When the ‘Force Awakens’ trailer first hit, there was a surge of people on tech sites… legitimate actual real tech sites, like GIzmodo and The Verge that wrote articles, in-depth articles about why the ‘Cross-guard lightsaber’ was ‘stupid’, ‘retarded’, ‘useless’, etc…. I sorta bit my tongue for the past few months, but I’ve decided to come down and explain… If you want to complain about reality in Star Wars lightsabers, you’ve picked the wrong target.
Let’s go back to the Phantom Menace, and a weapon that is far far worse than the ‘cross-guard saber’. The Cross-Guard Saber can, actually, at the very least, be used like all the other lightsabers in Star Wars. If the two miniature cross-guard blades are only decorative and serve little to no parrying assistance, then… again, it’s at least usable like a regular lightsaber. No, I’m talking about a weapon that actually will slow the combatant, reduce his reach, reduce his range, create undefendable blind spots, and actually is one of the stupidest fictional weapons ever conceived.
That’s right, the Double-Bladed Lightsaber, or Saber-staff, or, as I’d like to call it, the assisted suicide device. Already, I can hear the groans and complaints. “BEN!” they say, indignant, “What are you talking about? The Double-Bladed Lightsaber is awesome and totally usable!” Except… it isn’t. But first, let’s talk about lightsabers and combat, and let’s dispell this whole “The old trilogy had bad lightsaber combat” myth that idiots like to parrot.
A lightsaber is a weapon that produces an energy blade that can apparently cut through anything with little to no effort. The blade itself is apparently weightless. There’s several styles of sword combat that exist in the world, including several dueling styles and combat styles. And the problem is, the original trilogy took the correct answer, and the prequels took the wrong answer.
The original “Obi Wan vs Vader” fight is often called ‘slow and clumsy’ by fanboys, when the guard stances the actors used are actual guard stances. In fact, Obi Wan’s guard is beautifully centered and would be hard to penetrate by his opponents. Aside from a rather clumsy back-spin thrown in by the fight choreographer, the whole battle wasn’t quite as clumsy as the fanboys would claim. The guard stance is what we’re examining here: a stance where you can easily defend yourself from attack, easily thrust an attack yourself, and do it while moving the least and expending the least amount of energy. In the original Star Wars trilogy, the creative team hired actual fencing experts to help with fight choreography, and it shows with the use of proper guard stances, use of ‘horse stances’ in several spots of Return of the Jedi(specifically when Luke did his final charge against Vader, the whole thing was done in a horse-stance), and actual, practical combat.
Now, some people might be asking, why fencing? Because, with a lightsaber, fencing is the best combat style for the weapon. A fencing blade(be it a foil, an epee, or a rapier), is a light blade, and the type of combat trained with it is what we call ‘tip-cutting’ combat. The focus is mainly on making a bunch of quick, shallow cuts with the tip of the blade on your opponent. With an energy blade that cleaves with little to no resistance, this means fencing would be the ideal sword style for lightsaber combat.
In the prequels, we see the blades being held up and back. These are stances based on using a cleaving sword style, like a katana or a saber(real-world cavalry sword). These are also stances meant to be used with armor or a shield on your non-dominant arm. Even dueling-style Kendo uses a stance very similar to Obi-Wan’s in A New Hope, not up and back stances. A cavalry saber (such as a katana) use a two-handed style most of the time, with an emphasis on a cleaving action. The objective is to hit your target with what’s called the ‘sweet spot’ of the blade; a point about 3-4 inches from the tip. This style makes no sense with a lightsaber. The energy blade would require no extra effort to cleave through the target, thus why use a stance that exerts extra effort and brings yourself closer to your enemy’s range with no actual pay-off?
“But Ben!” you are shouting, “What about the Double-Bladed Lightsaber?!”
I want you to do a quick exercise. Get a pole, a stick, or a broomhandle. Now, hold it by it’s end, and then outstretch your arm as far as it can stretch. The tip of the pole is your maximum range with it. The same goes with a lightsaber. Using a fencing mentality, I think you would agree that knowing your maximum range and reach is everything in combat. Now, move just your shoulder and your elbow. Anywhere the stick or poll can easily reach from your ‘guard’ position is your defendable area, or sphere of influence.
Let’s make it more interesting. Get some PVC pipe, where it is 2 1/3 as long as your initial pole or stick. Duct tape the middle 2 feet and now try to outstretch your arm without letting the un-taped part of the pipe touching your body. You’re going to have to take an awkward stance, and your reach will be about half of what it would be with a regular lightsaber. Now, you’ll also find you will need to move your whole body, legs, hips, shoulders, and arms to try and defend the same amount of area you could’ve with a regular lightsaber. All while keeping in mind you can’t let either side of the blades touch you.
The advantage a polearm has in real life has been pissed away. You have a weapon that, unless someone’s right in front of you and you can do a kayaking action, slows you down, reduces your range, and creates areas you cannot defend without stabbing yourself. So, I guess my point is The Verge sucks, Gizmodo sucks, and the next time you guys want to complain about a set of tiny decorative cross-guard blades, you should look back to that weapon you all were drooling at back in 1999.