Lightsaber combat referred to several schools of martial arts specialized in, though not limited to, fighting with a lightsaber. Such fighting forms were required to compensate for or take advantage of the unique attributes of lightsabers, notably the odd balance of the weapon, all of the weight being in the hilt, and the omni-directional cutting edge. The most prominent lightsaber-oriented combat styles were the seven forms of the Jedi Order, though other organizations were known to have developed their own styles and methods, an example being the Sith-developed Dun Möch technique.
The various combat forms owed their unique focuses and methods to the eras in which they were created, as they were oftentimes developed to answer a new generation of weapons technology. For example, the dueling-centric Makashi form was created during a time when Dark Jedi and rogue Force-wielders ran rampant through the galaxy, and Lightsaber duels became a common occurrence, whereas Soresu was developed when such confrontations were rare, and Jedi were more likely to confront Blaster-wielding opponents and gunslingers rather than lightsaber duelists.The Seven FormsForm I: Shii-Cho
As the most ancient style of lightsaber combat, Shii-Cho was developed during the transition period from swords to lightsabers. Lightsabers were wielded in a manner similar to swords, so many of the maneuvers, such as attacks or parries, remained unchanged, as the key principles of the old sword-fighting methods continued to be incorporated. The simplicity and persistent methods of the form led it to being dubbed the "Way of the Sarlacc" and the "Determination Form". Shii-Cho swordplay was simplistic and raw. In the hands of a master, the bladework was described as "like watching water flow over the falls." However, less adept practitioners displayed much more basic and somewhat clumsy performance. In combat, Form I encouraged deliberate tactics, calling for continuous, step-by-step advancement while cutting off the opponent's angles. Shii-Cho was specialized towards engaging multiple opponents, the wide, sweeping motions being ideally suited towards attacking numerous adversaries. However, Form I was not as useful against single opponents, as such enemies had complete mobility and could find a weakness in Shii-Cho's comparatively clumsy bladework. Shii-Cho fostered an emotionally-heated mindset, which resulted in the considerable temptation to execute combat with lethal intent, requiring great restraint to exercise the form without going too far. Despite the pull to kill, the style was designed for the purpose of disarming without seriously injuring.
As the most simplistic form, Shii-Cho was the first form taught to initiates within the Jedi Order. Form I training provided the basic knowledge of the sword-fighting principles and blast-deflection skill that was required for practice of all the other forms. In order to teach students to draw upon the Force rather than rely on their senses, early level Shii-Cho blast-deflect training was conducted with a blindfold, forcing the initiate to rely upon his instincts. Later training was conducted through the use of sequences and velocities, the continuous repetition making the moves instinctive reflexes. These training regimens were carried over to all following lightsaber combat forms, which used similar methods. Shii-Cho philosophy emphasized victory without injury, and as such, the sun djem mark of contact was traditionally employed by Form I practitioners. Keeping with the use of sun djem, one of the attacks utilized by Form I practitioners was referred to as the "Disarming Slash", consisting of a strike directed at the opponent's weapon in an attempt to rip it out of their grasp.Form II: Makashi
Makashi was the most dueling-centric of the seven forms, developed during an era where engagements with Darksiders and rogue Jedi became an almost routine activity. Form II's primary purpose was to serve as a counter to the first form; Shii-Cho. Makashi relied on precision swordplay to counter the sweeping movements demonstrated by Shii-Cho, and a heavy focus on protecting one's weapon to avoid being disarmed, the primary goal of Form I. Form II emphasized fluid motion and anticipation of a weapon being swung at its target, and so required very fluid movements of both the blade and the body. Timing, accuracy, and skill, rather than strength, were relied-upon to defeat one's opponent. With a skilled practitioner, the results were deadly. Makashi users were often elegant, precise, calm, confident to the point of arrogance (as befit Dooku's personality). Form II users were supremely confident in their chances for victory, and often looked so relaxed when they were fighting they even appeared to be dancing. Makashi duelists also trained themselves to avoid enslavement to form, as such enslavement opened the practitioner to be defeated by predictability and the unforeseen.
