"This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as random or as clumsy as a blaster; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age."
- – Obi Wan Kenobi, A New Hope
"Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid."
- – Han Solo, who don't give a shit how "civilized" your weapon is
Lightsabers are one of the most iconic weapons in Star Wars, if not in all of sci-fi, being energy swords used by the Jedi and the Sith. Your basic lightsaber is a cylinder about 20cm long which at the push of a button emits a "blade" of plasma about a meter long which can reflect blaster fire and cut through pretty much everything that's not another lightsaber blade with minimal resistance.
The main components of your basic lightsaber are the outer shell, power cell, a focusing emitter, power switch, and a kyber crystal which powers and generates the blade. Everything is fairly common stuff except for the crystal, which is attuned to the Force. In Legends, kybers were both mined and could be made by Force users while in the new Disney canon they are exclusively of natural origin. Blade length can usually be adjusted. The Jedi order made less powerful lightsabers for use during training for fairly obvious reasons. Likewise they're also rigged to turn off if dropped.
Non Force-users can use Lightsabers, but generally can't make the best of them. Of course, the same can be said about any untrained individual learning to use a certain weapon, but the gatekeeping isn't just about training. It's also about understanding how to use it and control the balance in minute ways (some sources even claiming the plasma blade produces a gyroscopic effect) without having to always switch your grip over such a small area. An affinity to the Force also gives a lightsaber user a measure of subconscious precognition, which lets them to predict where a blow will come from and let them effectively parry blaster fire.
- Crossguard: A lightsaber with a bit of cortosis or other lightsaber resistant material as a crossguard. Despite how obvious this is and the era of cortosis being obtainable matches the era where lightsaber fights were reasonably common, they are barely mentioned.
- Lightsaber Crossguard: aka the Kylo Ren. One regular lightsaber acts as the main blade, two small ones go out perpendicular to the main one to act as a crossguard and vents for excess energy. If one were to ask about energy consumption, these things would probably be the bottom of the list when it comes to energy efficiency. Not very useful as an actual crossguard but has shown some use as an additional cutting edge; the crossguard can be used to cut in the enemy if the two are clashing in melee. If Kylo Ren's saber is anything to go by, it's also terribly unbalanced and difficult to use due to having three exhausts. While many use it as an example of why Disney-era Star Wars sucks, it was in fact invented in Legends material.
- The Darksaber: Truly unique among lightsabers, as only one of its kind was built- by a Mandalorian Jedi, no less. For one, the blade is, well, black, with a glowing white edge to it, with the additional effect that makes it seem like the blade is "electrified". Secondly, the blade shape is along the lines of a tradition single-edge sword- to be specific, a falchion or a seax. This is also reflected in the hilt design. The blade is also considered to be the Excalibur of Star Wars, as the one who wields it has the potential to unite the clans of Mandalorian Space and declare themselves Mand'alor (basically the king/queen of all Mandalorians)
- Lightsaber Shoto: A smaller lightsaber for use as an off-hand weapon for dual-wielding Jedi, or as a main weapon for small-sized wielders.
- Guard Shoto: Essentially a short lightsaber built into a tonfa hilt, allowing for unique techniques such as blocking or trapping.
- Dual Phase: A lightsaber that can swap between short and long length.
- Curved Lightsaber: A hilt design preferred by duelists, allowing for greater finesse. It was based on the hilt of an actual fencing sword since Christopher Lee knew how to fence and holding a hilt like that was most natural for him.
- Great Lightsaber: The exact opposite of a shoto. Much larger hilts and longer blades designed for larger individuals, or those who prefer a more brute force style.
- Saberstaff: Two lightsabers stuck together. Best known for being used by Darth Maul, but was initially invented by the Old Sith Empire, long before the Rule of Two.
- Lightsaber Pike: A double bladed variant with a much longer hilt, giving more reach. They are sometimes depicted as being foldable for easy storage. Confusingly shares a name with the actual "blade on long stick" below.
- Interlocking Lightsabers: Two lightsabers that can be combined at the base to make a saberstaff.
