A Guide to the 7 Traditional Forms of Lightsaber Combat in 'Star Wars'

Get a Handle on the Differences

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The blockbuster "Star Wars" movies bring about passionate discussions among aficionados, several of which turn on differences between the original trilogy, made between 1977 and 1983; the prequels, made between 1999 and 2005; and the sequels, made between 2015 and 2017, with one to be released in 2019.

One of the big questions: 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 regarding the Force? Here are seven different traditional forms of lightsaber combat that help shed light on these issues of the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

Form I: Shii-Cho

Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker engage in a lightsaber battle in "Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi"
Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker engage in a lightsaber battle in "Star Wars: Episode VI -- Return of the Jedi.". Sunset Boulevard / Corbis via Getty Images

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 an 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 this makes it a strong defense against Form I. Curved-hilt lightsabers made it easier to control this one-handed fighting style.

After the Sith were all but destroyed around 1,000 BBY, lightsaber duels became uncommon again, and few Jedi studied Form II. Those who studied Form II ​praise 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 because it emphasizes the Jedi believe in calmness and non-aggression. A Jedi using Form III must center himself in the Force to anticipate 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 using 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, using its precise defensive motions to create a more offensive fighting style. Its basic premise is using natural strength to dominate an opponent.

The first variation, Shien, focuses on deflecting blaster bolts back at targets. This allows a Jedi to defend himself 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 does not focus on combat training because it is easy to master and execute. But for this reason, Jedi who has mastered other forms might view it as inferior.

The basis of Form VI is combining lightsaber combat with other Force techniques. For example, a Jedi might use telekinesis to push away enemies, allowing him 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 as 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 because it was thought to bring its practitioners dangerously close to the dark side.

Notable Practitioners: Mace Windu, Darth Maul

Read More

Want to dive deeper into lightsaber specifics? Check out these books:

  • "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)