There are many forms of lightsaber combat. Each Jedi chooses the style of lightsaber combat that best suits them personally. For example, Master Yoda uses the Ataru form to compensate for his lack of reach and height, as well as to take advantage of his nearly limitless amount of force power; Mace Windu uses Vaapad to tap into his anger and employ it constructively (albeit without giving himself over to the dark side); Count Dooku’s practice of the Makashi form fits first of all his intention to frequently engage in lightsaber-to-lightsaber combat and second his emphasis on class and elegance as well as precision.
Form I: Shii-Cho
Younglings, the Jedi initiate rank, first learn Form I before they begin a Padawan apprenticeship with a Jedi Master. Younglings are taught Shii-Cho first because of its simplicity and versatility.
Form I, like its succeeding forms, includes the following basic techniques and concepts:
- Attack, a set of attacks aimed at different body zones
- Parry, a set of blocks to thwart any attack in the specified body zones
- Body target zones (1, head; 2, left arm; 3, right arm; 4, back; 5, left leg; 6, right leg)
- Training drills called velocities
There were two known masters of Form I: Kit Fisto and Stass Allie. Though Kit Fisto was a master of Shii-Cho, he could not defeat Darth Sidious with it. Shii-Cho form is good versus many enemies wielding conventional blaster weaponry. Its simplicity is its strength, making it a very good style to use if all else fails.
Known practitioners: Kit Fisto, Stass Allie, Jedi Younglings
Form II: Makashi
After Form I’s proliferation as a saber combat technique, Form II came about as a means of lightsaber-to-lightsaber combat. It is described as being very elegant, powerful, and requiring extreme precision, allowing the user to attack and defend with minimal effort, while his opponent tires himself out. The form relies on parries, thrusts, and small, precise cuts as opposed to the blocking and slashing of the other forms. The blade manipulation required for this form is very refined and requires much focus, but the results are extremely potent. However, as ranged weapons such as blasters come into play, or more than one opponent is present, the advantages of this form become obsolete.
In the time near the Clone Wars, the Jedi Order seldom practices this technique. There is little lightsaber-to-lightsaber combat involved in a Jedi’s life, so Jedi Masters have found it impractical.
Darth Tyranus (also known as Count Dooku), has mastered Form II to the highest degree, fighting with the precision built into the ancient technique. When he wields this form, it devastates the Jedi; the system of Jedi training at the time of confrontation between Darth Tyranus and other Jedi does not prepare the Jedi for the precise movements of a form bred for lightsaber dueling. Former Separatist general Sev’rance Tann was also a practitioner of Form II. It is also possible that General Grievous was also a practitioner of this form since he was trained by Count Dooku, although Mace Windu said to Obi-Wan Kenobi that Grievous was a practitioner of all lightsaber combat forms due to his adaptive combat capabilities. Ki-Adi-Mundi’s fighting style looks extremely similar to when Dooku duels Kenobi and Skywalker. This makes him a very possible candidate for a Form II Master.
Makashi users are elegant, precise, calm, confident, even arrogant. Form II users are supremely confident in their chances for victory, and often looked relaxed when they are fighting. They certainly look like they are dancing.
Known practitioners: Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus, Ki-Adi-Mundi, Exar Kun, Sev’Rance Tann*, Asajj Ventress*, Komari Vosa*, Darth Sion
* Their preferred form is unknown, but Count Dooku’s training most likely drew them towards Makashi.
Form III : Soresu
Form III, the most defensive of all of the forms, was developed to counteract the advancing blaster technology throughout the galaxy. Jedi opponents now mostly wielded blasters. The form utilizes motions occurring very close to the body to achieve near-total protection, efficiently expending as little energy as possible to execute these moves. This technique exposes as little body target zone open areas as is possible, making a well-trained practitioner nearly invincible. After Darth Maul’s defeat on Naboo, Obi-Wan Kenobi decided to perfect his practice of Soresu since Qui-Gon Jinn, Kenobi’s mentor and Form IV (Ataru) master, fell against Darth Maul. By the time of the events of Revenge Of The Sith, Obi-Wan Kenobi is acknowledged as the master of Soresu.