- Lightsaber Pike: A long, saber-resistant shaft often with a shorter lightsaber blade at the end; creating a large, but cumbersome weapon with decent reach. An uncommon sight, used by the Knights of Zakuul often paired with a shield like a Hoplite. Also used by some of the Emperor's Shadow Guards. Confusingly shares a name with the "two blades on one long stick" above.
- Lightwhips: Lightsabers with longer, flexible beams, making defense against them more difficult. In fluff this flexibility is often traded against a weaker beam strength. The story for its initial appearance was blatantly inspired by stories of Miyamoto Musashi beating Shishido Baiken and his kusarigama, with Luke figuring out the solution to "enemy wraps up your sword" is "have a second sword".
- Inquisitorial Lightsaber: A double-bladed variant with a unique hilt design allowing it to spin on its axis introduced in the Disney-era show Rebels. Also allows its wielder to spin it and fly like a helicopter, because "I'm Mary Poppins y'all!"
- Blaster Hilt: A perfect combination of choppy and shooty. This juryrigged thing was created by Ezra from Rebels and looks kind of like a mechanical riding saber's handle, but with a blaster barrel attached to the top of it so he can shoot dudes before chopping them up.
Fighting with a lightsaber is more than simply swinging your laser sword and hoping to hit the enemy while blocking his attacks. Lightsaber combat is considered a true martial art that developed different styles and forms over the ages as eras moved on and needs changed. There are a number of canonical (and non canonical) lightsaber combat styles with their own pros and cons.
- Form I - Schii-Cho: When lightsabers were invented, the first style was based primarily on existing sword-fighting techniques. Schii-Cho was the basic lightsaber style learned by most beginners and is the gateway to lightsaber combat with most later styles building upon its principles. Few actually go on to master the style properly, which is unfortunate because Form I is a perfectly functional style in its own right - in other words, it's the "boring but practical" form. It is best suited for melee combat against multiple opponents, though it pales horribly against ranged weapons. Kit Fisto (the Green-Abe-Sapien-with-dreadlocks guy mostly seen in Episdoe III and Clone Wars) was said to have mastered and stuck to this form in the Visual Dictionnaries.
- Form II - Makashi: If Form I is "sword fighting," then Form II is "fencing." It uses a more precise and elegant method of attack and defense versus the sweeping movements of Form I, though still operating on traditional "sword form" techniques. Makashi is a style best suited for one-on-one combat, though as with Form I it offers no defense against ranged weapons. Its name is Japanese for "to defeat." Count Dooku's style.
- Form III - Soresu: Someone somewhere noted that the first two forms were useless against ranged weapons and moved to correct this, creating an all-new style that catered to defense and was the first style to truly teach how to block blaster bolts. In melee combat it placed emphasis on small, efficient movements, outlasting your opponent(s), and waiting for them to tire and/or make a mistake. Its inoffensive nature marked it as the ultimate expression of the Jedi philosophy but meant that inexperienced initiates were left without effective means of attack. Obi Wan took up this style after Qui-Gonn's death and is considered THE master of Soresu.
- Form IV - Ataru: Forms IV and V were developed concurrently, as lightsaber masters looked at Form III and decided it was far too passive a combat form, as simply waiting for your enemy to tire out isn't really an effective means of fighting. "Ataru" therefore was developed as an "aggressive" form that placed emphasis on overwhelming attack; teaching its practitioners to strike relentlessly and acrobatically from multiple angles, requiring high agility and endurance on the part of its users. The main problems with Ataru are that it is not suitable for long encounters, or for closed environments. Its name is Japanese for "to hit." Yoda uses Ataru exclusively, as does Anakin Skywalker in episode 2.
- Form V - Shien: As with Ataru, the developers of Shien looked at Form III and said that being passive was a poor form of offense. But rather than overwhelming an opponent with relentless attack as with Form IV, the Shien style maintained its emphasis on defense but taught how to redirect an opponent's strikes, moving around the battlefield and creating their own opportunities for counterattack. It is considered to be one of the better styles for combat against ranged opponents and multiple attackers, but is less suited as a dueling style. Its name is Japanese for "support", which is fitting for a non-offensive style. Ahsoka Tano and Galen Marek use Shien while using their lightsabers in a reverse-grip.
