A long time ago (40 years today, to be exact), in a movie theater… well, not too far away, Star Wars premiered, and we were introduced to the most badass item with which to slice and dice our enemies we could ever imagine.
The lightsaber is the coolest fictional weapon to come out of pop culture in, like, ever. It’s a sword made of lasers you can use to punch a hole through a starship hull and it sounds like a nest full of electric bees when you swing it. Here are 10 facts about the favored weapon of Jedi and Sith you may not be aware of, starting with…
Note: We apologize to anyone who loses their afternoon following any of the links in this piece to the Star Wars wiki.
10. There are 7 Basic Styles of Lightsaber Combat (But Obi-Wan’s is the Best)
According to the Star Wars Expanded Universe (henceforth referred to as the EU for brevity’s sake) there are 7 basic forms of lightsaber combat, each with its own supposed benefits and shortcomings. Master Yoda, for example, uses a form known as Ataru, which makes up for his short stature and the fact he looks like a wilted cabbage by incorporating endless force-infused backflips to surprise an opponent.
Though the various books, comics, and games in the EU note that no singular style is better than any other, form three (or Soresu) is the only one where a master is described as being “near invincible” in combat. An entirely defensive style, Soresu became the favored form of Obi-Wan Kenobi after he saw Liam Neeson get killed by Darth Maul and realized that a guy who can’t be hit can’t be killed. In the EU, Obi-Wan is noted as one of the finest practitioners of Soresu and is described as being able to casually stroll “unscathed through hornet-swarms of blasterfire” like a boss.
9. Lightsabers Actually Weigh Quite a Bit
Contrary to the idea of a lightsaber being, well, a saber made of light, the weapon apparently has a significant weight behind it as, to quote one Star Wars character, “You’re not fighting with a simple blade as much as you are directing a current of power.“
In other words, those wielding a lightsaber aren’t just swinging around a beam of light like an excitable kid using a Wii for the first time, but are constantly fighting to control the direction of the blade. Preferably, directing it towards a Stormtrooper’s sack instead of their own. Think of fighting with a lightsaber as being more like holding a Shake Weight than swinging around a sword, though you’d probably look equally as silly doing both unless you’re wearing a cool robe.
8. Mace Windu’s Lightsaber is Completely Unique
Mace Windu is regarded as one of the Jedi Order’s most competent and baldest combatants, and it’s noted that his distinctive purple lightsaber was both a rallying cry for his fellow Jedi as well as a warning to enemies that they were about to have a very bad day.
Now, the lightsaber was famously made purple due to a request from Sam Jackson, who wanted to be able to find himself in combat scenes more easily. George Lucas happily indulged this request and told a bemused Jackson that the decision to color his lightsaber purple was “annoying a lot of fanboys online” because purple isn’t a lightsaber color known to exist in the EU.
To fix this it was established in the EU that purple lightsabers do exist, it’s just that Mace Windu had the only one. Amusingly, the lightsaber also had the words “bad motherf******” carved into it at Jackson’s behest as a nod to his character from Pulp Fiction, but no fanboys complained about that for some reason.
7. There’s an Unspeakably Awesome Black-Bladed Lightsaber Out There
The color of a lightsaber is influenced by the crystal used to power it. These crystals come in nearly every color and can bestow a number of unusual and often unexpected effects on the blade itself. But we all know that if lightsabers were real, we’d all want a cool black one. Which is a shame, because there’s only one out there.
Known as the “darksaber,” this ancient and unique weapon is wielded exclusively by a chosen few Mandalorians. The darksaber is distinct from a traditional lightsaber as it has the appearance of a regular sword, albeit one that’s black and crackles with what we assume is sexual energy when used by a particularly talented Jedi, instead of looking like a unicorn’s erection. Other than that, the darksaber is functionally identical to a regular lightsaber, which doesn’t make us want it to exist any less.
6. They Make Giant Lightsabers for Giant People
We think it’s safe to say that for the first few moments Supreme Leader Snoke was on screen in The Force Awakens we all thought he was a giant. If you’re anything like us, before it became apparent Snoke was a hologram, you probably wondered how a 30 foot tall alien would even fight with a lightsaber.
As it turns out, they’d probably fight just like anyone else, as the EU not only notes that giant lightsabers are a thing but that they’re wielded by equally giant Jedi and Sith. Known as lightclubs, these oversized batons of plasma are similar to regular lightsabers, only massive and exceptionally hard to wield without superhuman strength or really big hands. Sadly, Snoke will probably end up being around the same size as a human being, meaning our dream of seeing a giant alien baseball swing a 15 foot long lightsaber at Kylo Ren’s face will have to remain just that. A wonderful, amazing dream.
5. Darth Maul’s Lightsaber was Created After He Got Beaten Up with a Stick
For many, Darth Maul is the only redeeming feature of the prequel trilogy and it’s not hard to see why. He’s a cool devil-looking man with tattoos and a rad double-ended lightsaber that he could use to stab two people at once. A lesser known fact about Darth Maul that makes him seem decidedly less badass, though, is that he only constructed that lightsaber after being beaten half to death with a stick. Not a special, lightsaber-resistant stick made of rancor hide or something, mind you, but a regular stick made of wood that would have burst into flames the instant it came into contact with his lightsaber if Maul had been able to block a single attack with it.
