“Anyone can use a blaster or a fusioncutter—but to use a lightsaber well was a mark of someone a cut above the ordinary.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
The principle weapon of a force-wielding user, it is an extremely dexterous weapon, capable of being used for solid defense as well as for aggressive offense. It can be so dexterous that it is considered to be an extension of a Jedi’s hand. It is a weapon that requires extensive training to attain a level of familiarity with and as such can only be expertly used by a few individuals. The lightsaber is made of a blade of pure energy that was emitted from a hilt. Due to the almost symbiotic relationship between the user and the weapon, Lightsabers are almost always custom made by the user and it is made to tailor to his or her needs. As a result, lightsabers greatly vary in length and shape. To be able to properly use a lightsaber requires a lot of skill and a strong affinity to the Force.
The Key components to a lightsaber are
- A hand grip
- An activation stud plate
- A safety switch
- An emitter matrix
- A lens assembly
- A power cell
- A power conduit
- A recharge socket
- One to three focusing crystals
The birth of the lightsaber occured when the Jedi, who at that time used metal swords strengthened by the Force, experimented with advanced technology, creating a "frozen blaster", which was a blaster that had a frozen laser beam extending from the barrel as it was being fired. Around 15,500 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin), the Jedi were able to manipulate the frozen beam so that it would sharply turn around and back to it's source, creating a controlled circuit of energy in the form of a blade. With the creation of the lightsaber hilt, taking place of the blaster, the first lightsabers were born.
While the creation of the lightsaber was a success, they were highly unstable and consumed a lot of energy, requiring a battery that was kept on the belt of the wielder. Even with the battery, lightsabers could only be used for a short period of time before they overheated. Because of this, lightsabers were only to be used for ceremonies; they were rarely worn, and were never utilized in combat.
Gradual improvements to the ancient lightsaber gave way to what is commonly known as the "protosaber". The blade was much more stable and, therefore, gave way to it's use in battle as a weapon. Those with protosabers had a huge advantage on the battlefield, since it's blade could cut through nearly everything. While it was much better than it's ancient predecessor, the protosaber still required an energy source. This source was kept on either the belt, hip, or back of the wielder and a cord connected the energy source to the bottom of the hilt, creating problems like limited movement for the wielder.
The big step from protosaber to the modern lightsaber was actually due to the Dark Lords of the Sith Empire, who installed a power cell inside the bottom of the hilt, eliminating the external power source and cord. The beam also bent back all the way to the power cell, creating an infinite loop; power would only be lost from the loop if it were used to cut through something. Thanks to their new technology, the Sith also created the first double-bladed lightsabers. At the same time, Karness Muur, one of the earliest Sith Lords, was the first to use synthetic crystals to power his lightsaber, instead of using genuine crystals that had to be found. Powered by the dark side, these artificially created crystals had more power than the genuine crystals, and they have even been known to disrupt its opponent's lightsaber, literally breaking the lightsaber's power cycle. This incident rarely ever took place, so it was a very slight advantage.
Despite these great leaps in technology, both the Jedi and the Sith used protosabers or, for the Sith, Sith swords; the Jedi had not yet found this technology or used it for their own swords, and the Sith preferred the blood-spilling effects of the old-fashioned Sith sword. However, by 4,800 BBY, the Great Hyperspace War between the Jedi and Sith had ended and almost all of the Jedi Order had adopted the modern day lightsaber and some Jedi used double-bladed lightsabers. Now that the Jedi strictly used lightsabers, the Sith had to adapt and adopt the modern day lightsaber as their main weapon as well.
From that point on, many small changes occurred. During the Jedi Civil War, Darth Revan studied the practices of the Old Sith and found that they used to use red to identify themselves. Revan decided to continue that tradition, therefore sparking the modern use of the red lightsaber for the Sith. The Jedi Civil War also saw the creation of the cortosis-woven hilt; cortosis is one of the few elements that are resistant to the blade of a lightsaber, so hilts made in this era were practically lightsaber-proof.
