A week (and a subjective eternity in Hell with a toothache) later, and I came to find a lot of responses and notes about Soresu, most especially from the Martial Lightsaberists out there. A few points were made that made me want to come back to Soresu and clarify some things and make a few additions to my original assessment.
Nonymous from Terra Prime Lightsaber Academy noted that my description of Soresu being both about patience and widdling down opponent reserves while also ending the fight as quickly as possible was contradictory. Both statements are, technically, correct. Soresu is about the wasting of resources, of making the opponent open up to be attacked or otherwise overreach themselves.
The problem is that the phrase ‘as quick as possible’ is a relative term for the Soresu user. Their whole shtick is to stand their ground and wait for the opponent to make the connection. And they can speed that along, a deflection here, a glancing blow there. While there are attacks to the opponent, the priority is on the defense of the user. Everything else is secondary. Soresu would be happy if the attacker just got tired and gave up.
We talk of establishing Scope, this is the limits of what Soresu sets out to do: Defend the user. The how is really not relevant. You defeat the opponent, you make them withdraw in defeat, you evade and leave the arena of conflict. The goal is not ‘to defeat’ but ‘to not get defeated’, and the Form takes that to its extreme.
It’s at this point we need to remember that the Forms are originally literary devices, and be given that level of extreme thinking while still miraculously making it functional in the world it inhabits. As we progress, we begin to find that these Forms only work on the most esoteric levels and even then it is with some stretching to find a common cause. Soresu is one of the more brazen examples of this. Grounding down something as vast as ‘Extreme Defense’ is not an easy task, especially with the martial side of the community that are striving to make these Forms practical. It is much easier for the writers and choreographers to make this work, as they are bound more to artistic license than martial science.
And, ironically, Soresu’s complexity and unsatisfying nature is brought up in universe as much as in real life. Several of the succeeding Forms were developed either in direct competition of, or to correct, the philosophy of Soresu. Having such a passive Form was a hard pill to take even to a large portion of the Jedi that they created other styles to compensate. That doesn’t mean Soresu is useless or not worthy of study or development, it just means that there is an inherent flaw in the philosophy that needs to be addressed by the users. This is true of most things in life.
As such, I will make an addendum to martial analogues. Soresu, being a defensive heavy form, can be likened in part to styles like the Aiki and Ju (either -do or -jitsu variations) in modern japanese martial arts. These styles prioritize redirecting the momentum of an opponent’s attack away from the user. Usually, these redirections and blocks would end with a joint lock or other manipulation of the opponent. Because the priority of Soresu is “defend one’s self” and not “take down the opposition”, the focus in translation should end at the redirection. The manipulation and use of force that would terminate is closer in philosophy to Form V. While this may not make much sense to the martial adherents that read this, I am establishing this line to differentiate between the two Forms. Yes, there is overlap, but before we can mix the colors, we need to define them as cleanly as possible first.
And now, a note. Initially I had planned these posts to be chapters in a book to be sold for charity. Some day, I may still do that if the community has interest. I’m glad that I didn’t do that yet. Because once the book was published, I would not be able to make this post.