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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Light Sabers in Combat

From: Jesse Crouch

Lightsabers create a world of fighting that is not similar to any single weapon known to man at this point in time. This is an exploratory piece on just what that world is like.
I've been meaning to examine this topic for awhile, but now I'm compelled to do so since I'll be choreographing a fight scene for a short film called Succumb. It is set in a steampunk-meets-starwars world.

Before we examine how to fight with one we need to define what a lightsaber is. There are numerous references to lightsaber physics out there. Many point to the fact that it is likely not just light, but something more along the lines of plasma or charged particles that are somehow stabilized. I'm not going to examine the likelihood of any of these or argue it any particular way. For the purposes of this document we'll assume it is: light, gas, plasma or charged particles. These all have very different properties, but also have a lot in common.

Should the "blade" be made from these things or something similar, we can assume the following about lightsaber properties:
  • Lightweight
  • All/most weight concentrated in handle
  • Multi-directional blade edge
  • Unbreakable blade
  • Nearly infinite "sharpness"

Comparing with weapons of this world

The lightsaber is like an ultra-sharp, straight sword that you can swing in any direction and cut something almost effortlessly.

Handling wise, imagine a very lightweight stick that cuts easily.

Compared to:
  • Swords - Heavy, lots of weight in the blade, single or double edged, can break
  • Blunt weapons - Cannot cut easily, impact in any direction, heavy, most weight in the striking end

How to fight with a lightsaber

So what would a real lightsaber fight look like? Fast-moving, single-handed, and last an extremely short length of time. The typical committed (nobody is running away) bare-knuckles street fight or even weapons street fight generally lasts just seconds, maybe a little over two minutes after fighting has begun. Most people can usually take quite a few hits and still live. You could even take a blow from a sword and survive. A lightsaber fight would likely be over after the first hit.

Smart/those-who-can-afford-it practitioners would probably wield two lightsabers since they're compact to transport.

The most effective style of fighting would probably look something like the fast slashing and hacking to the limbs that you see in the martial arts Kali/Escrima/Arnis companied with swift distance-lengthening and target-minimizing-stances of western fencing. It would probably not look like Japanese sword arts (much of what the Star Wars philosophies, characters and 'force' seem based upon). Another similarity with Kali, because Kali teaches with blunt weapons as well as bladed (also see One Technique Many Weapons), is that a light-swordsman would not wield the blade in a manner that is specific to the edge of the blade since it is multi-directional like a blunt weapon.

Because of how easily you can cut with one, your main objective will probably be to keep your distance and disarm your opponent by cutting at hands and limbs.

Other thoughts

  • Depending on the time it takes to deploy the blade (slow in the older Star Wars films) there would probably be a component of turning the blade on and off during the fight. If blade deployment/retraction is fast then one could avoid an opponents block/parry by retracting ones blade and then redeploying it after passing the opponents blade. This would create a hugely different fighting style.
  • Why do lightsabers have such a short and fixed length given that they are not hindered by weight in this manner? It seems it may also be possible to create a hybrid blade/projectile weapon out of one.
  • Gyroscopic stabilizers which I have seen mentioned by theorists for containing the "energy" beam that is the blade could make holding onto one more complicated.
  • I'd imagine anti-lightsaber armor would be quick to develop in a place where they exist. Likely it would be something outrageously strong as well as lightweight like carbon nanotubes. Although not necessarily with either of those properties. It could be like an energy-based body shield as well (like what is seen near the beginning of the Dune miniseries).
    Whatever the case, this would radically change the style of fighting.
  • Lightsaber fighting would be extremely dangerous to oneself. Without armor, in enough time you're probably more likely to cut yourself than someone else will be to cut you. Even well-seasoned knife fighters and swordsmen cut themselves.

    Fighting in groups would carry increased dangers as well.

~武德为首, Martial Art Virtue comes first

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