Near the end of the Old Republic era (around 1,000 BBY), Ilum was the most popular cave from which the Jedi got their crystals. This became important because Ilum was known for having only blue and green crystals, so this in turn determined the colors by which Jedi would be identified from after the Great Galactic War (around 3,650 BBY) until the Great Jedi Purge (around 5 BBY) when Emperor Palpatine razed or quarantined most of the caves from which the Jedi got their crystals.
This type of lightsaber was used by younglings to learn the art of lightsaber combat. Although the blade was non lethal, contact would nonetheless cause burning and irritation. It was also used to a small extent by Padawans and training druids.
These type of lightsabers were longer in length, sometimes up to double the length of a normal lightsaber. This would give the user a greater advantage in combat as the opponent would have to stay further back to avoid getting within the blades range.
This type of lightsaber was used extensively by Jedi who were of short stature. In addition its shorter length made it a viable choice when a user wanted the free use of one of his hands. It was also a good choice when an user dual wielded Lightsabers.
Also known as a "Saberstaff" or "Doublesaber", this form of lightsaber was first created by the Original Dark Lords, though it would later on be used by both sides of the Force. The purpose of the Saberstaff, which was a hilt with blades at each end, was to expand on the opportunities of attack that the traditional lightsaber had. While this created more opportunities, it also created more risks for the wielder.
The color of the lightsaber was defined by the color of the crystals that were used in it.
During the construction phase of a Lightsaber, a Jedi had the opportunity to chose any colored crystal and install it. Although any color could be used in the construction of the lightsaber, the most common colors became Blue, Green and orange for the Jedi. Red came to symbolize an affinity to the Dark side of the force and belief in Teachings of the Sith. This Red Color was achieved through the use of synthetic crystals.
According to the Jedi Masters on Dantooine in KOTOR each color was associated with a class of Jedi.
- Jedi Consulars were Jedi who allowed the power of the force to flow through them and would prefer to use the force rather than engage in Lightsaber combat. However, that does not mean they lack any lightsaber skills, like all Jedi they are extremely well trained in the arts of combat. They usually carried Green Lightsaber, a famous Consular is Yoda.
- Jedi Sentinel were Jedi who were exceptionally knowledgeable in the field of computers and non-force related matter. They were well trained in the art of combat and had a strong link with the force. They usually carried Yellow Lightsabers and Bastila shan is an example of a famous Sentinel.
- Jedi Guardians were the last sub sect of the Jedi knights and were individuals who relished in combat with a lightsaber. They spent a lot of time polishing their skills and received significant martial arts training. They carried with them Blue Lightsabers; Anakin Skywalker was an example of a famous Guardian.
Lightsaber Styles and Forms
Before Order 66 was issued and the majority of the Jedi were killed, as seen in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, the Jedi Order recognized seven different forms of lightsaber combat. While every Jedi youngling learned the basics of most of the forms, as Jedi they study a few specific styles that compliment their strategy in lightsaber combat. The goal of this system is to maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of the wielder of a lightsaber in combat. Master Yoda, for example, uses form IV (Ataru) and its acrobatics to make up for his small stature in a duel.
Please note that these forms were known and used up until the Great Jedi Purge, when most Jedi were defeated and, with them, most of the knowledge of the lightsaber forms.
Form I: Shii-Cho
Shii-Cho contains the basics of all lightsaber combat prior to around 0 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin, which was the final battle in the movie Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope). This form simply teaches parries, blocks, and simple attacks. Though simple, Shii-Cho is used as a building block upon which the rest of the forms were built upon, making it an absolutely necessary form to learn. By itself, Shii-Cho was a good form for taking on multiple opponents, or when faced with multiple lightsabers (ex: General Grievous). However, one could not last on Shii-Cho alone in a one-on-one duel.
Due to being a necessary part of the Jedi's repertoire of forms, Shii-Cho can be found in any video game that involves a Jedi wielding a lightsaber. Two Jedi known for their Shii-Cho are Kit Fisto and Jedi Exile.
