COSPLAYER Zheok Kit has surprised some of his friends a few times by giving them a fierce glare when they approach him at cosplaying events. Of course, he makes it a point to explain to them later that he wasn’t being rude, he was just “in character”.

Zheok Kit,18, is one of many young people who take their interest in fictional characters to a whole other level. For most of us, our interest never goes past the last page of the book or the last scene in a film or series. However, for these youths, that just won’t cut it.

In cosplay, fans get to dress, act and speak like they imagine their characters would in real life, and in activities like Fightsaber, a Star Wars lightsaber performance group, they take it a step further by including sword combat.

“It’s a challenge, to portray a character as if they really exist,” says Zheok, who participates in events at least once a month. “I try to imagine what my character would do or say in certain situations.”

He usually picks characters he knows very well, and tries his best to emulate them through their behaviour traits, quirks, speech and so on.

“Sometimes you show up at an event, and there are others playing the same character. When that happens it is fun to compare notes and share pointers with one another, to find out how we can improve our portrayal of that character.”

Zheok Kit

For 18-year-old Alezender Wong, cosplaying is enjoyable because in a way, it’s a chance to be someone else for a change.

“I’m a huge anime and comic fan,” she says. “I really enjoy bringing my favourite anime characters to life, and I especially enjoy turning up as Black Butler (a popular manga and character).”

“One important element to becoming the character is preparing an accurate costume. It gives you the ‘cool look’ and confidence,” says Alezender, who also recently got involved in Fightsaber.

Fightsaber Malaysia group leader and choreographer Herbert Donald, 33, has always been an avid Star Wars fan and as a kid, used to imagine he was either Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader.

“Now I can live that dream and I can share that dream with others, performing on stage for the audience,” says Herbert.

A little over a year ago Herbert was approached by Fightsaber founder Azmi Danuri at a Hasbro Star Wars event in Singapore, who asked if he would be interested in forming a Malaysian team. Today, there are two teams in Singapore, one in Malaysia and recently, a team in Indonesia.

The group train together every Friday evening and the evening before a public holiday.

Fightsaber is a lightsaber choreography performance group

“I’m inspired by other Star Wars choreographers such as Ryan Weiber and Dorkman from the United States, and Nick Gillard, who created the fight scenes for Episodes I to III in Star Wars,” explains Herbert.

“When we first started, I watched their videos a lot to learn their moves, practiced them, and then created my own choreography. Now I come up with my own style – flashier moves for my students and utilise more showy moves,” says Herbert, who also prepares the music for each performance.

In Fightsaber, each member either plays a Sith or a Jedi, and they come up with their own names, but stick to the characteristics of the roles. (Sith = dark side, Jedi = light side.)

The group have performed at various events including birthday parties and launches, and performances range from two to five minutes.

Mohamad Adam Aminuddin Mohamad Fauzie, 19, has been training and performing with Fightsaber for a year and enjoys it immensely.

“The moves they perform are very unique, and since I joined I’ve really improved my skills with the lightsaber,” says the huge Star Wars fan, who has always wanted to “be” a Sith lord because of the “look and the power”.

He improves his skills and makes it a point to note what his character’s mood would be in a fight, by watching lightsaber fight videos, movies and even anime that has sword-fighting scnees.

“When I’m not at training I go over the moves in my head – when I’m working and even in my sleep,” he says, chuckling.

Not only must they master the sword fighting skills, they must also be in character. For example, if you’re playing the role of a Sith you have to play the part, right down to the evil laugh.

Adam getting into character

“Jedis must be calm in the face of danger – all these details are very important during show time. It’s not just about the moves, you need to become the character to really put on a good show,” he says.

Adam, also a cosplayer, plays Ichigo from Bleach, Nura Rikuo from Nura Rise Of The Yokai Clan, Jedis and Siths from Star Wars and sometimes, characters that he creates himself.

For anyone involved in role-playing of this sort, it doesn’t just involved a lot of time and energy – there’s also a lot of cash involved when it comes to costumes and props. For example, a good lightsaber can cost you more than RM1,000!

“These hobbies are expensive, and even though it is best to tailor the costumes, sometimes people make their own props,” says Zheok Kit.

“But it is our interest and passion, and when you are truly interested in doing it and you feel great after an event or show, it’s all worth it,” he adds.

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