Due to Form II's emphasis on blade manipulation, and its many fluid one-handed moves, Makashi practitioners often wielded lightsabers that were specialized for such use. The most prominent weapon for this purpose was the curved-hilted lightsaber. These weapons were used because the curved hilt fit better into the palm, granting better blade control and allowing for greater precision and strength. In addition to this, wielders often created highly decorated weapons, and occasionally included blade-guards, as shown with Dooku's lightsaber. The other, considerably rarer, weapon type was the Lightfoil, a specialized type of lightsaber used by the Mecrosa Order. Original lightfoils were built with small handles for exclusively one-handed usage, and were much better balanced than typical lightsabers, allowing for greater precision.Form III: Soresu
The original purpose of the Soresu form was to counter blaster-wielding opponents, as the previous combat styles focused on lightsaber dueling. Becoming the most defensive of the seven forms, Soresu utilized tight moves, subtle dodges and short sweeps designed to provide maximum defensive coverage, leaving the duelist less exposed to ranged fire. Over time, Form III came to transcend this basic origin and become an expression of non-aggressive Jedi philosophy. Soresu utilized motions that occurred very close to the body, in an attempt to achieve near-total protection and expend as little energy as possible while executing moves. Form III stressed quick reflexes and fast positional transition, in order to overcome the rapidity with which a blaster could be fired. This technique minimized the body's exposure, making a well-trained practitioner nearly invincible. Form III involved preparation for prolonged battles where the user observed and learned as much as possible about their opponent's or opponents' technique while engaged in combat. Also, by being more capable in lengthy battles, a Soresu user had the ability to gain control of a combat situation, creating multiple options for the Jedi employing the form. A Form III user could choose to kill, disarm, or even reason with their opponent.
Truly focused masters of Soresu were very formidable due to their strong defense technique. However, Form III merely facilitated survival rather than victory. Form III initiates were more than capable of defending themselves from attack, but they needed a large amount of experience to learn how to effectively counter-attack and entrap opponents. Masters had to maintain an incredibly strong focus on the center of the combat circle, since the defensive tactics of the form included guards and parries engaged very close to the body. Jedi who left small lapses in their otherwise strong defense left little room to avoid injury.Form IV: Ataru
Ataru was an aggressive combat form relying on a combination of power, strength, and speed. Practitioners of Ataru were always on the offensive, attacking with wide, fast, and powerful swings, constantly calling upon the Force to aid in their movements and attacks. By allowing the Force to flow throughout their body, they could overcome their physical limitations (including old age, as was the case with Master Yoda) and perform amazing feats of acrobatics, such as somersaults and backflips, not only for attack, but also to evade the attacks and strikes of their opponents.
The standard components of Form IV focused on application of and smooth transition between the three axes of rotation in a three-dimensional space; the su ma. Specifically, the jung su ma (spinning), ton su ma (somersaults), and en su ma (cartwheels). Those who used Form IV could move at high speeds and could rain strong blows, jumping and attacking through the air. Powerful and quick spinning attacks could be utilized from all angles, either from ground or air. A master in Ataru combat could appear like a blur to their opponents, attacking from all directions—from the front, the sides, overhead, or behind. The Force not only allowed them to perform athletic feats not possible otherwise, but it also helped guide their actions and movements in combat. Obi-Wan Kenobi's backflip upon being kicked in the head is a perfect example of a Form IV recovery, redirecting the kinetic energy.Form V: Shien/Djem So
Form V was created by Form III masters who desired a more offensive style, since the defensive nature of Form III could lead to prolonged combat, sometimes dangerously so. It evolved into an accepted style by combining the defensive maneuvers of Form III with the more aggressive philosophy and tactics of Form II. Form V also required a higher level of physical strength than the other lightsaber forms, due to its focus on complete domination of opponents. The form was developed alongside Form IV at a time when the Jedi were increasingly called upon to actively keep the peace. Form V had two distinct variations: Shien and Djem So.
