Form V: Djem So and Shien

The fifth Form of lightsaber combat sees a deviation from the normal standard. Instead of one singular style, there are now two variations. They are known as Djem So and Shien. Together, they are known as the Perseverance Form or the Way of the Krayt. The Krayt Dragon is a massive beast native to the sands of Tatooine. It is considered rare to see a Krayt and even more rare to survive them.  That this form would have ties to Tatooine is fitting, as this is the Form most associated with both Anakin and Luke Skywalker.

Both versions of the form began development some time after the inception of Soresu, and roughly at the same time as Ataru. We know this because Form V was designed to answer the passivity of Soresu. Those combatants took the defensive nature of Soresu and combined it with the controlled aggression of Makashi, the second Form, to create something inherently different. Shien is considered to have been developed first and mirrors Soresu’s adept defenses, especially against long range attacks. Djem So was developed afterwards, and shares Makashi’s focus on one-on-one lightsaber dueling. We will go through each variation in depth seperately.

The core of Form V is what I call an active defense. By this, I mean that Form V functions on the principle of creating a hole in the opponents defenses to strike upon. This is opposed to Soresu, which was a more passive approach. Instead of creating an opportunity, Soresu users generally waited for one to present itself. Form V is much more proactive than that. Both variations take the attack of the opponent and use that attack to perform a counterstrike. If you gave an inch, Form V takes a mile. This often leads to the best defense against a Form V user is to not attack them directly.

As we are speaking of lightsaber combat and most research and thought has been done onIMG_0539 the Forms by people interested in lightsaber combat, we have the most information available about Djem So. While it was an amalgam of Makashi and Soresu, Djem So favored its Form II roots of lightsaber combat. However, it eschewed the finesse of Makashi and went a different route of attack.  Of all of the Forms, Djem So relies the most of sheer physical strength. It is characterized by attacking with wide and powerful strikes. The heart of Djem So was in its parrying and traps. Utilizing ones strength, a Djem So user could parry a strike and reply in kind or otherwise trap the opponents saber pressing the opponent down and in to a more vulnerable state.

Fighting a Djem So user is like going against a whirlpool. It will, if you let it, drag you further in until it traps you and overwhelms you. The goal was to dominate and overtake your opponent. Many Jedi considered Djem So to be an overly aggressive and brutal Form. While this was fine for the Dark Side, many Jedi who employed this Form had to find inner control to combat going over board.

The major weakness of Djem So was its lack of mobility. While it was more proactive than Soresu, it still required the opponent’s input to utilize its more advanced techniques. This made fighting any more than one opponent at a time especially difficult, as it required constant readjustment and diverted away the energy and power required to truly capture an opponent. Some may consider users lumbering, that is not necessarily the case.

Djem So users maintained the conservative nature of Makashi. They rooted themselves in a spot, maintaining their own stance and balance as they manipulate their attackers stance. No energy goes to waste, let the opponent waste theirs and put it to good your own use.

I found the details of Djem So to mirror that of the style I once studied: JiuJitsu. It is part of a family of martial arts styles, like Aikido, that rely and focus on the joint manipulation of the opponent using the energy of their own attack against them. Many people assume that one needs to have a large or strong physique to pull a joint lock or throw effectively. It’s mostly about taking the strength you have and using it to augment the action they use in your favor. They punch at you and you block the blow away, effectively parrying the strike and creating an opening for reprieve. Likewise, you could use the energy and direction of their strike and ride it, diverting their blow in to something more to your liking. These styles are about redirecting kinetic energy, of making that which belonged to your opponent in to yours.

In terms of swordplay, I can think of no greater analogue than European Longsword. While there are some principles of longsword that I mentioned coincide with those of Makashi, there are other tactical advantages. European, especially the German styles, used the flat and cross guard to trap the opponents strike and create an opening. Like Djem So and the grappling arts mentioned above, it was not a mobile form.

It should also be noted that longsword was prominently used in the Luke/Vader fights in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The fights in the Original Trilogy were built using primarily kendo and longsword. Keep in mind that none of the fights we’ve seen in the series has been built with the Forms in mind. So the connection between description of Form V and the actual martial art used lends credence.

