Swordsmanship in Star Wars

There are noticeable differences in swordfighting scenes in the Prequel Trilogy and the Original Trilogy. In the prequels, fights are relatively slow, with no fancy moves. In the sequels, they are fast and flashy – but also shit. Reason for this was that the Original Trilogy coreography was done guided by actual swordsman, a champion fencer Bob Anderson. Prequel Triloy was done by coreographers, and George Lucas wanted flashy moves to match up with Matrix.

First appearance of a lightsaber is when Ben Kenobi shows Luke his father’s saber. The scene itself shows how light the lightsaber is, and how its centre of gravity is directly at user’s hand. This is different from actual swords. In European longsword, centre of gravity is near the bottom third of the blade, or sometimes even nearer to the crossguard. In Katana, centre of gravity is at close to half the blade, which is why katanas have longer handle for the same blade length when compared to longswords. This along with far lighter weight of a lightsaber means that lightsaber would be a far lighter and more maneuverable sword when wielded. On the downside, all the force of a cut would have to come from a person himself (albeit withdrawing from a cut would be easier), and keeping track of a blade might be harder, making mistakes more likely.

First fight in the Star Wars was one between Darth Vader and Ben Kenobi. It mostly consists of cuts, and relatively slow ones, but realistic. At one point, Ben doeas a completely unnecessary 360* pivot, which would spell death against a competent swordfighter. Other than slashes, fight includes a lot of footwork, parries and standoff. At several points Vader and Ben lock blades; while it is something that was avoided if possible in real-life swordfighting, it could happen – there is even a term for it (tsuba zeriai in kendo, or anbinden in German swordifghting – bind in English). It also never lasts long, and both opponents retreat soon after it happens. It should be noted that unlike common misconception, even in historic swordfighting parries were done with the edge of the blade, aimed at opponent’s flat side if possible. If not, parry was edge against the edge, even though it could ruin the blade for two reasons: parrying with a flat makes person weaker in a bind, and swords are design to take stresses along the long axis of the crossection. Parrying with a flat ran a risk of a sword breaking, or in later times bending, and thus failing to parry in time or at all. Also, the aim of a parry was not to block the opponent’s strike but to redirect it. Thus, the parry was typically a quick strike with one’s sword against the side of a blade of the opponent in attack, so as to redirect the attack and leave the opponent open for one’s own attack. Only if that was not possible would the opponent’s attack be blocked edge-on-edge, which then could develop in a bind; but a typical response to such a situation was to pull back out of the range as soon as possible. Since lightsaber has no flat side, fight can overall be considered realistic.

In The Empire Strikes Back there is a fight scene between Luke and Vader. They start very close, but again in a classical kendo starting stance, just like Vader and Kenobi did in the ANH. Luke does a lot of unnecessarily wide cuts which are easily blocked by Vader. Here, Vader is using his superior physical strength to literally push Luke away; normally, blocking a cut would not be a good idea. During the fight, cuts predominate, and Luke takes to both blocking and avoiding them. In the continuation of a fight, Luke makes cuts again, but gets easily disarmed, which ends the fight for a time. However, he blasts Vader with smoke or steam, and regains his lightsaber. They continue exchanging cuts. At one point, Luke does an overhead flip; it is likely only the fact that Vader does not want to kill him that saves him from death. He pushes Vader back, and latter fals into the chasm, where he uses Force-controlled machinery to attack Luke and push him out of the window after first exchanging some blows. Soon after, the fight resumes. Vader uses strong cuts, counting on his superior physical strength to exhaust already tired Luke. Luke loses his cool and after a strike and a bind, gets his arm cut off, which ends the fight. Move with which Vader cuts off his arm would only work with a lightsaber, which is good as it shows that moves were adapted for weapons decipted. Fight was very good in that it shows importance of improvisation. In a real sword duel, fighters would use whatever advantage they could get (sword fights in Pirates of the Carribean also showcase this). However, like many other fights in the movies, there are too many cuts as opposed to stabs. That being said, Vader’s objective in the fight was to tire out or disarm Luke, not to kill him, so due to his superior endurance and strength, reliance on cuts may be excusable. However, the fight does show danger of strong cuts in swordfighting, as Vader leaves himself open; it is likely only Luke’s exhaustion and lack of experience that save him from anything worse than a shallow cut on the arm. When Luke makes a similar mistake, it costs him his arm and his weapon, ending the fight and forcing him to run away. Unlike “A New Hope”, whose coreography was based on Japanese Kendo, TESB coreography was based on European swordfighting, and Bob Anderson actually stood in for Prowse in some scenes. Bob’s training was in European sabre, which shows in a predominance of cutting moves, which would otherwise not fit the straight-blade lightsabres.

Return of the Jedi fight also consists mostly of cuts. However, there is also a fair measure of improvisation, such as when Luke kicks Vader down the stairs, and when Vader throws his lightsaber (normally not a good idea, but excusable with a Force user). In latter part of the fight, Luke uses agressive, wide cuts, and only the fact that Vader does not want to kill him prevents Vader from exploiting them. In the end, Vader is physically overwhelmed.