- Djem So: The more physically demanding variant of Form V, the style is still grounded in the same principles of controlling your opponent and creating opportunities for counter attack, but is more suited for fighting against a single opponent as it instructs the user to physically dominate the fight by battering their way through the guard of the opponent, or opening the opponent's attacks into new opportunities to strike. As a true evolution of lightsaber-on-lightsaber combat; a Djem So practitioner with sufficient strength could overcome a skilled Makashi duelist. The specific failings of Djem So are that it is criticized for having a lack of mobility, and is less useful for physically weak practitioners. Anakin Skywalker primarily uses Djem So during the Clone Wars and episode 3. As Darth Vader, he uses a mix of Djem So, Soresu, and Makashi
- Form VI - Niman: The "Moderate" form that combined elements from all of the previous forms into a single hybrid style, allowing its practitioners to learn the basics of lightsaber combat in all areas, eventually replacing Form I as the "standard" style by the time of the Clone Wars. Critics point out that this form is insufficiently demanding, provides no decisive edge in battle, and is ill-suited to both dueling and the open battlefield. However, Form VI does encourage its adherents to be highly flexible and to incorporate more Force techniques in combat, encouraging the user to strike and guard telekinetically and control the fight intuitively. This made ultimate mastery of the Niman style very difficult, so as with Form I, most initiates eventually gravitated towards a different style to suit their preferences. However, true masters of the art, like Exar Kun (who is pretty much unmatched in melee except by freakishly powerful beings like Vitiate and Luke) are incomparable in combat, having no weakness in form to exploit, closing the advantage gap by sheer skill.
- Jar'Kai: Technically the "Jar'Kai tactic" refers to fighting with two lightsabers at once, regardless of the chosen lightsaber form. However the "Jar'Kai Style" was a specific predecessor to the Niman style that existed before the actual invention of the lightsaber and was later incorporated into the Form VI curriculum. Therefore while Form VI is a style unto itself, those who wish to learn how to use two lightsabers often find that the principles of Niman lend themselves well to two-weapon combat.
- Form VII - Juyo: The "Ferocity" form, and is one of the most physically and emotionally demanding forms. It was designed specifically for lightsaber duels, being compared to the directness of Form V combined with the energy of Form IV, although the movements come across as chaotic and erratic, often appearing raw and unpolished, the goal was to be unpredictable and vicious, with a heavy emphasis on offense. Juyo was sometimes labelled a "Sith style," Form VII is particularly aggressive and opens the users mind up to the dark side of the force if they are not careful. Darth Maul and Emperor Palpatine used Juyo in the movies.
- Vaapad: The Mace Windu variant of Juyo that was only perfected much later. Vaapad was exactly the same lightsaber style as Juyo with a different mindset; Vaapad requires the practitioner to exert a certain measure of control by channeling the emotion back into the fight rather than letting it overcome the user. Though this was difficult and required a constant stream of Force use to achieve, therefore it was actively discouraged by the Jedi council as being too risky to attempt.
In the Legends Continuity, there are a number of other styles and techniques used in lightsaber combat:
- "I have the high ground" is an actual style... Or more appropriately a methodology called Sokan which teach the user how to use their environment to their advantage: bottling the enemy into small spaces to restrict movement, using open spaces to generate speed etc, and of course; gaining the advantage of higher terrain to limit your opponent's avenues of engagement while increasing your own.
- In a unique case of gamers getting shit done, even one fanon technique made its way into the continuity. Trakata is a technique which takes advantage of the fact you can turn a lightsaber on and off very quickly, allowing for rapidly re-positioning the blade through an opponent's guard. This was first named as a distinct technique in the Saga Edition RPG, and since made its way into expanded universe materials.
- The Jedi Knight series of video games created the Fast, Medium, and Strong lightsaber styles for those trained in the New Republic Era, ostensibly as a gameplay mechanic, since three styles are easier to animate than seven or more. But this was later explained in EU materials as a necessity due to Luke's informal training and the scarcity of written materials following Order 66, meaning that New Jedi Order had to practically invent brand new styles based on the limited information available to them and unrelated melee combat techniques.
