No matter your opinion on the prequel trilogy, you have to admit that they got one thing right: lightsaber combat. The quick flurries, flashy moves, and amazing acrobatic feats really showed off how cool it is to fight with a lightsaber. Since the development of the modern lightsaber, seven distinct fighting styles have surfaced that take advantage of the lightsaber’s unique properties and capabilities. Last week we looked at how the lightsaber was developed, this week we are going to look at each of the fighting styles utilized by those who wield these mighty weapons. We will explore both the philosophy behind these forms, as well as their advantages and disadvantages in combat.
The first lightsaber form that was developed is known as Shii-Cho. As it was developed using knowledge from old sword fighting techniques. It is infused with many of the details and movements of those old forms, such as the attacks and parries the old techniques utilized. It was largely an experimental style as it was developed around the same time as the lightsaber, but it still sees a fair amount of usage even today. The blade work was very simplistic and raw, but in the hands of a master, its movements are described as watching water flow over the falls. One of its biggest advantages is in training; it does an excellent job of familiarizing duelists with the various stances and points of contact that you see in the other forms. Because of this, almost all Jedi and Sith receive training in this form when they begin to study lightsaber combat, and aspects of it are often incorporated into the later forms. It does have some disadvantages though. First of all it is not really suited for combat against single opponents, and particularly against other lightsaber users. This is because the form was developed at a time when Dark Jedi and Sith were rare in the galaxy and a Jedi mostly faced off against numerous blaster wielding opponents. As such, many of its movements consist of wide, sweeping strikes designed to cover large areas. It also holds a particular danger for Jedi as Shii-Cho fosters an extremely emotional and heated mindset in battle, which can lead to the impulse to kill. It took great control to keep these instincts from taking over and leading the user down a dark path. Also, as almost all duelists have training in this style, it can be hard to surprise opponents with its movements. Yet, perhaps its biggest downfall was made apparent when two lightsaber users clashed, it just was not suited to combat other lightsaber users except in the hands of a true master. It is because of this shortcoming that the later forms were developed. In TOR, this form is a stance that is available to all the Jedi Knight and Sith Warrior classes, it is described as a balanced form and increases and reduces all damage dealt and received by 3 percent.
The second lightsaber form, Makashi, was developed to address Shii-Cho’s biggest weakness, lightsaber combat. It was developed around the time that Dark Jedi and Sith became more common in the galaxy and it became clear that Shii-Cho did not provide duelists with the necessary tools to face other lightsaber users in combat. This form is the most dueling centric of all the seven forms, and is almost exclusively designed to face other lightsaber wielders in battle. It focuses on tight and precise movements, footwork, and agility to outmaneuver opponents as opposed to using strength to overwhelm them. The blade movements focus on efficiency, using jabs, parries, and light cuts to confuse and trap the opponent. It is described as being the most elegant and “beautiful” of all the forms, and requires a lot of refinement and focus to master. Those who are able to master its movements are a fearsome foe in lightsaber combat. The small, precise movements conserve the user’s energy while their opponent wears themselves out, creating an opening for a fatal strike. Yet, like all the forms, it was not without weaknesses. While it has a major advantage against other lightsabers, the form was extremely weak in terms of blaster bolt deflection, particularly against multiple opponents. That was the main factor that led to Makashi falling out of favor among most users. It is also designed to face a single opponent in battle, and only the most skilled users could face multiple lightsaber users in combat using Makashi. Yet its most fatal flaw comes from the fact that its movements do not create a lot of kinetic energy. The small, precise movements it employs hamper the forms ability to create movement to power offensive and defensive maneuvers. This left the user vulnerable against opponents skilled in forms that focused more on strength, as it made it easy for them to simply power through the defenses of a Makashi user. Makashi does not appear as an ability in TOR so those of you expecting to see this elegant style in action will be disappointed, though if it did I would imagine it giving the user a bonus against melee opponents in combat.