First thing in The Phantom Menace that is noticeable is Darth Maul’s two-bladed sword. Next are the actual moves. Lucas wanted more intensive battle scenes to rival Matrix, and he also used CGI way too much, sacrificing realism. Fighters were told to attack the thin air, which could never work good. Next is the actual fight against Maul, which is ridiculous. All three combatants make the mistake of attacking the opponent’s blade instead the opponent; without that, even Maul’s double-bladed sword would not save him from being overwhelmed in a two-on-one combat. First thing Obi-wan does is leap right over Maul’s head; against a competent swordsman, that move would have gotten him cut in the half. There are several times when either Obi-Wan or Qui-Gon have an opportunity to stab Maul in the back while he is distracted by another, but it never happens, nor do they actively try to create such opportunities. Maul does show some brain in that he kicks the opponents away when there are opportunities, and tries to engage them one-on-one, but he also does some completely unnecessary and ridiculous leaps. When jumping over the chasm, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon do it so close to Maul that he could have cut at least one of them in half had he not been a “good sport” (read: complete moron). On their part, his opponents continue attackin only Maul’s blade, and only one at a time. Finally, Kenobi gets kicked away for his chivalry, and nearly dies, while Qui-Gon finally finds a brain and pushes Maul away while their blades are locked. Maul lands on a platform, and Qui-Gon jumps right next to Maul; only latter’s stupidity saves Qui-Gon from having his legs cut off. The fight continues and Qui-Gon is lured into a ridiculously obvious trap, which he falls for anyway, and so separated from Obi-Wan; it never occurs him to back away and wait for the Obi-Wan to rejoin him. Forcefields separate the combatants, but soon after Maul releases Qui-Gon and the fight moves into a narrow area around a chasm, while Obi-Wan can only watch. Naturally, as both combatants attack the opponent’s sword, they are locked in a stalemate. Maul uses a behind-the-back block which would have gotten him killed normally but survives, and a moment later pushes away Qui-Gon’s blade and stabs him. This is followed up by some quick lightsaber work between Obi-Wan and Maul, in which Obi-Wan moves dodges Maul’s cuts as much as parrying them. Both combatants use behind-the-back block a lot, as well as jumps, and miss a lot of opportunities to kill each other. Fight ends when Maul makes a mistake of dropping his guard, and Kenobi does a should-be-lethal pirouette over his head and cuts Maul in half. Acrobatics done by characters during the fights should have been suicidal, as Jedi should be faster than normal people, and lightsabers are nearly weightless; yet they never are, because opponents simply freeze gawking at them and do not counter them (which an actual swordsman would do by reflex), or completely miss and screw up any opportunity to cut off opponent’s legs. Many actual strikes done by Qui-Gon and Kenoby completely miss, as pointed out here. Even when Maul is on the ground and vulnerable, Kenobi fails to attack him.

In Attack of the Clones, during a big fight with the droids, some Jedi do acrobatics that would leave them incapable of blocking blaster bolts, and thus vulnerable. Thankfully, droids seem to have attended Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy, but still win through the weight of numbers. Anakin gets himself out of the fight for the time being, and in the following duel, both Kenobi and Dooku leave themselves open in multiple occasions. Kenobi also does few useless pirouettes that would have gotten him killed against a competent opponent. Dooku disables Kenobi with few shallow cuts, but Anakin saves him from being killed. Anakin is given a second blade by Kenobi, but it does not last long and gives him no advantage against Dooku (reason why two swords were never used in real life). His second blade soon gets destroyed anyway. Dooku-Anakin fight is better than most in prequel trilogy as there are no acrobatics, but soon after the light goes out, both of them spend few moments swinging swords uselessly around their heads. Fight resumes, Dooku does a suicide pirouette that Anakin does not exploit, and Anakin somehow gets his hand cut off. But Yoda appeares, and following a Force show-off, a saber fight commences and Yoda does his best impersonation of a lightsaber-totting ping-pong ball. There is a lot of cutting of air involved from the both sides, and few strikes that actually come close to threatening the opponent all seem to be aimed at opponent’s lightsaber.

Revenge of the Sith almost immediately kicks off with a saber fight between Anakin, Obi-Wan and Dooku. Anakin and Kenobi are unable to overwhelm Dooku two-on-one, largerly because they attack his lightsaber, and each of them politely waits until Dooku’s lightsaber is pointed towards him to attack it. Dooku pushes Kenobi away, and Anakin politely aims above Dooku’s head; Dooku still mostly unnecessarily ducks. Soon, Dooku takes out Kenobi by using Force, and Anakin kicks him over the fence. After a quick exchange of overaccentuated slashes, Anakin and Dooku get in a bind. Soon after, following an exchange of uselessly overblown slashes, Anakin slides his saber down Dooku’s blade and cuts off his hands.

In a fight against general Greivous, Kenobi shows a good grip initially, using surroundings to take out General’s guards. Grievous decides to personally fight Kenobi, by using four lightsabers. By using his robotic body, Grievous turns blades into propellers. Kenobi gets in close, and both start slashing at each other. As Grievous is mostly either slashing at Kenobi’s blades or uselessly cutting the air, Kenobi has no trouble in disarming him blade by blade, taking out two blades. Kenobi pushes Grievous away, and the latter escapes as the clone army arrives, with Kenobi in hot pursuit, during which he loses his lightsaber. In the end, Kenobi kills Grievous with a less elegant weapon from a less civilized age.

