- "Ataru is the name given to the movements of this form—though it is aggressive, it is focused, and its best use is in combat against a single opponent."
- ―Zez-Kai Ell
Form IV, also known as Ataru, the Way of the Hawk-Bat, or The Aggression Form, was the fourth of the seven forms of lightsaber combat. The history of Ataru stretched back through the Old Republic, to at least as early as the Mandalorian Wars, where it was commonly employed by Jedi of that day. Ataru continued to be a common form among the Jedi in the latter stages of the Republic, and was also known to be employed by the Sith.
An aggressive style, Form IV was fast-paced and effective against single opponents, though weaker in prolonged combat and confined spaces. Also, it was not recommended for use against opponents wielding blasters. Ataru was characterized by Force-assisted acrobatics, such as somersaults and leaping strikes, both for attack and defense. Another characteristic of the form was its fast, powerful strikes from multiple directions. Notable users of this combat form during the Old Republic included Yoda and Qui-Gon Jinn. The New Jedi Order preserved knowledge of Ataru, and Jedi Masters such as Luke Skywalker, Mara Jade Skywalker, and Kyle Katarn all employed it.
- "Form IV, also called Ataru, is the most acrobatic Form, filled with numerous elaborate moves, and relies heavily upon a Jedi's ability to run, jump, and spin using the Force."
- ―Cin Drallig
Ataru was an aggressive combat form relying on a combination of strength, speed, and agility. Due to this, it was also called the Way of the Hawk-bat or the Aggression Form. Practitioners of Ataru were always on the offensive, attacking with wide, fast, and powerful swings. Form IV practitioners constantly called upon the Force to aid in their movements and attacks. By allowing the Force to flow throughout their body, they could overcome their physical limitations—including old age, as was the case with Master Yoda—and perform amazing feats of acrobatics, such as somersaults and backflips, not only for attack, but also to evade the slashes and strikes of their opponents. Jedi utilizing Ataru needed to incorporate all the Force powers that involved surpassing normal physical ranges of motion, speed, and agility in order to be successful. Running, jumping, and spinning were all emphasized in learning the elaborate kinetics of the form.
Those who used Form IV could move at high speeds and could rain strong blows, jumping and attacking through the air. Powerful and quick spinning attacks could be utilized from all angles, either from ground or air. Masters of Ataru combat could appear like a blur to their opponents, attacking from all directions—the front, the sides, overhead, or behind. The Force not only allowed them to perform athletic feats not possible otherwise, but it also helped guide their actions and movements in combat.
- "Against multiple enemies, only a true Ataru master will prevail."
Ataru proved to be an effective combat form when used properly, and was common among Jedi during the Mandalorian Wars. It was well-suited to close combat, particularly against single opponents. Due to its speed and agility, Ataru was recommended for use by Jedi with the ability to enhance their speed and stamina with the Force.
Because it was such an aggressive style, Ataru was not generally optimal for use against multiple opponents, and it was somewhat ineffective against blaster fire, particularly from multiple foes. Despite those weaknesses, Jedi Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn were able to employ this form with great success during the Battle of Naboo against numerous B1-Series battle droid opponents. This form was also considered not as effective for prolonged combat, as the nature of Ataru could greatly tax the body. Ataru practitioners were advised to withdraw if they were unable to win after a devastating burst of Ataru attacks. Fatigue was theorized to have been a contributing factor in Qui-Gon Jinn's defeat on Naboo at the hands of Sith Lord Darth Maul during the latter stages of the Battle of Naboo. In fact, ever since their brief fight on Tatooine, Maul knew that Ataru would be the Jedi Master's undoing. Another contributing factor in Jinn's death was the requirement of open space for the kinetic acrobatics of Ataru. Without ample space to move in the Theed Royal Palace reactor core, Jinn was deprived of the key element in his defense, and thus could only attempt to block Maul's incessant barrage of Form VII strikes. This event influenced Kenobi—after his Master's death, he changed his preferred form to Soresu, the most defensive of all forms.