Practitioners of Soresu comfortably remain on the defensive until their opponents make a mistake; only then do they strike offensively. Soresu can best be described as a passive form and one to be used by Masters who are extremely patient and passive. Soresu users do not wish to fight, or harm. Even during a fight they prefer to remain on the defensive, and only when absolutely necessary will they strike. Luminara Unduli and Barriss Offee are also proficient in this form.
Known practitioners: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Barriss Offee, Luminara Unduli
Form IV: Ataru
The master practitioners of Form IV make extensive use of acrobatic maneuvers often thought not physically possible by using the Force to guide their motion. It is very acrobatic and even more so with the use of the force, and very articulate when slowed down.
This form was created during the last centuries of the Old Republic. Yoda was acknowledged as the greatest master of Ataru. He used it in almost all of his battles, and the style made him a virtually unstoppable whirlwind of destruction despite his small size and advanced age. Qui-Gon Jinn was also a master of this form. Kenobi was also very advanced in Ataru, but temporarily abandoned it in favor of Soresu because he felt that his master’s death demonstrated a fatal flaw in Ataru’s defensive capabilities. Nevertheless, Obi-Wan applied Ataru acrobatics to face Dooku and Anakin (the latter after he turned to the dark side as Darth Vader). Aayla Secura is also a master of this form, according to Jan Duursema, who co-created the Twi’lek Jedi; Quinlan Vos had taught Aayla Form IV. Darth Sidious used a Sith variant of this form, which included stabs and wide swings. Darth Maul’s fighting style was largely Juyo (Form VII), but also used acrobatics associated with Ataru to make himself an even more devastating warrior.
In dire situations, Form IV practitioners use the Force to aid in their acrobatics. Spinning, jumping and running very high and very fast, masters of Form IV are sometimes only seen as a blur. In order to achieve the acrobatic prowess, amazing reflexes and physical punch of this form, a Jedi Master would focus on the Force, letting it flow deeply throughout his entire physicality, even allowing him to overcome the limitations of old age, or poor conditioning. Due to its aggressive nature, it is an effective form to use against single enemies; however, it leaves the user open to attacks from multiple opponents; therefore, it is wise to use Ataru in a duel, but not in open warfare. Emotional control is key, as is letting one’s emotions fly free. This is not a contradiction, as displayed by Yoda’s firm control despite his screams and grunts.
Known practitioners: Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn, Darth Sidious, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Aayla Secura
Form V: Shien / Djem So
The name of the Fifth Form of lightsaber combat varies, Shien and Djem So draw on one another and are essentially based on the same movements and velocities, and Anakin Skywalker mastered them both. By comparison, Djem So demonstrated a even higher level of physical strength and aggressive moves. So it is believed that Shien and Djem So both fall under the category of Form V, much like Juyo and Vaapad in Form VII, with Shien better at dealing with blaster bolts and Djem So better at blade-to-blade combat.
Form V is a powerful style developed by Form III practitioners that preferred a more offensive angle. The defensive nature of Form III often leads to dangerously prolonged combat. This style came about from combining Forms II and III. Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master Plo Koon, and Anakin Skywalker, both as himself and as Darth Vader, are all practitioners of Form V. Jedi Master Agen Kolar may possibly have been a Form V practitioner since he favored aggressive negotiations. Luke Skywalker’s use of Form V is probably as much instinctive as trained, as he was trained as a Jedi by both Obi-Wan Kenobi (Forms III and IV) and Yoda (Form IV). However, Luke’s particular form of lightsaber combat may in the end be something entirely new, with traces of Forms III, IV and V mixed together with his own personal styles. It is doubtful that Masters Kenobi and Yoda had time to actually teach him the finer points of the combat Forms. Just like most other things about being a Jedi Knight, Luke probably had to figure out whole new fighting styles to replace the ones lost during the Great Purge.
Embodying the perfection of the idea of counterattack, Form V maintains its existence through having sufficient defensive skills, as derived from Form III, but channeling defense into offense. The example is commonly used that while Form III combatants effortlessly deflect laser bolts, Form V practitioners excel at redirecting the laser bolt toward the opponent. This simultaneously defends the user and efficiently injures the opponent. Also, it utilizes Form II’s parries, allowing the user to parry the attempted attack, and counter it.
