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Combat Mastery: Lightsabers, pt 1

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > STAR WARS Discussion
Combat Mastery: Lightsabers, pt 1

Ventessel's Avatar


Ventessel
02.20.2013 , 08:37 PM | #1
Hello There,

I decided I would start up a series discussing various aspects of combat in the Star Wars universe. For starters, seeing as lightsabers are the most iconic personal weapon in the franchise, they make a good launching point.

The purpose of this thread will be to compare what we know of different combatants, their styles, and other fighting methods employed by lightsaber duelists. Hopefully this will be a good baseline for gauging various duelists, especially in the context of hypothetical matchups, etc.

Any discussion of lightsabers should include some notes on how they've changed over time, and how their usage has evolved. Early on, we had the proto-sabers, which required a belt and powerpack to be connected to the lightsaber. Realizing how inconvenient that was, Jedi quickly made them portable (simultaneously making possible the "saber toss", first demonstrated by Darth Vader in Ep. VI, IIRC.)

From there, lightsabers were made to work underwater (another practical upgrade for those fishy-types like Mon Calamari or Selkath) and later dual-phase sabers were developed. These weapons came in two varieties, one that featured two preset lengths, allowing the user to suddenly adjust the length of their weapons, and another variety that let the user change between specialty saber crystals (allowing blades with different characteristics or effects).

Additionally, certain weapons that were similar to lightsabers were developed. Shortened sabers, designed for off-hand use became common by the time of the Jedi Civil War. Guard shotos were later developed, featuring a blade at a ninety degree angle to the handle. These were a further defensive development of the off-hand saber. Some lightsabers were occasionally seen with a crossguard, and certain cultures (correct me if I'm wrong but I want to say the Hapans? It doesn't really matter.) employed "lightfoils", low powered lightsabers designed for fencing... needless to say, those didn't catch on.

Now, for the good stuff: combat.

Lightsaber combat is generally acknowledged to have seven forms, or styles of combat.

Shii Cho (Form I): The basic dueling form, focusing on attacks and parries. This technique forms the basis for most other lightsaber forms, and is usually a duelist's starting point in lightsaber instruction. It is similar in many respects to basic longsword fighting, with elements of kendo.

Makashi (Form II): Precision with the blade, and short, efficient defenses mark this style. Smooth footwork and controlled, elegant movements make it nearly impossible to tire out a duelist using this style, and in the ancient times it was considered the best form for single lightsaber combat against another Jedi or Sith opponent. Makashi especially guarded against disarm attempts, focusing on protecting the user's lightsaber.

Soresu (Form III): Calm and entirely defensive, Soresu maintains a tight defense, keeping the lightsaber close to the body and minimizing movements. This form provides unmatched defense against blaster fire, and allows for the practitioner to study the enemy, waiting for an opening that will allow for disarming, killing, or crippling strikes to be delivered. Obi-Wan Kenobi was the undisputed master of this form of lightsaber combat, and it was considered the purest form of combat for a Jedi Knight. Soresu showed its weakness against a superior opponent, though. If the enemy did not make mistakes or leave himself open to counterattack, the swordsman practicing Soresu risked having his patience backfire on him, with the enemy wearing him down until he sliced through his defenses (delaying the inevitable, as Darth Traya put it).

Ataru (Form IV): Highly acrobatic and aggressive, Ataru is well suited for fighting a single opponent, but lacks a consistent defense against blaster fire. Ataru allows for a continual hail of strong blows delivered with the help of Force acrobatics, but leaves a weak defense, especially where there is no room for evasive maneuvers. Additionally, Ataru fatigues the practitioner rapidly, putting them at a disadvantage when fighting a skilled swordsman possessed of a strong defense. Qui-Gon Jinn was a master of this style, but both fatigue and Darth Maul's tactic of luring him into close quarters contributed to his demise, highlighting the fatal flaw of this style.

Shien/Djem So (Form V): Earlier forms used the defensive nature of Soresu to guard against blaster fire while turning the attacks of a lightsaber wielding opponent against them, creating openings to allow the duel to be finished. Requiring huge amounts of physical strength and stamina, this form was demanding but powerful. Shien, or Classical Form V focused on a solid defense, while Sith Shien was focused on aggressive attacks against the enemy, melding Form II with the stances of Form III. Shien was, however, very weak against a single opponent because of the nature of its defensive stance. Djem So was a variant bred for lightsaber combat by practitioners of Soresu, and it focused on expert parries followed by lunging strikes and cuts to aggressively end the fight, albeit at the expense of mobility and flexibility in form. Overall, Djem So is a superior form of lightsaber combat which is expertly suited to overwhelming Makashi users and outfighting users of Ataru and Soresu. Both Anakin and Luke Skywalker mastered this form and used it to great effect, especially when raging. Shien and Djem So both utilize overhead opening stances, maximizing speed and power of the blows delivered.

Niman (Form VI): The art of wielding two lightsabers in combat, allowing for a balance between offense and defense, or a continuous rolling wave assault using both lightsabers. When employing a doublebladed lightsaber, most Jedi and Sith rely on the parent technique of Niman, known as Jar'Kai, or simply two blade combat. The weaknesses of this form were that the duelist could not place all their strength behind any single block or attack, and while this form excelled at fighting numerous opponents, it could prove fatally weak against a single opponent with a strong offense.

Juyo/Vapaad (Form VII): Bold and kinetic, Juyo requires significant energy and focus, and combines the aggression of Ataru with the flexibility of Soresu. Drawing slightly from Djem So, Juyo utilizes direct and rapid attacks, driving against the enemy with precision, but also being highly unpredictable. Known as the "killing form" Juyo is exceptionally lethal and focuses the user's aggression into a stunning series of ferocious attacks. The drawbacks of Juyo are that the intense focus required on the physical flow of combat distracts the practitioner and leaves them vulnerable to Force attacks which might be directed against them. The swift, physical power of Juyo lends itself easily to two weapon combat, or the use of a double bladed lightsaber, as favored by some of the deadliest Sith blademasters.


Feel free to name renowned practitioners, debate the finer points of each form, as well as their limitations, and add comments on the development of lightsaber combat.

EDIT: I'd like to start a discussion of which fighting styles were heavily used in what eras, and particularly whether specialization in one form over another is superior to a general knowledge of all styles. (Case in point: Cin Drallig vs. Darth Vader ... Djem So specialist takes out Jedi Battlemaster)
The Heir to ChaosAdded Chapter Sixteen-- 17 APR 2013
“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” ~ George Orwell