Form three, Soresu, is easily the most defensive of all the forms of lightsaber combat. It was originally designed to make up for Makashi’s horrendous disadvantage against blasters, but it developed into a form that was effective no matter the weapon being used by the user’s opponent. It employed tight moves close to the body designed to cover a wide range and not leave the user open from any angle. Those who study it claim that using Soresu is like being in “the eye of a storm,” moving fast and remaining undisturbed or distracted by the conflict around them. They command powerful defensive techniques that adapt to any situation without extending their reach past the “eye of the storm.” The form embodies the Jedi’s stance on combat, the user never moves to attack, only countering and deflecting blows while controlling the flow of the battle. They wear down their opponent before deciding to make their move, be it offering their opponent a chance to surrender, disarming them, or striking to kill. Because it focused so heavily on defense it also gives the user the chance to flee the battle if they determine it is necessary by reserving energy while to opponent expends their own. Masters of this form were nearly invincible in battle; almost no attack has a chance of touching them if they are able to set up their defense. Yet the level of skill it requires can also lead to its biggest disadvantage. For inexperienced users, Soresu can lead to their defeat just as easily as their victory, since it focuses so heavily on defense at the expense of attack, it can just become a tool in delaying the inevitable, if their opponent can keep up with them, one of their attacks will eventually make it through Soresu’s defense. It takes a lot of skill, and experience to be able to trap an opponent and create an opening for an attack. The road to master Soresu is a long one, but those who reach the end are some of the most formidable lightsaber users in the universe. In TOR, Soresu is a stance available to Jedi Guardians and Sith Juggernauts, it reduces all damage taken by 6 percent, increases armor rating by 60 percent and increases threat generation by 50 percent. It also increases shield chance by 15 percent. While active, taking damage builds one rage/focus, but all Assault abilities generate one less rage/focus. This effect cannot occur more than once every 6 seconds.
The fourth form of combat is known as Ataru, and unlike Soresu it is a very active, offensive form. It is very fast paced, and relies heavily on the Force to assist with aerobatics the user employed to find openings in their opponent’s defense. Ataru users were always on the move, always pressing the offensive in the hopes of overwhelming their opponent. Users would use the Force to enhance all their movements, letting them move faster, jump farther, and strike with extreme quickness. Masters of this form would appear like a blur to their opponents, striking from all angles and sides in an attempt to defeat their opponent. Like Makashi, it is best used against single opponents, and is weak against blaster fire. The form uses a lot of energy in an attempt to finish off the opponent as quickly as possible, but this can backfire. If the opponent is not finished quickly Ataru will begin to wear on the user’s body, draining them of their energy quickly and making them vulnerable. Users are also at a disadvantage in confined spaces where their range of movement is limited, without ample space to move they cannot employ their techniques to their fullest ability. This limitation actually makes this form most suitable to smaller species as it can composite for their lack of range while their small form makes it harder for them to become hampered by lack of space. In TOR, this form is available to Jedi Sentinels and Sith Marauders. It increases the user’s accuracy by 3 percent. In addition, successful melee attacks have a 20 percent chance to trigger a second strike that deals X energy damage. This effect cannot occur more than once every 1.5 seconds.
The fifth form of lightsaber combat is known as Shien, sometimes as Djem So. It was first developed by Soresu users who felt that their combat form spent too much time on defense, and decided that incorporating more attacks into the style would be an improvement. It focuses not only on defending, but creating openings that the user will the take advantage of for a powerful strike. It also puts a greater focus on deflecting blaster bolts back at the person shooting at them, as opposed to just deflecting them away from the user. Shien is the classical name of this form, and focuses more on blaster bolt deflection, while Djem So was developed in order to be more suitable for lightsaber combat. Users of this form focus on completely dominating their opponent through superior strength, a powerful defense, and quick counter attacks. Unlike many of the forms that came before, Shien encourages users to press the attack and take the battle to their opponent as opposed to simply countering their opponent’s moves. Some Jedi feel that this form is too aggressive, and put an unnecessary emphasis on attack and domination. Proponents of the form insist that this from represented “peace through superior firepower,” and it has been accepted as a form by the Jedi Order as a whole despite the misgivings of some members. The form is best suited for those of an already large stature who naturally possess great physical strength, though any Force user can enhance their strength through the Force and utilize this form. The form itself has few weaknesses, though some Jedi would label its tendency towards aggressive actions the form’s greatest weakness. Those who can keep a calm, collected head against a Shien user can use the form’s aggressive movements to create openings of their own as a Shien user has less of a focus on defense. In TOR, this form is available to Jedi Sentinels and Sith Marauders, it increases all damage dealt by 6 percent. All attacks that cost rage/focus will refund 1 rage/focus when used and you will generate 1 rage/focus when attacked, though this effect cannot occur more than once every 6 seconds.