According to the EU, Maul initially wielded a regular old lightsaber until he was tasked with assassinating a Jedi master known as Siolo’urmanka. Maul, overconfident that he could stab the Jedi master to death before he knew what was coming, snuck up behind Siolo’urmanka as he was meditating. Siolo’urmanka responded by launching a 30 hit combo on Maul’s ribs with a simple wooden staff he had lying around before Maul could even move. When Maul attempted to draw his lightsaber to even the odds, Siolo’urmanka slapped it out of his hands and ended the fight with a staff assisted backhand to Maul’s exposed face. Siolo’urmanka then allowed Maul to flee.
So what did Maul do after being humbled by a clearly superior opponent who showed him mercy? He welded two lightsabers together and challenged him again, using the lightsabers hidden second blade to kill Siolo’urmanka when he wasn’t expecting it. The lesson here: never let Darth Maul live.
4. Lightsaber Combat Involves Aiming for the Balls
We talked above about the many forms of lightsaber combat, but we never specifically mentioned our favorite style, Shii-Cho, also known as the first form. This basic fighting style is noted as being the first invented and is taught to most, if not all, prospective Jedi and Sith to teach the fundamental elements of lightsaber combat. This said, some Jedi and Sith do chose to specialize in Shii-Cho exclusively for its deceptive depth and unpredictable movements.
One of the first things taught to Shii-Cho practitioners is a concept known as “body target zones.” Essentially, areas of the body an attack should be aimed for in a specific scenario. Various images from Star Wars media exist highlighting these zones for instructive purposes, and they’re all hilarious as “the groin” seems to be highlighted in all of them.
We should note that, according to the Star Wars wiki, the images are supposed to be marking an enemy’s legs as the intended targets. However, we think it’s equally important to mention that one of these images is of Anakin Skywalker and it clearly shows a target aiming squarely at his balls, and we don’t think anyone would argue that prequel trilogy Anakin didn’t need to be punched in the nuts at least once.
3. The Single Most Useful Technique with a Lightsaber is Only Used by, Like, One Guy
With the exception of it’s ability to deflect lasers and cut through giraffes with a single swing, the lightsaber, at least in combat, is largely identical in function to a regular sword. Sure, it kills in one hit, but the same could be said of any sufficiently sharp blade being swung by an expert with the ability to augment their blows with the Force.
In fact, one of the most unique and potentially lethal abilities of the lightsaber, in contrast to a regular sword, is that you can turn it off. Think about it: imagine if instead of letting their lightsabers ineffectually clash with one another, Jedi turned them off periodically to bypass their opponent’s defense. Or better yet, turned them off when their opponent swung so that they’d miss and turning them back on to stab their exposed torso like the film of a microwavable dinner. It’s an amazing, potentially groundbreaking technique we never see used by any of the supposed “masters” of lightsaber in the mainline films.
In fact, the technique is only used by a handful of f-tier characters in the EU even though it’s one of those things you’d think at least one guy would think of doing, if only to mess with their opponent and make them fall on their ass. Speaking of which…
2. There’s a Special Word Just for Talking Smack About Your Opponent in a Lightsaber Duel
Yes, in the Star Wars universe calling your opponent a douche isn’t poor sportsmanship, but a legitimate battle tactic if you’re both holding lightsabers. Known as Dun Möch, the technique is described as “a form of combat that used distraction and doubt, usually through taunting.” Or in other words, being a bit of a dick.
Unsurprisingly, the technique of “calling your opponent mean names” is favored by the Sith and for some reason warrants a 3,000 word entry on the Star Wars wiki. Both Darth Vader and Darth Maul are listed as being expert users of Dun Möch and it’s listed unironically alongside their other abilities. So yeah, in the Star Wars universe being able to smack talk your opponent is an ability considered as useful in combat as being able to telekinetically choke them from across the room. What, you thought Vader was taunting Luke during their battles just for fun?
1. Lightsabers Can Only be Stopped by Extraordinarily Rare Metals, or Water
The lightsaber is famously able to slice through nearly any material, with its cutting power being limited only by the thickness of the material and the strength of the person wielding it. Since such a weapon would be kind of ridiculous in the hands of a person who can also fire lightning from their eyeball and dominate the minds of lesser beings, the EU has introduced a number of materials capable of surviving lightsaber blows.
For the most part, every lightsaber-resistant material in the known Star Wars universe is described as being exceedingly rare and difficult to forge into armor or weaponry, because if they weren’t, everybody would have weapons and armor made from them. However, the lightsaber has another glaring weakness few opponents ever take advantage of: water.
The EU notes that virtually every lightsaber, with the exception of a notable few like the one owned by Kit Fisto (the weird squid man who tries to kill the emperor in Revenge of the Sith), will short out if submerged in water. To put it another way, every Jedi in the universe could be killed the same way as the Wicked Witch of the West, by hucking a bucket of water at them and then shooting them with a laser gun. We may not be remembering The Wizard of Oz entirely correctly.