Star Wars Canon Catch-Up: What Are Lightsaber Combat Forms?

Star Wars is going through a state of transition. For twenty years, an Expanded Universe of novels, comics, and games have supplemented the films and TV shows to create an incredibly deep and detailed Star Wars universe. Soon after Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, however, they wiped the canon slate clean, saying they would no longer adhere to the stories of the Expanded Universe in order to have the greatest creative freedom with their new Star Wars films starting with The Force Awakens.

But with the new films, so comes new books, comics, and games in a new continuity to replace the old one. So, what is canon and what isn’t anymore? After twenty years, are these the same characters and planets we’ve always known and loved? Is it even the same universe? Well, in our column Canon Catch-Up, we’re here to answer those questions and set the record straight.

Today, we’re discussing Lightsaber Combat.

So, what’s the deal with lightsaber combat in the current continuity? 

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As lightsabers became more common in the galaxy (and among Force users), lightsaber duels would occur between opponents. Despite the Jedi Order’s distaste for violence, over time different styles of lightsaber combat were invented. Only three forms of lightsaber combat are currently known:

Form III (Soresu): A lightsaber form practiced by Jedi Master Depa Billaba and Kanan Jarrus that was effective in close quarters fighting.

Form V (Shien or Djem So): A form that specialized in deflecting blaster fire back at an opponent.

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Jar’Kai: This form focused on wielding two lightsabers at once effectively. The most proficient users of this form include Asajj Ventress and Ahsoka Tano.

What about lightsaber combat in the Expanded Universe?

Lightsaber forms in the expanded universe are more involved than current canon, with seven fully developed forms:

Form I (Shii-Cho, The Way of the Sarlacc): Developed when the Jedi were transitioning from metal swords to less effective ancient lightsabers, Form I is a very fluid and unpredictable form focused on disarming enemies.

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Form II (Makashi, The Way of the Ysalamiri): The most deuling-centric of all forms, Form 2 is about precision and efficiency. Based on modern day fencing, Form II uses economy of motion to oreserve energy and defend from being disarmed. Count Dooku was a famous practitioner of this form.

Form III (Soresu, The Way of the Mynock): Developed to counteract the creation of blasters, Form III is about providing maximum defensive coverage in order to protect the user from a wide range of blaster fire. As lightsabers became less common after the fall of the Sith, Form III became the most common technique in the Jedi Order.

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Form IV (Ataru, The Way of the Hawk-Bat): Aggressive and intense, Form IV heavily uses the Force to create an acrobatic assault on a lightsaber wielding opponent. The most famous practitioner of Form IV is Jedi Master Yoda.

Form V (Shien/Djem So, The Way of the Krayt Dragon): For those who thought Form III was too defensive, Form V was developed to combine defense with powerful counter attacks. Shien is the version of Form V that can deflect a blaster bolt at the attacker, while Djem So is the version developed for lightsaber combat. Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker was a major practitioner of Form V.

Form VI (Niman, The Way of the Rancor): A hybrid of the previous forms to make a jack-of-all-trades form for the general lightsaber user, Nimon was a moderate form that did not focus on any particular area of lightsaber combat. Though it had no serious drawbacks, Form VI also had no true advantage over the other Forms. To counteract the lack of specialization, Form VI employs Force-based attacks such as Force Push.

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Form VII (Juyo/Vaapad, The Way of the Vornskr): The most vicious form that required great mental discapline, Form VII led users very close to the Dark Side. Darth Maul was a determined user of Form VII. Before the Clone Wars, Jedi Masters Mace Windu and Sora Bulq developed their own version of Form VII called Vaapad, which involved employing a state of mind that channeled one’s own darkness and fury at the opponent while still maintaining emotional control.

What does the Expanded Universe tell us about lightsaber combat in the new continuity?

The new continuity has already adopted two of the expanded universe’s lightsaber forms while added its own. Often, lightsaber forms in the expanded universe were inspired by the fighting styles of characters in the films. Vader inspired Form V, while Yoda helped inspire Form IV. It’s very possible new characters we see in The Force Awakens and Rogue One will inspire other lightsaber forms in the new continuity.

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After all, it wouldn’t be surprising to see an entirely new form inspired by Kylo Ren and his unique lightsaber.

While we’re waiting for more post-Return of the Jedi information, check out our previous entry of Canon Catch-Up about A-Wings.

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