Darth Vader is a menacing figure in his black helmet and cape. His troops fear him. and his notorious temper along with his fondness for the force choke. But what about his lightsaber skills?
Was Darth Vader exceptional with a lightsaber or was he a subpar duelist?
Darth Vader’s origins as a fully trained Jedi Knight (Anakin Skywalker), especially during the clone wars gave him the knowledge and experience needed to be skilled with a lightsaber. Combined with a strong connection with the force, Darth Vader was a formidable lightsaber master.
Table of Contents
- How Good was Anakin Skywalker with a Lightsaber?
- How Good was Darth Vader with a Lightsaber?
- Was Darth Vader the Best Lightsaber Duelist?
How Good was Anakin Skywalker with a Lightsaber?
Early on in his training, it became apparent that Anakin Skywalker’s connection with the force was stronger than most. This allowed him to master new skills and force abilities easily. But it also made him a bit lazy, and he incurred the ire of the other young padawans.
While he did not start out with a strong focus on mastering the lightsaber and developing his dueling skills, he became a force to be reckoned with, once he committed to the training.
What Forms Did Anakin Use?
Anakin mastered several forms of lightsaber combat.
He was adept at using Form V to deflect blaster bolts. We see him utilize this on Geonosis when facing off against droids and again later during his rescue of chancellor Palpatine during the Battle of Coruscant.
Form IV was another of his favorites as it allows for a greater deal of acrobatics, like force-enhanced flips, jumps, and controlled falls.
He also used the Jar Kai technique, most often when battling Sith. In his first face-off with Count Dooku we see him wield Obi-Wan’s lightsaber alongside his own.
What Was His Reputation as a Jedi Duelist?
Even as a young Padawan, he was exceptionally skilled with a lightsaber, almost always besting the other apprentices as well as full-fledged Jedi Knights. He was noted as having a remarkable skill for one so young.
Thanks in part to clone wars, Anakin Skywalker had a reputation among the Jedi as a premier lightsaber duelist. Kanan Jarrus, Ahsoka Tano, and even Obi-Wan all praised his dueling skills.
His later defeat of Count Dooku/Darth Tyrannus, who was considered to have lightsaber combat skills on par with Yoda, helped cement Anakin’s reputation as one of the best Jedi duelists.
How Good was Darth Vader with a Lightsaber?
Once Anakin fell to the dark side and became Darth Vader, his use of the force changed, and his lightsaber combat skills along with it.
The dark side plus his new prosthetics had a large impact on how he dueled and used the force.
Did his Prosthetics Hurt his Lightsaber Skills?
When Anakin was a Jedi, he lost an arm to Count Dooku during a duel. It was only Yoda’s intervention that saved Anakin and Obi-Wan. Anakin gained an advanced prosthetic arm after that battle.
While we do see his combat technique change a little after this battle, his new prosthetic arm doesn’t seem to hamper his abilities too much.
After his face-off with Obi-Wan, however, he loses his remaining arm and both of his legs and sustains significant burns across his body. His new suit helps him breathe, move, eat, and provides him with several layers of armor.
Even with the advanced technology of the Star Wars universe, Anakin’s recovery would have likely been long and very painful. This pain would have initially hampered his ability to engage in lightsaber combat.
While Anakin Skywalker almost always resorts to using his lightsaber, Darth Vader rarely does so. We largely only see him utilize his Sith lightsaber when combatting Jedi such as Obi-Wan and Luke Skywalker.
This further alludes to the fact that his iconic black suit may be hampering his physical abilities.
And in many of the books and other media that are now Legends (non-canon Star Wars), Darth Vader laments the inadequacies of his suit, and the restrictions it puts on his ability to duel, even going so far as to wonder if the Emperor purposefully gave him an inferior suit.
Did the Dark Side Improve his Lightsaber Skills
The dark side of the force is very different from the light side. With a focus on anger, pain, and passion, dark side skills seem to support uses of strength, deception, and aggression.
This includes lightsaber combat. The Phantom Menace was quick and aggressive with his strikes, while Count Dooku utilized a more measured but strong, and sometimes deceptive combat style.
So, how did the dark side change Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader’s lightsaber combat style?
The forms he knew were the same, but there were some that he embraced more fully and others that he rarely utilized. For instance, Form IV, which includes the aerial acrobatics that Anakin often used, is rarely seen during Darth Vader’s lightsaber duels.
