You might be surprised to learn that there’s actually martial art lore behind Star Wars lightsaber fighting skills with official forms. There are seven forms of lightsaber combat that all Jedi and Sith apprentices are trained to recognize. Each form has its own strengths and weaknesses, and often reflects the personalities of both Jedi and Sith practitioners.
Form I – Shii-Cho
Form I, also known as Shii-Cho, is the oldest and most basic lightsaber form. It was developed based on classic fencing principles at a time when its practitioners were still transitioning from using metal swords to lightsabers. Form I masters’ fighting styles appear unpredictable and random but highly fluid; and are focused on disarming opponents – making them dangerous opponents. However, because Form I was not developed to address lightsaber-to-lightsaber combat, Form II evolved next.
Form II – Makashi
Form II, also known as Makashi, was developed to address the weaknesses of Form I, especially against other lightsaber wielders. It is a more elegant style that relied on focuses on speed and precision instead of brute strength, making those who mastered this form – notably Count Dooku – expert duelists. However, Makashi did not work well against blasters and large groups. So, as blasters and other ranged weapons became more commonplace, lightsaber combatants had to evolve their technique.
Form III – Soresu
Form III, also known as Soresu evolved to defend against the increasing use of blasters and ranged weapons throughout the galaxy. It is primarily a defensive style, using tight and efficient movements to conserve energy so they can outlast an opponent or bait them into making mistakes. Soresu masters were typically considered untouchable and could fight against multiple opponents. However, it was criticized for focusing too much on defense at the expense of having any offensive capabilities.
Form IV – Ataru
Form IV, also known as Ataru, developed in response to Soresu’s focus on defense and became a diametrically opposite form centered on attacking. It has a more aggressive combat style – focusing on speed and agility with fast-paced and powerful strikes from multiple directions. The Ataru form is also often characterized by Force-assisted abilities like somersaults and leaping strikes for attack as well as defense, allowing even smaller-sized masters – like Yoda – to go against larger opponents.
Form V – Shien and Djem So
Form V also developed to address Soresu’s focus on defense but is based more on counterattacking. It developed two major streams: Shien, which centers on returning blaster shots back to the attacker, and Djem So, which is focused on counterattacking an opponent’s lightsaber strikes. Both forms adopt a “defend and then attack” philosophy, combining the defensive capabilities of Soresu with an increased emphasis on the offensive capabilities of Ataru.
Form VI – Niman
Form VI, also known as Niman, is a general style that emphasized balance and harmony by combining Forms I through V. Niman avoided many of the weaknesses of the previous forms, but also failed to achieve their full strengths. It was developed by conservative Jedi who felt that Form IV and Form V relied too much on aggression. So, they developed Niman as a moderate approach they felt was better aligned with Jedi philosophy: achieving victory without dominating one’s opponent, defending and delivering justice without being tempted by power. Niman bladework is relaxed and simple, but also encourages practitioners to be creative by including Force powers like pushes and pulls. Interestingly, Niman also allows practitioners to use dual blades, which allowed practitioners to explore the sub-form known as Jar’Kai.
Jar’Kai is not actually a “form” of lightsaber combat – it is merely the practice of using two lightsabers. It’s not easy to master due to the coordination required to wield two lightsabers. Jar’Kai practitioners can keep up a barrage of attacks, but can’t block or attack with two hands.
Form VII – Juyo and Vaapad
Form VII is considered one of the most aggressive and unpredictable lightsaber combat forms, which is why it’s also known as The Ferocity Form. It developed into two Major variants – starting with Juyo, followed by Vaapad. Practitioners of both forms channeled their rage into relentless attacks, eschewing graceful restraint and embracing passion and chaos; which is why the Jedi are extremely wary of this form, while the Sith embrace it. Jedi who tried mastering Form VII have typically succumbed to the Dark Side, with the notable exception of Jedi Master Mace Windu.
Form VII initially began with Juyo, which encouraged practitioners to channel their anger and dark feelings into Force-powered chaotic, unpredictable movements to destroy their opponents. Juyo was highly aggressive, even more so than Ataru. However, because so many Jedi who practiced this form fell to the Dark Side, the Jedi Council banned its study and practice; although some would study it with special permission from the Council or by outright defiance.
Vaapad was created by Mace Windu, who wanted to find a way to channel his own inner darkness and weaknesses for the Light side of the Force. In doing so, he is credited for perfecting Form VII into a lightsaber form that aligned to the Jedi Code. Nevertheless, the Jedi still considered Vaapad dangerous and Master Windu himself was wary of allowing others to study the form.
Vaapad has been described as a state of mind, instead of being just a fighting form. Practitioners drew on their inner darkness, anger and passion; accept the fury of their opponents; but still seek to maintain self-control and not given into these feelings. This resulted in movements that were typically marked with controlled fury; resulting in frenzied, rapid attacks and powerful strikes.
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