At the rate we’re going, people are going to be complaining about Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ crossguard lightsaber until the next full trailer is released. In the meantime, Popular Science asked several expert swordsmen from different disciplines to weigh in on two questions: whether the three-bladed lightsaber actually requires a crossguard, and if so, how to fight with it.
In Japan’s Toyama Ryu Battodo style, swordsmen use katanas without any crossguards. Instead, they parry their opponents’ strikes before they can land. Parrying with a katana, writer and practitioner Charles Q. Choi explains, is all about pushing your sword at your opponent to prevent yours from getting pushed back.
However, devotees of historical European martial arts (HEMA) train with the German longsword, the crossguard of which they definitely utilize. While they can block swords with the crossguard—as Star Wars fans have assumed will be the case with Kylo Ren’s weapon—practitioners sometimes also turned the tables. It was not unusual for a swordsman to grab his longsword by the blade so that he could use the crossguard (sometimes spiked for just this purpose) to catch in his opponent’s armor or simply for bludgeoning. Of course, that’s not very feasible when your sword can lop off your fingers.
PopSci has videos of both methods of swordfighting for you to compare. Here’s hoping the next The Force Awakens trailer features actual lightsaber fights!