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I have watched Star Wars (episodes 4, 5 and 6) and I am curious to know why there is so much importance on mastering the Force. Until now, I have seen the Force being used for pushing, raising heavy objects and pulling (and occasionally strangulating people!) but I fail to see how that helps one wield the lightsaber.

So, how does the Force help one in a lightsaber duel?

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Come to think of it, what good is a lightsaber in a Force duel? Why would an experienced Force user need any weapons? – RobertF Jan 17 at 18:38
    
@RobertF - It's still a weapon. Generally better than no weapon. But as we saw, you can deliver blows by Force Lighting, or an ordinary boot (as Dooku did) as long as they are Force-backed. Or a blaster, as Obi-Wan did on Utapau. – DVK-in-exile Jan 17 at 18:39
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@RobertF - you still do more damage lightsabering than punching :) And remember, Force reserves aren't infinite (we see that in ROTS with Dooku - he exausted his) – DVK-in-exile Jan 17 at 18:56
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I am tempted to post this. – svavil Jan 17 at 20:11
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Have you watched any of the Star Wars movies? You question says you did, but each movie has lightsaber combat where the Force is used. – TylerH Jan 18 at 3:02
up vote 14 down vote accepted
  • Let's start with the prosaic: the Force is there to physically help the Jedi, e.g. to arrest a fall, or simply move:

    Anakin looked up just in time to glimpse the bottom of Dooku’s rancor-leather boot as it came down on his face and smacked him tumbling toward the floor; he reached into the Force to effortlessly right himself and touched down in perfect balance to spring again toward the lightning flares

    ...

    yet Skywalker’s blade met the cut as he passed and he managed to sweep his blade behind his head to slap aside the casual thrust Dooku aimed at the back of his neck—but his clumsy charge had put him in Kenobi’s path, so that the Jedi Master had to Force-roll over his partner’s head


  • You can use the Force just for attack. No lightsaber needed.

    He gathered the Force once more in a single indrawn breath that summoned power from throughout the universe; the slightest whipcrack of that power, negligent as a flick of his wrist, sent Kenobi flying backward to crash hard against the wall, but Dooku didn’t have time to enjoy it.

.


  • You use the Force to strengthen your hand (attack blows or defense blocks)

    The shining blue lightsaber whirled and spat and every overhand chop crashed against Dooku’s defense with the unstoppable power of a meteor strike; the Sith Lord spent lavishly of his reserve of the Force merely to meet these attacks without being cut in half, and Skywalker—


  • However, the main purpose of the Force in a lightsaber duel is to guide the wielder's hand, body, and mind, by sensing the present and the future.

    In other words, it's not really about the lightsaber (as the related question showed, you can use a lightsaber without the Force. And as numerous examples - including those in this answer - show, you don't even always use the lightsaber in combat as a Jedi. You can kick. You can move. You can even use an uncivilized blaster ala Obi-Wan on Utapau).

    Because they fought as they had been trained, by releasing all desire and allowing the Force to flow through them, they had no hope of countering Dooku’s mastery of Sith techniques. They had learned nothing since he had bested them on Geonosis.

    They allowed the Force to direct them; Dooku directed the Force.

    The examples are way too numerous to cite, i'll just try a couple.

    Here's Obi-Wan meeting Grevious's lightsaber strikes on Invisible Hand

    The Force, like water, takes on the shape of its container without effort, without thought. The water that was Obi-Wan poured itself into the container that was Grievous’s attack, and while some materials might be water-tight, Obi-Wan had yet to encounter any that were entirely, as it were, Force-tight ...

    While the intent to swing was still forming in Grievous’s mind, the part of the Force that was Obi-Wan was also the part of the Force that was R2-D2, as well as an internal fusion-welder Anakin had retrofitted into R2-D2’s primary grappling arm, and so there was no need for actual communication between them; it was only Obi-Wan’s personal sense of style that brought his customary gentle smile to his face and his customary gentle murmur to his lips.

    Here's Obi-Wan fighting Grevious on Utapau (forget lightsabers):

    Instead of waiting for an answer he spun, heaving Obi-Wan right off the deck with effortless strength, whipping him up over his head to slam him to the deck with killing power; Obi-Wan could only let go of the staff and allow the Force to angle his fall into a stumbling roll. Grievous sprang after him, swinging the electrostaff and slamming it across Obi-Wan’s flank before the Jedi Master could recover his balance. The impact sent Obi-Wan tumbling sideways and the electroburst discharge set his robe on fire. Grievous stayed right with him, attacking before Obi-Wan could even realize exactly what was happening, attacking faster than thought

    But Obi-Wan didn’t need to think. The Force was with him, and he knew.

