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In the Prequel Trilogy, all of the Jedi and Sith are incredibly acrobatic in their fights - jumping, flipping, weaving. Incredibly fluid in their motions. Even Yoda was jumping around like an oversized bullfrog.

However, in the Original Trilogy as well as in Episode VII, there is a lot less manoeuvrability. In Luke's case, he was trained only briefly by Obi-Wan, and then further by Yoda, where he focussed more on using the Force to control his body (flipping a bit, then doing handstands, etc).

But specifically in Episode VII,

while Rey had no training at all, Ben Solo was trained from a young age, and therefore far more adept with using his powers. While incredibly strong with the Force (being able to stop a laser bolt mid-air, and use the Force to overcome serious damage from Chewie's Bowcaster),

are these powers coming from sacrificing other abilities? If so, is it merely because of incomplete training that led to the different focus of Force application, or is there another reason?

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ISTR that Luke was fairly acrobatic in Episode 5 (The Empire Strikes Back), when he fought Darth Vader in Cloud City — jumping out of the carbon-freezing bit, and so forth. – Peregrine Rook Mar 23 at 5:07
    
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It's almost like Luke heard of that time a guy decided to do fancy flips and lost all his limbs. – Axelrod Mar 23 at 14:36
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To go with @PeregrineRook's comment, Luke also did a bit of flipping and what not in the fight in the emperor's throne room on the Death Star. – eidylon Mar 23 at 17:14
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You should rather wonder why it took them so long to realize a lightsaber duel is no dancing competition. – CodesInChaos Mar 24 at 9:27
up vote 35 down vote accepted

The general response to this question that I've seen from fans of the Prequel Trilogy is that the Jedi were in their prime during the events of the Prequels. They had their Temple, scores of experienced Jedi Masters able to train padawans, access to plenty of helpful resources (such as the Jedi Library), they were well-respected among the populace (as opposed to drawbacks that tend to come with being in hiding), etc. All of which they've had for roughly a thousand years, at least since the last time that any Jedi had confirmed the presence of the Sith. Not to mention the fact that most of the Jedi that we see in the Original Trilogy have either aged considerably (and were likely somewhat out of practice as well) or were inexperienced by comparison.

This topic becomes a bit more difficult to explain in regards to [TFA SPOILER here]

Ben Solo. As you said, there is the fact that he still had to complete his training, as well as the fact that he was injured at the time (it's also worth noting that he wasn't actually trying to kill Rey during the fight, as he needed her alive to obtain the map to Luke). On that note, the same can also be said for Rey, since that was the first time that she had ever wielded a lightsaber, despite her experience and proficiency in wielding a quarterstaff.

I'm not sure if that will serve as a satisfying answer for you, but it works for me.

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I like this idea, like during prequels the Jedi were in sort of a renaissance, and so their fighting styles were fancier. – Jacob Hacker Mar 23 at 15:07
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Also he wanted a "padawan" there ;) so another reason – Thomas Mar 23 at 17:38
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"fans of the Prequel Trilogy" — There's another one besides Lucas? – jwodder Mar 23 at 21:19
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@jwodder "No. There is another!" – Aron Mar 24 at 1:19

Just considering the films, I think a possible explanation could be that the Jedi Order in its final years had become just as out of touch and corrupted by power as the Galactic Senate. They'd lost their way somewhat and would use their powers to unnecessarily show off.

People often asked me why Yoda gets around with a walking stick when he can just use his Force powers to jump around like a pinball. To that I usually paraphrased Yoda from The Empire Strikes Back:

A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defence, never for making himself look cool.

I'm also reminded of this gif:

Useless lightsaber posturing

Perhaps the destruction of the Jedi and the years spent as hermits caused Obi-Wan and Yoda, the remaining Jedi, to realise how arrogant and posturing the Jedi had become. Also, they got old.

When Luke inherits the legacy of the Jedi, he's probably more down to earth than most of the Jedi in the Old Republic and wouldn't encourage flashy athletics when founding the new Jedi Order. This attitude towards flashiness may have been passed on to his students, even if they then subsequently strayed from the Light.

Keep in mind though that Luke can and does call on acrobatic powers in both his duels with Vader, though not unnecessarily.

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This might even explain how Sidious was able to fight off four well-trained Jedi single-handedly. As I recall, he focused more on just stabbing people than doing the Jedi spins, and as a result he pushed right past their defenses. – DaaaahWhoosh Mar 23 at 14:44
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I suppose the flashy stuff could be some sort of intimidation thing, because simply intimidating your opponent into backing down is a lot less painful than actually fighting them. This makes some sense considering the "peacekeeper" role the Jedi formerly had. I have no source for this theory, however, so the change in style could have no explanation... – PipperChip Mar 23 at 15:54
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FWIW, the intent of the scene in that gif is to show that Obi-wan and Anakin know each other so well that they know exactly how the other is going to respond, and rapidly switch from one approach to another in order to counter -- with no physical clashing of lightsabers being necessary. How well that was actually portrayed is another matter, but IMO it's better than Episode I where the big fight features them missing by miles and purposefully trying to hit the sabers instead of each other. – Matthew Read Mar 23 at 17:54
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"They got old." Yoda was already old. Obi-Wan got old, though. – jpmc26 Mar 24 at 2:21
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Well if we're going to play the "I see it as" game, I see it as: one of them farted. Both are desperately trying to wave the fart away towards the other one before it inevitably strikes a saber and goes up in flames. Farts explain a surprising amount of what happens in the prequels. – CandiedOrange Mar 24 at 3:17

We know that during the prequels, the Force was unbalanced. As a result, the Jedi's powers were diminished and they had less of an ability to tap into the Force.

The waning Force and the prophecy of a chosen one who would restore the balance of the Force was a closely guarded secret. Part of keeping that secret meant that despite being weaker, they had to maintain their role as the galaxy's peacekeepers. Part of keeping the peace is not inviting attack. And showing weakness invites attack.

Perhaps, in an effort to hide the fact that they can no longer do things like stop blaster bolts in midair, to hide the fact that they are vulnerable to their enemies, they show that they are still powerful by resorting to flashy, over the top, acrobatics.

Of course, by the time of ANH, they can do these things again, so the acrobatics are superfluous.

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Consider the character of The Force Awakens you're focused on. Kylo Ren wants to imitate Darth Vader as much as he can. Indeed he wears a black cape and a face-concealing mask, so it's likely that he would imitate Vader's static, unflinching yet efficient fighting style rather than draw from Luke's jumps and backflips.

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I'm not sure I buy this. Vader was dead before Kylo Ren was born. While Luke would have known Vader's style, I can't see him willingly teaching it to his apprentice. Luke's fighting style is also very static and efficient compared with what we see in the prequels, so it makes more sense that Kylo Ren learned Luke's style. – Torisuda Mar 23 at 15:48
    
Just gotta point out that Obi Wan taught Vader and Luke, then Luke taught Ben. Of course they all share a style, they're all from the same school of Jedi-Fu. – RubberDuck Mar 24 at 7:48

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