When Jedi confront the Chancellor, first thing that happens is a banter, followed by Chancellors over-the-top pirouette leap. Two Jedi masters simply stand frozen and wait for Palpatine to kill them, third one reacts but gets quickly killed and only Windu is left to duke it out. There is a lot of useless pirouetting and slashing at the air. Palpatine also does some jumps that Windu does not take advantage of, albeit those at least are not right over Windu’s head. In the end, Palpatine loses his marbles and earns a kick in the face, losing sword in the process (likely a ploy to appear helpless in front of Anakin, who soon arrives). Anakin comes to the scene, loses his own marbles, and cuts off Windu’s sword hand. Windu then gets roasted by Chancellor’s lightning.

Fight between Obi-Wan and Anakin begins with later making a leap to reach Kenobi. It continues with a lot of lightsaber slashing, pirouetting and turning back on the opponent, with both apparently aiming at opponent’s blade. Only good thing are a few kicks delivered, and Anakin straggling Kenobi who delivers a kick. It degenerates into kicking, and then back to lightsaber combat with Kenobi trying to deliver an ovehead blow instead of a quick stab. This idiocy gives time for Anakin to recover his lightsaber and block the blow. In the next scene, Anakin abd Obi-Wan are standing two feet apart, madly swinging lightsabers around and getting in one blow every five or ten swings; all of them naturally inconclusive. Soon after, they push each other apart. Anakin leaps back and delivers a “powerful” overhead blow; being easy to see miles in advance, Obi-Wan easily avoids it and instead Anakin destroys the console controlling stations protective fields. There is some more kicking and mad swinging. Kenobi and Anakin ultimately do tarzan impressions and end up on droid platforms. Droid platforms may be new, but their “swordplay” stays the same old useless swinging. In the end, Kenoby gains the solid ground. Anakin does a leap over his head, and finally someone gets their legs cut off for their stupidity.

At the same time, Yoda goes to confront Palpatine. Yoda repeats his lightsaber totting ping-pong ball impression from his fight with Count Dooku, with a lot of lightsaber slashing and jumping. Overall, it is visually impressive but painfully idiotic. In the end, Yoda gets disarmed by Palpatine’s force lightning, and has to run away after a brief Force exchange.

Overall, Prequel Trilogy’s lightsaber combat has none of the purposefulness, elegance and beauty that Original Trilogy’s combat delivers. It is devoid of substance, a flashy show with no purpose (“Make it flashy”, Clown Buggy would say). Or as Ben Kenobi put it more bluntly: “I have failed you!”.

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12 replies

  1. There does seem to be quite a flight from reality in the prequel 3 – show versus practical reality.

    I am reminded of drone warfare. The latest studies show it is counterproductive.
    https://consortiumnews.com/2016/07/23/study-says-drones-generate-more-terrorism/

    This should not be a surprise to anyone.

  2. While your analysis of the sword fighting in Star Wars is interesting I find it also kind of superficial for two reasons:
    1) You seem to think that only European fencing and Kendo are viable sword fighting and completely ignore oriental styles such as Eskrima and Wushu sword forms, which have a completely different way to move the swords, which, uninitiated, such as yourself dismiss as flashy and unpractical but in reality are exactly the opposite. I will explain a little bit later.
    2) You forget that the Jedi are not normal humans. They are imbued with a sixth sense that can be used to explain a lot of the ridiculous choices they make. I will also expand on this later.

    First of all a little bit of background on me. I have studied martial arts on and off from eight years old. I started with Karate like every child but for the past 7 years on-and-off I’ve been studying Eskrima.