Shien is a difficult Form to nail down by its nature. To put it simply, Shien is built on the IMG_0545principle that a lightsaber blade can block most energy based attacks, including blaster fire. With Soresu, the goal is to merely deflect away from the defender. With Shien, however, the goal is to return the attack back to sender. It is best against groups, using their combined fire to use against the group as a whole.

Unfortunately, and I know it’s weird for me to say this, but lightsabers aren’t real and blaster technology isn’t there yet. On the above description alone, Shien is the one Form that is the hardest to translate. Even Soresu is There have been some discussions by people in the past to ignore Shien as a Form when trying to translate. I’m not a fan of this decision, on the grounds that there is some information we can glean. This is a theory, one that is up for discussion and evolution. Take it with a grain of salt.

Let’s look back at Shien’s ranged applications. For all intents, the user can ricochet a blaster bolt to a target. The more targets, the better the chance the bolt would would strike. We also know that it would have utilized more physical finesse than Djem So, probably in the similar vein of Soresu in that it would use both blade and body to deflect and evade attacks.

We also know that it did, at times, utilize an underhand grip. The underhand grip is something in both lightsabers and martial arts that is overly mythologized in movies. It is preferred for close in slashing, or when you are using a long weapon on closed in spaces or preparing a downwards stab. It can help enforce blocking with the forearm, not unlike the japanese tonfa. However, the grip reduces a lot of power, reach and stability due to the angle and the less stronger musculature. The pinkie and lower forearm just aren’t equipped. Realistically, underhand grip is good for transitions, or if you are in cramped quarters. It should not be the only means of using the blade, any blade. Remember that Shien comes from both Makashi and Soresu. Both of these Forms rely on economy. Waste nothing.

With this in mind, I see Shien as being a style that relies on infighting, evasion, and corralling your opponent(s). I can see a user getting inside a person’s defense through speed, instead of Djem So’s strength. They get in and get out using quick strokes. You approach, you block and use it to enter their space with an attack, you leave and prepare for the next run. The strike can be a definitive Mark, or it can be death of a thousand shiim. Depends on how long the user The Shien user would need to be more evasive than fight head on, using the environment or other opponents to create obstacles or cover to allow them time to set up for the next exchange. The style simply wouldn’t be built for overt strength of arms, or a protracted fight. A shoto, or short bladed saber, would best used in order keep the bladework as tight as possible in the confined spaces.

Again, this is a theory based on the information we have, and the Forms are not yet written in stone. This is one area where more discussion, research and experimentation can be done. As a researcher of the Forms, I look forward to the different interpretations.

Form V marks a turning point in the development of the Forms. Instead of creating new styles, they sought within to create a synthesis of ideas and methods to make something new and (depending on whom you ask) improved. This concept of synthesis of technique and philosophy is taken to its final conclusion in the last two Forms.

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8 thoughts on “Form V: Djem So and Shien

  1. Great post! One thing I would like to know–in the Makashi post, you touched on how the Form is not strictly a one-handed form, even if it is usually used that way. I would love a comparable explanation on how Djem So might not be solely a two-handed form, or if that would even be a realistic route for the Form.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Djem So can be done one handed. It would require more in terms of arm and body strength and some slight maneuvering. The goal would be to find the leverage point on the opponent’s attack and focus there.

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  2. In regard to shien. I was watching the video by Terra prime on underhand grip and when you could use it and something clicked.

    I think your right shien is about getting in close. If you look at a battlefield and think about an aggressive shien user. Your deflecting shots at people but where are you going. Closing distance on your attackers and if you go in close to a guy are his buddies going to shoot? If your three feet away swinging a sword maybe but if your against him driving a reverse grip into him? No I think not. I think that is why some of the Jedi use the reverse grip all the time its a reminder to go in close. Also from that video the use of going in reverse to counter attack from unconventional angles makes since as well. Dejem so is power counter attack shien is just using finesse and surprise

    Just my two cents

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