July 14, 2020
Kenyon has updated its plans for returning to campus, offering in-person and remote instruction. Read more here.
The Kenyon Athletic Center became training grounds for future jedis on Saturday, Jan. 28, when Columbus, Ohio-based fencing instructor Tim Mills taught lightsaber combat to the Kenyon and Gambier community.
Attendees of all ages learned traditional fencing stances and moves from Mills before eventually trying their hand at fencing with lightsabers. Mills led each of his four sessions with warmup exercises and instruction on proper fencing posture. Once thoroughly prepared, participants pranced around the KAC’s Multi-Activity Court dueling with lightsabers.
Mills also offered a session on martial ballroom dance specifically for those with dance experience. After learning the basics of fencing, the students demonstrated a series of moves from American-style tango, cha-cha, jive and waltz, while Mills observed which moves could potentially serve as attacks or self-defense.
Professor of Mathematics Bob Milnikel had no previous training in fencing, but as a big fan of the original “Star Wars” trilogy since a young age, he’d seen plenty of lightsaber action. His first experience with lightsaber combat proved a success. “I was impressed with the seriousness of the session,” Milnikel said. “The initial warmup was a workout — especially all of the lunges — but the whole workshop was pitched at a good level for true beginners like myself.”
Pamela Faust, executive assistant to the president and provost, has taken lightsaber combat lessons with Mills for the past year and wanted to bring him to Kenyon. She initially suggested to the Senior Class Committee that he come for Senior Week. However, President Sean Decatur — who is known to be a “Star Wars” enthusiast — liked the idea so much that he suggested Mills visit campus before then. “When I mentioned [lightsaber combat] to President Decatur during a staff meeting, his eyes lit up and he said, ‘Can we do it sooner, too?’” Faust said.
Faust then organized a co-sponsorship with Kenyon’s Tabletop Club, Fencing Club and Ballroom Dance Club; they decided to hold the fencing workshop in honor of "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” released in December 2016. Accordingly, Mills decorated the court with “Star Wars” posters, and most participants were self-proclaimed “Star Wars” fans.
Mills comes from the Royal Arts Fencing Academy in Columbus, where he and his wife, Julia Richey, coach in fencing and other martial art forms. He has been fencing for about 25 years and is also skilled in various types of historical martial arts and sword fighting.
Lightsaber is a bit of a spectacle compared to sport fencing. “I think of lightsaber as the MMA of swordwork,” Mills said. He treats lightsaber as a serious, useful sport and noted that it borrows technique from both Eastern and Western tradition.
Mills will return for more lightsaber combat during Senior Week. Perhaps President Decatur will be spotted among the fencing students.
—Elana Spivack ’17 (Photos by Emma Brown ’17)