Form II: Makashi
Created to fix Shii-Cho's lack of efficiency in one-on-one lightsaber combat, Makashi was a much more formal form, used specifically for battling another lightsaber. This style bears a resemblance to fencing; parries, thrusts, stabs, and small cuts are used to wear out the enemy, wasting as little energy of the user as possible. Makashi was also created to gain the advantage against a Shii-Cho practitioner, who would often attempt to perform a sun djem, a maneuver that would disable or destroy the opponent's lightsaber hilt without harming the opponent. Due to the fact that it was developed solely for one-on-one combat, Makashi had flaws as a whole form. For one, it was difficult to defend against blasters, which were becoming the preferred weapon at the time. While that could easily be overcome by a skilled Makashi practitioner, Form II also could not last for long against multiple lightsabers, and the form had very little momentum and power in their strikes, leaving the user open to many strikes if the opponent properly redirects a stab or other such attack.
Possibly the most famous user of the Makashi form is Darth Tyranus, better known as Count Dooku, who appeared in video games like Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and, along with his apprentice and fellow Makashi practitioner Asajj Ventress, Star Wars: Battlefront II.
Form III: Soresu
As the modern blaster began to become the weapon of choice for those who weren't Jedi or Sith, a new style had to be created to protect those who only used lightsabers. Soresu was created to answer any blaster that was fired in the direction of a Force-user. When blaster fire was sent toward a Soresu practitioner, the Jedi or Sith would redirect the blast by blocking it with their lightsaber. The blast would then fly off without injuring or killing anyone. Soresu turned out to be a good style against lightsabers as well, making it a rounded combat form. This was a style that was mostly preferred by Jedi rather than Sith, due to it's defensive nature and desire to leave all involved unharmed. The flaw in a complete defense, however, is that there was rarely any offense; Soresu would often draw out a fight, delaying what some say would be the inevitable: defeat. When created, Soresu was intended to deflect blaster fire and safely prolong a lightsaber fight; it was not exactly intended for ending a fight quickly. This would spell trouble for anyone who would study Soresu by itself.
The most famous master of the Soresu form is Obi-Wan Kenobi, who is almost always shown using Soresu, even during his final moments against Darth Vader in the movie Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Another notable user is General Grievous, and even Darth Vader uses a little Soresu from time to time.
Form IV: Ataru
Arguably the second most recognizable form of the seven (the most recognizable being Makashi), Ataru is a very acrobatic style, involving jumps, flips, and spins that are attributed to the physical attributes of the user and the Force. Using the force, an Ataru practitioner could strike harder, run faster, and jump higher than anyone could without the Force. Using these abilities, Ataru could help a Jedi or Sith dodge or attack in ways thought impossible by his or her opponent. The style could often leave an opponent disoriented, revealing many openings for the Ataru user to strike. While seeming like an invincible form, Ataru has many weaknesses of its own, the biggest being that the style often requires maneuvers that many say are "unnecessary". If not used correctly, Ataru could leave more openings to the user than it would to the opponent. Darth Vader's last maneuver before his defeat at the hands of Kenobi at Mustafar was a classic Ataru flip that help his limbs open to attack.
The most notable users of the Ataru form are Qui-Gon Jinn and Yoda. Yoda, while he has mastered all forms, uses Ataru more than any other to make up for his size. The best example of Ataru in a video game is Yoda in Soul Calibur IV.
Form V: Shien / Djem So
The Soresu form was seen by many as a great form, but was not very ideal due to the fact that there
was not a lot of attacking in the largely defensive style. Eventually, somewhere around the Jedi Civil War, masters of Soresu combined the offensive moves of Makashi to create Form V. Shien, the classical version of Form V, continued to concentrate on defending against blaster fire in the way that Soresu did. However, the style was more offensive in that, rather than deflecting the blasts to the ground or air, the blasts would be deflected right at the one responsible for it, or even at another opponent. While making the style more offensive, Shien concentrated on fighting multiple opponents, therefore making its use in one-on-one lightsaber combat not ideal. In response to this problem, Djem So was created. Instead of blocking the opponent's lightsaber over and over again, looking for a chance to counter, the Djem So practitioner would block, then immediately respond with an attack of their own, constantly looking to parry an attack and then attack themselves. This strategy was created to help the Djem So user quickly gain a hold on the duel. While useful, not everyone could use Djem So, as it required a lot of brute strength to use. Because of this, some saw a possible gateway to the dark side, since many made up for the lack of strength with anger. Not only that, but it can often lead to the user losing focus of what's going on around him/her and, if their strike is properly redirected, the Djem So user could easily be opened up to a finishing blow.
