Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lightsaber Battles

For those of you who can't watch videos, what follows is basically making fun of the lightsaber sequences in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Intriguingly, they focus mainly on the stage-fighting aspects (of, you know, a staged fight) and entirely skip over the part where Darth Maul's weapon is carefully designed to help you to eviscerate yourself.

(True story: I once spoke to fellow who makes custom swords - he was making one for me, in fact - and listened to him complain about some of the design requests he gets. The one that particularly worried him was a request for a double-bladed weapon, not unlike Darth Maul's lightsaber, with a katana blade on either end of the central handle. The blades would have their edges aligned in opposite directions, giving the weapon overall a slight "S" shape. This would essentially guarantee that any horizontal slash with the lead blade would automatically and unavoidably carry the rear blade into the owner's body, sharp-edge first.)

Traditional designs may not look as exciting as fantasy weapons, but there are good reasons why they became traditional. Not killing the people who were trying to use them was a big part of that process.

This is still funny, though:


  1. I would think that the "fantasy" style of sword would make you fight better. You know, kind of like how new shoes made you run faster as a kid :)

  2. Yep, just exactly like that. Works just about that well, too. Well, except for the part where a new pair of shoes is a bit less likely to leave you bleeding on the floor.

  3. I'm *sure* there's lots of stuff out there on how to write (let alone draw) believable combat scenes. But could you particularly recommend a vid or tut for a beginner?

    Or, more of the above would do. After reading pages and pages of critiques of fantasy female armor, I did start to get the sense of how it *ought* to work.


  4. Are you more interested in the writing, or the drawing? If it's writing, then several years back when I was heavily involved with an online writing/roleplaying site, I put together a class on Writing Combat. It's oriented towards Robert Jordan's Wheel Of Time milieu, but a lot of it's pretty generally applicable.

    For drawing, you really need realistic models. Weapons and armor - even fantasy weapons and armor - benefits from using historical models, much like drawing guns does. Lord of the Rings did a good job of creating fantasy weapons that were still compatible with historical designs; the original Conan, featured blades that would have been insanely heavy just to carry around, let alone swing.

    For action scenes - fights and the like - I'd generally recommend finding a competent martial artist, asking a lot of questions, and maybe seeing if there are a couple of senior students who'd be willing to run through a simple exchange and let you take pictures that you could use as models. A working knowledge of human biology helps, too.

    Either way, research is essential.

    1. Um, both?

      That comic with the gun is a stitch. So is the other one...have you ever seen the classic where her boobs sort of counter rotate around the bullet...?

      Anyway, I think your advice to find a competent martial artist is excellent, which is why I'm bugging you. So, teach, now that I've followed the link, completed one of your assignments, (& even read the follow-up post) would you care to critique it? Pretty-please? It's only about 1-1/4 pages... If so lemme know where to send it.


    2. Sure - you can post it here, or email it to michaelmock {at} mockwriting [dot} com.

  5. The original lightsaber stuff in Episode IV was based on Kendo. There's plenty of information around; if you're in a major metropolitan area or a college town, there may be a local Kendo organization. If you're reasonably respectful (no "lookit the funny people!!), they're generally happy to have observers.

    One thing to watch out for -- Kendo is a sport based on a combat art, and as such, it's acquired a lot of funky rules that would be grossly out of place in combat.


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