Star Wars is known for its rich lore and incredible world building, that includes the weapon of the Jedi and Sith: lightsabers. Lightsabers are blades of pure plasma that are generally created from Kaiburr crystals. Only trained Force users are able to use lightsabers to their fullest extent, and like all forms of martial arts, there are different fighting styles that focus on the user’s strengths.
Lightsaber battles are mesmerizing to watch for the bright blades, and the whooshing sounds make it easier to follow the fighters’ movements. What also makes these battles so entertaining is watching the Jedi and Sith counter each other with wholly different styles. The Star Wars movie’s fight choreographers have paid special attention to the mechanics behind lightsaber combat and there is extensive lore explaining the seven lightsaber forms.
Form I, also known as Shii-Cho, is the oldest and most basic fighting style. When Form I was developed, ancient practitioners were still transitioning from using metal swords, so Form I’s moves are not as elegant as later forms. Jedi who train in Form I are taught to be unpredictable and random, and the focus is on pressing forward to disarm opponents with angular strikes. Shii-Cho is great for fighting large groups of foes due to its sweeping moves, but its simplicity leaves it vulnerable to other lightsaber users. Despite the limitations, all Jedi are trained in Form I and are encouraged to fall back on its teachings if in a tight spot.
Form II, also known as Makashi, was developed to address the weaknesses of Form I. As such, Form II techniques are much more elegant, and Makashi users engage in tight swordplay that make them formidable duelists. There is an emphasis placed on speed and precision and the moves are similar to real-life fencing with fighters advancing and retreating in a single line. Instead of relying on slashes and and blocks, Makashi users turn their defense into offense with well-timed parries and light buts. Form II is great for single combat but poor for defending against blasters and large groups. Count Dooku was a notable Form II practitioner and he demonstrated the style’s strengths with his effortless swordplay.
Form III, also known as Soresu, was the ultimate defense. It was created to address growing blaster use. Like Form II, Form III uses tight bladework but breaks the rigid back and forth footwork to introduce dodging. Soresu is all about moving the lightsaber and conserving energy to outlast an opponent or wait for them to make a fatal mistake. Jedi training in Soresu can fight against multiple or single opponents as long as they remain calm. However, Form III lacks offensive maneuvers as the goal is to outlast the opponent rather than overwhelm. Obi-Wan Kenobi was one of the best Form III masters and his battle with Anakin Skywalker showed the advantages of using Soresu to bait opponents into making mistakes.
Form IV, also known as Ataru, rose as a style to combat Soresu’s offensive shortcomings. The aggressive form is the ideological opposite of its defensive predecessor and combat revolves around extreme speed and powerful swings. Practitioners are taught to constantly be on offense and to fuel their bodies with the Force to augment their strength and attack aerially. Fighters can thus overcome limitations such as body size or age. Ataru is the perfect form for battling single opponents but users tire quickly. Legendary Ataru users included Yoda, who was able to go toe-to-toe with Darth Sidious with his superhuman moves.
Form V has two major disciplines, Shien and Djem So. Both were based on counterattacking. Shien revolves around returning blaster shots while Djem So is centered on returning lightsaber attacks. Defend and then attack is Form V’s philosophy, a clear combination of Form III and Form IV. This style of combat requires the most physical strength and some question using Form V because of its focus on controlling opponents. Djem So is all about overwhelming foes with brutal strikes, so it’s no surprise that Anakin Skywalker, who later turned to the Dark Side, used this variant to crush his enemies.
Form VI, also known as Niman, is a combination of the previous five forms into a general style that doesn’t have noteworthy strengths or weaknesses. Jedi who were more diplomacy or study-based used Form VI as the bladework is relaxed and simple. Additionally, Niman incorporates dual blades, which became the gateway to Jar’Kai. To compensate for the simplicity, more serious practitioners were encouraged to be creative with their strategies and to include telekinesis as well as Force pulls and pushes.
Jar’Kai is not a formally recognized lightsaber form as it simply denotes the practice of using two lightsabers. This is a tricky technique as it requires good coordination to use two lightsabers, but the tradeoff is worth it as Jar’Kai masters are great at keeping up an offensive barrage. However, users can’t block or attack with two hands and fighters are over-reliant on two lightsabers. As a result, they are considerably weakened if they lose a lightsaber. Ahsoka Tano was a famous Jar’Kai Jedi who used a shoto to offset the weight of two lightsabers.
Form VII also had two variants, Juyo and Vaapad. It is the deadliest lightsaber form and, as such, invites the Dark Side. The Sith favor Juyo, which is one reason they were such powerful warriors. Juyo is an emotional form that invites users to channel their rage and malice into destroying their enemies. Unlike the controlled motions of the other forms, Juyo turns back to Form I by emphasizing chaotic, unpredictable movements that eschew the Jedi Order’s graceful restraint. Mace Windu created Vaapad as a way to channel his inner darkness into fighting for the Light. Vaapad users constantly use the Force to move at lightning speed and they channel their desire to win into new strength.
Lightsaber combat has a rich history and the lore behind the different styles is well-explained. Each form brings strengths and weaknesses, and examining a Jedi or Sith’s main form reveals a lot about their personality.
There is an incredibly deep well of lore behind lightsaber battles, and Jedi/Sith learn seven lightsaber forms to supplement their fighting styles.