm rest against your abdomen. Keeping your elbow at your side, rotate your forearm up toward the ceiling. Feel free to hold a weight in your hand to increase the difficulty.)

Deep Breathing

As I mentioned above, all is not bad in this fight. Shortly after Obi-wan gets knocked around, Qui-gon and Maul advance to an area where they are separated by red force fields. Almost immediately Qui-gon deactivates his lightsaber and kneels on the ground. The Jedi are supposed to be mindful at all times and what he does is perfect. In the midst of a stressful time (in his case life or death), he takes a moment to slow his breathing and calm his mind. This is great. I talk with probably 4 or 5 patients a day about breathing exercises. Making sure to perform self-care and relaxation can really improve how your body is able to heal. Qui-gon takes a moment to ready himself for the next part of the battle, by simply doing some deep breathing.

(Breathing exercises can be very simple. I recommend finding a quiet place away from distractions, where you can be comfortable. I prefer to close my eyes (So does Qui-gon, so this is Jedi approved), and relax my shoulders. If you haven’t done this before, place one hand on your belly and one on your chest. Take a slow deep breath in and you should feel the hand on your belly rise, while the hand on your chest stays still. This is diaphragmatic breathing. Try to take at least 4-5 good breaths if you are strapped for time, but as this becomes more normal, work up to 5-10 minutes.)

Push-Ups & Upper-Body Strength

When we get back to Qui-gon he is still kneeling and the force fields are up. The fields open and the battle begins again. This is where my final problem arises, and wouldn’t you know it, but I had the same thing come up in last year’s post. Qui-gon and Darth Maul lock lightsabers and Darth Maul pushes back against Qui-gon. Qui-gon can’t resist and takes a saber hit to the face and a *SPOILER* saber blade to the gut. As if this wasn’t enough, when Obi-wan is able to reengage, he eventually has the exact same thing happen and gets knocked down an exhaust shaft. Simply working on some push-ups could have prevented this. In fact, since this came up last time around, I’m going to put the same explanation of push-ups in this year’s post, which I included last year.

(Pushups are a great upper body strengthening exercise. If you can’t do them on the floor, that’s ok. Start against a wall, or leaning on the back of a couch. Start vertical and try to progress to floor pushups. To perform pushups, start with your hands extended out, even with your shoulders on the surface where you are performing the exercise. Keep you core tight, and lower your body down, until your hands are near your chest. From there, push back up to the starting position. Try to keep your body in a straight line as you perform pushups.)

Lessons Learned

After watching this series of events, I guess I should have taken it a little easier on Luke last year. Qui-gon didn’t teach Obi-wan to do pushups, so why should Obi-wan have known to teach Luke? But I digress. Shortly after Obi-wan is put in his compromised position, he does the pull-up of the year and is face to face with Darth Maul. At that point, Darth Maul decides he needs to split (it’s bad, I know), and Obi-wan is victorious.

And with that, another Star Wars Day has come and gone. The curse of watching Star Wars through the eyes of a physical therapist isn’t all bad. It is a reminder that even a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there is always room for improvement. As a parting farewell, I’ll say one last thing that will likely alienate well over half the fan base. Meesa says, May the 4th be with you!

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Dave Bengry, DPT