However, where Form II concentrated on precise and elegant parries, Form V permits the user to actually fully block and repel attacks since it calls for the use of more brute, Force-enhanced strength. This particular aspect of the technique is believed to be favored by Anakin Skywalker, and especially later by him as Darth Vader.
Form V is also different from Form III in the fact that Form V practitioners believe that the best defense is a good offense. It has already been observed that Form III users simply deflect blaster bolts and parry lightsaber attacks until the opponent makes a fatal mistake. Form V practitioners take the near impenetrable defenses of Form III and press the assault, using wide, sweeping blows in an attempt to overwhelm the opponent with brute strength. A dedication to the power and strength necessary to defeat an enemy characterizes the philosophy of Form V, which some Jedi describe by the maxim “peace through superior firepower.” To some Jedi Knights, Form V represents a worthy discipline prepared for any threat; to others, Form V seems to foster an inappropriate focus on dominating others. The aggressive philosophy of Form V is the source of many a Jedi’s disapproval.
With the offensive but refined movements of Form II and the highly defensive postures of Form III, Form V has been proven to be a highly effective style. Both Form V and VII call for its user to use emotion to enhance their strength. Form V users can best be described as bold, powerful, fearless and confident. They are unafraid to let their emotions rule them and contribute to the fight, though they are wary of falling to the dark side. A master Form V stylist will be able to pull back from the abyss of the dark side, as Luke Skywalker did when he defeated Vader, though that does not always happen.
Known practitioners: Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Plo Koon, Agen Kolar, Kit Fisto, Aayla Secura and Darth Rojam
Form VI: Niman
The Form VI was the standard style at and around the time period of the Clone Wars and the Great Jedi Purge. This combat discipline is often called the “Diplomat’s Form.” One can see this in the records of the Battle of Geonosis when many of the saber-wielders on Geonosis are killed. In fact, all of the Jedi using Form VI were killed at the Battle of Geonosis, including the Form VI practitioner Coleman Trebor, whose technique could not defend against most of Jango Fett’s masterfully placed blaster shots.
Form VI attempts to balance all elements of lightsaber combat, combining the Forms that came before into a less intensely demanding combat style. The result is that the user’s’ skill in each individual areas of lightsaber combat is only moderate, making Form VI well suited for diplomats and consulars, as they can spend their time training in the areas of politics, negotiation and force mastery instead of combat training. It can be affectionately referred to and known as a sort of “Jack of All Trades” form, with mastery of no one aspect of combat, but competency in all.
There is, however, one saving grace to this form not mentioned above. Niman is the stepping stone to the dual lightsaber form, known as Jar’Kai. No one who has successfully mastered Jar’Kai has done so without first mastering Niman.
Known practitioners: Coleman Trebor, numerous Jedi who perished during the Battle of Geonosis, and others – see Jar’Kai later in this article for a list of former masters
Form VII: Juyo / Vaapad
Form VII has been an oddity for millennia. It was modified by Jedi Master Mace Windu, who used it to create his Vaapad fighting style. The most challenging and demanding of all forms, Form VII requires intense focus, high levels of skill, and mastery of other forms. Form VII is without question the rarest form, and only three Jedi have ever mastered Vaapad fully: Mace Windu, Depa Billaba, and Sora Bulq, who instructed Quinlan Vos in a few of its basics. It is speculated that Darth Sidious trained Darth Maul in a variation of Form VII combat. Sora Bulq helped Windu develop Vaapad, but Bulq and Mace’s Padawan, Billaba, proved too weak to master the flow of the light and dark sides, and fell to the dark side. In this way, Vaapad mastered them. Many believed Plo Koon could master Form VII, but he believed that it was too dangerous so he took on Form V instead.
Sometimes used as another name for Form VII itself, Vaapad is in fact a “sub-form” of Juyo. The term ‘Vaapad’ comes from a non-sentient predator on the planet Serapin and its moons. A vaapad has no fewer than seven tentacles, while the largest ever killed had twenty-three. However, the tentacles moved so extremely fast that no one could actually count the tentacles until the monstrosity was slain. Standard Juyo contains sleek, fast movements with strong strikes, whereas Mace Windu’s specialized Vaapad focuses the use of the Force and emotion to fuel attacks (which explains why Sora and Depa both fell to the dark side in using it) normally used in Juyo. Regular Juyo can be mastered (or at least “sub-mastered”) much more easily than Vaapad, but Juyo can never truly be used to its full extent unless training in Vaapad is taken. Standard Juyo is not as powerful as Vaapad, but lessens the risk of falling to the Dark Side.
