The Shi-Chi Sutaru AKA The Seven Styles
At First Strike Light-saber Combat Simulations not only do we run martial arts based light-saber combat classes, but we also facilitate ‘battle scale’ live action roleplay Star Wars™ themed events.
The purpose is to school students in our art of Shi-chi Sutaru – the 7 styles – or forms as they are more commonly referred to. We run progressive classes based around the 7 forms, with each year having an annual theme whereby we may touch on a style the student perhaps may otherwise not have access to from the different elements of the Jar Kai, or Secondary Skill.
In class we will typically concentrate on learning the 7 forms and progress from there. Within the Sutaru we use our own specific icon to identify your leaning within the Temple. To get our Combatants ready to take part in immersive live action missions, based around a strong story line with clear opposing forces and team agendas and identities, you must be able to participate safely, and that is where learning ‘Form’ becomes so important.
If you have yet to choose your path, you will wear a grey shirt and the elements of the Sutaru badge will be side by side, if you have been sent along the path of the light as a budding Jedi, the white element of the Sutaru will be uppermost however if you have fallen to the path of the dark side of the force and fight aggressively, you will bear the mark of the fallen with the Sutaru icon, black dominant and uppermost.
The 7 styles of the Shi-chi Sutaru are as follows:
Form 1 - Shii-Cho:
Shii-Cho is the first and most basic form of Light-saber melee. It is the foundation of the Shi-chi Sutaru, based on the basics of European medieval sword fighting, including strike zones, parries and blocks and japanese cutting techniques. It is primarily a two handed form, relying on pulled, sliding cuts and withdrawing techniques where the user quickly returns to a defensive guard at the earliest opportunity.
These techniques are most effective when the user has fluid body movement and flow in their techniques, whilst transitioning from one technique to the next.
It focuses mainly on simplicity. Philosophically, Shii-Cho follows the principle of KISS – “Keep it simple, safe.” Its guard is strong and its movements are controlled and deliberate, making it dangerous in a defensive form with effective, solid attacks. It appears to lack flair but serves well as an effective and stable groundwork for progression.
Form 2 – Makashi
This is an aggressive but elegant form with relentless attack from a linear posture, this is primarily designed to wear down their opponent with continual forward attacks. Precise, forward sliding edge cuts and efficient footwork are a fundamental characteristic, along with a single-handed use of the saber, based around dynamic movement.
Its linear style however, makes it vulnerable to multiple opponents or attacks from several directions or attacks on the users weak side. The actual combat form derives form 19th century epée and sabre fencing. With swift cuts, the lunge and more linear footwork, Makashi provides a strong offence, quick footwork and working with range and timing at the expense of defence.
Each thrust has to be very precise and delivered on the lunge although we are aiming to run the edge of the sabre along the target to prevent ‘stab impacts’. Attacks are launched from a linear posture with the tip of the sabre outside the opponents ‘body silhouette’, where one has to retreat quickly should the thrust be parried or miss or attack before their opponent can recover.
Exponents of Makashi also frequently specialise on what to do if they are disarmed and will often be proficient in forms of Zatan, hand to hand combat. Weaker in defence than Shii-cho, it more than makes up for it in attack. Attack can be seen as the best form of defence, and this is very popular amongst the ranks of the fallen.
Form 3 – Soresu
A natural evolution from Shii-cho and the second of the two handed forms, it is considered by some to be the first form of true light-saber combat. Soresu exponents may try to outlast and tire their opponent out or lure them into making a mistake, leaving an opening for a rapid counterstrike or flourishing death blow.
Soresu utilises diagonal attacks and blocks as it’s basis, adding to the repertoire of strong double handed strikes learnt in Shii-Cho. Other methods within Soresu designed to draw out mistakes may include feint attacks and taunts or even deliberate shows of perceived weakness or distraction. Controlled aggression and fast, linked attacks are the key to Soresu.
Soresu provides the user with a strong defence, and teaches timing for the counter-attack. It is predominantly on appearance, a defensive style but underpinned by strong, fast counterattacks where the user will bide their time before going in for the kill at an opportune moment.
Form 4 - Ataru
A very dynamic combat form, Ataru requires its users to be proficient in varied levels of acrobatics. It makes most other styles look very slow and deliberate in comparison, and users can often out manoeuver most other styles. Often sacrificing defence in favour of impressive attacks, Ataru could be considered an ‘all or nothing’ form of offense.
