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Everything that I seemed to know about the Star Wars universe indicated that in order to be successful at being a force user, the user required decades of training and experience. Which is why I thought that the Jedi trained their pupils from birth to be force users. The lengthy training period was also why the Jedi council said Anakin was too old, and subsequently why Yoda said Luke was too old to begin the training. This can be seen in comparing Luke's raw abilities in the original trilogy compared to that of the Jedi in the prequel trilogy.

However, in The Force Awakens,

Rey not only fends off Kylo Ren, she comes very close to killing him outright, even though she had never even held a lightsaber before.

This happens not long after

she uses her Force persuasion power to escape prison, despite not even believing she was Force sensitive until that point.

It doesn't make any sense that the fight wasn't over in a matter of seconds. What am I missing?

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    this bothered me a little bit as well, but she's shown as a pretty capable fighter in her own right on jakku, and she carries a staff which she likely uses for fighting at some point. – phantom42 Dec 18 '15 at 15:08
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    This doesn't discount your question, but it looked to me like Kylo wasn't that great of a swordsman. He seemed pretty rough in his movements. I just get the impression he's fairly untrained as well. Moreso than Rey and Finn, but still untrained enough that he couldn't dominate them utterly. – Alarion Dec 18 '15 at 15:11
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    Last I checked, the title of the film may allude to some of this, as it's called The Force Awakens. – Eric McCormick Dec 18 '15 at 16:36
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    In the end it all comes down to midi-chlorians. – MackTuesday Dec 18 '15 at 16:51
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    We did see someone using the Force intuitively without training before. Anakin in Episode I. His lack of education on the topic of the Force means his usage was less flashy though. – user1027 Dec 18 '15 at 18:27

10 Answers 10

114

You seem to be forgetting that the character in question was already a more than capable fighter.

Earlier in the movie;

We see her fight off two men (aliens?) with her staff in the marketplace while Finn watches.

This clearly demonstrates that the character in question has some fighting experience, and I would imagine that the ability to fight effectively with one melee weapon is very similar to fighting with another.

Before this fight we also find out that;

The Force is strong in Rey, and that thanks to Kylo trying to get information from her, he seems to have awoken her Force powers.

It's also worth mentioning that;

Kylo Ren is injured during this battle after being both shot by Chewie and stabbed by Finn. He's also emotionally and mentally exhausted after killing his father, so he clearly isn't operating at his best.

And on top of that, we found out shortly after the fight in question that;

Kylo Ren has not completed his training, with Supreme Leader Snoke ordering General Hux to find Kylo Ren and bring him back in order to complete his training.

In short;

Rey, a capable fighter who is strong albeit untrained in the Force just about manages to hold her own against Kylo Ren, a wounded and distracted trainee.

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    I was writing an answer that contains pretty much all of those points (the others are missing some), so +1. One thing that I would add is that Kylo Ren has probably never dueled someone with a lightsaber. He has been trained by Luke so he may have some ideas about what to do but chances are he never seriously fought someone with a lightsaber, at least not in the last few years. – Fatalize Dec 18 '15 at 15:14
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    We should also consider how in A New Hope Luke can deflect shots from a training droid after 1 lesson and also use his force abilities to guide his shots at the Deathstar. Obviously no small part of using the force is intuitive. – evilscary Dec 18 '15 at 17:01
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    +1 I'd also add that Kylo Ren doesn't seem like a particularly adept Dark Force user or duelist. Likely he is a fearsome enemy, but he is too unfocused. No only is he in a distracted state of mind due to recent events, we are also shown he tends to get infuriated easily, throwing tantrums when things don't go his way. Rey on the other hand is shown learning to use the Force to calm herself and gain focus. – Andres F. Dec 19 '15 at 5:08
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    I disgree with the premise that proficiency with one melee weapon necessarily offers any synergy with another. There's a world of difference even amongst swords... say, between a katana and a rapier. I don't think there's much opportunity for cross application of skill given how differently those swords are used. So, apply that logic to a bo staff and a laser sword... and the whole thing is even less convincing. – I am Monica Dec 19 '15 at 7:04
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    @AndresF. I thought the casual no-look pausing of a blaster shot mid-air was demonstrative of some impressive skill. It was done so early on in the movie, that I assumed it was a deliberate showcase of his power. "So, what are you trying to tell me? That I can deflect blasters?" "No, I'm trying to tell you that when you're ready, you won't have to." – I am Monica Dec 19 '15 at 7:34
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This is pure speculation on my part, but I think that

Rey has been trained in the force, by Luke, her father.