Galen Marek, the Sith-turned-Jedi who sparked the Rebel Alliance and, eventually, the destruction of the Empire, was known for using "Sith-Shien" along with Juyo and Soresu. Anakin Skywalker is also known for using Shien. Sith Shien can be found in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, while regular Shien can be found in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Djem So is best seen in the movie Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, when both Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker use Djem So during their final battle. The style can be seen in game often through Darth Vader in Soul Calibur IV.
Form VI: Niman
Many of the previous forms have necessary maneuvers and strengths, but come with many weaknesses. To try and solve that problem, Niman was created. Niman integrated all the styles together into one style, making it the most practical of all the forms. Because it covers everything that the previous forms do, a Niman practitioner can answer to nearly anything that is thrown at them. This is also the preferred style of diplomats and other lightsaber wielders who would rather spend their time working on their Force abilities or talking their way out of situations than use "aggressive negotiations". This form is arguably the easiest to learn as well (other than the essential Shii-Cho). Despite the lack of difficulty, it took at least ten years or so to master. Because of the fact that Niman didn't have any weaknesses, its strengths weren't exactly significant. The form seemed to be the near ultimate solution until the Battle of Geonosis, in which almost all Niman practitioners were killed. After this battle, Niman was not as praised by the Jedi as before.
In Knights of the Old Republic II : The Sith Lords, Jedi Exile is given the option to learn Niman, but only if she was a Jedi Setinel, Jedi Watchman, or Sith Assassin. Other notable users include General Grievous and Darth Maul.
Form VII: Juyo / Vaapad
Though known for thousands of years prior to the Great Jedi Purge, Juyo was a form that slowly became a secret form among the Jedi Order, due to the fact that it borders on being a gateway to the dark side. Known for being vicious, violent, and incredibly emotional, Juyo was a rare form used only by those who could control it. Internal focus was key in keeping a Jedi from falling to the Dark Side using this style. The Sith, on the other hand, used Juyo quite a bit. It consisted of erratic attacks, making the whole form very chaotic. While it is the greatest of all the forms, it's weakness is that it takes Jedi who cannot control it to the darkness, leaving them a great threat to the Jedi and their allies. Only a few have ever studied it, and only one, Mace Windu, has ever mastered it. Windu not only mastered the style, he modified it into Vaapad, in which the user's mind and emotions played a great part in the battle. While it gives the user great strength, it only adds to the temptation of going to the dark side. Because of this, many who studied Juyo and Vaapad fell to the dark side.
Juyo is often used by Sith, most notably Darth Maul, Galen Marek, and Rahm Kota. Vaapad was only ever used by Mace Windu and his fallen apprentices, Sora Bulq and Depa Billaba.
After the Battle of Yavin
After the Great Jedi Purge and the Battle of Yavin, most of the knowledge attained by the Jedi was lost. When Luke Skywalker created the New Jedi Order, after the empire had been defeated, three new styles emerged. These three styles unknowingly combined different old styles together, making them very similar to the old. All of the following styles are used and mastered by Kyle Katarn, who is playable in Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast. These styles can also be used by Jaden Korr, who is playable in Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy.
Fast style is merely the merging of Form IV (Ataru) and Form III(Soresu). This creates a purely fast style that can defend against blaster fire as well as lightsabers while still maintaining an equally offensive strategy. While seemingly unstoppable, the fast style was weak in that its range was short, it lacked in power, and could easily be beaten by someone whose physical strength was great.
Medium style combines Shii-Cho with Niman to create a simple, yet balanced, style. Ataru is found in a move or two, but is not very significant. While this style spreads the strengths around to defend against blaster fire and lightsabers, it cannot defend well against those who are very skilled in one of those.
This style combined Shii-Cho with the power of Djem So, and also bore a resemblance to Juyo. The form concentrated on strength, so that it could overpower the user's enemies. However, the long, powerful strokes could leave the user open to attack. Because deflecting blaster fire required fast movement, the Strong Style was also weak to those who wielded blasters.