- The sideways Disney-canon guidebooks indicate that the Sith have access to all of the styles of the Jedi (aside from Vaapad) but have modified them to suit their purposes and have discarded elements as they feel necessary. Condensing the seven forms to only three: Strong: with its foundations in Djem So and physical domination, Fast: with a focus on footwork and precision, and finally Juyo: which remains unchained from the standard curriculum, lending credence to its status as the "Sith" style.
"So I said to George Lucas, 'You think maybe I can get a purple lightsaber?' He’s like, 'Lightsabers are green or lightsabers are red.' And I’m like, 'Yeah, but I want a purple one.'"
- – Samuel L. Jackson
In the original films, the colors of Lightsaber blades hadn't any particular important role, other than Blue/Green = Good, Red = Bad. Green blades were added when Luke had a costume change for the third movie (Because the blue blade wouldn't have shown up well during the fight at the Sarlacc pit). Since then, other colors have been added through material outside the main movies (though the first new color to be added famously came about because Samuel L. Jackson wanted to stand out in the fighting pits on Geonosis in Attack of the Clones, so he got a purple blade).
- Blue: Blue Lightsabers are the most common color for padawans and initiates and is kind of the "aggressive" Jedi blade. Not to say that it's a violent color; it's more that the blue-wielding Jedi tend to be more martial and will more readily use their saber to defend their friends and allies. Most Jedi we know of has used a blue lightsaber, including Luke and Anakin Skywalker, Obi-wan Kenobi, Ahsoka Tano, Rey and so many more. The most notable blue lightsaber has got to be Anakin's Lightsaber which eventually found its way into the hands of Luke, until he lost it on Bespin, alongside about a handful of hand. It somehow ended up in the basement of Maz' castle where Rey took it over (infuriatingly, marketing now calls it "Rey's Lightsaber" - just take my life work why don't you. Some fans have gone to call it the "Skywalker Saber" in response).
- Green: The "wise" color, wielded by Jedi masters who take a distanced, scholarly approach to the Force and the galaxy at large. Green is almost always used by masters or thoughtful Jedi, in particular the ones that take a religious adherence to the Force and the Jedi way. Well-known wearers of green sabers are Luke after losing his father's lightsaber on Bespin, Qui-gon Jin and Yoda.
- Purple: Where the blue saber is martial, the purple saber is decidedly bloodthirsty. It's no coincidence that it's close to the Sith's red lightsabers in color, since the users of the ultra-rare purple sabers tend to be battle-loving warriors who dance on the edge of Dark Side methods. The only know bearer of a purple blade is
Samuel Motherfucking JacksonMace Windu, Jedi master and general during the prequel era.
- Yellow: Used to be associated wtih Jedi Sentinels, those who tried to balance learning and combat, as well as the Jedi temple guardians. Rey shows up with a yellow lightsaber at the end of Ep. IX.
- Red: The color strongly associated with Sith. In the expanded universe continuity, this is because the lightsaber crystals that Sith use are synthetic, as they have no access to proper Kyber crystals and prefer to make ones infused with Dark Side energy. In-fact, before Attack of the Clones (and especially before the prequels entirely), it often treated Vader and later Maul's use of red as having no real meaning, leading to groups of darksiders like Jerec's band of Inquisitors (Dark Forces II) and the Sith corrupted Jensaarai (I, Jedi) using every color possible, while some prominent Jedi used red blades. In the Disney continuity, the Sith use the force to dominate the living Kyber crystals, causing the change to red in a process known as "bleeding".
- White: An unnatural Kyber crystal color like the red one, but created by cleansing a Red Kyber crystal from Dark Side influence. Little is known about what they are like since few Jedi even get to see a white blade. Ahsoka Tano eventually ditch her blue saber for two white ones.
- Black: Exclusive to the Darksaber, a lightsaber made by the first Mandolarian Jedi. Because it responds to the user's emotions and state of mind, it allows non-force users to wield the blade effectively against lightsaber-armed force users.