    While Eskrima is dismissed by a lot of people as stick-fighting it is actually a practical martial arts style that combines un-armed and armed combat, and is unusual in the fact that it starts with weapon forms, unlike Wushu , for example, which starts with hand-to-hand forms. The weapons forms in Eskrima have as basis, medieval European fencing, which had a focus on slashes not thrusts, modified for a shorter weapon length. Sticks are used in Eskrima as sword analogues therefore the movements are designed to translate easily to sword. Parrying with the stick for example is taught as a strike to the stick of the opponent, with what would be, in a real sword, the edge. However the main weapons used in Eskrima are short blades, and the sticks are made to mimic them, they have about 60 cm length, which when counting the grip of the hand puts the center of mass about 15 cm away from the hand. They are also lighter then European or Japanese weapons, same as Chinese weapons. This alone makes Eskrima and Wushu more appropriate for lightsaber combat then European fencing and kendo, they are designed for weapons which have very little discernable weight, because of their light weight and closeness of the center of mass to the hand. This two characteristics make Eskrima and Wushu completely different in form and function to Kendo and European longsword. Because of the weight and center of mass far from the hand of the longsword and katana, the main focus in fencing and Kendo is on individual strikes. Every strike is initiated, usually with the movement of the arms alone and stopped before another strike is initiated and so on. Focus is on the speed of the individual strikes. In Eskrima and Wushu the main focus is on the flow from one strike to another. The first strike is initiated with the movement of the whole body (as in boxing or tenis if you like) and if it fails to hit the energy of the strike is not wasted by stopping but used by transitioning to another strike, the practitioner concentrating on conserving energy from one strike to another, similar to how in a dogfight a fighter pilot concentrates on conserving the energy while transitioning from one maneuver to another. The fanciful twirls in Wushu and Eskrima, are actually necessary as efficient transition from one strike to another, and far from being impractical actually help one conserve energy and delay fatigue, similar to how the maneuvering of a well designed fighter aircraft (F-16, Rafale, Gripen) while looking fanciful also helps conserve energy. Speed of individual strike is less important in Wushu and Eskrima then in Kendo and fencing. A fight between two practitioners will be more like a chess match. The weapons will be kept moving constantly by the two fighters, which will try to trick one another to deliver a hit. Varying the speed of the flow is the most common trick and thus a strike might be landed by actually decreasing the speed of the strike and modifying the rhythm of flow to which the opponent has gotten used. Also unlike fencing and kendo that mainly aim for the body and head, in Eskrima and Wushu because the flow makes the body very hard to hit and weapons are shorter, the most common target is the weapon hand. ( By the way I found out the importance of not going for the body the hard way during my last sparring session when trying to hit the body of my teacher I got a slash on my head, from his training stick)
    Now that I got that out of the way I will do a little bit of general analysis on sword fighting in the Star Wars hexalogy. I will limit my critique to the movement of the blades, not the jumping around. That, I grant, is completely useless (except for Yoda who is small 😀 ) but is a sin of both trilogies.
    In the original trilogy, the moves are technically well executed but are inappropriate and impractical. As you pointed out they are based on Kendo and then western long sword fencing, both of which are designed for long, heavy, chopping weapons, which the lightsaber is not. The light saber is light, and because of its center of mass its actually a slashing weapon not a chopping one. Not only are the moves wrong for the weapon, but the most used stance is all wrong, it is very similar to the Karate stance called Zen Kutsu Dachi, a training stance considered ,even in Karate, impractical for combat (it’s most easy to see this stance in the Cloud City fight and the Death Star II fight). Also it’s very similar to the stance used in modern fencing for thrusts. It is completely illogical to use such a stance for slashing action, because one can only move the weapon with the hands and can not use the body to add to the movement of the blade. That will lead to increased fatigue and inefficient use of energy, the velocity of the blade and thus its kinetic energy will be much smaller then if the whole body is used, and because weight is small, there is not much potential energy to speak of. Therefore by not using the body the total energy will be smaller then if using the body.
    In the prequel trilogy the choreography is made by a stunt coordinator, true, but the implementation of the choreography for the individual actors, in Phantom Menace at least, was entrusted to Ray Park the stuntman who played Darth Maul, a practitioner of Wushu and Malaysian martial arts (similar to Eskrima). Other martial artists were used for the subsequent trilogies to implement the choreography and train the actors. Many of them got cameos as Jedis in the Genosian Arena scene or the order 66 scene. Also the choreographer wanted lightsaber combat to be like a chess game. The result was that combat in the prequel is more based on wushu and Eskrima then fencing and kendo.
    The stance hear is correct for a slashing weapon , legs are close together and the fighters use the whole body to add to the movement of the weapons. Also the twirling and fanciful moves which seem impractical and illogical help to achieve an energy efficient flow from one strike to another, as I explained above.
    Now taking into account the fact that Jedis have a sixth sense ridiculous scenes such the one on Mustafar where Obi Wan and Anakin twirl their sabers standing two feet from each other can be hand waved. The twirling is a very fast form of flow, fuelled by the precognitive capacity of the two Jedis to anticipate when the other one will hit. In fact the chess game that, as I was explaining above, is involved in a Eskrima fight in that scene has a second dimension added to it, because of the precognition.
    I haven’t watched the Star Wars movies since last autumn so I will, limit my critique to these general observation, but in my semi-expert opinion, far from being devoid of substance and just a flashy show, the fight scenes in the prequels actually make more sense then the ones in the originals. The originals simply take samurai combat and European knight combat and replace Katanas and long swords with lightsabers, without giving a single thought to how an actual lightsaber would fell and act. The prequels actually seem to give a lot of thought to how a real life lightsaber would most efficiently be used in combat and the resultant style of combat while flashy is actually pretty practical, and not just the result of wanting to mimic the style of the Matrix. The Matrix by the way came out at the same time as Phantom Menace, so I don’t see how it could have been an influence.

    • “1) You seem to think that only European fencing and Kendo are viable sword fighting and completely ignore oriental styles such as Eskrima and Wushu sword forms,”

      I am not familiar with them, but swordfighting is about speed and economy. You want to disable the opponent as quickly as possible, otherwise you will die yourself.

      “The weapons forms in Eskrima have as basis, medieval European fencing, which had a focus on slashes not thrusts, modified for a shorter weapon length.”

      That would be saber fighting. European longsword styles had a focus on stabbing, particularly half-swording, with additional slashing and even blunt damage (using pommel as a weapon).

      “Sticks are used in Eskrima as sword analogues therefore the movements are designed to translate easily to sword. Parrying with the stick for example is taught as a strike to the stick of the opponent, with what would be, in a real sword, the edge. ”

      That is true for any stick fighting styles, as far as I’m aware. Only in movies do you see wide hold where hands are each close to different edge of the stick. In fact, there is almost no difference between stick fighting and swordfighting as far as usage is concerned. I used to spar with a friend, sometimes we would both use bokkens, sometimes we would substitute one of bokkens for a (long) stick, and there was not much difference (except stick being lighter, but that was not that much of an advantage).

      “However the main weapons used in Eskrima are short blades, and the sticks are made to mimic them, they have about 60 cm length, which when counting the grip of the hand puts the center of mass about 15 cm away from the hand. They are also lighter then European or Japanese weapons, same as Chinese weapons. This alone makes Eskrima and Wushu more appropriate for lightsaber combat then European fencing and kendo, they are designed for weapons which have very little discernable weight, because of their light weight and closeness of the center of mass to the hand.”

