Star Wars‘ lightsaber is the traditional weapon of the Jedi and the Sith, and here is your guide to all seven lightsaber forms. When Luke Skywalker first saw his father’s lightsaber, he was fascinated by it. “This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight,” Obi-Wan Kenobi explained to him. “Not as clumsy or as random as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a more civilized time.” This was just the beginning of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s lightsaber lessons for Luke. For masters Jedi Masters like Obi-Wan, lightsaber combat is an artform, a symbol of Jedi traditions as well as a reflection of one’s mastery of the Force.
Years later, Luke would begin to teach others the ways of the Jedi, and some of his notes are preserved in the in-universe guidebook Secrets of the Jedi. There, he reveals just why a lightsaber is unlike any other weapon. “It’s said that wielding a lightsaber is less like swinging a sword and more like directing a current of power,” he wrote. “When you’re attuned to the Force, your thoughts and actions all become part of the same flow of energy, which is then directed through the kyber crystal and into your lightsaber’s blade.” Consequently, while real-world fighting techniques can be identified on occasion in lightsaber combat, they’ve been heavily modified.
Star Wars has a total of seven forms of lightsaber combat. By the prequel era, all Jedi seem to be trained in forms I and III, but as Padawans in training, they are encouraged to experiment with other forms in order to find the one that suits them the most. Naturally, there is a fashion to these things; certain forms are better suited to combat, thus becoming more common when the galaxy is at war, while others are defensive and thus seen in more peaceful times. The best Jedi in the galaxy master multiple lightsabers forms, switching between them when the need arises. Here’s everything you need to know about all seven forms of Star Wars‘ iconic lightsaber.
Shii-Cho is generally regarded as the oldest lightsaber form, and the most elementary; as a result, every Jedi begins by learning Shii-Cho, and often a Jedi will fall back on this fighting style when all other techniques have failed. Almost all the Jedi seen in Star Wars: The Clone Wars resort to Shii-Cho on occasion. This can also be observed in when Jedi were cornered during Order 66’s execution. Form I is basic but effective, and it can appear quite brutal and aggressive because it involves a fast flurry of strikes. Practitioners of Form I always slip back to a defensive posture after attacking, and consequently while Sith learn Shii-Cho, they usually ditch it in favor of more genuinely aggressive forms. However, the basic appearance of Shii-Cho can be misleading, because a Jedi only really becomes a master of Form I when they have attained inner peace, which enables Jedi to utilize the lightsaber blade as an extension of their being.
First developed when lightsabers started becoming more common among both the Jedi and the Sith, Makashi, or Form II, is a graceful form suited to skilled duelists. Relying on careful and controlled strikes instead of power and strength, Form II is dedicated to getting the upper hand in one-on-one duels. Makashi has also been designed to accommodate more experimental lightsaber designs, such as the crossguard lightsabers common during the Hundred Years of Darkness, or even the use of a second shoto blade. Makashi fell out of fashion when the Sith were believed to be extinct, but there were still a few Jedi who practiced it, including Ki-Adi-Mundi. Count Dooku was a master of Makashi, proud of his reputation as a fearsome duelist. Indeed, that pride may well have been one of the things that led Dooku to the dark side. Dooku trained Asajj Ventress in this form, and Yoda was able to recognize his handiwork at a glance.
Soresu is the Third Form, generally believed to have been developed in response to the growing number of blasters in the galaxy. Form III is also the style that accounts for how Jedi reflect blaster bolts using lightsabers. By the time of the prequel trilogy, all Jedi were trained in Soresu, in part because this is actually a tremendously useful exercise. “At first, [Padawans’] primary focus was defense, learning to block laser blasts while wearing special helmets that obscured their sight,” Luke Skywalker notes in the in-universe guide book “Secrets of the Jedi.” “By doing so, they could learn to let the Force be their guide. Only after mastering the defensive arts could they begin to study offensive techniques under the tutelage of some of the finest duelists the Jedi Order had to offer.” Obi-Wan Kenobi’s lightsaber form of preference was Soresu, and Kanan Jarrus was also skilled in the form.
