In this spotlight, we turn the glow of the saber towards Master Alan, the head of our longest-running show partner, Level Up Sabers. Master Alan has been a friend of the show since very early on in our infancy and has not only sat down with us for an interview but has also been a guest on our live show several times.
His company, Level Up Sabers, sells rechargeable light sabers that he personally guarantees to be better than a stick. There are screen-accurate hilts, unique designs, and more cost-effective selections. There is something on the Level Up Sabers website for everyone who wants a new saber, no matter their price point.
Click here to find out more about Level Up Saber – https://bit.ly/FSFLevelUpSabers
And now, 10 questions with Master Alan!
Tell us about Level Up Sabers and what differentiates it from other saber companies.
So it’s hard to say what makes a business different or differentiated without talking about other companies negatively and I don’t want to do that. So I don’t want anyone to hear any of what I’m saying and feel like I’m implying my competition doesn’t because that feels dishonest. I’m a martial artist first. I teach a saber class at my dojo and I had a lot of difficulty finding a saber that suited what I wanted for my students. COVID happened and that gave me the time to audition some manufacturers to find one. After I found one, I added a little e-commerce section to the website. One thing lead to another and here I am.
We have talked several times about your work in martial arts; why are the martial arts so important to you?
In the long ago days of the late 1900s I had moved to a new state and was having trouble making friends at my school. Activities out of school are a great way to meet peers and find social connections and stuff like that. But in the late 1900s there weren’t a ton of activities out there. I was a doughy kid with asthma so basically all sports available to me weren’t things I could really do an breathe. I took a karate class a couple weeks before I turned 11. Then one thing lead to another and teaching martial arts became the only job I’ve ever been any good at. So I’ve got a lot of experience learning and explaining in martial arts terms. The reason it’s such a big part of how I relate to media or explain things is because it’s the jargon I’m most fluent in. And I also have the most experience converting that jargon into language other people can relate to.
Clearly, you are a Star Wars fan, so who is your favorite character, and what drew you to them?
Yoda and Kenobi have been my favorites for a long time. Most of my development as a fan has been in parallel to my development as a teacher. For all the people who experience the Star Wars prequels as Space Opera or Space Greek Dramas and whatever. They were martial arts movies for me, just from the perspective of the villain instead of the hero (The prequels are basically Kung Fu Panda told from the perspective of Tai Lung where the bad guy wins). And so as an instructor, as a martial artist who thinks of themselves as the hero, Kenobi and Yoda are the characters I most want to be like.
In the High Republic stories there is a Jedi master named Obratuk Glii, written by Daniel Jose Older (who has been a guest on the Pod). And Obratuk has a wonderful line about fear, sadness, loss, and survival that is wonderful. And it’s a flashback lesson experienced by Farzala who is another character from High Republic.
And I’ve got to shout out a couple other characters I really love. Plo Koon, who I had no emotions for in the prequel movies. But features heavily in episode one of the Clone Wars. He’s stranded with a few clones and the clones basically tell him to save himself. They describe themselves as expendable and then Plo Koon introduces himself to the star wars fandom to become beloved because he tells them “Not to me.”
And Kelleran Beq, the Sabered Hand. Who we will hopefully get some fun adventure stories for in something somewhere at some point.
Outside of Star Wars, what fandom sits in second place for near and dear to your heart?
Oh this one is tough. I’ve had a lot of sci fi in my life for a long time. Star Trek (Deep Space 9 is my favorite). StarGate both before and after HBO. Farscape (give me anything from Henson studios. ANYTHING). But if I’m being really honest Star Wars is my second place actually. I’ve been a Discworld reader for forever. And I still occasionally get sad thinking about how I won’t ever get to read a new book from Sir Terry Pratchett. And as a Star Wars fan there are two books by Pratchett that have shaped my feeling on what Jedi are/should be and what an apprentice and master relationship should be. One is Thief Of Time. The other is Hat Full of Sky. It’s difficult to summarize either.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
As a kid I had a dinosaur obsession and wanted to be a paleontologist. That’s bounced around to all manner of things. For a long, long time I shaped my identity around wanting to teach martial arts and write stories. I’ve never accomplished a lot of writing in any completed way. Maybe some day.
What’s one thing that you have always wanted to do but just haven’t done it YET?
Let’s go with complete a book. I’ve had a lot of ideas. I’ve had a lot of chapter ones. But I’ve never finished one.
What’s your favorite book to recommend to others?
So I usually recommend from knowing the person. Because the stuff I love is sort of niche appeal usually. Good Omens is one I recommend a lot because it’s easy to elevator pitch. You remember the horror movie The Omen? No? Okay, so the antichrist is born to a wealthy American diplomat living the UK. Then there’s a series of hilariously bizarre deaths around the child as he comes of age and harbinges the coming apocalypse. Now that you’ve heard that, do you believe me when I say it’s funny by accident? Good. Good Omens is about the same thing, except it’s funny on purpose. The Wee Free Men is the next one. Quick Summary: Tiffany Aiching is a 9 year old girl who storms faerie land to rescue her younger brother armed only with a cast iron frying pan and The Wee Free Men (who are kind of like the Smurfs, but they’ve seen Braveheart too many times).
What song can you never skip when it comes on the radio?
Oof. Okay. This one is tough because I don’t listen to the radio a lot and haven’t since like the turn of the century. Between burned cds, mp3 players, and audiobooks I honestly couldn’t tell you how to turn on the radio in my van. So I’m gonna go for some nostalgia and say Jimmy Eat World, the Middle. I was not prepared for how amazing that whole album was gonna be and I only bought it because I couldn’t listen to that song enough relying on just the radio.
What is the best-selling Saber on your website, and do you have a favorite?
Best Selling all time is the Dark Shroud. With an honorable mention to the $100 mystery box saber I did for May the 4th a few years ago. My favorite, in no particular order. The Hope. It’s a beautiful saber. Has fantastic details. And it supports a non-profit that does amazing work. The new Cruiser, it comes in a dark gold color that is my absolute favorite. The xpBoost is the saber I spend the most time using because it’s the saber I usually teach with. And I am always gonna have a soft spot for Knuckles.
If you could sit down with anyone (dead or living) over coffee, who would it be and why?
I’m gonna say Sir Terry Pratchett on this one. A big part of his writing was fueled by his anger. And his anger was a response to him seeing so many people that were meaner and more selfish than they needed to be. And anger at society for not being kinder or more compassionate than it was. So his books are like equally parts marvelling at how amazing people could be. While also raging at how awful we could be to each other. And his books helped me shape how i see the world. There are so many little things in the way I teach that are from his words and ideas. And I would love an opportunity to thank him for putting words to ideas and feelings I couldn’t articulate. That helped me feel clearer in myself. It’s egotistical to think he would be enriched by hearing that he made my life better. But it’s not crazy to think he might have appreciated hearing that his art helped an angry young man find enough self awareness that he made himself into something more kind and compassionate.