Issues with Lightsabers
"Arc trooper: Are you Jedi as good with blasters as you are with lightsabers?"
"Obi-Wan: Better. We only use lightsabers to make fights more equitable."
- – The Cestus Deception, a Star Wars novel
Specifically, weightless blades. Because light weighs pretty much as low a mass as you can get not counting your dick (oh snap!), the center of balance of the blade is likely somewhere near the end of the handle (going by that's where the battery is, and that they likely weigh more than the blade projector). The problem with this is that you are essentially wielding a lever which will, upon being hit, flop all over the place because your hands function as a hinge. This might be less the case when used in two hands but when used in one your sword will go all over the place when it is struck. There is some in-story stuff to justify this, mostly based around how the arc-waves that form the blade do have a kind of mass that balances it correctly, but this is mostly hand-waving the issues.
Another point is the double lightsaber. Based on a variety of unbladed pole-arms like the Gun or the Bo, it has a double-sized handle with the laser parts coming out from both ends. The problem with this style is that it gives the wielder only a limited surface to work with without burning or chopping their hands off. Maybe this can be discredited as training in the Force and all that jazz (plus Ray Park, the actor and stunt performer for Darth Maul, is REALLY good at what he does), but this would still involve swinging a large dangerous rave stick very close to your body, and a good number of these styles involve holding the weapon near the end to gain great striking power at the tip of the weapon like with a pole-arm. With a lightsaber this is not possible, though not needed since it can just cut through anything by touching a target and letting the plasma do all the work.
And the lightwhip and all other kinds of outlandish lightsabers can go right fuck themselves. And don't use the Force argument; if someone focuses on holding a plasma whip properly they will get shot because, super powerful or not, you still have to think. The "lightcrossguard" on the lightsaber of Kylo Ren certainly looked silly, but for one, they gave him an edge in close combat letting him use them to burn his opponent in a bind, and secondly, expanded material say they are vents required because his lightsaber is unstable. You'd think that his boss might fix that problem for him, but that would be using logic.
One of the biggest issues with lightsabers is shown in the side material of Star Wars itself. They block most energy blots well enough. Assassins who specialize in killing Jedi use slug throwers to bypass their ability to block blaster bolts. So when the users tries to deflect bullets, a Jedi instead has to deal with very hot goo coming at them at hypersonic speeds. This also doesn't cover that some energy weapons have large bore sizes. As attempting to block them would just cause an explosion that sets it's victim alight with plasma.
A lot is made about the lightsabers ability to cut through most known materials given enough time and exposure. They aren't god-tier weapons though, and there are several materials that are capable of not only resisting lightsabers, but blocking or redirecting them outright.
- Cortosis: the material often first thought of when people want to counter lightsabers. Cortosis in its refined form will immediately shut down a lightsaber that comes into contact with it. Whether this shorts out a lightsaber briefly or for a few minutes varies from source to source, but the property is imminently desirable nonetheless. The main problem is that mining and refining cortosis causes Cancer like some space asbestos, so it is hazardous to work with and most sources have been depleted in the era where Jedi and enemy force users were more common so it's quite rare by the era of the films. Not only that, but pure cortosis is considered to be quite brittle and unsuitable for a lot of applications. Less-refined variants will not shut down a lightsaber, but they are impervious to lightsaber damage, making it still useful for blades and armor.
- Phrik: a material useful for its ability to disperse any form of energy, not just lightsaber blades, and was known to be highly durable and light. Phrik weapons are most notably used by the droid Magnaguards of the Clone Wars with their electrically arcing staff weapons.
- Beskar Iron: Used by the Mandalorians, most notably in their armor but also in their blades and starship hulls. Beskar iron is considered practically indestructible, not merely to lightsabers but practically everything. The main problems with Beskar is that the ore is only found on the planet Mandalore and its moon Concordia, and the techniques of working with it are secrets of Mando smiths, making it virtually impossible to find anywhere else.