Classic Form V, Shien was developed first. Known as the "Perseverance Form", Shien was designed to protect against enemy blaster fire and strikes without compromising one's ability to launch powerful counterattacks. With its focus against blaster fire, Shien kept in mind that Jedi were often outnumbered by their opponents and needed to defend themselves while retaining offensive capability. However, it lacked effectiveness against single opponents. Shien practitioners were known to favor, or at least regularly utilize, reversed grips.
Whereas Shien specialized in blast-deflection, the more advanced Djem So focused on lightsaber dueling. Utilizing a combination of blocks and parries, a Djem So user maintained a proper foundation in terms of defense against both ranged and melee attacks, but rather than counter only when necessary as per Soresu training regimens, Djem So actively pressed the offense. Djem So placed a heavy focus on brute strength, utilizing wide, powerful strikes and parries. Power attacks from a Djem So user could even knock an opponent back just through sheer kinetic force, throwing them off balance and leaving them vulnerable to further brute force strikes and power blows that sought not just to penetrate an opponent's defense, but drive them back and leave them unable to counter.Form VI: Niman
Niman, the dual-blade style developed by the Royale Macheteros of the Kashi Mer, was named for the dual triumvirate of the Kashi deities. The style was adopted by the Legions of Lettow, a group of Dark Siders responsible for the First Great Schism of the Jedi Order. After the defeat of the Legion at the hands of the Jedi, Niman was adopted by the Jedi order, eventually being refined into the sixth form of lightsaber combat, referred to by the same name.
Form VI attempted to balance all elements of lightsaber combat, combining the techniques from Forms that came before into a less intensely demanding combat style. In practice, Form VI was a combination of older forms (Forms I, III, IV, and V), and all of them in moderation. In the blending, much of the individuality was lost, but the strengths were spread evenly, and there was little weakness in it. Due to its "jack-of-all-trades" nature, the success of this form was largely dependent on the practitioner's intuition, improvisation, and creativity in combat rather than the rote responses derived from other forms. This broad generalization made Form VI well suited for diplomats, as they could spend their time training in the areas of politics and negotiation instead of combat training.Form VII: Juyo/Vaapad
Juyo was described as the most vicious form of lightsaber combat, and was said to be filled with both fury and "malignant grace." The form came to be known as the most difficult and demanding in all of saber combat. Skilled combatants with Juyo were said by Jedi Master Vrook Lamar to be able to "eviscerate a lone enemy." According to the Sith Lord Darth Traya, the form was both chaotic and erratic, with a heavy focus on offense.
Jedi battlemaster Cin Drallig listed bold, direct motions as characteristics of Juyo, qualifying them as more open and kinetic than Form V, but with a less elaborate appearance than Ataru. Drallig contrasted the tactics of Juyo as not nearly as graceful or linked as those of Ataru, instead referring to them as "seemingly unconnected staccato sequences." He also listed one of the strengths of the form as its unpredictability. The form was said to necessitate greater energy than Form V, due to a broader wielding of a user's focus and a deeper emotional link. Despite the challenges inherent in the use of the form, it could serve as a pathway to considerable power.Vaapad
Vaapad was described as more than a fighting style; it was a state of mind that led through the penumbra of the dark side, requiring the user to enjoy the fight, and relish the satisfaction of winning. The practitioner of Vaapad would accept the fury of their opponent, transforming them into one half of a superconducting loop, with the other half being the power of darkness inherent in the opponent. The form was also mentioned with a cautionary warning by the Jedi that use of Vaapad led the user perilously close to the dark side due to its focus on physical combat. Vaapad required a constant and sizable stream of Force use from the user, with a barely contained explosion of Force power essential to all variations of Form VII as another prerequisite for its use. The form's attacks appeared to be unconnected, its motions seemingly unpolished to an untrained observer.Other Fighting Forms and StylesTrispzest