Intrepid, somewhat direct movements are used in combination with very advanced techniques involving Force-powered jumps and motions. Form VII does not appear as fancy as Form IV, but the technical details of it use very open movements resulting in a very unpredictable battle style. The staccato swings and flow of the form make it seem as if the attacks are not linked but in reality, it is merely confusing the opponent. The sword techniques of this art are very practical, using “battlefield” philosophy; kill, move on.
Form VII demands the emotional and physical intensity of Form V, but it much more effectively controls it (if mastered). Form VII, when fully mastered, results in extraordinary power.
However, Vaapad borders on the edge of using the dark side, as it channels one’s anger and darkness into the attack. Only Windu’s mastery and concentration of the light side prevents him from succumbing, which is why Vaapad is rarely practiced and very dangerous. As mentioned above, the only two other known practitioners of Vaapad, Sora Bulq and Depa Billaba, both fell to the dark side of the Force.
Vaapad is not just a fighting style. It is a state of mind and a power. The state of mind requires that a user of Vaapad allow himself to enjoy the fight. He must give himself over to the thrill of battle, the rush of winning. Vaapad is a path that leads through the penumbra of the dark side.
The power of Vaapad is simple: it is a channel for one’s inner darkness; and it is a reflecting device. With strict control a person’s own emotions and inner darkness can be changed into a weapon of the light. Vaapad is also a superconducting loop, with the user on one end and the opponent on the other. Vaapad is able to take the hatred, anger and rage of the opponent and reflect it back at them. In his fight with Palpatine, Mace Windu used Palpatine’s own speed and hatred against him, reflecting it back against the Sith Lord and using it as his own power. Vaapad is at once a form of lightsaber combat, a state of mind, and an actual tangible power. To use it requires great mastery, discipline and, above all else, purity of heart and spirit. Vaapad users are intense, focused and introverted; there are even signs of pent-up hostility in them.
Darth Maul mostly had learnt the Form VII Juyo first, then enhanced it with his own hatred and anger as well as his own knowledge of martial prowess and a Sith lightsaber/double-bladed lightsaber. It is similar to Mace Windu’s Vaapad where he channels his anger into attacking and giving himself to the thrill of winning a battle.
Another variation of Juyo is used by Master Cin Drallig, whose personal style takes the extremely high speed at which Juyo operates and takes it to a Vaapad-like level without losing the power of normal Juyo (if the word ‘normal’ could ever accurately describe Juyo).
Known practitioners: Mace Windu, Sora Bulq, Depa Billaba, Quinlan Vos (incomplete training), Darth Maul, K’Kruhk, Cin Drallig, Master Kavar
Other Forms of Lightsaber Combat
These forms are variants and sub-styles evolved from, or to be used with the seven main lightsaber forms. They are founded on the basic principles of combat and survival, or were developed for own personal use.
Form VIII: Sokan
Developed by the ancient Jedi Knights during the Great Sith War, Sokan combined tactics that allowed for evasion and mobility with the kinetic motions of Form IV combat. Sokan involved swift strokes of the lightsaber, which were aimed towards the opponent’s vital areas in addition to quick tumbles and movements. Combatants made use of large amounts of terrain, trying to maneuver their opponents into vulnerable areas during the course of battles that involved Sokan techniques.
Obi-Wan employed elements of Sokan while dueling Anakin on Mustafar, when Obi-Wan sought the high ground and used his favorable positioning to defeat Anakin, attacking his weak points.
Form IX: Shien
This variation of Djem-So uniquely involves a Jedi holding the lightsaber horizontally. The Jedi points the end of the blade at the opponent; it is swung in a fast arc while the Jedi punches their saber-hand at their opposing combatant, in a stabbing motion. Adi Gallia uses a personal variation of this Form, holding her saber vertically instead of horizontally, almost as if this Form is aiding the combat of others.
