Tag Archives: lightsaber

Q&A: Star Wars: The Reversed Lightsaber Grip

I’ve been watching the Clone Wars on Netflix. In it, the character Ahsoka uses two lightsabers which she holds in reverse grip, that is to say so that they point backwards parallel to her forearms instead of in front of her at her enemies. I know that this is a technique sometimes used in knife fighting, but, as someone with fencing experience, I can’t help but find it incredibly awkward and inefficient with a full-length sword. Is it based on a real technique, or is it just rule of cool?

There’s no real application for it. There are reasons to reverse grip a knife, not so much with a full length blade.

The in universe justification is that Ahsoka and Starkiller both use a controversial, or ancient, (pick whichever feels more appropriate in the moment) version of the Shien style (or Form V, if you prefer). Shien is a style focused on dealing with multiple opponents simultaneously, and had a focus on quick retaliations after a defensive parry, as well as heavy strikes. In theory, Ahsoka’s using the same lightsaber form as Luke and Anakin, just with a different resting position for their blade. Supposedly, the reverse grip
allows the user to generate wider arcs that strike across multiple targets more easily. I say supposedly, because that honestly sounds like an after the fact justification to me. Though, it’s possible there’s some consideration to how lightsabers handle momentum that isn’t occurring to me.

For those of you unfamiliar with the forms, the old Star Wars expanded universe broke lightsaber combat down into seven distinct forms, (and then kept adding more.) Each one is numbered, and alternately has multiple names. In large part, these exist to justify the various actors having different approaches to the lightsabers across the franchise. And there are a lot of after-the-fact justifications for why Luke’s use of a lightsaber looks different from Obi-Wan’s, and why Obi-Wan’s changes between the prequels and the original trilogy. Beyond that, most Jedi are assumed to be proficient in roughly three styles of their choosing.

There is some interesting concepts buried in there, especially when you get past the official seven forms. For example, Trakata, where the blade is disabled and reignited mid-strike to bypass blocks and generally mess with the opponent. So, what Ahsoka is doing probably isn’t completely without merit. I know with Starkiller the justification was that it kept the blade out of his way while performing acrobatic maneuvering. It’s another explanation that sounds dubious, though slightly more plausible.

So, basically, no, it’s there to make her more visually distinct. This is a large factor in most of the unique lightsaber variants across the franchise. There’s in universe justifications, but those follow the goal of making a character stand out. That is a legitimate goal. Particularly when you’re dealing with a setting that juggles hundreds of major characters.

The subversive way to phrase it would probably be some variation of, “when everyone’s special, no one is,” but when you’re talking about Star Wars, as a whole, particularly the old Extended Universe, it does sell the idea of a diverse universe with a ton of distinct characters bouncing around in it. Also, the more characters you add, even when their stories are individually distinct, the harder it becomes to separate them out. I’m going to offend some people here, including myself, but, when you take two characters like Corran Horn and Kyle Katarn, and stick them next to each other, it can be kinda tricky to explain what makes them distinct, to someone unfamiliar with the setting.

The trade off is, taking large steps to try to differentiate a character can result in serious pushback. For whatever the reason, the community just does not accept and mocks that character mercilessly. Which was the case with Starkiller. I honestly could not tell you why Ahsoka never generated the same reaction. At least, not conclusively.

-Starke

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