A combination of elements of Form VII and traditional S'kytri aerial dueling, Trispzest was a type of aerial lightsaber combat originally developed by the airborne Force-sensitive Majestrix of Skye, Kharys. Trispzest, which meant heart palpitation in the S'kytric language, would allow the combatant to utilize the advantages of flying in battle against grounded units—whom the S'kytri would derogatively refer to as "walkers". In Trispzest emphasis was placed on the use of the sai cha technique to decapitate "walkers." Trispzest had many advantages, but one fatal weakness, as the combatant was open to attacks from directly below him or her by grounded units. Kyle Katarn took advantage of this weakness when, dropping to the ground and lunging his lightsaber upwards as Maw passed over him, he injured Maw during a duel on Ruusan.Tràkata
The Tràkata style was based around the unique ability of lightsabers to turn on and off, activating and deactivating the blade in the heat of combat to slip past enemy defenses, or trick them into over-extending themselves. Philosophically, Tràkata involved practical combat and deception, rather than the more traditional single-minded and determined tactics that were the hallmarks of the Jedi and Sith. Sith had difficulty applying this style, as their power came from passion and rage rather than level-headed tactical ingenuity, and the Jedi refrained from this style due to their unwillingness to rely on deception. Also, deactivating one's lightsaber during combat offered greater control over the Force due to the removed distraction.Sokan
For the most part, Sokan was a principle of lightsaber combat, rather than a true form. Developed by the ancient Jedi Knights during the Great Hyperspace War, Sokan teaching revolved around using the environment itself to gain a tactical advantage in combat. Sokan was based on out-maneuvering opponents, using quick tumbling and jumping movements to close the distance and facilitate swift strokes towards the opponent's vital areas. Terrain was heavily relied on for this purpose, and allowed for great speed and mobility, and also facilitated self-defense. Prior to the Clone Wars, Sokan practitioners integrated highly kinetic elements of Ataru with their ancient Sokan techniques to create a blend of styles that relied upon agility.Dun Möch
Dun Möch was a traditional Sith tactic based around psychological warfare. Primarily, the practitioner relied on taunts that exposed an opponents inner doubts and weaknesses, disrupting their concentration. Proper execution of Dun Möch called for great patience and control, a rare trait among the Sith, especially those of the earlier eras. One of the finest demonstrations of this technique was in Darth Bane's defeat of Sirak during their time at the Sith academy on Korriban. He demonstrated the need for patience by drawing out the battle to take advantage of Sirak's lack of endurance, and exhibited fine control by withholding from striking an early killing blow as Sirak's form began to slip. Rather than settle for a quick victory, Bane sought to completely destroy Sirak, allowing the tantalizing closeness of victory to fuel his rage, unleashing it in a powerful blow that disarmed Sirak, ending the duel.Weapon-specific Fighting StylesJar'Kai (dual-blade combat)
The Jar'Kai style developed by the Yovshin Swordsmen was named for a city on Atrisia. The city of Jar'Kai was also the site where the original Jar'Kai dueling sabers were crafted. These weapons were utilized by the Yovshin and were designed for the express purpose of being dual-wielded. Niman, the dual-blade style developed by the Royale Macheteros of the Kashi Mer, was named for the dual triumvirate of the Kashi deities. The style was adopted by the Legions of Lettow, a group of Dark Siders responsible for the First Great Schism of the Jedi Order. After the defeat of the Legion at the hands of the Jedi, Niman was adopted by the Jedi order, eventually being refined into the sixth form of lightsaber combat, referred to by the same name. Both styles predated the invention and usage of lightsabers, but being designed to be practiced with swords, they were easily adapted. In addition, the word "Jar'Kai" became a blanket term for dual-blade combat in general, leading to the birth of the term "Jar'Kai tactic", which was to simply employ two blades in combat, regardless of whether one had received training in any dual-blade fighting style.