After Ben became Kylo Ren, Luke believed it was a mistake to have trained anyone in the force, so he made her forget who she was and left her on Jakku, lest she turn to the dark side as Ben had.

The evidence that suggests this:

The light saber calls to her, not to Kylo Ren. It wants to pass from father to son to daughter, not father to son to nephew.

The visions Rey sees when she first touches the light saber are more likely flashes of memory coming back. Note in particular the little girl (and if I recall, she says something like "don't leave me"), who is very likely Rey.

The only plausible reason I can see for R2D2 reactivating himself at the end (other than "convenient plot device") is Rey's presence. Being a droid and not sensitive to the force, R2 must recognize her either from his own memory or some description by Luke. (This part of my theory has been debunked. See the link in the comments.)

As your question points out, she picked up force techniques very quickly and without formal training. I think we are seeing an amnesiac starting to remember old skills.

I could be reading into this, but it seems to me that Leia recognizes her.

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    i hate speculative answers but this one's rather compelling – KutuluMike Dec 18 '15 at 17:01
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    @loneboat, if she was his nephew, why wouldn't Leia say anything? Her desire to get her son back sends Han to his death, but she's okay letting things just play out with her daughter? What made you think Luke was ruled out? – Josh Dec 18 '15 at 17:46
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    Also, R2 could've reactivated due to the presence of Luke's saber, and not because of Rey. – Dungarth Dec 18 '15 at 19:12
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    @loneboat: I think the wikia article is based off of the EU (now Legends), most of which is no longer cannon. The Reddit discussion is based on the trailers. – Josh Dec 18 '15 at 19:38
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    @loneboat: "Leia has three known children" - that was part of Lucas/Legends canon, not Disney canon. At this point, Kylo (aka Ben Solo) is Leia's only known child. – Remy Lebeau Dec 19 '15 at 3:27
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Two things that occurred to me that aren't in the other answers:

Kylo Ren is repeatedly shown being unable to control his rage. This is sort of part of being untrained as Dr R Dizzle mentioned - a trained Sith would use his rage with deadly force instead of obscene outbursts against inanimate objects - but it really showcases how rough Kylo is.

Also:

He fought Finn prior to fighting Rey, and this fight is much more surprising to me than the one with Rey. Finn may have been trained in melee combat - we see a storm trooper fighting with a lightsaber-like weapon outside Maz Kanata's bar, but as far as we know he has no meaningful connection to the force. Others noted that Kylo's arrogance might be getting to him in the fight as well, which would have helped Finn a bit. I think that if Kylo Ren was any manner of Jedi or Sith, he would have absolutely dominated Finn. That fight should have lasted only a few seconds. Even though Finn still lost, he put up a decent fight and was still alive at the end. This is an extension of the not-fully-trained aspect as well, but it makes it very apparent that Kylo has a lot of room for improvement.

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    I would still not give Finn to much credit that fight, he barely hit Kylo and got demolished right after; the fight really wasn't that long and the only reason he's not dead is because Kylo was busy trying to force pull Luke's lightsaber. Also even if he's a low tier stormtrooper, since he was raised like that since birth I would assume he has at least some melee combat training. – Fatalize Dec 18 '15 at 15:44
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    There also seemed to be some arrogance with Kylo, "toying with him" for amusement, giving Finn a chance to live longer. – loneboat Dec 18 '15 at 17:35
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    Did anyone else think when she got Kylo in the left shoulder: "Silly girl, not the left shoulder, the right hand - it's tradition!" – Irishpanda Dec 18 '15 at 18:01
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    A downvote? Really? Ryan here makes a very good point, especially his first paragraph. This aspect of Kylo's unfocused personality was obvious to me while watching the movie. – Andres F. Dec 19 '15 at 5:10
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    It was established in the fight outside Maz Kanata's bar that stormtroopers use some kind of electrified melée weapon that may well handle quite like a light sabre. Finn has presumably been trained in the use of such weapons. – Mike Scott Dec 19 '15 at 11:17
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Going outside the scope of just this movie. We need to remember Anakin Skywalker who was very skilled with the Force, even when he didn't realize what was going on. Anakin was able to win the pod racer tournament even though he was a little kid and up against VERY skilled and VERY ruthless racers. His natural ability to see what was coming next is phenomenal, and so is this young lady's ability to use the Force naturally but in different ways.