      But we see that lightsabers do have weight, as props used have weight, and the fact that they have no apparent counterbalance means that they would be more clumsy than European longswords. Sword is not “heavy” because it weights much, it is “heavy” when center of mass is too far from the handle. That is why European swords have pommel, which along with superior metallurgy and blade structure allowed European one-handed swords to have blade as long as a Japanese two-handed katana while still being as fast, or even faster.

      “This two characteristics make Eskrima and Wushu completely different in form and function to Kendo and European longsword. Because of the weight and center of mass far from the hand of the longsword and katana, the main focus in fencing and Kendo is on individual strikes. Every strike is initiated, usually with the movement of the arms alone and stopped before another strike is initiated and so on. Focus is on the speed of the individual strikes.”

      Not really, and I still don’t see the need to swing the sword 25 times to hit the opponent once. What you said is not correct. In longsword, center of mass is not very far from the crossguard; far enough to add power to cut but not so far that it would prevent the blade from being maneuverable. In European swordfighting as in kendo, you are expected to be fluid. One attack continues into another attack, defense transforms into attack… if you stay on defensive, you are dead. And if you strike too slowly, enemy will block the strike; but too quick/powerful a strike, and you leave yourself open. Goal is to confuse the enemy if possible, make him make a mistake, and kill him. You don’t get into range immediately, but stay just outside it initially till you spot an opening or goad the opponent into making a mistake.

      These are some good demonstrations, albeit they slowed it down significantly so that people can actually see the technique itself:

      That being said, this might be more appropriate:

      “The fanciful twirls in Wushu and Eskrima, are actually necessary as efficient transition from one strike to another, and far from being impractical actually help one conserve energy and delay fatigue”

      There is difference between maneuvering a blade from one strike to another – which is also done in Kendo and European swordfighting – and imitating a blender machine. Also, I just watched some Eskrima videos, and noticed that they grab opponent’s stick and also get hit a lot. That would be suicidal with a lightsaber, and is also a reason why actual swordfighters tend to keep the distance until they see an opening.

      With swords, especially lightsabers, both of them would have lost their hands in first few seconds of fighting with sticks:

      When they practice with actual swords in the first video, they still use hands to block their opponent’s hands, and all moves have clear purpose. No ridiculous twirls like in lightsaber fights. And here you will notice that both opponents hold their distance for the most part, actual fights are short:

      “A fight between two practitioners will be more like a chess match. The weapons will be kept moving constantly by the two fighters, which will try to trick one another to deliver a hit.”

      That is true no matter the style, albeit different styles take different approaches to implementing it.

      “Also unlike fencing and kendo that mainly aim for the body and head, in Eskrima and Wushu because the flow makes the body very hard to hit and weapons are shorter, the most common target is the weapon hand.”

      You hit what you can. Yes, typically target is the body, because it is the largest target and hardest to get out of the way. But you strike targets as they offer themselves; a strike at hand or leg can decide the fight (and kill you even if you win, as wounds would fester). But you have to understand that traditional Western swordfighting, and even kendo, is different from what you can see in tournaments today.

      “In the original trilogy, the moves are technically well executed but are inappropriate and impractical. As you pointed out they are based on Kendo and then western long sword fencing, both of which are designed for long, heavy, chopping weapons, which the lightsaber is not. The light saber is light, and because of its center of mass its actually a slashing weapon not a chopping one.”

      As I explained, actual props were not that light, center of mass was not at the handle, which means actual lightsabers’ center would not be at the handle either.

      “Also it’s very similar to the stance used in modern fencing for thrusts. It is completely illogical to use such a stance for slashing action, because one can only move the weapon with the hands and can not use the body to add to the movement of the blade. That will lead to increased fatigue and inefficient use of energy, the velocity of the blade and thus its kinetic energy will be much smaller then if the whole body is used, and because weight is small, there is not much potential energy to speak of. Therefore by not using the body the total energy will be smaller then if using the body.”

      Using body weight for cutting is actually suicidal, since adding weight to strike means that you won’t be able to get out of it quickly if you miss or the opponent counters it / gets out of the way, which would then leave you wide open. Also, changing direction would be harder which would in reality lead to greater fatigue than just using hands in the first place. Most strikes were actually done not by wide chopping/slashing attacks, but by rotating the sword around its center of weight or at least crossguard. That way you’d get fast movement of top (“weak half”) of the blade while not tiring yourself out or leaving you open. Swordfighting, even European one, was based around speed, not power. But what you see in the prequels, with their wide slashing and flailling around, is just ridiculous. It wastes too much time and energy.

  3. I no particular order:

    “Sword is not “heavy” because it weights much, it is “heavy” when center of mass is too far from the handle. ”

    That’s precisely what I was saying in the paragraph you countered. Eskrima swords and Chinese swords feel light because their center of mass is close to the hand.

    “There is difference between maneuvering a blade from one strike to another – which is also done in Kendo and European swordfighting – and imitating a blender machine. Also, I just watched some Eskrima videos, and noticed that they grab opponent’s stick and also get hit a lot. That would be suicidal with a lightsaber, and is also a reason why actual swordfighters tend to keep the distance until they see an opening.”

    The two Eskrima movies you posted are of Balitawak style, which is a modern short range style specifically designed for fighting in crowded ally ways. It is not a valid comparison with lightsaber combat. Try to find videos of Ekrima at medium and long range (there are 3 ranges in Eskrima, some styles train for all of them while others like Balitawak just for one) The Katana vs. Eskrima video, just proves my point. The Eskrima practitioner lands more hits then the kendo practitioner, and manages to both defend and counter attack more efficiently.