Instead, Darth Vader would have likely forced on forms that focus on strength, such as Djem So.
The dark side also had a huge impact on the force abilities that Darth Vader utilized, including those he wielded during lightsaber battles.
Telekinesis was a big one. While we do witness Anakin using telekinesis to defeat droids and safely bring down The Invisible Hand, Darth Vader seemingly uses it for everything.
He utilizes the force to deflect blaster bolts with nothing but his hand. He uses it to rip things off the wall and throw it at his opponent(s). And his most iconic use is the force choke, where he uses his telekinetic abilities to squeeze a person’s windpipe shut.
Towards the end of Rogue One, we see Darth Vader wield his telekinetic force abilities in a battle with rebels, using it to choke people, throw people, take their weapons, etc. And he does this all seamlessly while wielding his lightsaber to cut the rebels down and deflect their blaster fire.
Was Darth Vader the Best Lightsaber Duelist?
While becoming Darth Vader definitely changed Anakin’s lightsaber combat style, these changes did not make him any less formidable of an opponent. In fact, if anything, they made him more versatile and unpredictable.
How Did he Fare Against the Best Jedi Duelists?
One mighty Jedi Duelist is Mace Windu. Mace is such an advanced lightsaber duelist, that he created his own style of lightsaber combat called Vaapad.
Thanks to the events of Revenge of the Sith, we have a very brief idea of how Anakin would fare in a lightsaber duel with Mace Windu.
In the battle that results from the Jedi’s attempt to arrest the Emperor, Anakin ends up attacking Mace Windu and slicing off his hand. The emperor then throws him out of the window using force lightning.
Obi-Wan Kenobi also had a reputation for exceptional lightsaber skills, though much like Yoda, he preferred not to resort to them. Throughout his time as a Jedi, Anakin fought side-by-side with Obi-Wan, until he turned to the dark side.
In the battle on Mustafar, Obi-Wan ultimately defeats Anakin by dismembering him. But the fight was evenly matched for most of the time and Obi-Wan heavily relied on using Anakin’s anger and emotional turmoil against him.
Later, when Vader confronts Obi-Wan on the Death Star, Vader triumphs, but largely because Obi-Wan gives up. So did Obi-Wan give up to help Luke escape, or because he knew his defeat was inevitable?
Was Vader a better duelist than Yoda?
The best Jedi Duelist would be Yoda, even though we rarely see him take up his lightsaber. When he does ignite his green blade, he is ferocious and fast, cutting down his opponents quickly.
It was considered a high mark if you could hold your own, even for a short time, against the mighty master Yoda. Count Dooku was considered able to hold his own for a while against Yoda, and Anakin bested Dooku.
But does that mean he would have beat Yoda? While Yoda and Darth Vader’s force abilities and lightsaber skills might have been on par, it is very likely that Yoda’s experience and wisdom would triumph in the end.
Was Vader a better duelist than Sidious?
The best Sith duelist, at least during Anakin’s time, would have been Sidious.
While his initial on-screen battle with the Jedi, including Mace Windu, seemed lacking in the skill and savagery we usually expect with the Sith, it was likely that he was downplaying his skill to manipulate young Anakin to the dark side.
Later, in his confrontation with Yoda, Sidious is nothing short of awe-inspiring as he flips through the air cackling maniacally, throwing senate chairs about with the force as if they were dinner plates.
Aside from this epic battle, though, we rarely see Sidious duel. His only contributions during Darth Vader and Luke’s duel were to throw force lightning at the defenseless Luke. Darth Vader takes this opportunity to throw a distracted Sidious over the railing and to his death.
Darth Vader wins, but Sidious’s force-lighting does him in, and he passes away only a few minutes afterward.
But in an actual all-out duel, would Vader still win? The sith way is for the apprentice to defeat the master. So yes, Vader would have likely triumphed in a duel with Sidious. This was actually his ultimate plan, but he wished to recruit Luke to the dark side first.
Darth Vader was not just good with a lightsaber; he was exceptional.
His strong connection with the force and his mastery of multiple lightsaber forms made him a formidable opponent for any Jedi or Sith he came across. His fall to the dark side may have hampered his physical abilities some, but it only seemed to accentuate his force abilities.
While we may never know for certain if Darth Vader could have beaten the best of the best Jedi and Sith in one on one duels, he was arguably one of the best lightsaber duelists of his time.