Dual-blade fighters, whether classical Niman duelists or individuals applying the Jar'Kai tactic, were able to maintain a strong offense, as the speed of attack that two blades allowed would overwhelm most opponents. A typical maneuver was to continually attack with one blade while relying on the other for defensive coverage, ensuring that the duelist could keep up his guard even as he attacked. However, it was common that both blades be used for offensive purposes, keeping up a continuous wave-front assault. Though a complete fighting system in and of itself, Jar'Kai was easily adapted to other styles. After beginning her tutelage under Darth Tyranus, Asajj Ventress quickly applied Makashi techniques to her practice of Jar'Kai. As Makashi was Tyranus's favored form, Jedi Master Luminara Unduli was able to recognize his training techniques in Asajj's fighting abilities, stating as much. Mace Windu also infused Jar'Kai tactics into his own Vaapad style while on a mission on Haruun Kal, his former apprentice; Depa Billaba; doing likewise.Double-bladed Lightsaber Combat
The primary purpose of the double-bladed lightsaber was to allow for a faster rate of attack, unleashing a rapid assault with only a minimum of movement, "more slaughter per swing" as some put it. Saberstaffs were also excellent defensive weapons, as the doubled length of the weapon provided more surface area for deflecting and parrying. In addition to the practical benefits of the weapon, it also possessed a great psychological impact. The dual-blades increased the visual impact of the weapon, and in combat, opponents would intuitively try to track the blades separately rather than as a single weapon, overwhelming them.
However, despite all of the advantages offered by the weapon, its weaknesses were equally obvious. Special training was required to wield the weapon effectively, with those attempting to use it without such discipline likely to bisect or impale themselves. The techniques employable with a double-bladed lightsaber were extremely limited, as the second blade rendered many positions and movements impossible to execute, or required the wielder to twist himself awkwardly around the weapon to do so. Many techniques required the user to perform elaborate flourishes in order to move the staff around their body, leaving them open, and any sort of fighting method that focused on power or penetration was difficult to apply. Also, the enlarged hilt common to most double-bladed lightsabers presented a large target, difficult to defend. Opponents would often attempt to employ the sun djem contact mark, with even experienced saberstaff wielders being vulnerable to this tactic.Lightwhip Combat
Wielded in the same manner as a proper whip, the lightwhip was a rare and exotic weapon, an unfamiliar occurrence among traditional duelists. Due to this, lightwhip wielders enjoyed a considerable amount of leverage over opponents. Along with its rarity, lightwhips also featured copious range, the long, flexible energy strand allowing the wielder to attack from a range of several meters. The weapon was also difficult to defend against, as it could simply flex around an opponent's blade when he attempted to parry. When multiple tassels were included, the whip was able to overwhelm the defenses of enemies by attacking them from all sides.
However, lightwhips featured just as many drawbacks as advantages. The lightwhip blade was difficult to control, able to just as easily maim an untrained wielder as an opponent, and was weaker than the standard lightsaber blade. It needed to be swung wide to gain momentum for attack, and it was difficult to use defensively as flexible tassels are not well suited for parrying, leaving the wielder vulnerable to both great speed and brute force. In fact, lightwhip blades were even known to short out violently when struck with enough force.Unarmed Combat
As the various forms of lightsaber combat were all fully developed martial art forms, they were not limited to use with the lightsaber, and unarmed combat training was standard among many Force-based organizations. Most species were known to engage in this kind of combat, and a number of sentient species and cultures also developed it into different martial arts proper; just as the various lightsaber combat forms could be applied unarmed, so too could many of these unarmed combat styles be applied with the lightsaber. Darth Maul and Anoon Bondara were both students of the Teräs Käsi martial art, developed by the Followers of Palawa, who became accomplished lightsaber duelists. The Echani martial art was an unarmed combat discipline known to be taught to military special forces throughout the galaxy, and may have been taught to Meetra Surik.
During duels, such physical attacks were applied with astonishing regularity, oftentimes with the goal of disorienting an opponent prior to a finishing attack. As disarming was a common goal in lightsaber duels, it was not unheard of for both opponents to lose their weapons, causing the fight to degenerate into a brawl. In fact, fighters have been known to draw on the Force to augment their speed and strength, allowing them to unleash powerful hits that threw opponents across the room, or literally tear them limb from limb.