Thursday, 22 November 2012

Jar'Kai or not Jar'Kai? That is the question...

by Tim MacBain

Before I begin, I would like to state that any names, concepts, ideas, themes, motifs, and references strictly belong to Lucasfilm and, by extension, Disney. I do not claim any ownership of them.

Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker
(source: New York Times)
I like to present myself as an academic character. However, there is one question – and consequent theory – that has been bothering me for quite some time. And I’m afraid to say that it isn’t really very academic. It is, inevitably (with me) about Star Wars. Don’t worry, it’s not a lamentation about Disney’s takeover – that said, there is a small part of me that can’t wait for the Force-sensitive lobster with a Jamaican accent in Episode VII. This is about my area of ‘expertise’, my chosen subject on Mastermind if you will: lightsaber combat.

As a little bit of background to those of you still reading, lightsaber combat is not as simple as hitting someone with a sword made of pure energy. There are different WAYS of hitting them, and differing philosophies attached to those different ways. They are the Seven Forms of Lightsaber Combat (note the all-important capitalisation), and they exist as follows:

Count Dooku (Makashi)
Form I: Shii-Cho. This form, taught to all Jedi Younglings, is based around the basic zones of the body and is very good when fighting many opponents. Think: medieval swordsman at the Battle of Crecy, that sort of thing. Master Kit Fisto (the green tentacle-y bloke) was the master of this form (incidentally, it was the cause of his death at the hands of Darth Sidious).

Form II: Makashi. This form was developed from the weaknesses Form I has when dealing with single opponents. It is often termed the Duelling Form – and that is, really, all there is to it. Emphasis is placed on absolute precision and economy of movement. Think: fencing. Prime practitioner is Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus; he developed his lightsaber hilt with a bend at the end to aid his mastery of this form.

Form III: Soresu. This form is all about defence. A master of Soresu can stay alive in a fight for a long time due to the fact that his opponent cannot get past his defences. The only problem is, you’re always on the defensive; you can’t beat your opponent until he tires, and that might be after you do. Obi-Wan Kenobi was renowned for his style of Soresu – although that’s a complicated matter, as I shall mention later.

Yoda (Ataru)
Form IV: Ataru. This form is the dichotomy of Soresu: all-out attack. The more acrobatic you are, the more you somersault and dive and twirl, the more accomplished you are. As long as your opponent is not attacking, you’re all right. And that’s the problem with Ataru; it has absolutely no defensive capabilities whatsoever. Admittedly, the master of this form is very long-lived, thus disproving the previous statement; Yoda was aged 902 (ish) when he died of natural causes.

Form V: Djem-So/Shien. This form is a little bit more subtle. In an attempt to overcome the weaknesses of Soresu, Shien was developed to return blaster bolts to their original, and Djem-So was an adaption of Shien lightsaber combat. This introduced the reverse grip of the lightsaber, so the blade extends from the back of the hand. It focuses on immediate counter-attacks and overpowering your opponent – therefore frowned upon by many Jedi, because it could lead to the dark side. Thus it comes as no surprise that its most famous user is Anakin Skywalker – more famously known as Darth Vader.

Mace Windu (Vaapad)
Form VI: Niman. This form combines the above five into one. It has no especial weaknesses, but no especial strengths, and is used to train Padawans (Apprentices, to those of you not clued into Star Wars jargon). One of its masters was the little-heard-of-but-deadly Dark Jedi, Exar Kun.

Form VII: It’s here that things get a little more complicated. This has two variants:
(1) Juyo: this focuses on letting one’s anger overwhelm one and thus give one strength. This, naturally, was used almost exclusively by Sith – Darth Maul is notable, when discussing Juyo.
(2) Vaapad: this is the Jedi adaptation of Juyo, allowing anger to flow through one, rather than consume. Mace Windu (cool-purple-lightsaber-dude) developed it, with help from Sora Bulq (who later allowed his anger to consume him and fell to the Dark Side, showing the dangers of Vaapad).

Of course, there are combinations of these forms, as alluded to above; Obi-Wan Kenobi’s mastery of Soresu was not true Soresu; he incorporated offensive elements of his master, Qui-Gon Jinn’s, preferred form, Ataru. In addition, there are many other different types of weapons, like the double bladed lightsaber and the light whip.
However, to go back to the point of this article, my questioning arose when I began to consider the dual wielding of lightsabers, called Jar’Kai. Usually, those who duel wielding lightsabers are portrayed as holding them both in the orthodox fashion – that is, pointing forwards. This brings some advantage, not least through the fact that you have two opportunities for attack, but one must be equally strong in both hands, wrists and arms to achieve a half decent attack. To hold both lightsabers in the unorthodox reverse Shien grip is foolish, for you have no powerful attacking strokes – one just has to look at Ahsoka Tano for a demonstration of how stupid this would be. However, so as to reduce the need for extensive training and to combine the ease of blocking with precision of attack, why not hold the primary lightsaber in the stronger hand in the orthodox way and the secondary lightsaber in the Shien reverse grip, thus enabling rapid defence with little strength needed without sacrificing any offensive capabilities?

Anyway, enough rambling from me. I hope you’re listening, Disney. This would look exceptionally cool in Episode VII…

1 comment:

  1. After we talked about this I've been thinking about possible blaster/sabre combos and have realized that if you gave chewy a lightsabre in his other hand, no-one would mess with the rebellion


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