The Force Academy: Montreal’s Star Wars Themed Activity Centre


As a child of the 80’s, let’s just say that I grew up surrounded by Star Wars products, be it school notebooks, shirts, coloring books, posters, trading cards and stickers, SW-related TV specials (yes, I saw the Ewok Adventure’s initial airing), or of course, the toys. I’ve always found the franchise wonderful, as it attracts diehard fans of all ages.

To begin, I will admit that as fantastic as the phenomenon is, I am not a diehard fan of Star Wars: I am a Trekkie (yes, I know…). However, this never stopped me from watching anything Star Wars related. Us Trekkies love to explore, which was kind of the theme of Star Trek. And so, when I was offered a chance to review Montreal’s very own SW-themed activity center, The Force Academy, I was delighted.

I invited my co-worker along for the ride. He’s also seen all the movies, but is a casual fan. I didn’t invite a diehard fan to avoid a biased review.

The building itself seems unassuming. There are no land speeders or droids parked in the lobby. We really had to double-check to make sure that we were in the right place. When we made our way up to the venue, we were already pretty impressed. It’s a large dojo with plenty of room to move around. The space is slightly dark with some colored lights, giving it a somewhat cinematic feel.

So what did I think about the activity itself? 2 words : Innovative and awesome!

Not only did I find it cool to wield lightsabers (they make noises when swung), but you actually get a very complete workout. I, myself, am a person who frequents the gym 3-4 times a week and I even had a hard time keeping up with all the drills. The program starts with your Jedi-master/sensei teaching you the basics (feet position, how to hold a lightsaber, general house and safety rules). Once that is out of the way, welcome to Jedi-Bootcamp!

No, you do not have to do jumping jacks or jump through tires, but the exercises given to you are equally as challenging and difficult. You will have to simulate a fight, while constantly jumping up in the air (to avoid a leg strike) and dropping to your knees and the ground (in order to teach you that the fight continues even if your legs get cut off/injured in battle) and jumping right back up. I find that the fighting-style itself is a combination of different styles of fencing and martial arts, which is cool because the idea behind the whole activity is to introduce you to real combat. The saber itself is also a bit heavy, definitely not one of those cheap ones that you buy from Wal-Mart, so wielding one continuously for a good hour actually makes your arms sore (your dominant arm will definitely feel it). At the end of the lesson and drills, you and your partner will be instructed to come up with your very own battle choreography using the techniques that you’ve learned.

Once you’ve shown the choreography to the instructor, you will be told to fight your partner in a lightsaber duel. Not only do you use your weapons, but you are also allowed to use “The Force” to push your opponent back, which gives the training a bit of that sci-fi element to it. You are not allowed to hit your opponent harder than a soft tap, therefore, it is highly unlikely that you will be injured or even hurt via a blow from the saber. The duel is quite safe.

I love the idea and the resulting possibilities that can arise from this activity. The Star Wars geeks of my era were mostly out-of-shape people à la Kevin Smith. Enter The Force Academy: the one SW-themed activity where their uber-fanhood cannot save them. No matter how much Star Wars paraphernalia they own, how many obscure trivia questions they can answer, or how many times they’ve seen anything related to Star Wars in their lives, none of that will prepare them for The Force Academy.

I loved it and will definitely be back, however, I’ll be sure to eat a full breakfast on the day of my next booking. This is rather intense training, especially for those who sit in front of a computer all day. Come prepared and ready to sweat!

I hope that word of The Force Academy spreads like wildfire and that they eventually open more locations. If there is any wayy to lure the Star Wars uber-geeks out of their dens and pursue physical exercise/combat training, then this is it. In fact, it might actually be their only hope.

Mike Vo, or DJ Mister Vee, is the host of CJLO’s Beats from the East.