Lightsaber combat is the preferred method of fighting used by the Jedi and Sith, which is based on ancient sword-fighting techniques.
Throughout the millennia since its creation, lightsaber combat has developed into seven "classic" forms that serve as the standard, and numerous other fighting methods that call for advanced levels of skill.
All seven traditional lightsaber forms include the same basic techniques as ancient sword-fighting styles, such as defensive postures, overhand strikes, parries, and counters. They were designed to compensate for the gyroscopic effect inherent in lightsabers, and take advantage of the Force-sensitivity common in most wielders.
Using a lightsaber for combat is difficult to master for a number of reasons, one of them being that all of the weight a lightsaber has is in its hilt, and the gyroscopic effect caused resistance to changes in motion, or built up momentum so quickly than an untrained wielder could lose control of the weapon. It has been said that only a Force-sensitive individual can completely master lightsaber combat.
When lightsabers first replaced the older, traditional swords of metal the first Form was created. Known as Shii-Cho, it is based on ancient sword-fighting traditions and the basic principles of blade combat remain much the same. The basics of attack, parry, body target zones, and the practice drills called velocities are all here. Sometimes called the ideal form, Form I used horizontal side-swipes and parries made with the blade of the lightsaber held upright to push the point of an enemy's blade away during a side-to-side attack. If the attack is a downward slash aimed at the head, Form I simply reversed the motion, with a horizontally-held lightsaber being moved up and down to deflect a blow. Younglings, the Jedi initiate rank, first learn Form I before they begin a Padawan apprenticeship with a master.
The ultimate refinement of lightsaber-to-lightsaber combat became Form II, advancing the precision of blade manipulation to its finest possible degree and producing the greatest dueling masters the galaxy has ever seen. Known as Makashi, this ancient Jedi Knight lightsaber combat technique was developed when pikes and staves were more common in the galaxy. Form II emphasized fluid motion and anticipation of a weapon being swung at its target, allowing the Jedi to attack and defend with minimal effort. In the time near the Clone Wars, the Jedi Order seldom practices this technique. There is, if at all, so little lightsaber-to-lightsaber combat involved in a Jedi's life that Jedi have found it not practical. Even with the resurgence of the Sith, confrontation of an enemy with a lightsaber is an exceedingly rare prospect for a Jedi, so they continue to focus on more practical Forms. Sith expecting to battle lightsaber-wielding Jedi, however, find Form II a powerful technique.
Known as Soresu, Form III was developed by the Jedi Knights, after blaster weapons became the normal weapon of choice among criminals and underworld beings. Form III thus arose from "laserblast" deflection training. Over the centuries it has transcended this origin to become a highly refined expression of non-aggressive Jedi philosophy. Form III uses tight, efficient moves, leaving no target areas exposed compared to the relatively open style of some of the other Forms. Unlike Form II combat, which was developed to work against another lightsaber, Form III is most effective in anticipating and deflecting blaster fire. It stresses quick reflexes and fast positional transition, in order to overcome the rapidity with which a blaster can be fired. True form III masters are believed almost invincible. But as a side effect, this form isn't useful in attack.
Form IV is the most acrobatic Form ever developed. Known as Ataru, this was one of the more recent lightsaber combat techniques, developed by the Jedi Knights during the last decades of the Old Republic. In this Form the Jedi uses all of the ways in which the Force helps them go beyond what is physically possible, heavily emphasizing Jedi abilities to run, jump, and spin in phenomenal ways by using the Force. In order to achieve the acrobatic prowess, amazing reflexes and physical punch of this form, a Jedi focuses on the Force, letting it flow deeply throughout their entire physicality, even allowing them to overcome the limitations of old age. This form of lightsaber combat is astonishing to watch, filled with elaborate moves in the center of which a Jedi may be all but a blur. The Form has found a niche among the eager padawan learners of the time, who believed that the Jedi needed to become more involved in rooting out crime and evil and eradicating it.
Known as Shien, Form V is known for its power. It was developed by Form III practicioners that preferred a more offensive angle and felt that while the defensive nature of Form III proved to be undefeatable it could not overcome the enemy and only dangerously prolonged combat. Form V focuses on strength and lightsaber attack moves. This Form maintains its existence through having sufficient defensive skills, as derived from Form III, but channeling defense into offense. The example is commonly that while Form III combatants effortlessly deflect blaster bolts, Form V practicioners excel at redirecting the bolt towards the opponent. This at the same time defends the user and efficiently injures the enemy. To many Jedi it represents the philosophy of "peace through superior firepower", and might seem a worthy discipline, prepared for any threath. Others debated the philosophy of Form V, claiming that it directs inappropriate focus on hurting another being.
Known as Niman, this Form balances the emphases of other Forms with overall moderation, in keeping with the Jedi quest to achieve true harmony and justice without resorting to the rule of power. At the beginning of the Clone Wars, Form VI is the current standard for Jedi. It is considered the "diplomat's Form" because it is less intensive in its demands than the other disciplines, allowing Jedi to spend more time developing their knowledge of political strategy and negotiation - along with their own perceptions - to reach a peaceful decision with minimal bloodshed. In practice, Form VI is a combination of Forms I, III, IV, and V, emphasizing the use of those techniques in overall moderation. Young Jedi spend their first few years studying Form I and then a year or two with each additional Form before completing their training. By comparison, a Form VI master will spend at least ten years studying only that Form after completing the basic Form I training. Form VI well suits the modern Jedi's role in the galaxy, in which a Knight overly trained in martial combat might be at a loss to resolve a complex political conflict between star systems. However, full masters of other Forms sometimes consider Form VI to be too demanding of the Jedi's time in regards to its benefits on the battlefield.
Only high-level masters of multiple Forms can achieve and control the ultimate descipline known as Form VII. It's still under development since so few can achieve the necessary mastery to advance the art. Known as Juyo, it is the most difficult and demanding of all forms, but leads to fantastic skill and power. This Form employs bold, direct movements, more open and kinetic than Form V but not so elaborate in appearance as Form IV. Form VII uses wide and open lightsaber moves, combined with Force-assisted jumps and movements. Form VII employed the use of overwhelming power directed through unconnected, staccato swings and movements that kept an opponent continually off-guard. But this is also what makes it a lot more difficult to execute, than the linked move sequences of Form IV. This Form requires the intensity of Form V, but uses more energy since that focus is wielded more broadly because of the wider moves. The outward bearing of a Form VII practitioner is one of calm, but the inner pressure is extremely focused, drawing upon a deeper well of emotion than even Form V, yet masters it more fully. This form is at the time of the Clone Wars still under development, as few Jedi have mastered it fully. This form is rather dangerous, when used by untrained and unfocused minds. The deep well of emotions can lead to the release of anger. And trigger temptations towards the Dark Side. Form VII is still under development since so few can achieve the necessary mastery to advance the art.