Through the Force, Yoda was considered to have mastered Form IV to its highest level. He used it in almost all of his battles, and his mastery of the style caused others to describe him as virtually unstoppable against most opponents, including Separatist battle droids, despite his small size and advanced age. His moves in his duel against Count Dooku on Geonosis during the Battle of Geonosis were revealed on close examination to be a fast-paced demonstration of the standard components of Form IV. Each action flowed from one to another in the smooth transitions characteristic of Form IV. In addition, three kinds of rotation, called su ma, figured prominently in his style: jung su ma (spinning), ton su ma (somersaults), and en su ma (cartwheels). These three moves represented the three possible axes of rotation in three-dimensional space. Together with Force-enhanced jumps, the rotational su ma moves composed most of his style, making the Grand Master exemplary of Form IV mastery. At one point prior to the Clone Wars, Yoda was known to give demonstrations of the form in use, some of which were recorded on data books in the Jedi Temple. Yoda also employed Ataru against the clone troopers on Kashyyyk and Coruscant at the conclusion of the Clone Wars when the Jedi Purge began. Despite its weaknesses to blaster fire and multiple opponents, Yoda's mastery of the form was such that he was able to defeat the clones.
Dooku stated that he understood "every weakness of the Ataru form, with its ridiculous acrobatics," given his many sparring sessions with Qui-Gon Jinn. Dooku's Form II would counter Ataru by launching a series of thrusts toward the enemy's legs to draw the opponent into a flipping overhead leap, so that Dooku could burn through the enemy's spine from kidneys to shoulder blades with his Makashi attack. The Count applied this tactic against Obi-Wan Kenobi, who blocked Dooku's blows with Soresu, on board the Separatist flagship Invisible Hand during the Battle of Coruscant.
Moves and maneuvers
- "The Ataru form of combat is aggressive, but focused. You must never rely solely on skill with a weapon, but rather embrace the idea that your whole body is the weapon. Use the Force to spin, jump, to overpower your foe."
- ―Luke Skywalker
The opening stance for Ataru was a balanced two-handed guard: holding the lightsaber vertically with both palms, either on the right or left side of the body. One technique employed with greater effect by Ataru users was the Hawk-Bat Swoop. When utilized by Ataru practitioners, it was intended to allow a combatant to quickly strike their opponent without giving them a chance to react, and then escape before they had a chance to retaliate. Another move that Ataru users could use effectively was dubbed the Saber Swarm, where numerous short strikes were aimed at the adversary to force a defensive posture. Ataru wielders were able to execute this combination with particular skill. Both the Hawk-Bat Swoop and the Saber Swarm were related to the Falling Leaf technique, and they gained in popularity during the New Sith Wars.
- "This style of fighting was taught to me by Master Yoda. In most cases, you will not use it as a first resort, but you'll find it often works as a last resort."
- ―Luke Skywalker
Besides Yoda and Qui-Gon Jinn, other notable practitioners of Ataru were Jedi Masters Tott Doneeta, Zez-Kai Ell, Kavar, Vrook Lamar, Ki-Adi-Mundi, Cay Qel-Droma, Aayla Secura, Shaak Ti, Vandar Tokare, and Quinlan Vos; Jedi Battlemasters Skarch Vaunk and Cin Drallig; Sith Lord Darth Maul; Sith Blademaster Kas'im; and Dark Jedi Set Harth. Some of Revan's Jedi Crusaders also practiced Ataru.
Obi-Wan Kenobi had also mastered Ataru from his training by Qui-Gon Jinn, but after the death of his master on Naboo, Kenobi shifted to studying Soresu, intent on creating a hybrid between it and Ataru to compensate for Ataru's lack of defense. Although Soresu would become Kenobi's primary dueling form, he remained accomplished in Ataru and during the Clone Wars would often implement elements of Ataru, primarily its acrobatics, into his swordplay. When dueling Darth Tyranus on the Invisible Hand in the Battle of Coruscant, Kenobi started the duel using Ataru stances and techniques to mislead the Sith Lord.