    “Using body weight for cutting is actually suicidal, since adding weight to strike means that you won’t be able to get out of it quickly if you miss or the opponent counters it / gets out of the way, which would then leave you wide open. Also, changing direction would be harder which would in reality lead to greater fatigue than just using hands in the first place.”

    In western fencing and kendo is suicidal, where the focus is on the strike not the flow. By saying that the focus is on the strike I do not mean that the practitioner is not expected to string multiple strikes on after the another, just that there is no thought given to how one moves from a strike to the other. In Eskrima as I mentioned the focus is on the flow of movement, that means every part of the body is accounted for. Body and blade move in counter time: body moves first, blades moves after. You wont have to “get out of the way” because by the time the blade has missed, the body is already positioned for the next move. Also if done right it results in minimum fatigue, because by positioning your body first you limit the amount of energy needed to stop the movement and initiate a second movement. It is an art that I still have to master, but you should see how my trainer moves when we spar: fast, fluid, flowing and he can keep it up for at least half an hour without interruption, while filling my body and those of my colleagues with bruises.

    “Most strikes were actually done not by wide chopping/slashing attacks, but by rotating the sword around its center of weight or at least crossguard. ”

    Is that is also done in Eskrima when the situation warrants it. Know were it was not done? The fights in Empire and ROTJ, where most attacks were done by wide chopping/slashing attacks.

    “As I explained, actual props were not that light, center of mass was not at the handle, which means actual lightsabers’ center would not be at the handle either.”

    So basically you agree with me that in the original trilogy they didn’t give a thought to what a real lightsaber (with a blade made of presumably very light plasma kept in check by a force field ) would feel and act, but simply used styles dictated by the props.

    • “That’s precisely what I was saying in the paragraph you countered. Eskrima swords and Chinese swords feel light because their center of mass is close to the hand.”

      My point was that it is generally the same with European swords, albeit that depends on the purpose and design. Swords used for cutting pikes feel heavy as they need momentum, but those designed for swordfighting have center of mass close to the crossguard. So even European longsword would, in reality, feel light.

      This is not a longsword, but centre of mass is at similar position as it is with the longsword:

      See also this:
      http://www.thearma.org/essays/2003rev.html

      “In western fencing and kendo is suicidal, where the focus is on the strike not the flow. ”

      It is suicidal regardless of the style, precisely because it makes the attacks clumsy and prevents quick change in attitude. Also, lightsabres are long so if you manage to strike opponent’s weak portion of the blade with your own blade, especially strong half, you will easily get their blade out of the way. In exchanges in the prequel trilogy, combatants should have died in the first few seconds seeing how much they spin their swords around.

      “By saying that the focus is on the strike I do not mean that the practitioner is not expected to string multiple strikes on after the another, just that there is no thought given to how one moves from a strike to the other.”

      That would also be wrong. You are expected to exploit any opportunities that result from the attack, or even defense. In European swordsmanship in particular, defense against enemy attack is also expected to be an attack of its own, or at least create an opportunity for it. Each action flows from previous action, basically.

      “You wont have to “get out of the way” because by the time the blade has missed, the body is already positioned for the next move.”

      Even that would be quite suicidal. In swordfighting, if you miss one time, you typically die.

      “Is that is also done in Eskrima when the situation warrants it. Know were it was not done? The fights in Empire and ROTJ, where most attacks were done by wide chopping/slashing attacks.”

      Yes, fights in Empire and ROTJ are based on Kendo, where such attacks are indeed a commonplace. Generally, I found European longsword styles to be far more versatile than Kendo, but I guess Lucas wanted something “oriental” (Jedi IIRC are also based on some Eastern monastic orders). Ironically, at times they also get in a clinch where fighters use their body weight to push the opponent back, which IIRC was far more commonplace in European swordfighting than in Kendo. E.g. Luke vs Vader fight in the Cloud City, or Anakin vs Kenobi fight at Mustafar.

      “So basically you agree with me that in the original trilogy they didn’t give a thought to what a real lightsaber (with a blade made of presumably very light plasma kept in check by a force field ) would feel and act, but simply used styles dictated by the props.”

      That was true in both trilogies. And would even real lightsabre have a weightless blade? Yes, light has no mass, but it does have momentum and thus inertia. So blade of a lightsabre probably would not be truly weightless when it comes to fighting, albeit probably “light” enough to allow something like Eskrima. But length is an issue as well.

    • BTW, this might be interesting:

      And this fight is far better than any in prequel trilogy:

      • “It is suicidal regardless of the style, precisely because it makes the attacks clumsy and prevents quick change in attitude.” – ( I only quote this from the post but my answer will probably address most of the post. )

        I told you before you are biased because of your experience in Western Fencing, and are incapable to evaluate how the capacity to move changes by a simple change of stance from a stable stance to an unstable one. I will try to explain to you again, if you still have trouble visualizing or believing, please don’t reply to me because you will just be repeating yourself, and we will find ourselves caught in recursive process.
        Western fencing and kendo have roots in military combat and where created for people fighting in amour on foot with a secondary weapon because despite their glamour swords where sidearms on pretty much every battlefield, from their invention till replaced by pistols. Because practitioners where expected to wear some form of amour, the main concern was stability of the fighter, trying to get up after falling, even wearing light amour would leave the combatant very vulnerable. Therefore both kendo and fencing developed early on, low and wide stances that made the combatant very hard to unbalance, but also made changing position of the body and thus dodging hits very hard. But incapacity to dodge was not a disadvantage as combatants wore Armour and/or shields. Even when Armour became much more minimal western fencing developed methods to aid in stopping a hit, instead of dodging a hit: such as buckler, cape, dagger in the off hand to simply keeping the body sideways when focus moved from slashes to thrusts. Even if they evolved over time neither kendo nor fencing abandoned the low, wide, stable stances.

