Fiach's lightsaber training

Fiach Dubh

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“Every feint, every dodge, every block is a trap to the unwary.”
― Lightsaber combat tenet


TRAINING DOJO


Few of the students actually possessed lightsabers yet; they still had to prove themselves worthy in the eyes of the instructors. In fact, it was impressed upon them that they should learn the styles and techniques they would use to demonstrate they had earned the right to craft their own weapons.

And so each morning the apprentices would gather on the wide, open space of the Padawan dojo to practice their drills and routines under one of the Master’s watchful eyes, struggling to learn the exotic manoeuvres that would keep them alive on the battlefield.

Perspiration was already running down the crown of Fiach’s head and into her eyes as she put her body through its paces. She blinked away the stinging sweat and redoubled her exertions, carving the air before her again and again and again with her training saber. All around her other apprentices were doing the same; each was struggling to conquer his or her own physical limitations and become more than just a warrior with a weapon. The goal was to become an extension of the Force itself. And for the Padawan and saber to become one.
 

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Fiach had begun by learning the basic techniques common to all seven traditional lightsaber forms. Her first weeks had been spent in endless repetitions of defensive postures, overhand strikes, parries, and counter-strikes. By observing the natural tendencies of the students as they learned the basics, the Masters determined which form might best match their style – for it was a suggestion, not an order.

For Fiach, Soresu was chosen. Form III. The third form emphasised defence. Only after she was able to perform each of the standard moves to the satisfaction of the instructor was she allowed to begin the real training.
 

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Now, along with the other students at the Academy, she spent the better part of an hour each morning practicing her techniques with her training saber under an instructor’s watchful eye.

The morning was filled with the grunts of the apprentices and the swish-swish-swish as their blades sliced the air. In some ways it reminded Fiach of her training to learn how to fly a ship: a repetition of moves and drills until they became instinctive.

“No,” the Master said softly, but the rebuke stung none the less. He had been walking up and down the ranks of apprentices as they trained, but had now stopped right beside Fiach. “Strike with precision.” He reached out and held Fiach’s wrist, turning it to change the angle of the training blade. “You’re coming in too high,” he added. “In a duel, there is no room for error.”

He stayed at Fiach’s side for several seconds, watching to ensure the lesson had been properly learned. After several hard thrusts with the altered grip, the Jedi nodded in approval and continued his rounds.

Fiach repeated the single move over and over, careful to maintain the height and angle of the blade exactly as she had been shown, teaching her muscles through countless repetitions until they could replicate it flawlessly each and every time. Only then would she move on to incorporating it into more complicated manoeuvres.
 

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Saber training was physically demanding. Soon, she was breathing heavily from her exertions. But in addition, they were exhausting in other ways. They demanded intense mental focus, an attention to detail that went far beyond what was visible to the naked eye. True mastery of the blade required a combination of both body and mind.

When two Masters engaged in lightsaber combat, the action happened too quickly for the eye to see or the mind to react. Everything had to be done on instinct; the body had to be trained to move and respond without conscious thought. To accomplish this, the Padawans practiced sequences, carefully choreographed series of multiple strikes and parries drawn from their chosen style. The sequences were designed so that each manoeuvre flowed smoothly into the next, maximising attack efficiency while minimising defensive exposure.

And using a sequence in combat allowed the students to free their minds from thought as their bodies automatically continued through the moves. Using sequences was more efficient and much quicker than considering and initiating each strike or block on its own, providing an enormous advantage over an opponent unfamiliar with the technique.

However, ingraining a new sequence so it could be properly executed was a long and laborious process. And even the tiniest mistake in the smallest of moves could render the entire sequence worthless.
 

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Saber training was physically demanding. Soon, she was breathing heavily from her exertions. But in addition, they were exhausting in other ways. They demanded intense mental focus, an attention to detail that went far beyond what was visible to the naked eye. True mastery of the blade required a combination of both body and mind.

When two Masters engaged in lightsaber combat, the action happened too quickly for the eye to see or the mind to react. Everything had to be done on instinct; the body had to be trained to move and respond without conscious thought. To accomplish this, the Padawans practiced sequences, carefully choreographed series of multiple strikes and parries drawn from their chosen style. The sequences were designed so that each manoeuvre flowed smoothly into the next, maximising attack efficiency while minimising defensive exposure.

And using a sequence in combat allowed the students to free their minds from thought as their bodies automatically continued through the moves. Using sequences was more efficient and much quicker than considering and initiating each strike or block on its own, providing an enormous advantage over an opponent unfamiliar with the technique.

However, ingraining a new sequence so it could be properly executed was a long and laborious process. And even the tiniest mistake in the smallest of moves could render the entire sequence worthless.
 

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The Jedi Master had spotted a flaw in Fiach’s technique – and the young Padawan was nothing if not a perfectionist. She was determined to fix it, even if it meant hours of practice in her own time. She was always relentless in this regard – not just in saber combat, but in all aspects of all of her studies.

“Enough,” the Master’s voice called out. At that single command all the students stopped what they were doing and turned their attention to the him. He was standing in the middle of the dojo.

“You may rest for ten minutes,”
he told them. “Then the challenges will begin.”

Fiach, along with most of the others, lowered herself into a meditative position, legs crossed and folded beneath her. Laying her training saber on the ground beside her, she closed her eyes and slipped into a light trance, drawing on the Force to rejuvenate her aching muscles and refresh her tired mind.

She relaxed completely, emptying her mind of conscious though and allowed the Force to flow through her. It seemed strange now that she could routinely connect with it. She had been here a full week, and had been applying the meditation techniques she’d been taught when suddenly she felt it properly for the first time. It was like flicking a switch on a device. One moment there was nothing and then she felt a surge of power as if plugged into a mains adaptor. In that instant she’d understood what the Force truly felt like. At that moment her transformation from Force Sensitive to Padawan had truly begun.
 

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Fiach heard the sounds of movement around her; the soft shuffle of robes as the other Padawans rose from their meditations and made their way toward the dojo. She grabbed her training saber with one hand and sprang to her feet to join them.

At the end of each session the class would gather in a wide, irregular circle. Any student could step into the circle and issue a challenge to another. The Master would observe the duels closely, and once it was over he would analyse the action for the class. There was never praise for winning, nor admonishment for losing. Yet, secretly, she knew the other Padawans kept some score of status in the informal hierarchy of the academy. Those who lost would suffer a blow to their prestige amongst their peers. Although not Fiach, who did not hold with such a thing.

When Fiach had first begun her training, many of the students had eagerly called her out. It wasn’t until someone explained to her that she realised why. It was not a sign of courtesy to a newcomer, but rather they knew she was new and less well-trained and they were eager to take someone – anyone - down in front of their classmates.
 

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In the past few months, Fiach had worked hard to learn her style and refine her technique. She learned new sequences quickly, and when the Master himself had commented on her progress, Fiach had simultaneously found the number of challenges dwindling. When she was called out, she no longer lost every time and now she was winning far more duels than she was losing. Today marked a day when she felt ready to take another step.

The Padawans were standing three rows deep, forming a ring of bodies around a clearing in the centre roughly ten metres in diameter. The Jedi Master moved to the middle of the circle – indicating that it was time for the challenges to begin. Fiach stepped into the centre before anyone else could make a move.

“I challenge Wolf,” she announced.

“I accept,” came the reply from somewhere in the crowd on the opposite side. The apprentices parted to let the one challenged pass. The Jedi Master gave a slight bow to each combatant and stepped to the clearing’s edge to give them room.

Wolf was a Zabrak. Like all of his species, he sported vestigial horns that crowned his head. He had a yellow skin tone but did not yet have any facial tattoos – which Fiach understood to be linked to their rite of passage. He was also tall and broad – and towered above the slim blonde Padawan.

Early in Fiach’s training, she had fought Wolf – and she had lost. All too easily.
 

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During their first duel Fiach had underestimated Wolf, expecting him to be sluggish and slow given his size. She wouldn’t make that mistake twice.

As the Master and other Padawans watched in silence, the two combatants circled each other in the ring, training sabers held out before them in standard ready stances. Fiach was learning the third Form diligently, but for now would utilise Shii-Cho – the first Form they were taught. Wolf’s breath came in grunts and growls as he clearly tried to intimidate her. The last time she’d faced the yellow-skinned apprentice, Fiach had been intimidated by his act. Now she simply ignored the posturing.

Fiach lunged out with a simple overhand strike, but Wolf responded with a quick parry to deflect the blow to the side. There was a crackle and hum of blades of energy crossing – they were set to be non-lethal but could still burn if they touched exposed skin. Immediately the combatants spun away from each other and resumed their ready positions.

Fiach rushed forward, her blade ascending diagonally from right to left in a long, swift arc. Wolf managed to redirect the impact with his own weapon, but lost his balance and stumbled back. Fiach tried to press her advantage, his training saber arcing up from left to right. Her opponent spun out of harm’s way, backpedaling quickly to create space. Fiach realised she’d risk overbalancing and broke off the half-completed sequence and settled back into the ready position.

Latent abilities in the Force allow Jedi to anticipate and react to the moves of foes. Here, however, every opponent enjoyed the same advantage. As a result, victory required a combination of the Force and physical skill.

Despite her small frame, Fiach had worked on acquiring that physical skill over the past months. As this ability grew, she was able to devote less and less of her mental energy to the physical actions of thrust, parry, and counterthrust. This allowed her to keep her mind focused so he could use the Force to anticipate her opponent’s moves, while at the same time obscuring and confusing her enemy’s own precognitive senses.
 

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The last time she and Wolf had fought, Fiach had still been a novice. She had only learned a handful of sequences. Now he knew almost a hundred, and he was able to transition smoothly from the end of one sequence into the beginning of another, opening up a wider range of attack-and-defence combinations. And more options made it more difficult for a foe to use the Force to anticipate her actions.

Wolf, despite his terrifying appearance, was slower than his human opponent. Physically outmatched by the brute force of Wolf’s Form V, Fiach knew that, as the spar continued, she would be forced to rely on the defensive style of Form III to keep her larger opponent’s overpowering attacks at bay.

But that was all part of her plan.

Spinning his training saber in a quick flourish, Wolf leapt high in the air and came crashing down from above. Fiach parried the attack but was knocked to the ground. She rolled onto her back and barely managed to get her saber up in time to block Wolf’s next slashing attack. Wolf’s blows descended like rain. Fiach managed to keep him from landing a direct hit with a masterful defensive flurry, then swept Wolf off his feet with a leg-whip, leaving them both supine.
 

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They flipped to their feet simultaneously, mirror images, and their sabers met with another resounding crash before they disengaged once again. There were some whispers from the assembled Padawans, but Fiach tuned them out. Maybe they had thought the battle was over...as had Fiach. She was disappointed that he hadn’t been able to close out her fallen opponent – it was a weakness that had been levelled at her time and time again. But he believed victory was near. Wolf’s survival had extracted a heavy toll: he was breathing in ragged gasps now, his shoulders slumping.

Once more, against her natural tendency, Fiach rushed Wolf again. This time, however, he didn’t back away. He stepped forward with a quick thrust, switching from Form III to the more precise and aggressive Form II. Fiach was caught off guard by the unexpected manoeuvre and was a microsecond slow in recognising the change. Her parry attempt knocked the tip of the blade away from her chest, only to have it slice across her right shoulder.

The crowd gasped, and Wolf howled in victory. Fiach called out in pain as her saber slipped to the ground.

Scrambling to her feet, Fiach extended her left hand to the training saber lying on the ground three metres away. It sprang up and into her palm, and she once again assumed the ready position, her right arm effectively dangling uselessly at her side – the pain in her shoulder too much to allow her to manipulate her arm. Some Jedi learned to fight equally well with either hand, but Fiach hadn’t yet reached that advanced stage. The weapon felt awkward and clumsy as she held it. Left-handed, he was no match for Wolf. The fight was effectively over – but she refused to give up.

Her opponent sensed it, as well. “Defeat is inevitable,” he growled, his voice deep and menacing. “You have lost.”

He wasn’t asking Fiach to yield; surrender was never an option in these spars, only the Jedi Master called an end to the encounter. Wolf was simply taunting her.

“You trained for weeks to challenge me,” Wolf continued, drawing out his mockery. “You failed. Victory is mine.”

“You talk a lot for a victor,”
Fiach snapped back. There wasn’t much else she could say. Everything her enemy said was true.

“This ends when I choose,” Wolf replied, refusing to be baited.

The eyes of the other Padawans turned to the Jedi Master – who remained impassive. As she realised this, the saber fell from her one good hand.

“You are too predictable,” Wolf explained, casually twirling his own saber in a complex and intricate pattern. “You are so far away from being accomplished.”

“No,”
Fiach said softly, thrusting her good hand out palm-forward even as Wolf leapt in to finish her off. He was caught in midair, hurling him back to the edge of the crowd where he landed at the Jedi Master’s feet.

The Master looked down and signalled for the bout to end. “There is more to duelling than your abilities with a blade,” he said to the assembled Padawans. “But not every opponent will give you the opportunity to use the Force against them. I hope you will both have learned from this,” he concluded, now switching his gaze to the prone Wolf.
 

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TRAINING DOJO

“A lightsaber—any weapon—only achieves worth in how it is wielded—in the effort, the struggle of one who holds it.”
― Kreia




Fiach was amazed when she realised how much she had learned about lightsaber combat in such a short period. But she also appreciated that she was a model pupil when it came to theory and non-contact practice, but fell way back once an opponent was introduced.

And she had also made the decision to learn from referred to a number of schools of martial arts. This was in part to complement duelling with a lightsabre and also to learn to defend herself without one – for Fiach’s approach was always to see conflict as a last resort and using a saber was invariably a defensive act.

It had taken a while to learn how to work with the unique attributes of lightsabers, notably the odd balance of the weapon, all of the weight being in the hilt, and the omni-directional cutting edge.

She had revelled in the theory of course – studying how the various combat forms owed their unique focuses and methods to the eras in which they were created, as they were developed to answer a new generation of weapons technology.

Duelling-centric Makashi was created during a time when lightsaber duels became a common occurrence. Soresu, on the other hand, was developed when such confrontations were rare, and Jedi were more likely to confront blaster-wielding opponents.
 

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Fiach revelled in lessons and was a diligent learner of not only the practical but the theoretical and almost more importantly the history of saber combat. She learned how the art of dueling had developed into seven ‘classic’ forms and numerous other styles. She also explored the now debunked theory that only a Force-sensitive individual could wield a lightsaber combat – although evidence showed that those that mastered the weapon who were not Force users could be counted on the fingers of one hand – over a period of millennia.

What differentiated them, was that the Jedi were trained to use the Force as a conduit between themselves and the weapon. Through this bond in the Force, the blade became an extension of them as if it were part of their body.

Of course, this link to the Force accounted for the almost superhuman agility and reflex illustrated in the use of the lightsaber.

Although the blade was weightless, two-handed slashes were the most common movement. This was because momentum was still needed to cut through solid objects, as solid objects were repelled by the blade arc until they were changed to gas or plasma. Therefore, momentum was required to counteract the initial repelling force. The stronger the swing, the faster and easier the blade would cut. If little force was applied to the swing, the repelling force of the blade arc would leave shallow cuts. When two lightsaber blades came in contact with each other, the two repelling forces made the blade appear to be solid. Also, the field that caused the energy to arc back into the hilt caused some gyroscopic effects. While technically weightless, the blade still had some resistance to changes in motion. The slight gyroscopic effects were easily controlled by a trained Force user, but were problematic for the untrained.
 

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Fiach diligently learned many of the Forms. She firmly believed that the way to identify your best Form was to learn them all – to a basic level – and see which best suited your natural abilities. And she also believed that she should have a second Form to fall back on. In part to become less predictable and also if her preferred style was proving ineffective.

Form I, Shii-Cho, logically came first. It was a highly simplified style, based on age-old fencing principles, and defined the types of attacks, parries, body zones and practice drills that could be used with the lightsaber. She then moved on to Form II, Makashi, a precise and efficient fighting form geared towards lightsaber dueling.

Next came the third form, Soresu, which she felt instinctively right for her, but the Jedi Masters insisted she persevered with the others before settling on one Form.

The came Ataru (form IV) and Shien and Djem So (both form V). One Jedi Master suggested this could be where her future lay – but she initially found their more aggressive style uncomfortable – but persisted regardless.

Lastly she learned the sixth form, Niman. Developed from the Jar’Kai dual-blade combat stylea more balanced Form, but without any specific strength as Fiach saw it.

She showed no interest in the seventh Form – and was relieved that the Masters did not routinely teach this to Padwans, due to the dangerous nature of the style and its level of aggression.
 

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Learning Shii-Cho was not just about the Form, she understood, but also all about learning the use of a saber and the basics of the fighting style. Attacks and parries were described by the body zones they targeted. Most attacks were executed with horizontal swipes, whilst parries were carried out with vertical moves meant to push the point of the enemy’s blade away. And she learned to parry and not block wherever possible – given the kinetic energy an attack could generate. To simply block could easily result in a broken bone, especially with Fiach’s lithe frame.

So, Fiach worked tirelessly on the zones.

A zone one attack consists of a vertical chop at the head, with the goal of vertically bisecting the opponent, and the corresponding parry is a horizontal one. A classic zone one attack was typically preceded by a high guard position, though the zone four parry position was also used for this purpose. The corresponding zone one parry position was a horizontal guard, with the blade held at head-height and angled across the body.

And she learned to deflect a zone one attack and to transition her parry into a zone two/three drop parry position.
 
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