    Then, the poetic, free-flowing description of Obi-Wan confronting Grevious on Invisible Hand:

    He doesn’t even need to reach into the Force.

    He has already let the Force reach into him.

    The Force flows over him and around him as though he has stepped into a crystal-pure waterfall lost in the green coils of a forgotten rain forest; when he opens himself to that sparkling stream it flows into him and through him and out again without the slightest interference from his conscious will. The part of him that calls itself Obi-Wan Kenobi is no more than a ripple, an eddy in the pool into which he endlessly pours.
    There are other parts of him here, as well; there is nothing here that is not a part of him, from the scuff mark on R2-D2’s dome to the tattered hem of Palpatine’s robe, from the spidering crack in one transparisteel panel of the curving view wall above to the great starships that still battle beyond it.
    Because this is all part of the Force.

    Why is meaningless; it is an echo of the past, or a whisper from the future. All that matters, for this infinite now, is what, and where, and who.

    He is all sixteen of the super battle droids, gleaming in laser-reflective chrome, arms loaded with heavy blasters. He is those blasters and he is their targets. He is all eight destroyer droids waiting with electronic patience within their energy shields, and both bodyguards, and every single one of the shivering Neimoidians. He is their clothes, their boots, even each drop of reptile-scented moisture that rolls off them from the misting sprays they use to keep their internal temperatures down. He is the binders that cuff his hands, and he is the electrostaff in the hands of the bodyguard at his back.

    He is both of the lightsabers that the other droid bodyguard marches forward to offer to General Grievous.

    And he is the general himself.

    He is the general’s duranium ribs. He is the beating of Grievous’s alien heart, and is the silent pulse of oxygen pumped through his alien veins. He is the weight of four lightsabers at the general’s belt, and is the greedy anticipation the captured weapons sparked behind the general’s eyes. He is even the plan for his own execution simmering within the general’s brain.

    He is all these things, but most important, he is still Obi-Wan Kenobi.

    This is why he can simply stand. Why he can simply wait. He has no need to attack, or to defend. There will be battle here, but he is perfectly at ease, perfectly content to let the battle start when it will start, and let it end when it will end.

    Just as he will let himself live, or let himself die.

    This is how a great Jedi makes war.

    General Grievous lifted the two lightsabers, one in each duranium hand, to admire them by the light of turbolaser blasts outside, and said, “Rare trophies, these: the weapon of Anakin Skywalker, and the weapon of General Kenobi. I look forward to adding them to my collection.”

    “That will not happen. I am in control here.”

    The reply came through Obi-Wan’s lips, but it was not truly Obi-Wan who spoke. Obi-Wan was not in control; he had no need for control. He had the Force.

    It was the Force that spoke through him.

    He reached through the Force and the Force reached through him; his blade flared to life while still in the air; it flipped toward him, and as he lifted his hands to meet it, its blue flame flashed between his wrists and severed the binders before the handgrip smacked solidly into his palm.

    Obi-Wan was so deep in the Force that he wasn’t even suprised it had worked.

    He made a quarter turn to face Anakin, who was already in the air, having leapt simultaneously with Obi-Wan’s gentle murmur because Obi-Wan and Anakin were, after all, two parts of the same thing; Anakin’s flip carried him over Obi-Wan’s head at the perfect range for Obi-Wan’s blade to flick out and burn through his partner’s binders, and while Grievous was still flinching away from the fountain of fusion fire, Anakin landed with his own hand extended; Obi-Wan felt a liquid surge in the waterfall that he was, and Anakin’s lightsaber sang through the air and Anakin caught it, and so, one single second after Grievous had begun to summon the intent to swing, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker stood back-to-back in the center of the bridge, expressionlessly staring past the snarling blue energy of their lightsabers.