- BFG: When all else fails, the old Imperial Guard proverb of just blow it to hell works fine. Spamming enough shots, or even just firing one big shot, will usually be enough to either overwhelm the opponent or cause an explosion when contacting the Jedi so powerful it'll kill them outright.
- Flamethrowers: KILL IT WITH FIRE! On a more serious note, flamethrowers are great, because no matter what manner of Matt Ward level bullshit you pull out of your butt, no amount of logic bending is going to allow a lightsaber to block a flame. The only problem is making sure the Jedi stay in place, but meh. Just lure them into a corridor and burn them in the confines.
- Of course, flamethrowers are a kinda crap weapon in Star Wars against anyone halfway expecting them because breath masks are quite common and a hard counter to the carbon monoxide problem. Jedi also have the potential to throw the jellied fuel back with the force.
- Slugthrowers Yes, even traditional projectile firearms can counter a lightsaber-wielding Jedi or Sith. You see, blaster bolts are actually a fair bit slower than a chemically powered FMJ round, with the tradeoff being that the power packs can hold a lot more ammunition. This means that while a Jedi can generally see and either block or deflect a bolt with his saber, the same can't be said for bullets, especially those coming from an automatic action-style of gun. And even if the Jedi did manage to get a saber in front of one, what ends up happening is that essentially they've turned the speeding bullet into a molten shotgun spread still traveling at the same speed.
- Sonic Blaster Similar to the above, a lightsaber can't stop sonic blasts. They were the preferred option when fighting Jedi was a common occurrence, as they were about as powerful as a slugthrower but with the capacity of a normal blaster. They also work better underwater—but are completely ineffective in space.
Influences on the rest of /tg/ culture
The lightsaber is, as previously said, a very iconic weapon that has had considerable influence on weapons throughout sci-fi and fantasy. Though we cannot compile all of them, here are a few likely ones.
- Power Sword: Games Workshop could't stand to miss out on the opportunity to add their own version of a lightsaber, which they very much did with a power sword. It's similar, in that it has a dispersion field that turns on around the blade, but differs in that it only can reliably penetrate certain armors or materials, unlike the lightsaber. On the same point, Lightsabers appear to be rather limited, whereas power weapons can be attached to more and differing vehicles, like titans or warships.
- Fusion Blade: GW couldn't resist the opportunity to rip Star Wars off though. Enter the Fusion Blades, which are the weeb melta swords. They spurt out energy that has the power to take out tanks. To be fair, the Jedi never had Crisis suits or made their lightsabers the size of a man, but still. We all know what they are.
- Eragon: A dumb fantasy rip off of both Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings, the main character is allowed to carry a Blue flame sword. It's dumb and it should feel dumb.
- Control Freak from Teen Titans: Not the cancer one, but the good one. The man is literally a walking fa/tg/guy, and wields a quad bladed lightsaber as a weapon. Also dresses like a jedi.
- Kiba: An obscure anime that basically is a Grimdark version of Pokémon where the monster trainers also fight each other with energy swords instead of standing around giving their monster orders.
- Sun Blade: A magic item from Dungeons and Dragons that is a sword hilt that generates a blade of energy that does radiant damage.
- Beam melee weapons: From the long running franchise Mobile Suit Gundam. In-universe, the first Mobile Suit (the name used in the series for the giant robots) armed with a beam melee weapon is the titular Gundam RX-78. It carried two beam sabers in its backpack, which also served to recharge them when not in use. It could also be armed with a beam javelin (a long rod that emitted a larger, spiked beam and was suited for throwing). In-universe this was a game-changer: other MS were armed with heat weapons (i.e. melee weapons with super-heated edges for better cutting through armour) which could be pretty bulky with an exposed power source. Beam weapons were lightweight, compact when inactive and they could cut through just about any type of armour around. Mass-producing beam weapons (and mobile suits to wield them) was one of the major turning points of the war in the original series but the vast majority of the time the original anime shows them used pretty much exclusively for destroying battleships, with only a single beam duel that's cut in the movie version. Later series got really crazy, with beam scimitars, beam daggers, beam whips, beam fans...yeah, shit goes crazy over at /m/.