Users will often learn, leaps rolls and flips and learn Ukemi – the art of break falling and tumbling and ‘receiving’ the fall, turning it into a form of protection or attack. Ataru is the most acrobatic form, and it relies heavily on the ability of the practitioner to call on their fitness to underpin their physical abilities. It is accepted that an Ataru user may be considered proficient once they have mastered Ukemi however a true Ataru user will never be considered a master in this form until the full acrobatic level of skills are achieved. First Strike Light-saber combat simulations Ataru is based around Japanese Ukemi, elements of parkour and other gymnastics and as a style is considered to be very much open to interpretation.
Whilst one user is duelling against another Ataru wielding opponent, it often becomes a contest of agility and endurance. Effective use of Ataru requires good fitness levels and high levels of flexibility to take advantage of a strong offense based on relentless attacking. It can also be used as a series of leaps and dives to evade attacks or to recover disarmed weapons.
Viewed by some as unnecessarily flamboyant and difficult to truly master, it neverless is an extremely fearsome ‘all or nothing’ combat form.
Form 5 - Djiem So
Djiem So could be considered an offensive form where superior strength and aggression play a vital part in both attack and defence. The focus is offense so the user can also open themselves up to an attack at the expense of a strong defence. The key is control. Djiem So is considered to be one of the most aggressive forms of light-saber combat.
It encourages the practitioner to use their own strength in the combat, and when used by exponents of the dark side they are also encouraged to draw on their rage and hatred and channel it into their attacks. It’s focus is most definitely on attack.
Another two handed form, Djem so bases its techniques loosely around Feudal Japanese sword work, where historically users would have been wielding Katana and also Kendo and Iaido techniques are also relevant. From the perspective of the light side Djem So can be achieved through peace and meditation from the Dark side its achieved through rage and anger.
Form 6 - Niman
Niman is a balance of all the other forms within the Shi-Chi Sutaru and it is often referred to as the diplomat’s form or the jack of all trades. It is less intensive in its demands than the other forms, but they are more rounded, and users enjoy the best of everything and the worst of nothing.
The strength of a Niman practitioner is just how far they have studied each form. A true master is an expert in each form and thus able to use all advantages in their favor. However, most Niman users study it only to the extent of being moderate in all forms, but Niman is the molding of the first 5 styles into their own style very much based on knowledge of the other forms and more often than not mastery in none of them.
Niman users are often regarded as lesser swordsmen than masters of the other forms however true mastery of the first 5 styles and used to create your own form of Niman can lead to the birth of an expert swordsman indeed. It is also considered the most difficult of all styles to master given that it is a little bit of everything.
Form 7 - Juyo
Juyo’s strength lies in the speed with which attacks are delivered to their target and is often considered to be a mastery and amalgamation of all styles, perfected and performed with speed and precision. It is considered the ultimate level of light-saber combat.
Juyo is the most demanding of all forms. It requires mastery of multiple forms. It requires an immense amount of skill, focus, endurance and calm. The emphasis is that a user will apply enhanced speed and skill to the previous forms, then use this to overwhelm their opponent.
Juyo requires mastery in at least 3 other forms and proficiency in all others to be considered for study such is the level of technique required to be able to use such techniques at the level of speed and precision required within Juyo.
Whilst not a form on its own, it refers to the ability to use other or additional weapons such as wielding two light-sabers at once within a particular form. Needless to say, this is only possible within single handed forms. It also covers the use of specialised weapons such are ‘spear’ light-sabers and double bladed of ‘Bo’ sabers, and unarmed techniques.
First Strike Lightsaber Combat Simulations operate a system of an annual Jar Kai where in a particular year we will study a certain element of Jar Kai as an interest lesson so students can then practice additional techniques themselves outside of the Shi Chi Sutaru but form no part of grading within the Shi Chi Sutaru.
Within the Shi Chi Sutaru, Jar Kai is translated to mean ‘The secondary Skill’
Some forms of Jar Kai are as follows:
Zatan – unarmed techniques Botan – use of a double bladed light-saber
Kai Zen – using two light-sabers Nagatan – Use of spear or halberd Lightsaber
Overall people learn several forms, and master one or sometimes all. Whether anyone chooses to master only one or several is down to personal preference. It can be considered a good swordsman doesn’t adhere to a particular form, but learns their favourite techniques and creates their own using extensive variations, thus adding a new, powerful element: surprise. Masters of the forms will, of course, refute this. The key, however, to true mastery, is constant training.