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While I can't make any case for the adept use of the force other than

the force is strong with Rey and it has begun to be awoken,

I will propose an explanation for why the duel was not over swiftly.

Putting aside Kylo Ren's lack of training and lack of control over his frustration, and even disregarding the injuries incurred prior to the duel, we have to remember who uses lightsabers:

The Jedi and the Sith.

We know that Ren, Snoke, and the First Order are seeking to destroy the Jedi by finding and killing Luke, who is the last known Jedi. We also know that the Sith always works in twos.

That being the case, even though Ren has trained below

Luke, and subsequently Snoke,

there can't have been any time that he has actually had a true lightsaber duel, Jedi to Sith. Whatever his training consisted of, there was likely never a scenario in which he was dueling to the death against a true enemy.

He was unprepared for a real duel with another force user, even one who is only beginning to use the force, and that is why the fight was more evenly matched than expected.

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    He destroyed Luke's academy, so I'm pretty sure he had some force sensitive opponents (with lightsabers). – Fred Porciúncula Dec 23 '15 at 10:07
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    But Rey has even less training than Ren, so if it's lack of training that hinders Ren the same lack of training would hinder Rey. -1 – Null Jan 25 '16 at 3:35
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    The force was strongest in Anakin yet he needed decade of training. To me it is just bad storytelling. Luke was too much, Ray just ruins it. – IvanP May 31 '16 at 21:47
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Kylo Ren had already received a shot from Chewie's bowcaster (shown to be extremely powerful,) and had been injured fighting Finn as well. If you were fighting a swordsman who had not been fully trained in swordfighting who had recently been shot and stabbed, and you had a naturally high aptitude, like Rey does with the force, you might be able to fend him off yourself.

3

Even though the film itself was nice and had quite of a growth for rey that one duel and also a scene before are very strange. But lets start with the beginning shall we?

He is too old you say The too old I always got the feeling that it was just an excuse so that the one who was declined does not feel that bad about it. In addition to that though the older one is the more bonds one has formed already and Jedi shouldn't have bonds as those can be used to make them fall to the dark side.

The 1 scene I mentioned

The interrogation scene with Rey. Ren was able to get into her mind until he made an error and said something that made her will go strong. At this time she EASILY overpowered someone who has trained such things FOR YEARS. As we know from the prequels raw force potential says nothing (anakin lost to Dooku in Episode 2......easily) without any training. So there are 2 options for this part. Either Rey had a training and forgot about it (during her unknown childhood part before Jakuu) or she has a WAY HIGHER force potential than Ren. High enough that she is even untrained way more powerful than he is.

The duel

Rey was on the defensive and he clearly toyed with her....only for one reason (and despite his terrible wounds). He wanted to train her in the dark side and make her fall. He had her at his mercy until she closed her eyes and did what Luke did during the battle of Yavin. She calmed her mind and let the force flow instead of blocking it out. Then she beat him fully. Here we can only speculate how she could beat someone who has way more training than her with the force and the lightsaber than her. Possible is as stated above that she has training that she doesn't remember OR that she is WAY more powerful than him (would also explain how the Great leader and Ren could feel her awakening). Additionally pointing into the WAY more powerful direction is the fact that kylo tried at the beginning of THEIR duel to telekinetically call the lightsaber........and it flew but not to him but to Rey.