As a Padawan, Anakin Skywalker studied Ataru briefly, as it fit his flashy, bold, and aggressive personality—he would later use those same traits to become a skilled Form V practitioner. Anakin applied the two-lightsaber variant of Ataru against Darth Tyranus on Geonosis during the Battle of Geonosis. Because neither Ataru nor dual-wielding were Skywalker's most effective styles, Tyranus broke through it easily, forcing the young Padawan to switch back to his standard Form V. During the Clone Wars, despite his mastery of Djem So, Anakin would prove to have advanced in his Ataru training, displaying proficiency in applying Ataru acrobatic moves and maneuvers, which he would often incorporate in his lightsaber combat, and would also train Ahsoka Tano in Ataru. After his transformation and defeat on Mustafar, Darth Vader included elements of Form IV in his personalized variation of Form V, such as during his second duel with Jedi Master Roan Shryne. While at first the cumbersome weight of his armor made it considerably difficult for him to employ Ataru acrobatics, as he regained some of his old agility through extensive training, he regained full capability in applying such maneuvers, although he only applied it when pushed. He would train his secret apprentice in Ataru as well, resulting in Marek's familiarity with Ataru, and Marek's personal droid PROXY attempted to emulate the form with a combat module based on the capabilities of Qui-Gon Jinn, though while its aggression and agility was incredible, without the aid of the Force, which the apprentice found to be a notable weakness, Marek didn't have much difficulty overcoming it, though he was impressed with PROXY's competent usage of Ataru anyway. The usage by the apprentice was displayed in both single and dual-saber variants.
Circa 1000 BBY, Jedi Padawans were discouraged from practicing Ataru, as their youthful energy was considered prone to sloppy execution of its cadences. However, by the waning years of the Old Republic, Padawans would spend a year or two studying each Form from II to V, including Ataru.
Weequay Jedi Sora Bulq as well as Lannik Jedi Master Even Piell had also mastered Ataru, in addition to other saber forms. Piell's apprentice, Jax Pavan, would also learn Ataru, along with the other forms, during his Jedi training. Nautolan Jedi Master Kit Fisto was another competent practitioner of Form IV, often incorporating its acrobatics.
The New Jedi Order would learn of this form, along with the others, from knowledge gleaned from the book The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force, holocrons and recordings, particularly the Great Holocron which included a recording by Cin Drallig explaining lightsaber forms. Kyle Katarn and Jedi Knight Alema Rar, among others, were trained in the use of the fourth form of lightsaber combat. Grand Master Luke Skywalker also had knowledge and skill in the use of Ataru, as did his wife, Mara Jade Skywalker. Skywalker learned the form from Yoda and passed it on to his students, teaching them to embrace it not as a weapon of first use and to use both their weapon and their body in practicing Ataru.
Behind the scenes
Ataru, along with forms II, III, and VII was first mentioned in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones: The Visual Dictionary, but little information was given about the form other than a brief description of it, and listing Anakin Skywalker as a known practitioner. Along with the other six classical forms, it was fully fleshed out and described by David West Reynolds in Fightsaber: Jedi Lightsaber Combat after the release of Episode II, as part of Star Wars Insider 62. Reynolds was aided in this work by fencer Jack "Stelen" Bobo.
In the Revenge of the Sith novelization, Labyrinth of Evil, and Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, Ataru is misspelled as Ataro. In Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith: The Visual Dictionary, it is mistakenly stated that Obi-Wan is "a master of the Jedi lightsaber style known as Ataru, in which deflection is prized above aggression." Though Obi-Wan did know Ataru, this statement totally contradicts Ataru's true form, as it is not very good for deflecting blaster bolts and is one of the most aggressive of the seven forms. The dictionary likely refers to Form III instead.
Ataru, along with the other lightsaber forms, appears in Star Wars Galaxies as part of moves and techniques employable by Jedi characters. This has not definitively been clarified to be canonical. It is possible that the Jedi Exile was trained in the use of Form IV after her return from exile. However, it is also possible that she was a Jedi Consular and learned the Force forms instead.