When “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was released in 2015, it stirred the creation of a local lightsaber combat school, the San Diego Sabers. Eric Main, a high-ranking battlemaster in the art of lightsaber combat, had already spent the previous 10 years perfecting all seven forms of combat in the sport. When the two other founders were just beginning to establish their group, they met Main.
“(We) met at a lightsaber celebration event at Seaport Village and he told me about what they had been discussing. The three of us shortly met up and created the foundation for San Diego Sabers,” he says. “I honestly had been training in and teaching lightsaber combat for a long while before we started SDS. It’s something that I have always enjoyed doing and it’s truly a passion.”
Main, 25, lives in Bay Ho with his wife, Katie, and their cat, Dolly. When he isn’t working full time as a financial planner, he spends a couple days each week with his students at San Diego Sabers, leading them in the fine art of lightsaber battling despite the physical pain that comes with the job as a result of his paralysis that requires him to use a wheelchair. He took some time to talk about his work in the group he helped found and how it’s helped him realize his calling in life.
Q: When did you pick up your first lightsaber?
A: I first picked up a lightsaber shortly after “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” came out in theaters (in 1999), but I didn’t formally start training with one until 2005.
Q: What appealed to you about the sport?
A: To me, the most appealing thing about lightsaber combat is how unique the weapon is and how many different styles of swordplay can be adapted to it.
Q: Tell us about the San Diego Sabers.
A: San Diego Sabers is a lightsaber combat school that focuses on teaching the seven traditional forms of lightsaber combat and adapting them to real-life swordplay. Back in 2015, right after “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was released, two of our founders, Robert and Steve, met and started chatting on a lightsaber forum about possibly creating a place where people could come learn lightsaber combat and spar with each other.
What I love about Bay Ho ...
I really love that I live super close to almost everything that I enjoy doing. The weather is usually pretty comfortable, and I have a nice view of the ocean.
Q: Why have you continued to be a part of it?
A: I continue to be a part of it because it’s such a positive thing. Helping and watching others grow is very rewarding and encouraging. I love being part of something that gives people an opportunity to not just better themselves, but also gives them a place to come hang out and chat with other lightsaber-loving fans and build what a lot see as a second family.
Q: How many people actively participate in the group and where do you train?
A: We meet twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the Bay Ho and UTC areas. We have anywhere from 20 to 30 active participants each session. Our training routine differs for each person there, depending on their skill level or what rank they hold. On Wednesdays, my wife runs the beginner/initiate class, which teaches the fundamentals and involves a lot of drills and body conditioning. If someone has a dedicated Knight or Master instructor, they will be working with them on technique, sparring, and just overall improvement and refinement of their chosen form. Each training meet up lasts for around two-and-a-half hours.
Q: You’re a Battlemaster? What does this mean, exactly?
A: Yes, my current rank is Battlemaster of SDS. When someone holds this rank, it means they have mastered all seven traditional forms of lightsaber combat and are not only able to execute them in combat, but also effectively teach them to others. When I first started formally training with lightsabers, I was part of a few different combat groups that have since disbanded. They were made up of people who had been translating real-life sword play techniques to use with a lightsaber since before the prequels and the seven forms of lightsaber combat were even actual things. My earliest ranks were granted by them and I achieved the level of knight in 2009. Since then, I have also achieved the rank of master and battlemaster.
Q: What’s been challenging about your work as a Battlemaster and with the San Diego Sabers?
A: Honestly, the most challenging thing about my rank is always having to teach and train even though I’m usually in a great deal of physical pain. My paralysis comes with a lot of unwanted side effects that can be pretty tough to deal with sometimes, but I try not to let it stop me. I really love teaching and training others, and sometimes that just means I have to put up with a bit more pain, but that’s OK.
Q: Do you mind sharing with us what led to your use of a wheelchair?
A: I was born with a coarctation, or narrowing, of my aorta. This meant that my blood pressure was always really high, and thus, I was restricted from any type of strenuous activity. In December of 2003, I underwent surgery to correct the narrowing. Unfortunately, there were some complications due to the unpreparedness of the surgeon, which led to me becoming fully paralyzed from the waist down. I’ve been in a wheelchair ever since.
Q: What’s been rewarding about your work?
A: The most rewarding aspect of this is being able to help people better themselves and develop really close friendships with people I probably never would have met, otherwise.
Q: What has it taught you about yourself?
A: All of this has taught me that I really enjoy teaching even more than I thought I did, and that it’s probably my calling in life.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: That’s pretty tough. I think I can narrow it down to two things: The first being from my dad, who would always tell me, “it’s not about the mistakes you make, it’s how you correct and come back from them.” The other would be from one of my lightsaber instructors. She would say that “nothing is ever owed to you, but everything is for you to achieve.”
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?
A: I always find that people are usually pretty surprised when they learn my age. I’m not sure why, though. Another thing would probably be that I really enjoy playing cards more than almost anything else.
Q: Describe your ideal San Diego weekend.