        Wushu and Eskrima on the other hand developed as self-defense combat systems for mostlly civilians which would not use Armour, and which would use whatever weapons they carried (knife, sword, staff ) as a main weapon. Lacking Armour, dodging hits from weapons became of paramount importance and getting up after falling could be done much faster. Therefore stability was not as important as was the capacity to move the body fast. To achieve this Wushu and Eskrima systems developed high stances with feat kept close together. Such a stance allows for rapid moves, especially rotations, of the body with minimal foot work, but also permits the combatant to be unbalanced much easier. However unbalacing is not such a problem because practitioners are taught not only to dodge hits but also position their bodies, during parries, in such a way that the force of the blow is directed in directions which minimize the loss of equilibrium but the shock transmitted to joints.
        You say that in swordfighting if you miss one time you are going to die. That might be true for fencing, but in Eskrima and Wushu you should expect to miss because the opponent will be actively dodging your hits as well as reposition his body during parries.
        This concept is very hard to understand without a little bit of practice, it took me quite a few lessons of Eskrima to forget what I learned in Karate and Kendo about stability and adopt a new paradigm. But this is crucial for learning Eskrima. My teacher, who read a lot of Boyd, explained it to me with an analogy to modern fighters. Basically the stance in Eskrima is like relaxed stability in fighters: one trades stability for increased maneuverability, but there is a downside to this. Just like fighters have computers to stabilize them, the Eskrima practitioner has to be aware during a strike not just of his weapon, but of where his/her body is, and how it moves, namely of his/her body mechanics. What you should understand for my comments about putting the weight of the body behind strikes is not that the practitioner throws his body in every strike, but that depending on situation he will use his body to aid the strike: sometimes every muscle in the body will be harnessed to put a lot of power in a strike, other times by simply moving a foot forward the resulting twist of the upper body will help in delivering the strike, other times a simple move of the hand up will redirect the weight of the weapon and make the weapon twirl in such a way as to avoid the weapon of the opponent and hit the weapon hand etc.
        My advice, if you have problems conceptualizing all this, is that you do not keep on replying to me, but instead find a good Eskrima teacher to show you some of the basics of body mechanics. If you have absolutely no experience in Wushu and Eskrima and live with the impression that all moves in Chinese martial arts movies are impractical, what I’m trying to explain hear to you will be completely alien.
        Now after this lengthy presentation let me ask and answer a few questions about the Jedi:
        1) Do the Jedi wear Armour?
        No?
        2) Do Jedis have enhanced equilibrium thru their use of the force?
        Yes?
        3) Taking into account the answers I gave to questions 1 and 2 which would be the more appropriate style for Jedi’s, one designed for use with Armour, that takes equilibrium out of the equation, where the sword is a secondary weapon and thus not expected to be used long, or the style that makes no use of Armour, needs good equilibrium and considers the sword the primary weapons and thus expects to use it for a long time?
        I would expect that the logical answer is the latter.

        ” And this fight is far better than any in prequel trilogy: ”

        Yes. Far better then any Scottish Claymore fight in both trilogies. Oh wait … there are no Claymores in this films. Seriously have you seen how they swing the lightsabers in that fight? It’s like they weigh 2 kg and have Centers of Mass towards the tip of the blades. But then again JJ Abrams has shown to be a true artist that doesn’t let a little thing like maintaining consistency of the invented physics he is using stand in the way of telling a rip-of-story. His lightsabers go from weigh very little in the scene where Kylo Ren goes berserk on the computers to weighing half a ton in the final fight. Sorry, but he blew me right out of the movie when he got six planets to be in full view of a seventh during the big moment when the Death Star blew up Aldera… Sorry that was the story he was ripping off and I forgot the totally forgettable names he gave to his Death Star and Alderan stand-ins. And it’s not the first time he does it. He did it twice before in the Star Trek reboots, when apparently for the sake of his precious story the Enterprise needs only 3 minutes to get anywhere in the galaxy, yeah.

        • “You say that in swordfighting if you miss one time you are going to die. That might be true for fencing, but in Eskrima and Wushu you should expect to miss because the opponent will be actively dodging your hits as well as reposition his body during parries.”

          That might be true if one uses the attacks which do not affect one’s own balance. But in Star Wars, both prequels and the OT, combatants often use relatively wide and powerful swings which would, and do, leave them open.

  4. Hey, I remember you now! You’re the guy who did the analysis on turbolasers. Pretty good stuff. Didn’t you have an account on spacebattles.com? I find that website useless for anything other than sci fi debates. The war room is completely biased and filled with nonsense.

    About this article, I’d like to comment about something alot of people miss out on. And this is that anakin didn’t beat dooku fairly: Notice that while blocking one of his strikes, dooku over extended his lightsaber. In response, anakin used his left hand to grab and immobilise dookus arms, then brought his right hand (with blade) over top of dookus immobile lightsaber. Anakin then positioned his blade below dookus forearms and sliced upward, leaving him disarmed and helpless. That was a dirty trick.