The sixth form of lightsaber combat is known as Niman, and among all the forms it is probably the least spectacular. It is a generalization of all the forms that came before it. It focuses on all the basic moves of the previous five styles, but attempts to create a sense of moderation among them all. It has a very relaxed approach to blade movements that is easy to pick up and master, which make the form ideal for those Jedi who put more of a focus on diplomacy than on combat, effectively dubbing the form the “Diplomat’s Style.” Its biggest advantage is how general it is, it covers all the different areas of attack and defense effectively without specializing in a specific area. This, however, is its greatest weakness as well. Because it does not specialize in any one area, warriors who use a more specialized form easily overcome Niman. Not being able to excel in any one area makes the user easy to predict and trap, leaving them vulnerable to power and fast paced attacks of some forms, while being unable to break through the tight defenses of others. This flaw makes the history of the form quite interesting, in times of war and battle Niman is quite rare among the Jedi. On the other hand it is much more pronounced during areas of peace when the Jedi served in a more advisory role. Niman does not show up in TOR, presumably because of its balanced, non-specialized style.
The seventh, and final, form of lightsaber combat is Juyo. It is the most vicious and fast paced of all the seven forms. This form is said to be the most difficult to master, particularly for Jedi. This form, more than any other, fosters a great amount of emotion in the user. But those who can master it are some of the most formidable opponents anyone could ever face. It can decimate single opponents; its overwhelming power and speed make it difficult for all but the most skilled duelists to face. It Is also great for taking on multiple opponents at once, with its speedy movements allowing the user to face down attacks from all sides. This power comes at a cost, though. Users have to let themselves go, they have to enjoy and relish the heat of battle. This makes it difficult for Jedi to pull back their desire to kill, making it hard to stay on the path of light. On the other hand, the Sith, who use their emotion to fuel their power, could easily lose their cool in their passion and make mistakes while in this state. It is also an exceedingly difficult form to master, requiring years of study before true mastery of the form is achieved. This has the secondary effect of making it rare to find a master to instruct young Force users in the style, further adding to its rarity and making it difficult to receive instruction in the finer points of the form. This is almost an advantage for those who do specialize in Juyo, since it is so rare, most opponents have no experience in combating a Juyo user. This makes the already fast and powerful moves of Juyo even harder to predict. The Jedi Sentinel and Sith Marauder have access to Juyo in TOR. It causes melee attacks to increase in damage dealt 2 percent for 15 seconds. This effect stacks up to 5 times but cannot occur more than once every 1.5 seconds.
All these forms can be adapted and used by duelists who wield two lightsabers at once, or double-bladed lightsabers. The forms did require some adjustments when being employed by dual lightsabers or a double bladed lightsaber, but all of the seven forms could be executed in this manner. It’s also important to note that master duelists can overcome any of the weaknesses in the styles. A Makashi master can use the style just as effectively against blaster users as lightsaber users, a Shii-Cho master can use the style with skill against a single opponent if they needed to. But the greatest duelists do not adhere strictly to a single style, but incorporate elements from multiple forms in their own unique style. They usually focus on a single form, but use aspects of other forms to fill in any gaps as needed. For example, a Soresu master can use elements of Ataru or Shien to give their defensive style more opportunities for attack when needed.
This just scratches the surface of the various forms of lightsaber combat, it is one of the most detailed aspects of the Star Wars universe, but it does give you a nice overview of all the major aspects of the seven main forms. One of the best descriptions of lightsaber combat I have seen describes it as “chess played at light speed where every move is check.” Every action, every move is designed to put the opponents in a position where they have to counter effectively or risk death and dismemberment. What style sounds the most interesting to you? What would you use if you could be a Force user? Let us know in the comments below.
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