Form II: Makashi
"Eloquence belongs to the Conqueror" - System of a Down
The Second Form of Lightsaber Combat is Makashi. In Canon, it is referred to as the Contention Form, or the Way of the Ysalamiri. This is an appropriate name, as the Ysalamiri in the Star Wars Universe have the ability to nullify the Force.
After Lightsabers became the norm in a Force-User's life, it was only a matter of time before they decided to turn the weapon on each other. This came around the same time as the arrival of Dark Jedi. Makashi was the answer. It uses precision cuts, thrusts, parries and feints, and it relied on a linear (back and forth) mode of footwork. Where Shii Cho was double handed, broad, blatant and relied on the whole arm and forward motion, Makashi is one handed, precise, subtle, and relied on wrist control and body movement which bordered on dancing.
The Main, and really only, example of Makashi in the Star Wars movies is in the form of Count Dooku, former Jedi Master and Sith Lord. He is the overall template for what Form II use is. He uses clean movements without the usual elaboration that is inherent in the fighting styles of his opponents. When someone attacks high, he blocks high. When they attack low, he blocks low. However, it should be noted that while Dooku is the Prime Example of Form II, not every move he does should be considered Makashi. As a rule, users of the Form were encouraged to take from the other forms to make up for disadvantages as well as to negate predictability.
Makashi is inarguably The Duelist's form. Like Shii Cho, it follows it principles of "Keep It Simple". It doesn't go for flash, and isn't one for flourishing in combat. It's quick, controlled motions however can be confused for flourishing. It protected the main body in rapid arcs and body motions. In forms where a person's physical attributes were key, this form is made more dangerous by the people using it. It required a person of Keen Intellect with a sense of timing to make this a truly monstrous form. There are many who believe that users of this form would be the clear victors of any duel against another form (such as Shii Cho). Makashi is not a game breaker, but it definitely has the advantage in this field.
However, Form II doesn't come without its own hang-ups. It was focused strongly on one opponent, and the more opponents that are on the field, the more difficult it could become. This can be fixed by modifying the form, but as seen in the fights with Dooku, he is often forced to eliminate one opponent before
he can make a dent. After the Battle of Russan, where the Sith were all but destroyed (with the exception of Two), the need for lightsaber combat passed. Blasters were now becoming the prominent weapon in the Galaxy and Form II was not developed to deal with ranged attacks. This weakness is addressed in Form III: Soresu.
Philosophically, Makashi is a very interesting Form. It tells you something about the way lightsaber duels were treated in the time. There were standardized salutes, and the entire form is built around the concept of one on one dueling. If this is the case (I have not read stories from the Old Republic era, so I don't know), then battles in the Old Republic could have been Champion Warfare, where one specific member held sway in battle, or the war was decided by several specific fighters. The main example of this is in the Iliad, and other iterations of the Trojan War.
Another key factor in this form was the Users themselves. This was a style that promoted modifications based on the personal limitations of the User. Many of the Form II users had a confidence that bordered on aristocratic arrogance, and some of the users are far past that border. This form was also a specialist form in the sense that it was meant for one thing only: taking on other Force Users. This makes Jedi who use them a special breed, and fits into the combative nature of Dark Jedi and Sith.
It makes sense that this form would come immediately after Shii Cho. Form I focused on controlling the blade, understanding the lightsabers movements and being able to move with it. Makashi is the refinement of that. Now that you know how to wield the blade, you can now refine that control. This is seen in the Marks of Contact Shiim and Shiak (Grazing and Stabbing, respectively). Shiim is a grazing motion, and requires knowing how to stop the blade and not maim. Control like that is what Shii Cho teaches. Shiak is being able to stab precisely anywhere on the body, which is perfectly in line with Makashi's blade work. You need to learn one to understand the other, and together, they were instrumental in mastering blade work.
From every single description, it is clear that Makashi is based on Fencing. Its focus on single handed attacks, back and forth motions, finesse, elegance, economy of motion and its preference in dueling, all lean towards this form of martial art. The main question that crops up in the community is which version of fencing would fit mostly? Is it Olympic Fencing (Foil, Epee, and Saber), with its controlled motions and linear
movements? Is it Recreationist Fencing (as seen in Renaissance Faires) with its more fluid, more naturally and gracefully combative approach? Is it something else entirely?
The answer I came up with is, well, "yes". If the basis of all saber use (Shii Cho) is from the amalgamated basics of sword use, then the basis of sword against sword combat should be the amalgamated basics of dueling forms. It has the structure of Olympic Fencing with its linear cadence, as well as a focus on attacking the body core while it keeps the combative nature of recreationist Fencing. Recreationist Fencing and Saber Fencing also take into account cutting. A lightsaber is a cutting weapon, it would be impractical to deny that use. Another good analogue is the use of the jian or Chinese Straight Sword. It is more flourishy than the fencing forms, but it's attacks still keep with the overall feel of Makashi.
A system that lends itself nicely to producing the effect of Fencing is the Letters system. The Letters focus on several specific points of the body: shoulder, hips, head, groin and thrusting areas in the body's core. The letters form a sort of attack pattern on each. Having learned this system from its strongest supporters in the community, I know that it is at the least a tool to learn quick movements that are precisely aimed at the target. There are no general area attacks; if you're to attack (Stage Combat attack, not real life attack) the shoulder then you will attack the shoulder, not the arm below it or the neck above it. This system was taught by a fencer and is used in many of the different branches of the community as well as several recreationist/Ren Faire groups.
There are quite a few fencers in the Saber Community, many of them are Masters and Teachers within the community. Chief among them are Justin Tausig (known by his Jedi handle Raphael), World Class Olympic Fencer; TJ Glenn (Master Martinez), veteran Fight Coordinator, writer, and Actor; Scot Ferra (Cyran Oghma), fencing and stage combat teacher (he gave us the Letter System), as well as Eskrimador; Alfie Supan (Ecaris), professional ballet dancer; Brian van Kuik (Taomoon) and Maria Nowak (Azure Dragon) who are the Founders of Long Island Jedi; and Daniel Reiser (Magnius) who teaches Historical Fencing and performs in Ren Faires.
Other fencers include Brandon Hughes (Glee/Spike); Joseph Shumaker (Zander); Dante Close (Dorren Nagal) and Irshad Mustafa (Darth Shaddious). All of these members can easily be put as Makashi users. There is currently no Complete Form/Kata for Makashi.
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