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Lightsaber Combat: Seven Traditional Forms

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Why are the lightsaber duels in the Original Trilogy so different from those in the Prequels? What does a Jedi's fighting style tell you about his philosophies of the Force? The Star Wars Expanded Universe has sought to answer these questions by describing seven different traditional forms of lightsaber combat.

Form I: Shii-Cho

Form I, also called "The Way of the Sarlacc," is the most basic form of lightsaber combat -- and the most ancient. For this reason, it is the first form of lightsaber combat that most Jedi learn. It was developed as the Jedi transitioned from using traditional swords to using lightsabers.

The moves of Form I focus on disarming one's opponent without hurting him. Its wide, sweeping motions are useful when facing multiple enemies, but do not work well against lightsaber-wielding opponents.

Notable Practitioners: Luke Skywalker, Yoda

Form II: Makashi

Form II, also called "The Way of the Ysalamiri," developed when the Jedi began fighting Sith and other lightsaber wielders. It emphasizes precision, simple footwork, and preventing disarmament, and thus is a strong defense against Form I. Curved-hilt lightsabers made it easier to control the one-handed fighting style.

After the Sith were all but destroyed around 1,000 BBY, lightsaber duels became uncommon once again, and few Jedi studied Form II. Those who did admired it as the most elegant form of lightsaber combat.

Notable Practitioners: Count Dooku, Darth Vader

Form III: Soresu

Form III, also called "The Way of the Mynock," was developed to defend against blasters. It is characterized by tight, efficient movements that shield the Jedi's body, using the lightsaber primarily as a defensive weapon to deflect blaster bolts.

The practice of Form III is an important reflection of Jedi philosophy, as it emphasizes the Jedi belief in calmness and non-aggression. A Jedi using Form III must center herself in the Force in order to anticipate her opponents' movements and successfully block blaster fire.

Notable Practitioners: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker

Form IV: Ataru

Form IV, also called "The Way of the Hawk-Bat," is an aggressive, acrobatic style. A practitioner of this form channels the Force to achieve high-speed movements, impossible leaps, and deadly strikes. To an outsider, it appears as a wild rush of movement.

Its use of acrobatics makes Form IV difficult to master and dangerous to attempt. Even with the aid of the Force, a Jedi risks expending too much energy in a short burst of offensive strikes, leaving himself open to attacks if he cannot defeat the enemy quickly enough.

Notable Practitioners: Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn

Form V: Shien / Djem So

Form V, also called "The Way of the Krayt Dragon," developed out of Form III, utilizing its precise defensive motions to create a more offensive fighting style. Its basic premise is using one's natural strength to dominate an opponent.

The first variation, Shien, focuses on deflecting blaster bolts back at targets. This allows a Jedi to defend herself while simultaneously using the enemies' weapons against them.

The second variation, Djem so, applies the same principle to lightsaber duels. It focuses on blocking an enemy attack, then using that energy to segue into a counterattack.

Notable Practitioners: Anakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker

Form VI: Niman

Form VI, also called "The Way of the Rancor," is a synthesis of elements from the five previous forms. It is especially popular among Jedi who do not focus on combat training, as it is easy to master and execute -- for this reason, however, Jedi who have mastered other forms may view it as inferior.

The basis of Form VI is combining lightsaber combat with other Force techniques. For example, a Jedi may use telekinesis to push away enemies, allowing her to better manage a group of fighters by facing them one at a time. Form VI is the primary fighting style of Jedi who dual-wield lightsabers.

Notable Practitioners: Darth Maul, General Grievous

Form VII: Juyo / Vaapad

Form VII, also called "The Way of the Vornskr," is the most difficult of the traditional lightsaber forms, both physically and emotionally. Rather than ridding themselves of emotions, practitioners of Form VII channel them into the fight, attacking with chaotic, furious, and unpredictable moves to catch their opponents off guard.

During the time before the Clone Wars, Mace Windu developed Vaapad -- a variation on the traditional Form VII fighting style, Juyo. Its premise was turning the Jedi into a conduit, channeling an opponent's negative emotions back at him.

Only a few Jedi were allowed to learn Form VII, as it was thought to bring its practitioners dangerously close to the dark side.

Notable Practitioners: Mace Windu, Darth Maul

Read More

  • Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force by Ryder Windham (2007)
  • The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force by Daniel Wallace (2010)
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