Monday, March 12, 2012

What is more fascinating than knowing there exists a Jedi Club?

ON a recent weeknight, Flynn Michael walked through his Jedi academy, a dimly lighted room not in some galaxy far, far away, but rather in a rehearsal space overlooking a death star of traffic on Eighth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.

"What time is it?" Mr. Michael yelled to the paired-off warriors wielding illuminated swords.

"Now!" responded these aspiring Jedi knights with nary a break in their battles.

"See?" Mr. Michael said. "They're in the moment."

The New York Jedi club meets here weekly. To an outsider, it might seem like stage-fighting with battery-powered lightsabers, but to Mr. Michael, it is aspiring righteous warriors communing with the Force, that energy that gives the Jedi his power and binds the galaxy. So what if the place attracts, as Mr. Michael said, "a bunch of 'Star Wars' dorks."

"They come in geeks and go out Jedi warriors," said Mr. Michael, a founder of the group and a self-ordained Jedi grandmaster.

A sound engineer who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and a self-proclaimed "sci-fi, heavy-metal, over-the-top geek," he was born Michael Brown and grew up in Rhode Island, where, he said he watched the first "Star Wars" film 32 times in 1977, the year it was released. He recalls first seeing Luke Skywalker learn about the force from Obi-Wan Kenobi and saying to the screen, "I want to do that."

"I realized that George Lucas made the ideal archetype from all the best disciplines we have," he said. "I was beat up a lot as a kid, and the lightsaber brings out that strong hero inside of you, so you can stand up for yourself."

Mr. Michael, 41, says he teaches his charges how to use the Force to navigate living in New York City, whether in a pressurized workplace, a crowded subway or a rowdy bar.

He said he had fashioned a spiritual discipline for the modern urban Jedi, drawing upon his experience with dance, martial arts, sword-fighting and Tibetan Buddhism.

On Wednesday night, walking down Prince Street, he grabbed a lightsaber from his loyal saber-smith, Jason Hoffman, and began leaping and spinning in the street and skillfully twirling the glowing rod, all the while dodging yellow cabs and attracting a crowd of passers-by. {read on}