Do you want to make a cosplay or Halloween costume with a lightsaber, but aren’t sure the most authentic way to hold it?
Are you fascinated by the world of lightsaber dueling but get confused by the various forms and stances?
Don’t worry, to find out everything you need to know about the various ways Jedi have used the ancient and elegant weapon, just read on.
Table of Contents
Can anyone hold a lightsaber?
You might be wondering: Is everyone who picks up a lightsaber a Jedi? Do you have to be a Jedi or a Sith to hold a lightsaber?
It’s a common misconception. Since the lightsaber is the signature weapon of the Jedi, many in the galaxy believed that only Jedi could use their signature weapon. But the truth is, there have been many non-Jedi to hold and use lightsabers.
To be fair, most people in the Star Wars universe who pick up a lightsaber are at least force-sensitive (such as Finn, or Palpatine’s Inquisitors), but there have been some who were able to wield lightsabers effectively without any sensitivity to the force, such as General Grievous or the various owners of the Darksaber.
While technically anyone is able to pick up a lightsaber, not everyone who does knows what they’re doing. Just think of when Han Solo clumsily picked up Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber on Hoth to briefly slice open a Tauntaun.
The truth is: it takes extensive training and discipline to wield a lightsaber effectively, and in that training, most users tend to specialize in at least one of the seven forms of lightsaber combat.
The Seven forms of lightsaber combat
Form I – Shii-Cho
Also known as The Way of the Sarlaac or The Determination Form, Shii-Cho was the oldest and most traditional of all forms of lightsaber combat. Shii-Cho balanced a vigilant defense that never gave an inch to their opponents with a constant barrage of attacks, taking advantage of adversaries’ every opening. A practitioner would alternate between direct strikes and wide parries, with the goal of disarming enemies rather than landing a killing blow.
While most Jedi would eventually master another form as a main fighting style, this was where all training began, and many would keep Shii-Cho in their back pocket. While it was more basic than other forms, that meant it was also useful in almost every situation – especially ones where a Jedi found themselves vastly outnumbered.
Grip: The grip for Shii-Cho would almost always be two hands firmly grasping the hilt, similar to how one would grip a golf club. While this form would at times use wide one-handed sweeps to attack multiple enemies at once, a practitioner would always return to the straightforward defensive posture of a two-handed grip.
Adherents: This form was favored by Kit Fisto during the Clone Wars, and was part of the arsenal of both Obi-Wan Kenobi on the Light Side and The Grand Inquisitor on the Dark Side.
Form II – Makashi
The second form created by the Jedi was known as Makashi, and was developed by the Jedi in response to the rise of the Sith, quickly becoming the preferred method for lightsaber duels between them. An elegant and graceful style, it was seen as the most intimate and personal of the forms, sometimes making a duel seem more like a dance than a fight.
Makashi’s focus was on precise, calculated movements and a deep understanding of one’s enemy. It was more important to get inside your opponent’s head than to overpower them – if you could control their perception of you while subtly probing their defenses, they wouldn’t be able to see your next attack coming. It’s practitioners would often withdraw when their enemies’ attacked, drawing them back to their position again and again, until the opportunity to land a final blow presented itself.
Grip: In contrast to Shii-Cho, Makashi would typically employ a one-handed grip in the dominant hand, similar to a fencing stance. The off-hand would usually be held out for balance or held behind one’s back.
Adherents: This form was practiced by Ki-Adi-Mundi on the Light Side, and Asajj Ventress on the Dark Side, but there was no greater master of the form than the legendary Count Dooku – or Darth Tyranus as he was known after his fall to the Dark Side.
Form III – Soresu
Also known as The Way of the Mynock or The Resilience Form, Soresu was the third form invented by the Jedi Order, arising from the Jedi’s need for a counter blaster-based combat. A master of the Soresu technique was able to use their lightsaber to deflect blaster bolts, and those with the most skill could even control the direction of the deflected bolts.
Soresu was the most defensive of the forms, meticulously cautious in both movements and posture. It was important to keep one’s stance as small as possible, giving opponents fewer angles of attack. The goal was often to win by conserving one’s energy long enough to exploit any weakness and simply outlast an opponent, often just by exhausting them physically and emotionally.
Grip: The grip for Soresu was often very light, as the twirling motions necessary for blaster deflection required a deft touch and the ability to switch between one-handed and two-handed at a moment’s notice.
Adherents: This form was mastered by both Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Grand Inquisitor. Jedi Master Depa Billaba was perhaps the most skilled in this form and trained her students in the way of Soresu – including Kanan Jarrus.
Form IV – Ataru
Also known as the Aggression Form, Ataru was the fourth form created by the Jedi, many centuries after the development of the previous Form. The Jedi had developed a much deeper understanding of the force since Form III was created, and Ataru channeled that advanced knowledge into a fForm focused almost purely on offense.
Ataru was the most acrobatic of the forms, and focused on using the power of the force to perform seemingly impossible feats of agility. Leaps, somersaults, and super-speed were all used constantly, meaning the enemy never knew where an attack was coming from.