Form X: Jar’Kai (Niman variant)
The dual saber Jar’Kai permitted a Jedi to fight with two lightsabers, one in each hand, as seen in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones by Anakin Skywalker. One of the blades in the wielder’s hands was used for attacking while the other one was used for defending, such as parrying, or for more offensive power. Many Jedi trained to use the Niman style in the hopes of gaining a basic knowledge of the dual-bladed attack, but very few Jedi ever totally mastered Jar’Kai. Serra Keto, Sora Bulq, Asajj Ventress, Komari Vosa, and Joclad Danva (who can be seen wielding two lightsabers in the background during the Battle of Geonosis), the Dark Jedi Boc and the Emperor’s Hand Jeng Droga were all practitioners of Jar’Kai. Niman is the stepping stone to dual saber mastery, and no one has ever fully learned Form X without first mastering Form VI.
Form Zero was the basis for instruction of lightsaber combat that was originally defined by Jedi Master Yoda in describing the lightsaber technique of Felanil Baaks. The art of Form Zero lies in a lightsaber that has not been ignited. A Jedi cannot protect and serve the galaxy in the Jedi way if he/she does not know when to draw his/her sword and when to resort to different means of solving a problem. The knowledge, understanding, and wisdom behind the idea of right and wrong encompassed the idea that a Jedi who feels the necessity to use Form Zero, the absence of violence, is truly gifted in the ways of the Force.
The Jedi or Sith employ an attack in rare instances to use the cutting power of their lightsabers for an object at an unreachable location called the saber throw, or a throwing of his or her lightsaber. The lightsaber is thrown; usually the blade tip spins in a circular motion about the hilt; and the saber hits its target, usually to cut it. Skilled practitioners will use the Force to manipulate the trajectory of the lightsaber and then redirect it back to their hand.
* When Yoda fought his way into the Jedi Temple during the Fall of the Order, he used this technique to kill an attacking clone trooper.
* When Luke Skywalker jumped atop a suspended catwalk during his final battle with his father, Darth Vader threw his lightsaber to bring the catwalk crashing to the ground; some say that Darth Vader lacked the physique, speed, and Force power to jump atop the catwalk himself to continue the duel, while others count this as an example of his mastery of many techniques of the Force, confusing and intimidating his younger, less knowledgeable opponent; a third opinion states that Vader tried to avoid fighting an opponent on higher ground, given the outcome of his first battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi.
This is a form of lightsaber combat unique to only one or two of the most powerful Jedi. The Jedi will keep the lightsaber in their grasp, but will keep it turned off. The Jedi will then dodge or defend any attacks using the Force. Some of the more skilled Jedi may launch attacks using the Force in-between sweeps of the opponent’s lightsaber. They will then wait until the right moment and swiftly turn the lightsaber on and off, sending the blade through the enemy’s body. This will instantly wound or kill the enemy. This technique is difficult to master and to use it the Jedi must be very powerful with the Force. It is considered to be a dark form of combat as it takes the enemy by surprise and can be also used outside a lightsaber duel to dispose of somebody in close quarters. It is best used in lightsaber dueling but can also be used to avoid blaster fire.
Jedi Master Yoda mastered this style to perfection and used it often when in battle with many foes.
Tr’kata was also used to great effect against the Yuuzhan Vong. When a lightsaber locked against an amphistaff the Jedi would shut down the blade, shift position and reignite it, sending the deadly energy beam through a less-protected joint or seam in the Vong’s vonduun crab armor.
Several techniques fall outside the traditional and practiced forms of the Jedi. Combatants who are not bound by Jedi teachings, such as General Grievous, can employ more varied movements. His attacks are intended to misdirect and confuse traditionally trained sword fighters. Grievous is exceptionally capable at this due to the flexibility of his joints, robotic reflexes, and his many limbs. Only the most experienced and talented of Jedi can withstand his attacks. For example, Grievous can hold one lightsaber in each of his four hands, spinning two of them very rapidly in front of him, acting as a shield. Grievous uses this against Obi-Wan on Utapau, but Obi-Wan manages to overcome this, biding his attack, and finally timing his strike through the whirling lightsaber shield.
Another unique lightsaber style is that of Adi Gallia (a victim of Grievous), who holds her saber with a one-handed reverse grip (backhand style). This is a personal variation of Form V, much as Vaapad is Mace Windu’s personal variation of Form VII.
