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While many Lightsabers were alike in design, they were an expression of the one who wielded it and were to be designed with the user's specific strengths and weaknesses in mind. The most common lightsaber variants included the saberstaff or double bladed lightsaber, such as the ones used by Darth Maul or Savage Opress. These sabers were particularly difficult to wield, but presented the user with an increased attack capability. Shotos or short sabers which were most often used in conjunction with a regular sized saber in the off hand; Ahsoka Tano utilized a saber of this type. Other variants included curved sabers used by Makashi duelists like Dooku, that were considered to be more effective with the moves common to the second form of lightsaber combat.
Form I: Shii Cho
This combat form was developed during the transitional period within the Jedi Order from ancient metal swords to more contemporary lightsabers. Shii-Cho was intended to cater to these new weapons, establishing the basic motions and target zones utilized with a lightsaber. As Shii-Cho was effectively an experimental combat form, and was created prior to the emergence of Dark Jedi and Sith Lords.
In combat, Form I lightsaber combat was wild and raw, relying on deliberate tactics and being primarily aimed towards disarming rather than injuring foes, in keeping with Jedi philosophy. Basic initiates in the style demonstrated rather clumsy performance, though in the hands of a master, Shii-Cho was fluid but highly randomized and unpredictable. Notable practitioners of Form I were Yoda, Kit Fisto, Grievous and MagnaGuards.
Form II: MakashiDeveloped for the purpose of lightsaber-to-lightsaber combat, Makashi was the most dueling-centric of the seven classical forms. Relying on precision and efficiency over Shii-Cho's wild, sweeping motions, Form II allowed an initiate to defend himself against an opponent with minimal effort, while placing a heavy focus on avoiding disarmament.
Makashi was described as elegant and focused, and was based on balance and footwork to outmaneuver opponents. Fluidity and economy of motion were relied on, rather than strength, with Form II bladework heavily utilizing jabs and light cuts rather than hack and slash movements. However, Makashi was not without its weaknesses, being ineffective against multiple opponents and failing to address the issue of blaster bolt deflection. Notable practitioners of Form II were Dooku, Shaak Ti and Asajj Ventress.It should be noted that Ventress' Makashi technique made use of her second lightsaber or saber staff ability. This was unique in that Makashi forms were traditionally focused on a single blade. In fact practitioners like Dooku believed that any saber technique using more than one blade simultaneously was inferior to those that favored the single blades in battle.
Form III: SoresuDeveloped during the widespread emergence of the blaster as an offensive weapon. Soresu relied on tight bladework and subtle dodges to provide maximum defensive coverage, minimizing exposure to ranged weaponry. Over time, Soresu transcended this basic origin, and came to be considered the ultimate expression of non-aggressive Jedi philosophy.
Like Makashi, Soresu relied on economy of motion and energy efficiency, keeping up constant blade-movement to build up momentum and minimize energy-expenditure. Form III focused on strong defensive technique to essentially outlast an opponent, waiting until he began making mistakes due to frustration or fatigue, before taking advantage of these lapses and countering. A master of Soresu was considered invincible, and the focus on long-term survival allowed such duelists to take stock of and control of their situation, choosing to kill, disarm, or even reason with enemies. Notable practitioners of Form III were Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luminara Unduli and Barriss Offee.
Form IV: AtaruAtaru continued to be a common form among the Jedi in the latter stages of the Republic.
An aggressive style, Form IV was fast-paced and effective against single opponents, though weaker in prolonged combat and confined spaces. Ataru was characterized by Force-assisted acrobatics, both for attack and defense, and fast, powerful strikes. Notable practitioners of Form IV were Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn, Aayla Secura, Shaak Ti and Ahsoka Tano.
Form V: Shien / Djem SoIt was developed by practitioners of Soresu who felt that the defensively-minded form would unnecessarily extend time spent in combat by forcing its users to wait for an opportunity to strike rather than create their own openings. Form V combat was characterized by power attacks and defense immediately followed by a counter-strike. However it was also common for Shien style users to employ a reverse blade grip.
Shien, considered the classical Form V, was more adept at blocking blaster bolts, whereas Djem So was developed later and intended for lightsaber combat. Both Shien and Djem So were designed to use an opponent's attack against them, as evidenced by Shien's focus on returning blaster bolts to their origin and Djem So's emphasis on immediately striking back after a blow. Although some Jedi felt that Form V encouraged aggression and domination, that sentiment did not stop many Jedi from practicing the form. Ahsoka Tano utilized a Shien grip mixed with Jar'Kai and Ataru. Notable practitioners of this were Plo Koon, Aayla Secura and Anakin Skywalker.
Form VI: Niman/Jar'kaiThis fighting style was a hybrid martial art created by effectively combining elements of all the preceding lightsaber forms into a single, generalized form. Niman balances out between the various specializations of the other forms, covering many of the basic moves, but focusing on overall moderation. This resulted in a fighting style that lacked a significant advantage, but also lacking any serious drawbacks, and thereby not leaving adherents as exposed as some of the more aggressive or specialized forms.
To compensate for the relaxed focus on bladework and lack of significant specialization, Niman training regiments encouraged the inclusion of Force-based attacks in combat, such as telekinetic pulls and shoves used in sync with lightsaber strikes. Notable practitioners of Form VI were Obi-Wan Kenobi and Grievous.
Like form five, Niman had different variations namely Jar'Kai. This form was used to describe fighting with two blades. It was common that a warrior carried one regular sized lightsaber and a second short saber however this was not always the case. Jar'kai was mostly used by Asajj Ventress who like most dual blade practitioners attempted to make up for their lack of physical strength or refined blade work by adding another blade.
Form VII: Juyo / Vaapad
Form VII was described as the most vicious form of lightsaber combat and was said to involve significant internal focus on the part of the user. As time passed, knowledge of Form VII became restricted among the Jedi Order, whose members were worried that its precepts would lead practitioners toward the Dark side of the Force.In the latter days of the Republic, a new variation of Form VII, dubbed Vaapad after a creature native to the Sarapin, was created by Jedi Masters Mace Windu and Sora Bulq. Vaapad was explained as being a state of mind rather than just a fighting style, allowing the wielder to channel his own inner darkness into the duel, and accept the fury of the opponent. One of the most powerful and extensive practitioners of Vaapad was Mace Windu himself and in fact the Jedi Master proved to be the only practitioner of the Vaapad style who resisted the dark side.