Grip: Ataru favored a one-handed grip high on the hilt to maximize the speed and power of attacks. While it would sometimes briefly use a two-handed grip for balance, it wouldn’t be for very long before the user unleashed another flurry of high-speed one-handed attacks.
Adherents: This form was favored by both Qui-Gon Jinn and Yoda. While it wasn’t his primary form, Anakin Skywalker would make many improvements to the form during the final years of the Republic.
Form V – Shien/Djem So
The fifth form was invented by adherents of Form III who wanted to preserve that form’s solid defense but allow for a better offense as well. Of the two variants, Shien was created first – primarily by perfecting the practice of deflecting blaster fire back at the shooter. Djem So arose centuries after, mainly as a defense against other lightsaber-wielding combatants.
Adherents would constantly switch between defensive and offensive postures, seeking to control the ebb and flow of battle to their own advantage. Rather than waiting for an opening to attack, practitioners of Form V would try to make the opportunity themselves – usually by turning an opponent’s attack around on them through a forceful parry or deflected blaster bolt.
Grip: A user of Djem So would switch between a two-handed and one-handed grip as needed, very similar to forms I or III. And while it was usually the same for Shien adherents, some would often use a distinctive reverse grip. Even though this grip was widely considered out of style by the time of the Clone Wars, it was still practiced by some who believed it provided a powerful surprise attack, especially if used when wielding two lightsabers at once.
Adherents: Djem So was the preferred style of Anakin Skywalker, both as a Jedi Knight as well as when he fell to the Dark Side and became Darth Vader. Likewise his padawan Ahsoka Tano favored the Shien variant, including the use of the alternative reverse grip.
Form VI – Niman
The last of the forms to be fully accepted by the Jedi, and by far the widely practiced during the Clone Wars, Niman was developed as an attempt to merge the other forms into a cohesive whole. It emphasized balance above all else, blending both the weaknesses and strengths of the previous five forms. Some saw Niman as the perfected form of lightsaber combat, but others saw it as watered-down and inferior to other forms.
While it lacked the raw power of other forms, Niman made up for it by frequent use of force powers on their opponents. Practitioners would often pull their enemies close enough to attack directly, push them away, or even hold them in stasis. For this reason Form VI was especially favored by Jedi who concentrated their studies in areas other than lightsaber combat, as mastery of force powers was more important than physical prowess.
Grip: Because this form combined the previous five forms, the grip was highly variable depending on the need of the moment. It could be one-handed, two-handed, high on the hilt, or even a reverse grip if the situation called for it.
Adherents: The practitioners of Niman are too numerous to name but since this form was the first and only to allow for the use of a double-bladed lightsaber, as you might expect the mysterious Darth Maul was a master of this form.
Form VII – Juyo/Vaapad
Also known as The Ferocity Form, the seventh and most controversial form required a force user to cultivate their own anger and channel their negative emotions into a powerful onslaught. As you can imagine, this put the user in great danger of falling to the Dark side, and indeed many practitioners of Juyo would fall to the Dark Side in the years after it was recognized by the Jedi Order.
This led the Jedi Council to ban the form for thousands of years, with its practice only allowed with the explicit permission of the council. However, in the decades before the Clone Wars, a new variant known as Vaapad was developed by Master Mace Windu. Recognizing his own inner darkness and seeking to control it, he perfected the form as a way to channel his passion and anger to a more honorable end.
A practitioner of Vaapad would fight with frenetic but disciplined fury, landing a series of rapid attacks – drawing on their anger but never giving in to it. While it was technically in line with the Jedi Code, and was not as reckless as the still-banned form of Juyo, Vaapad was still far more dangerous than any other form.
Grip: This form would typically favor a two-handed grip, since that allowed the user to channel their inner rage into powerful blows and strikes with maximum force. A one-handed grip would be employed only momentarily, if necessary at all.
Adherents: Since it was the last form developed before the great purge of Order 66, very few Jedi were ever trained in the way of Vaapad – in fact, Mace Windu was the only one to ever truly master it. Juyo on the other hand was widely used among the Sith and others on the Dark Side of the force, Darth Maul and Kylo Ren being among them.
While not officially a full form like the other seven, Jar’Kai was the technique of fighting with two lightsabers at the same time.
This would often happen improvisationally, when Jedi would pick up the weapon of their fallen comrades to fight more effectively. There were also some who trained in Jar’Kai specifically and even preferred to fight with two lightsabers. Asaajj Ventress was well trained in Jar’Kai, and Ahsoka Tano specifically constructed a shorter lightsaber (known as a “Shoto lightsaber”) to use in her off-hand when practicing Jar’Kai.
So bottom line: what’s the right way to hold a lightsaber?
As you can see from the various forms above, there’s no one “right” way to hold a lightsaber.
Two-handed, one-handed, back-handed, double-bladed, or even two at once, as long as you know the history of the character you’re cosplaying (or the style you’re using to duel), just trust in the force and you can’t go wrong.