Over the next few months I would like to introduce to both general readers and Ithaca Sabers students to a few of my favorite short essays on lightsabers and lightsaber combat. Some of these will focus on “in-universe” perspectives, while others will discuss real world training. Craig Page’s writings have always stood out to me for their ability to seamlessly blend the two. You can find more of his Star Wars related writing at the now dormant blog, The Snark Side of the Force.
What is a Lightsaber
by Craig Page
I think if we’re going to start discussing the Lightsaber and how to use it, we might as well start with the basics and work our way up. If the goal of some of the groups out there is to understand and address the lightsaber as if it were a real weapon (whether for stage or for martial exercises) then we should all understand the lightsaber itself in terms that relate to us. So let’s begin with the basic question: What is a Lightsaber?
The lightsaber, arguably the most famous weapon to never really exist. It has captured the imagination of movie goers since its inception in 1977. But what is it exactly? When trying to understand how to use these beautiful and destructive tools, we must look at the history of them both in the Star Wars Universe and in the real world.
In universe, the lightsaber is a weightless plasma blade of variable and programmable length. The most unique feature of the lightsaber is that it is an all-cutting weapon. Traditional bladed weapons have a flat side, which is often used to deflect or be used to bludgeon and not kill. The lightsaber doesn’t have that. No matter the angle of the blade, the saber will cut its target.
And I do mean it will cut. The power of the energy blade is such that it can through virtually anything in its path. While there are stories of ‘Lightsaber Resistant Materials’ the only things that have been confirmed to block a lightsaber without being destroyed in the attempt are energy based weapons such as electro-staves or, more explicitly, another lightsaber. Because of the energy nature of the blade, lightsabers are able to block and deflect ranged energy attacks. There are in fact forms of lightsaber combat designed for that in mind.
The hilt of the saber is often cylindrical and made of metal or metal-like materials. The design is, surprisingly, very basic, with most of the electronic equivalent being easy to acquire. There is one story of a Jedi creating a lightsaber using parts he found from a junked hover-bike. What makes lightsabers unique is that they are designed specifically by the user. It is often seen as a rite of passage for Force-users to design their own hilt. So, while the design is simple, no two sabers will be exactly the same.