Ataru is one of the most aggressive forms, relying heavily on Force-assisted acrobatic. As such it has been mastered only by the Jedi who are strongest in wielding the Force. Similar to Makashi, Ataru is at its best during one-on-one duels, when the master of Form IV attempts to conclude a duel as swiftly as possible. The best Ataru masters ricochet around their environment, launching sweeping strikes that seem to come out of nowhere, forcing an opponent to be on the defensive. It was most visibly used by Master Yoda in his duel with Count Dooku in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. Because Ataru is so aggressive, many of its masters have proved susceptible to the seduction of the dark side, accounting for Form IV’s popularity among the Sith.
Shien and Djem So was developed by practitioners of Form III who saw the need for a more offensive edge. Shien is designed for distance, allowing practitioners to swat back blaster bolts, while Djem So is designed for blade-on-blade combat. A personal favorite of the Jedi Ahsoka Tano, Djem So uses an unconventional reverse grip. Shien and Djem So incorporates many of Form III or Soresu’s strengths, including the use of solid blocks, parries, stronger counterattacks, ripostes. Because of Form V’s adaptiveness, it became Anakin Skywalker favorite form. Interestingly, many Jedi felt that Shien and Djem So was not faithful to the Jedi way, because it came perilously close to using the Force itself for offense rather than defense.
Form VI, Niman, is often viewed as a synthesis of previous forms. It was the last form to gain widespread acceptance among the Jedi, and it emphasizes balance in the Force. According to the Knights of Fate sourcebook, the Jedi who developed Niman wanted to triumph without dominating their opponent. They wanted to defend themselves and even deliver justice without the temptation of power. It is surprising, therefore, that Darth Sidious’ apprentice, Darth Maul, depended on Niman in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, suggesting that his teacher deliberately subverted the Jedi’s favored combat style. Indeed, a Niman practitioner frequently blends lightsaber combat with use of the Force itself, and as such this form became popular with many Jedi who were disinterested in the art of combat.
The final lightsaber combat form, Vaapad, is the most controversial. According to various sourcebooks, it probably originated millennia ago, as an outgrowth of Form I. Unlike other forms, Vaapad encourages a Jedi to embrace their emotions, using them to fuel a relentless assault. Consequently, most Jedi who have trained in Vaapad have ultimately fallen to the dark side, and for a long time Form VII was banned outright. In the Star Wars prequel era, the Jedi Master Mace Windu, who famously wielded a purple lightsaber, became the sole known master of Vaapad, developing the form to control his inner darkness and channel it into worthy goals. Windu was wary of teaching others Vaapad, lest they fail to master it as he had done, and thus succumb to their emotions rather than control them.
Is Obi-Wan holding Anakin’s lightsaber? Star Wars‘ Obi-Wan Kenobi series continues the legacy of the lightsaber through its promotional posters, not just as the Jedi and Sith’s traditional artifacts, but also as key plot devices in the beloved sci-fi franchise. The series’ first poster has prompted fans to ask whose lightsaber Obi-Wan is holding. As fans have noted, Obi-Wan’s lightsaber isn’t shaped like the Jedi Master’s own lightsaber, and it looks instead like he’s holding one of Anakin’s old Jedi weapon. Indeed, rather than Obi-Wan’s more retro lightsaber, it bears more resemblance to the shape of the slanted emitter and “bunny ears” on Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber. In short, Obi-Wan Kenobi could finally explain why Obi-Wan tells Luke, “Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough,” when he gives Anakin’s lightsaber to Luke in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, a claim that’s unsupported by any of Anakin’s lines in the prequels.
Another Star Wars’ Obi-Wan Kenobi poster also features Darth Vader brandishing the red blade of his Sith weapon. Curiously, in this image, Obi-Wan’s own retro lightsaber hangs on his belt. Combined with the previous poster in which Obi-Wan allegedly holds Anakin’s old lightsaber, all this implies that not only will Obi-Wan and Anakin meet again, but that Darth Vader finds out about Luke before their fated meeting in the Death Star. These clues from Star Wars‘ Obi-Wan Kenobi definitely hint at another lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader. Obi-Wan, using both his and Anakin’s lightsaber, could even wield two lightsabers at once and employ Anakin’s favorite style, Shien and Djem So, against his former student. In any case, Obi-Wan Kenobi is bound to showcase more of the different lightsaber combat forms and reveal more about what happened between Obi-Wan and Vader before Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.