How to Use a Lightsaber Like Mace Windu
In Star Wars lore, Mace Windu was considered to be a swordmaster, largely because of his mastery of Vaapad, a style of fighting he is credited with creating. But before we talk about the specifics of Vaapad, let’s cover Fighting With Lightsabers 101.
I’ve mentioned much of this before, but it bears repeating: lightsaber duels in the movies are choreographed (in addition to being entirely fictional, I should remind us) and bear little resemblance to an actually sword fight. Sure, they have a tether to Asian martial arts techniques, but much of it is posing for the camera.
Take, for example, all those spins. Seriously, take them, because no one would actually spin in a sword fight. Any fighter who would intentionally turn her back to an opponent, taking her eyes off her opponent while simultaneously exposing her whole body in the process, just to turn herself around and bring her weapon back predictably from the other side deserves to die in a sarlacc pit. It fools no one, adds no real power, and immensely delays your attack.
Furthermore, a lightsaber duel is not just about constant parrying as you skip around. Strike…strike…strike…spin [hold a power pose]…strike…strike…strike…spin. Everything is choreographed to display constant striking at one another’s weapon instead of actually hitting their opponent, which allows actors to display their talent at remembering a long sequence of dance steps worked out ahead of time, but it’s not really how anyone would really approach a fight. When fighting you are actually trying to aggressively hit someone while desperately trying to keep them from hitting you. Duh.
But the twirling and spinning with extra wide exaggerated motion looks good on screen, so let’s keep it! You hear that, J.J.?
So what is Vaapad?
Vaapad – Form VII – is one of 7 forms of lightsaber combat and was developed by Mace Windu, who named it after a creature native to the volcanic world of Sarapin.
Vaapads, the creatures, were brown ball-shaped creatures with yellow eyes and multiple tentacles used to kill prey. A vaapad attacked by striking so quickly that they were nothing but a blur to the naked eye. The were so lightning fast that there was no way to tell how many tentacles the vaapad had unless it was dead. Most vaapad had at least seven tentacles, while the largest specimen ever examined had twenty-three.
Mace Windu developed his lightsaber based upon the vaapad. The style used quick and deadly strikes to overcome the enemy, much like how the vaapad would use its tentacles on prey.
As a result, Vaapad is often called the Ferocity Form. It has been described as the most vicious form of lightsaber combat and involves significant internal focus on the part of the Jedi, understood as a state of mind rather than being limited to only a fighting style.
With Vaapad, the Jedi channels his own inner darkness into the lightsaber duel, and accepts the fury of the opponent. Many felt it went so far as to violate the “there is no emotion, there is peace” tenet of the Jedi Code due to its requirement to fight under the guidance of controlled passion. Due to this focus on physical combat, Vaapad was mentioned with a cautionary warning that the use of Vaapad led the user perilously close to the dark side.
Vaapad utilizes bold, direct movements in order to offensively eviscerate a lone enemy. Vaapad is not fancy choreographed spins. It cuts straight into the enemy. Vaapad attacks flow into each other with liquid precision, creating a blur of attacking blades from every angle. It is said the user’s arms becoming too fast to see, and Vaapad is used in the use of dual lightsabers as well.
So you want to be a bad mother too? Well, you need to use a lightsaber like Mace Windu and become a Jedi Master of Vaapad. May the Force be with you.