So you think you know how to use a lightsaber, huh? Us nerds like to fancy ourselves as powerful Jedi, strong in the ways of the Force, able to brandish a lightsaber with exacting precision. But do you even lift, bro?
The lightsaber is a unique weapon, and by unique we mean, of course, entirely fictional. But let’s roll with this, because Star Wars! In order to attain mastery with this unique weapon, we need to understand its unique properties.
How to Use a Lightsaber: Weight in the Hilt
First of all, a lightsaber has a balance that would be wholly unlike a traditional sword. A lightsaber is a controlled, fixed-length stream of plasma. E=mc2 so the blade is effectively weightless.
A great swordsman like Inigo Montoya knows that the weight of the handle and blade, and thus the overall balance of the weapon, is critically important while fighting. If a sword is too blade-heavy it is unwieldy, meaning it is difficult to start, stop, and change the path of the blade as it’s swung.
Conversely, a sword with too light a blade is too easy to swing around. The basic handling would be extremely hilt-heavy, making the balance point all the way back inside the user’s grip. This would make the blade extremely hard to ‘feel’.
To add a practical retcon to the movies, we could explain the usefulness of the training remotes for this reason. The first lesson Jedi are taught is to discard their physical senses and feel the blade position with the Force. Clearly this is not just a teaching style but a practical necessity with all the mass of the weapon being in the user’s hand.
As a result, even as the feel the blade with the Force, Jedi still must develop extremely strong wrists, which isn’t typically a problem as Jedi begin training at a very early age. But poor Luke, stuck toiling as a moisture farmer on Tatooine, did not have this early training, so he consistently needed to use his lightsaber two-handed at first.
But the path of a Jedi is harder still…
How to Use a Lightsaber: Uni-directional Blade
A lightsaber isn’t like a traditional slashing weapon. Instead, it’s more like a fencing saber. With a rounded, uni-directional blade, a lightsaber is is unlike a sword with a single (sometimes two) cutting edge and two flat sides to the blade.
There aren’t any flat sides to a lightsaber. It cuts at 360 degrees, so a Jedi dare not use the old trick where you position the blade on its flat side to thwap an opponent unconscious through delivering an impact blow rather than a slashing one. If you’re swinging, you’re cutting.
This is why non-force users dare not wield a lightsaber. Without a precise sense of blade location via the Force, they’re likely to only hurt themselves. And without the intensive Jedi training, they wouldn’t have the strength and stamina to control it. Without Force training it’s not possible to develop sufficient control to use a lightsaber effectively.
But remember, of course, this is entirely fictional.
How to Use a Lightsaber: The Real Purpose
But these two drawbacks of a lightsaber actually conceal an advantage in disguise. Sure, they’re a problem in a swordfight. But Jedi were never meant to be primarily duelists, they are the galaxy’s peacekeepers. A Jedi’s typical opponent would be a room full of Stormtroopers or Mandalorian scoundrels with blasters.
A blade that is difficult to ‘feel’ because of its negligible weight actually gives you rapid tip movement to stop a flying blaster bolt if, that is, you have the Force telling you where the tip should go.
Likewise, the uni-directional blade means that however the blade is positioned relative to an incoming blaster bolt it is always familiar to the user. A Jedi can deflect blaster bolts at predictable angles because the rounded blade surface never needs to be repositioned according to the cutting edge or flat-side, as a typical sword would be. All angles are the same with a lightsaber.
This makes the lightsaber the ultimate peacekeeping weapon. So let’s not start any fights about it on the Internet, OK?