    • “Hey, I remember you now! You’re the guy who did the analysis on turbolasers. Pretty good stuff.”

      I did two analyses actually:
      http://picard578.blogspot.hr/2010/08/turbolaser-firepower.html
      http://picard578.hostoi.com/startrek-vs-starwars/star_wars/space/starship_tactical_systems/turbolasers.html
      Not sure which one you think of.

      “Didn’t you have an account on spacebattles.com? I find that website useless for anything other than sci fi debates. The war room is completely biased and filled with nonsense.”

      I still have it, and yes, the war room is nonsense quite often. Bias, political correctness, name it…

      “About this article, I’d like to comment about something alot of people miss out on. And this is that anakin didn’t beat dooku fairly:”

      Everything’s fair in love and war. European swordsmanship did not include only swordfighting, but also wrestling, brawling, kicking dirt into opponent’s eyes etc. So I don’t see anything controversial about what Anakin did; they weren’t doing fencing at the Olympics.

      • Yeah, it was the second article I read. The scene in question featured a star destroyer loosing off five shots, destroying four asteroids. How come you only measured two? Was that due to a lack of image resolution?

        And about the swordfight, I thought it was important to mention for two reasons: One was that anakins skills hadn’t increased hugely since last time, and two was that he was willing to use underhanded tactics to win (foreshadowed his fall to the dark side).

        ‘I still have it, and yes, the war room is nonsense quite often. Bias, political correctness, name it…’

        I have an account there as well, but I won’t be making any further use of it. Did you happen to read this thread? https://forums.spacebattles.com/threads/the-u-s-army-combat-brigades-usefulness-for-european-nato.413576/

        The behavior displayed there was shocking. It was a neutral article which questioned the ability of U.S. army brigades to successfully fight in europe, and drew extremely aggressive responses from the peanut gallery (Rufus Shinra included). Spartan303 tried to infract me for every single thing he could dream up, including copyright violation. He refused to change his decision even after the writer of the article came into the discussion and confirmed that I hadn’t violated his copyright! Afterwards, the author proceeded to tear apart the weak arguments that were made in response to his work, noting that they made use of propaganda and dogma.

        When I left a comment verifying much of what he’d said, Rufus Shinra just about dropped dead and shit his pants. He was losing control of the narrative (that the U.S. army is invincible), and resorted to a false dilemma in an effort to derail the thread. He brought up some old argument I’d had with another forum member, and managed to turn it into a huge issue which suddenly warranted attention from a super moderator. They demanded that I prove I had the won the argument in question, even though it had no bearing whatsoever on the article in question. Thats when I’d finally had enough and told them to screw off.

        • “Yeah, it was the second article I read. The scene in question featured a star destroyer loosing off five shots, destroying four asteroids. How come you only measured two? Was that due to a lack of image resolution?”

          Not sure, it was quite long time ago.

          “I have an account there as well, but I won’t be making any further use of it. Did you happen to read this thread? ”

          No, I’m doing it now, but the behaviour there is not surprising. Problem is that SB consists of many people holding nearly identical views, so instead of a healthy debate, they just pile on to anyone who disagrees. “Raise the flag, sing the song, here we go, we’re 50 strong. And 50 frenchmen can’t be wrong…”… When a large number of people hold nearly-identical views, they see anyone who disagrees as a danger, and react agressively.

          There is also a lot of “US are the best”, when in reality it is far from being so. M1 Abrams’ L44 gun is underpowered compared to Leopard A7s L55 or even Leclerc’s L52.

          —-

          Regarding the article you posted there, it is more-or-less spot-on. Javelin is useful when it works… but you still have to have recoilless rifle (AT4, Carl Gustav) for when it doesn’t (and very often it will not – multispectral smoke, as the article noted). M1 Abrams’ L44 is underpowered compared to extant European and new Russian tank guns (British L52, French L52, German L55).

          In the end, the problem is pointed out in the article:
          ” The Americans tend to have a high opinion of themselves and their military, and many people adopt this opinion without checking the facts themselves. Fact is in my opinion that with all of their excessive spending they actually produce very little capability that could intervene quickly in the Baltic region or only Poland. They’re much better at beating up Third World regular forces after months of preparations.”

          I’m all for nationalism, but only nationalism that means “doing everything for my nation”. And that means admitting shortcomings, for only then can they be fixed.

          More importantly though, it seems that ridicule is often people’s defense from having to actually *think*. There is nothing more scary than having your long-held views proven false, which is why most people react with denial and ridicule.

          There is a lot of crap assumptions as well. Rufus Shinra labors under a delusion that air force can replace artillery, which was decisively proven false in… just about any war fought since CAS first appeared. CAS supplements artillery (and if you have proper CAS aircraft – e.g. A-10 – IADS isn’t going to stop it, but if you only have multirole aircraft, don’t count on any CAS at all), but it cannot replace it. Just about everybody places too much faith in technology… “Javelin will not be jammed by multispectral smoke”, for example (that being said, IR guidance actually is *the* most reliable guidance avaliable to modern missiles).

          I also remember how I got a lot of crap for not giving “enough attention” to datalinks and radars in e.g. my FLX proposal, when in reality, jamming would render both useless.

          I really liked it when S O came in; very good response.

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