A bit here additionally (personal points):

In addition though is what I personally find confusing about the duel. The stormtrooper who seemingly is NOT force sensitive easily shot ren first and then attacked him. Even with his wounds Ren should have easily been able to vanquish him without even getting a scratch. Then Rey beats him easily as soon as she does not act like she wants but lets the force flow. So aside from the two possibilities above there could be another one that Ren is just not as powerful as he wants to be. That is countered though by his blaster freezing in the beginning of the film. So he IS powerful. And she has to be stronger as it seems. One thing we know for sure though is that Ren is NOT as powerful as Vader was (yet). As it is still his fear that he never becomes THAT powerful.

1

Well to be blunt, no one has said that she's had NO training EVER. We still don't know who she is exactly, or who dropped Rey off to on Jakuu to begin with. For all we know she could have been one of Luke's new "younglings" in his new jedi school. If we subcribe to the theory that her memories were wiped, then she could have been unconsciously acting on instinct from her childhood training. It would have been minimal, but so was Luke's and look at what he accomplished. Yes she was just a small child, but so was Anekin...

0

When Kylo Ren has Rey in the chair and is trying to extract the map from her, he is accidentally sharing knowledge with her on using the Force for extracting information from another. Later during the fight seen on the disintegrating planet we have a long pause while they're fighting and Rey closes her eyes; she is extracting knowledge (essentially Kylo Ren's training) from Kylo Ren, then she opens her eyes, the action resumes, and she fairly easily trounces him. She got her training in the Force directly from Kylo Ren's mind. Coupled with her prior experience in melee combat and it's plausible.

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    is there any indication at all from the film that this is happening, or are you just guessing? – KutuluMike Dec 18 '15 at 17:00
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    It seemed to me that they were merely focussing/attuning themselves, not what you wrote. – Murch Dec 18 '15 at 17:58
  • Yeah, what she did felt a lot more like Quin Gon focusing himself than like Kylo trying to extract knowledge from Rey. – Dungarth Dec 18 '15 at 19:09
  • I agree that they may have been some learning on Rey's part going on during the questioning, but not in the way to propose. In the fight, it was clearly a reference to Maz telling here to close her eyes and feel the light. – Raphael Jan 11 '16 at 16:38
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There are some key things of note:

Rey's flashback vision has Yoda saying "Its energy surrounds us and binds us" (a memory of Luke's, and a line that Yoda says in Empire Strikes Back just before saying "luminous beings are we... not this crude matter"), and Obi-Wan saying, "Rey... these are your first steps" (the latter words of which extend beyond the duration of the vision, at least from the perspective of the viewer).

Unless we are to interpret this as:

(A) a memory of Obi-Wan's force ghost speaking to Rey at some previous time (like when she was a toddler taking her actual first steps),

then we must interpret it as:

(B) Obi-Wan's force ghost speaking to Rey in the moment.

Interpretation (B) would be consistent with the temporal flow of the vision, since:

The vision starts in the distant past with Yoda's quote from Ep.5 and the Cloud City hallway scene, and it ends in the future with a vision of Rey's fight vs. Kylo in the forest. At the start of the future vision is when Obi-Wan says, "Rey...". Therefore it seems consistent to think he is talking to her in the moment, because his words come at the junction of past and future.

If that's the case, and he is speaking to her in the now, that could very well mean that, perhaps throughout the film, Rey has guidance from the beyond, much like Luke Skywalker did from at the end of Ep. 4 when Ben consciously guided him to close his eyes and destroy the Death Star, and at the beginning of Ep. 5 when Ben appeared to him and told him to go to Dagobah.

Note the parallel:

When Kylo has Rey pinned against the edge of the chasm and he says, "You need a teacher, I can show you the ways of the Force," Rey is reminded of Maz's words, "Close your eyes. Feel it. The light. It's always been there. It will guide you." She closes her eyes, then proceeds to do the near-impossible.

This parallels Luke closing his eyes at the end of Ep. 4., then proceeding to drain the perfect shot.