Maneuvers and Points of Contact
All ten forms of lightsaber combat utilize these ancient terms used by the Jedi for describing the objectives, maneuvers to use, and the various outcomes that could arise out of a fight involving lightsabers as weapons.
The term cho mai is used to describe the action of cutting off an opponent’s weapon hand. This move shows that the Jedi using it has the honor to cause the opponent minimal physical damage; it also shows the skill and mastery of the Jedi performing the move to the opponent. This is exemplified in such cases as when Anakin Skywalker cut off both Count Dooku’s hands (before decapitating him) in their final battle; Anakin also cut off Mace Windu’s hand to prevent him from killing Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious in Palpatine’s apartment; Darth Vader cut off Luke Skywalker’s hand in Cloud City and Luke returned the favor in their final battle.
A cho mak is the act of cutting off an opponent’s limb, such as a humanoid’s leg. This can be seen when Obi-Wan slashes Anakin’s remaining biological arm and both of his legs during their epic duel on Mustafar.
The term cho sun is used to describe the move used to cut off an opponent’s weapon arm, such as when Count Dooku defeated Anakin Skywalker in the Battle of Geonosis. Most combatants prefer the more efficient and precise cho mai, but cho sun is sometimes used when the opponent is too strong or fast to allow such a precise cut.
The term sai cha is used to describe the rare instance when a Jedi beheads his or her opponent. This is often reserved for the most dangerous of enemies, ones who a Jedi cannot afford to let live. This is an example of what Anakin Skywalker did to Count Dooku (although Dooku was sufficiently incapacitated) and what Mace Windu did to Jango Fett.
A sai tok, frowned upon by the Jedi because of its Sith-like nature, is the act of cutting an opponent in half, usually separating his or her legs from their torso at the waist. It is performed by Jedi Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi against Darth Maul. This move is used only in the most extreme of circumstances.
The term shiak is used to describe the usually dishonorable action of stabbing an opponent. This technique is often used by Sith, such as when Darth Maul stabbed Qui-Gon Jinn, and Palpatine’s stabbing of Agen Kolar. Yoda can also be seen using a variation of this technique in, when he throws his lightsaber at a Clone Trooper, impaling him, then clambers up the still-standing body to retrieve his weapon.
A shiim is a more minute, considered inferior, wound to an opponent by the edge of a lightsaber’s blade. It is also considered a sign of desperation or struggle against a potent enemy, such as when Luke grazed Darth Vader’s shoulder during their duel at Bespin. It is also seen in the instance where Count Dooku grazes Obi-Wan’s right arm and leg, though in that instance it was intended as mockery of a weaker opponent.
A sun djem is an attack used by Jedi that disarms the weapon of an opponent, the objective usually being not to physically harm the opponent, such as when Master Mace Windu kicked Darth Sidious’ lightsaber away during their duel in and when Count Dooku disarmed one of Anakin’s lightsabers in the Battle of Geonosis (although the lightsaber was destroyed in the process).
A jung in lightsaber combat is a 180-degree turn.
The term jung ma is used to describe a maneuver used by Jedi to perform a 360-degree spin in which power is gained for an imminent attack on the opponent.
Not a maneuver per se, but the kai-kan is a re-enactment of a famous, usually ancient, very dangerous, lightsaber or even sword battle, which only very well trained Jedi attempt to perform.
A sai is the term used to describe the move used by Jedi to evade an attack directed at their legs. The Jedi jumps up with the Force as the main backbone of the strength, height, and speed at which the jump is executed. The Jedi can then strike downwards, using their fall as a fulcrum for more power.
The term shun is used for when a 360-degree turn is performed with just a one-handed grip, thus gaining speed for an attack.
As part of roleplaying, a Jedi student was expected to study this document and understand the differences between the forms, eventually choosing one (or more) to use as part of roleplayed duels and battles in Second Life. The various forms were programmed into maneuvers that our avatars would enact in response to keyboard commands. In general, no form was more effective than another, and so, the choice reflected the philosophy and personality of the player, embodied in their avatar character.
In “real life”, I can see “lightsaber” training and practice on par with the kata of martial arts. It may not be practical in a real-life confrontation, but I champion anything that will get people motivated to get out of a chair and move.