All quotes from Matthew Stovers ROTS novelization

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I'm curious why you reopenhammered the question? It still seems to me to be asking the same thing as "How closely is the use of the Force related to wielding a lightsaber?" – Rand al'Thor Jan 17 at 18:30
    
An additional example from the same fight shows Dooku sending "Force stabs" at Obi-Wan with the lightsaber stabs. That was explicitly Dark Side thing so I didn't include it because the question was about Jedi. – DVK-in-exile Jan 17 at 18:37
    
While this is largely off-topic: is it implied or stated further in your last quote that Anaking shared the same trance-like state? – Lilienthal Jan 17 at 23:57

Foresight, tandem attacks(movies do a poor job showing this) superhuman feats like speed, agility, jumping really high(Obi-wan in episode 2, Anakin in episode 3) more newtons of force with your swing, could go on.

There are tons of great examples in legends..

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I took the wording of the question to be requesting how someone would know this from just watching the original trilogy. – T.E.D. Jan 17 at 19:26

In addition to the other answers, I'll add in a technique called Battle Meditation.

Battle Meditation was a force technique (or power) that had extensive use in the Old republic for a variety of scenarios from space battles to lightsaber duels.

"Battle meditation was a Force ability that considerably boosted the morale, stamina, and overall battle prowess of an individual's allies while simultaneously reducing the opposition's combat-effectiveness by eroding their will to fight." From Wookiepedia.

There are several legends mentions of its use but I am not home to go fishing through books at the moment. A couple notable uses were Bastilla's fabled skill in battle meditation to destroy the fleet assembled around the star forge, and the assassination attempt against Darth Bane.

"It had been many years since Farfalla had fought while empowered by Worror's battle meditation. He had forgotten how much quicker and stronger the Ithorian's amazing talent made him feel. The Force floqwed though him with greater power, filling him with its might." -Darth Bane: Rule of Two page 277

So in short, a powerful force user can use this technique to help allies defeat opponents in lightsaber combat.

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I think you may be confusing the Force with the ability to move objects/people around. Here Obi-Wan's quote on the meaning of the Force in 'Star Wars':

"The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together." - Obi-Wan Kenobi

And Yoda's little speech in 'Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back':

"For my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere! Yes, even between the land and the ship." - Yoda

So when attention is given by Obi-Wan and Yoda in Luke's training on 'understanding the Force', they are referring to the 'living Force' which, as the qoutes illustrate, can have infinite advantages; you are more connected to the universe, understanding your position in the world, the beauty of the beings within it. This understanding and connection will ground you, supporting you through the challenges that face you. As Yoda says when training Luke:

“Yes, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.” - Yoda

The strength of the dark side of the force derives from a self-centered passion, a disconnect with reality and the universe, often blinding the Sith Lords to their downfall.

Anakin Skywalker: The Sith rely on their passion for their strength. They think inward, only about themselves.

Supreme Chancellor: And the Jedi don't?

Anakin Skywalker: The Jedi are selfless... they only care about others.

- Revenge of the Sith

So while a great knowledge of the force may make your telekinetic powers better, your anticipation of your duel opponent's next moves better, and even your resistance to their powers better, the focus on 'learning the ways of the Force' in the films is about staying true to yourself, staying just and selfless, maintaining responsibility while increasing your power.

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I think you're missing two major points. I will answer the actual question last and first give the underlying answer:

The OP said they only saw the original three films, these did not have the technology to show any of the spectacular lightsaber duels you can see in the later films, the animated series or such. Also, Vader tends to strike from pure rage and no longer has the agility of Anakin due to his injuries and his suit. If you want to see some of the best examples of duels you should check out the trailers for Old Republic (youtube.com/watch?v=NuNvCOUy1Ts). Also any battles against General Grievous tend to be good examples of defensive prowess due to his habit of using four sabers at once. (youtube.com/watch?v=1j6vHl1X3Xs)

Now the other thing people seem to be missing here, lightsaber duels actually have very little to do with lightsabers, they're simply a means to an end. A cool looking weapon that fits with the 'space western' theme, dismembers on contact and thus is obviously dangerous in the wrong hands. If there was no force user involved it would simply be a sword fight with fancy tech.

When two force users are dueling their mastery over the force allows them a measure of control over the duel. Whether that control comes through sensing attacks, force powers (choke, lightning, push/pull) or even just drawing strength/speed/agility from the force, very little of a duel is a sword fight. Even when it appears someone is simply striking with rage or defending simple attacks, they are still drawing from the force.

A side note to the OP, it is possible to stop a lightsaber strike using only the force so which should have it's use questioned?

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