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The Forms of Lightsaber Combat

Lightsabers have been used for thousands of years by the Jedi Order and the methods used to employ them have been refined throughout this time to create an approach that is far more holistic than simply reverting to bladework: each Jedi who has ever picked up a lightsaber has found themselves shaping their mode of battle to the way in which they think and, likewise, being shaped by it in turn. As such, over time, distinctive combat philosophies accompanied by the techniques that epitomise those states of mind have been developed, becoming what we call the ‘Forms’ of lightsaber combat. Each one is centred around a particular approach to battle that is in turn reflected by a way of thinking, such that a Jedi’s manner in combat is also reflected on their practices out of combat.

An individual who fights defensively might be expected to have a conservative mindset that focuses on a simple, minimalist approach that achieves their objectives with the least effort expended, but with maximum efficacy. Likewise, a Jedi who fights offensively might be seen to be more direct, perhaps even brutal in their mindset, but favouring a quick, clean completion of their missions, wasting little time on extraneous considerations. All Jedi will ultimately be shaped by the Forms in some way: they may choose one that best suits their methods, or alternatively, will find one naturally choosing them because of their preferences for particular combat technique. Each one naturally offers particular strengths and weaknesses to those that use them, but it is common for all Jedi to study at least one or two within their lifetime, though true Masters of any form are a rare thing indeed.

At present, there are six fully-recognised forms of Lightsaber Combat:

Form I: Shii-Cho
Form II: Makashi
Form III: Soresu
Form IV: Ataru
Form V: Djem-So
Form VI: Niman

These are listed in the order in which they were first developed, and it is common to refer to them according to their numerical position on the list – Form I, Form III etc, though many use the names given, despite the fact that these are constantly changing and evolving. Shii-Cho/Form I is the most prevalent form of Lightsaber Combat, since it provides students with their first training in the basics of combat, ranging from footwork to strikes, parries, defensive and offensive tactics. The remaining forms build upon this basic simplicity to create forms of different function and purpose, though these are usually of a varying level of complexity and specialisation, each placing an emphasis on a different area of combat: Makashi building upon the elegance and finesse of swordsmanship, Soresu being defensively emphasised, Ataru focusing on strategy and the use of motion to outwit an opponent, Djem-So upon aggressive techniques and approach, with a view to overwhelming an opponent through sheer force, with Niman being the most balanced of the forms, drawing from all but requiring no specific adherence to a philosophy, and thus also encouraging them to develop their skills in other areas.

The decision to devote yourself to a Form is often first made during a student’s apprenticeship, as a Padawan Learner, when they are usually taught the basics of each of the Forms in order to help them make an informed decision as to which suits their best. From there, they are expected to devote considerable time towards the development of their skills along their chosen path, adopting a mindset that will better help them to master the techniques they are taught and combine these from a disjointed set of motions into something potent and suitably functional in a field setting. Very few Jedi learn more than one or two in their lifetime: all Jedi learn the Shii-Cho form from Initiation onwards, and then choose another (if they wish) as apprentices. After this, it is possible to choose another, to provide yourself with more flexibility in the field, but this is nonetheless not recommended, purely because it will distract from the pursuit of Mastery in your chosen Form.

Be aware: choosing a Form is not something done lightly, since it is an immersive experience. Only a Jedi who chooses to devote themselves wholeheartedly to their form will ever gain mastery, seeking to combine both the techniques and methodology with the mindset that characterises a practitioner of a given Form. Choosing not to do this is certainly an option, but should you wish to advance beyond Shii-Cho, be prepared to commit yourselves to it. These aren’t something you do haphazardly or half-heartedly.