So yeah, Rey has some guidance. Whether you want to believe the Force itself is guiding her, or that someone's ghost is guiding her through the Force, it is the same thing, because in order to have influence in the real world through the Force, one must become one with the Force. Therefore there is no distinction between Rey being guided by the Force itself, and Rey being guided by those who have become one with the Force. (The meaning of "one with" is specifically that the self and the Force become one thing.)

As Qui-Gon's ghost tells Yoda in Ep. 3:

Qui-Gon's voice: When I became one with the Force, I made a great discovery. With my training, you will be able to merge with the Force at will. Your physical self will fade away, but you will still retain your consciousness. You will become more powerful than any Sith. Yoda: Eternal consciousness. Qui-Gon's voice: The ability to defy oblivion can be achieved, but only for oneself. It was accomplished by a Shaman of the Whills. It is a state acquired through compassion, not greed. Yoda: ... to become one with the Force, and influence still have... a power greater than all, it is. Qui-Gon's voice: You will learn to let go of everything. No attachment, no thought of self. No physical self.

Later, Yoda tells Obi-Wan about this and offers to train him in it, and Obi-Wan acts surprised.

Obi-Wan: Qui-Gon? But, how could he accomplish this? Yoda: The secret of the Ancient Order of the Whills, he studied. How to commune with him, I will teach you. Obi-Wan: I will be able to talk with him? Yoda: How to join the Force, he will train you. Your consciousness you will retain, when one with the Force. Even your physical self, perhaps.

Now we know that Luke never finished his training before Yoda became one with the Force, and therefore Luke would never have had the opportunity to learn the secret of the Ancient Order of the Whills. The fact that Luke missed this key training explains the following line from Ep. 7:

Han: The people who knew him the best think he went looking for the first Jedi temple.

This temple almost certainly the home of the Whills. We certainly see Luke feeling the requisite compassion:

(From Ep. 7 script): IT IS LUKE SKYWALKER. [...] He looks at Rey. A kindness in his eyes, but there's something tortured, too. He doesn't need to ask her who she is...

There is also the fact that Alan Dean Foster's novelization of The Force Awakens contains:

a passage from the Journal of Whills

It seems pretty obvious, then, that:

Luke went to the island to learn the secret Qui-Gon spoke of, and possibly, even more. Rey's dreams of the island, which we learn of when Kylo interrogates her, were likely planted in her mind by Luke (or Qui-Gon or Yoda or Obi-Wan) through the Force, using a technique similar to the one that Darth Sidious uses to plant dreams of Padme's death in Anakin's mind.

However I think that Kasdan and Abrams did not want to overstate the role of Rey's male Jedi influencers, since that would tend to weaken her own character. Ep. 7 is Rey's coming of age story, much like Ep. 4 was Luke's. But it was better for Rey's character that they chose to leave it up to viewer interpretation, and let viewers infer and establish for themselves that the Force itself guided Rey.

There is also the possible explanation that if Obi-Wan or someone else was influencing Rey through the Force, she would not be able to consciously recognize it anyway, since she had never met them. After all, no one ever sees a Force ghost of someone they they never met—Qui-Gon's ghost conspicuously does not appear at the end of Ep. 6 (except in this fanmade YouTube video—but even there he waits to appear until Luke's back is turned, heh). This inability to distinguish the Force voice/ghost of someone you've never met is consistent with the fact that the Force and the person are one, and it's also consistent with:l the fact that:

Yoda's and Obi-Wan's voices in Rey's vision are so quiet and subtley planted that most viewers did not consciously recognize them the first time around.

However the drawback of the writers' choice to make the Force's influence on Rey a subconscious one, is that it resulted in many viewers finding Rey's progression to be unrealistically fast. It led to questions like the op's above: how could Rey have done all these things without any kind of guidance or training?

It makes a lot more sense whn you realize that she (and also Fin, I would argue) had a whole team of dead (and one living) Jedi guiding them as best they could through the Force, kind of like guardian angels.

  • "This temple almost certainly the home of the Whills." I wouldn't say "almost certainly", I'd maybe say there's a remote possibility at best. – RedCaio Apr 10 '16 at 20:12
  • It is, or it isn't. There is no possibility. – CommaToast Apr 11 '16 at 23:46

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