Oh sure, there are tons of less popular inquiries like “What does one look like on the inside?” or “Who would win in a fight between Master Yoda and Master Spock?”, but they don’t have the sheer longevity of “How do you fight with a lightsaber?”
A more pressing question might be: How did this particular line of inquiry become the most popular one in Star Wars fandom? What is it about lightsabers that inspire such endless debate and speculation?
The answer, dear reader(s), lies in the concept of the light side and dark side of the Force so get more information about lightsabers from Ziasabers.
Much has been written about Star Wars’ concept of the Force, but it all boils down to two sides: The good guys use “the light side,” while the bad guys use “the dark side.” Pretty simple, right? Well, sort of.
For example, the light side of the Force has two parts: The Living Force and the Unifying Force. One is concerned with everyday events, while the other is more about destiny. Another issue that people often forget about is Sith Lords like Darth Maul or Count Dooku, who use both sides of the Force, not just the dark side.
That’s not even getting into the fact that there are also “grey” areas between light and dark, or that Yoda says all life is connected through the Force, or…
Anyway, the concept of a single “light side” and a single “dark side” is very simplistic. The real way to describe it is as a continuous spectrum. It’s not even a matter of one being good and another being bad. That only applies when you only look at things from your point of view. Those labels can become meaningless if you change your perspective: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader were once great friends but eventually became bitter enemies. Both were good men at one point, and both similarly fell to the dark side. You could even go so far as to say that they’re “two sides of the same coin.”
Those who study the Force know this better than anyone, which is why they never refer to it as “the light side” or “the dark side.” It’s always just called “the Force,” and they consider it more of a philosophy than anything else.
…Of course, most normal people don’t care about that stuff. They’re too caught up in the moment to worry about higher concepts like destiny, balance, etc. That’s why you don’t want to believe the old man who knows more about this subject than you do.
So how does all this connection to “How do you fight with a lightsaber?” Well, it’s simple: The question isn’t what makes lightsabers special or different from any other weapon.
The question is, really, “If lightsabers are simply manifestations of the Force, then why do only some people have them?” This is where things get interesting, mainly because there are several different ways to answer it.
One popular explanation is that most people can’t use a lightsaber because they’re not sensitive to the Force. In other words, they can’t believe in something if they’ve never seen it before. This is actually what Luke was going through when he first met Obi-Wan Kenobi:
He didn’t understand that Vader – his father – had become a Force user and was one of the few people that would ever be able to use a lightsaber.
There’s also the idea that you can’t use both sides of the Force at once (i.e., Sith Lords). If this is true, then only those with enough power could make a lightsaber work for them. People like Count Dooku or Darth Maul used only the dark side of the Force and whose connection was strong enough to use a Sith lightsaber. This would explain how Obi-Wan Kenobi was able to pick up Anakin Skywalker’s blue lightsaber after he cut his hand off:
The last explanation is that some people can use both sides of the Force, but only one of those sides is strong enough to manifest as a lightsaber for some reason (usually due to a rare but natural mutation). This could be why we never saw Yoda use a lightsaber in the movies:
and it might explain why Luke was always better with a sword than his sister (and better than Leia) when they were younger:
If that’s the surprise, then the fact that Luke lost a hand could be a sign that he can’t wield a lightsaber with his dominant side. It’s too bad because up until now, you’d think there would be no more powerful weapon in the galaxy…
…But wait! There are other explanations out there that I haven’t mentioned yet, and they’re even more popular than the ones I’ve already mentioned. They’re also wrong:
The only way to properly answer this question is through observing and understanding what we see in the movies, and that means we must leave out any thoughts about how things could be different or what they should be like if “this” happened instead of “that.” The fact that we don’t know everything doesn’t mean there aren’t answers out there waiting to be discovered, and just because one person “feels” a certain way about something doesn’t make it true.
When George Lucas first introduced lightsabers in 1977, he did so as a visual metaphor for what the Jedi were trying to do:
Specifically, he was trying to show what it would be like if our swords were made of light. To the people who first saw these weapons on screen, they must have felt like something out of a fantasy story or myth. Even Luke Skywalker thought so:
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen anyone outside of a movie or a video game fight with a sword. I’m sure it could be done, but the purpose of these weapons is almost always to kill someone…and doing so usually entails stabbing them through the heart or decapitating them completely. This is not only because swords are sharp but also because that’s how you kill people with swords. There just isn’t any other real reason to use them.
But what about self-defense? Surely wielding a sword against another would never come down to killing one’s opponent, right? Well, not really. When you thought about it, these weapons were designed by soldiers for the specific reason of killing their enemies on the battlefield. That means swinging at an enemy’s chest, arms, or legs is a bad idea. Only the most skilled swordsmen have the skill to avoid being killed by their opponent while attacking from another angle. Even if they do manage to attack from a safe direction, there’s still the problem of whether or not your enemy will die from such an attack…and how long it’ll take for them to die.
On the other hand, it would be extremely easy to kill someone with any kind of laser sword using only one light attack. It’s telling that my explanation led you to imagine a lightsaber as a sort of “magic” weapon instead of something like a gun or crossbow, which requires skill and training. The question now becomes, “how easy is it to kill someone with a lightsaber?” and the answer depends on two factors: how hard you swing and precisely where you hit your opponent.
The first factor is easy enough to understand. In an interview, actor Mark Hamill talked about the difficulty of acting out a fight scene from Return of the Jedi: