Why Jedi & Sith Fight With Lightsabers (& Not The Force)

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Maul's lightsabers clash in The Clone Wars

The Jedi and Sith show off many force powers throughout the Star Wars franchise, but generally prefer to use lightsabers in combat. At first using a melee weapon, no matter how powerful, may seem inefficient given all the Force and technological options available to the Jedi and their Dark Side counterparts. However, Star Wars canon has established clear reasons why Force users prefer to fight with lightsabers instead.

Lightsabers have been a key part of the Star Wars mythos since the first movie, perfectly symbolizing the blend of sci-fi and fantasy that makes Star Wars special. Using futuristic swords helps the Jedi symbolically echo medieval knights pr Japanese samurai. Although Star Wars has shown that non-Jedi can use ligihtsabers, the weapon is still very much associated with Force-users. While the symbolic significance and “cool factor” of lightsabers is clear, there are in-universe ways in which Star Wars has justified them being the Jedi’s primary weapons over the years.

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Jedi & Sith Can Protect Themselves With The Force

Darth Bane from Star Wars

While Force powers such as telekinesis and the famous “Jedi mind trick” may seem very useful when faced with a hostile Sith, experienced Force-users learn to shield themselves from the use of other Force techniques on themselves. This was discussed in Drew Karpyshyn’s novel Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, which depicts Jedi trainees learning to use Force Shields to protect themselves from hostile uses of the Force. While this book has since been taken out of canon and branded a Star Wars “Legend” following Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012, most of the basic Force mechanics from Legends seem to have been folded into canon, and the existence of force shielding provides an easy way to explain why Jedi and Sith don’t use the Force on each other.

The idea Jedi can’t be directly affected by a hostile Force, or at least not unless by a significantly stronger Force user, is fairly consistent across Star Wars. Even in elaborate battles such as those between Yoda and Palpatine in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith the combatants use the Force to manipulate surrounding objects or the environments but never against one another directly. The lightsaber remains the best way to directly attack another Force-user.

Jedi & Sith Learn To Use Lightsabers From An Early Age

Jedi Training Academy

The reason why Jedi are such prolific users of lightsabers is that the weapon is a key part of their training. Jedi padawans are trained to see the lightsaber as an extension of themselves, using their Force abilities to greatly enhance their handling of the difficult weapon. The same is true of the Sith, who receive their knowledge of lightsabers either from their masters or from abandoned Jedi training. Lightsabers also play a key role in Jedi rituals, such as the knighting ceremony.

This familiarity with lightsabers makes them a natural weapon for Jedi and Sith, even moreso than the force. Forcing too much on breaking through the enemy’s Force shield could be dangerous, leaving one open to a much quicker lightsaber strike. For this reason, Jedi and Sith train extensively in various forms of lightsaber combat to make sure they are able to address threats directly.

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Lightsabers Are More Intimidating Than Force Powers

Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu pointing his lightsaber towards the camera in Revenge of the Sith

The visual appearance of a lightsaber isn’t just stunning to the Star Wars audience, but also to the in-universe foes that the Jedi and Sith may combat. The brightly-colored blade lets enemies know of the Jedi’s power ahead of time, and can prevent fights before they even begin. This suits the Jedi’s role as peacekeepers and problem-solvers whose reputation lends them authority. Even in the first Star Wars film when the Jedi are semi-forgotten, Luke Skywalker is still entranced by the appearance of a lightsaber. In comparison to the slower and often invisible impact of Force powers, a lightsaber is much more of a show of force.

Jedi and Sith also maintain their power by keeping a certain mystique around their actual Force abilities. Using Jedi mind tricks and telekinesis constantly would reveal too much of what they are capable of. Sith similarly rely upon secrecy and intimidation, keeping their most powerful abilities hidden until the time is right. Lightsabers provide a flashy way to strike down one’s enemies without giving too many secrets away.

Palpatine Preferred The Force To Lightsabers

Darth Sidious demonstrating his Force lightning technique in Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Despite the general superiority of lightsabers for close-quarters combat, some Jed and Sith do prefer using the Force to destroy their enemies. Most notably, Emperor Palpatine is rarely seen fighting with a lightsaber, instead using his powers, particularly Force lightning. This technique is exclusive to the dark side of the Force, and hence most Jedi were unprepared to defend against it after decades without a Sith threat.

Palpatine provides an example of a case where Force powers can be more effective than a lightsaber. Although Palpatine could use a lightsaber, he was physically weaker than his Jedi adversaries, but had greater access to the Force. In a situation such as this, where one combatant has such a significant advantage in the Force, the usual Jedi defenses that lead to lightsaber use are powerless.

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Darth Vader’s Defeat Of Obi-Wan Showed How Weak The Jedi Had Become

Darth Vader duels with Obi-Wan in Obi-Wan Kenobi

Another example of where a Force user was able to overcome his opponent through sheer Force power was the duel between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan in the Disney+ Obi-Wan Kenobi show. In their first battle in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan badly wounded Anakin Skywalker in a lightsaber-heavy fight on the planet Mustafar. However, when they next met Darth Vader easily overpowered the Jedi, only choosing to leave Obi-Wan alive to emphasize the humiliation.

In this one-sided encounter, Darth Vader directly moved Obi-Wan with the Force and used it to manipulate flames to lick his face, in an echo of their encounter on Mustafar. Vader showed Obi-Wan he was now so powerful he didn’t even have to worry about the Jedi’s lightsaber skills or mind shield. While Darth Vader and Obi-Wan later have a more evenly-matched fight, this incident reflects the decline of the Jedi in strength and the rise of the Sith. This defeat may also have influenced Anakin and Yoda in emphasizing lightsaber fighting in Luke Skywalker’s training, knowing that the weapon is still the best way to take out an opponent relying on the Force in Star Wars.

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