How kendo influenced Star Wars

“The Evolution of the Lightsaber Duel” reveals true extent of kendo’s influence on Star Wars movies”


From the action scenes to the dialogue and spirit of the characters, this new short documentary hosted by Mark Hamill confirms the heavy influence of kendo on the entire Star Wars franchise.

We’ve heard a lot about Star Wars director George Lucas’ admiration for Akira Kurosawa movies and the samurai inspiration that spawned Darth Vader’s costume and helmet for the series. Now there’s a new short documentary that shifts the focus towards the Japanese martial art of kendo, revealing some surprising facts about how much the sport influenced the many lightsaber duels throughout the series.

▼ Called “Evolution of the Lightsaber Duel”, the 2015 documentary is hosted by Mark Hamill, AKA Luke Skywalker, who once lived in Japan, attending Yokohama High School in the late 60s.

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The documentary begins with two eye-opening statements that really drive home the importance of kendo in the world of Star Wars.

“It’s honour, it’s balance, it’s justice; kendo is everything that Jedi are”.

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And: “There’s a saying in kendo: ‘One thousand days training for one moment of reckoning’”.

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The first part of the documentary traces the origins of kendo, which came about at the end of the civil war period, at the turn of the 17th Century, when samurai warriors no longer needed to fight but were worried about losing their combat skills.

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So the warriors began training with bamboo swords called shinai, giving birth to the martial art of kendo. The shinai bears a striking resemblance to the lightsaber, the weapon of the Jedi Knight.

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To see the first half of the documentary, take a look at the video below.

The second part of the documentary journeys to the 2015 World Kendo Championships in Japan and takes a look at the modern-day sport and its development in the more recent Star Wars instalments.

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While the first Star Wars movie borrowed a lot from both western and samurai sword-fighting styles, later movies called for more exciting, fast-paced lightsaber duels. Stunt coordinators decided to concentrate primarily on using the kendo fighting style, training actors in the sport as the speed and agility inherent in kendo allowed for more hits and more action.

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While some kendo moves were embellished for fights on film, there are other moments when actors employ classic kendo stances and strikes.

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The final half of the story, including some comments from Star Wars:The Force Awakensactor, John Boyega, can be seen below.