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When the trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens came out, there were many jokes made at the expense of Kylo Ren's lightsaber and its silly guard. And whilst that particular guard design is indeed silly, one does wonder why lightsabers don't have guards.

A lightsaber is primarily a metal tube. Some designs feature rubber bits that presumably are used for grip, and other designs are weirdly shaped presumably to prevent one's hand from slipping (Dooku's wrists must hurt like hell holding a weapon at that angle though), but one would think that a guard would be a high priority for a weapon that can burn flesh in a matter of seconds.

Without a guard, what prevents a sweaty palmed Jedi from burning his fingers in the middle of a tense battle? More importantly, what protects the sweaty palmed Jedi from injuring himself on his own lightsaber without a guard?

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    Related: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/73922/… – BCdotWEB Jul 21 '17 at 14:27
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    "Dooku's wrists must hurt like hell holding a weapon at that angle" As mentioned, there are real life fencing swords with curved grips and Mr. Lee himself was apparently an accomplished fencer. Also, I believe I've heard that he specifically requested a curved grip because it was more comfortable to hold with his arthritis, however, some quick searching hasn't turned up any supporting evidence so I may be imagining that story. – 8bittree Jul 21 '17 at 15:37
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    What looks like a crossguard on Kylo Ren's lightsaber are actually exhaust vents. – Ansgar Wiechers Jul 23 '17 at 23:30
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    Wait, why are Kylo Ren's guards stupid? (forgoing the already posted comment that these are exhaust vents. May be technically true but their positioning is still intentional) Assuming Kylo is intending to protect his hands from the opponent's lightsaber sliding down and hitting his hand; the best way to block it seems with a lightsaber. Lightsabers cut through metal (guards), but are stopped by another lightsaber (as we see many, many times in the movies). You can still argue why he didn't put a metal guard under the lightsaber guard (to protect his hands from the lightsaber guard) though... – Flater Jul 24 '17 at 7:43
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    @MagikarpMaster: There is no confirmation on that. The 'lightsaber part' could simply be a shielded lightsaber blade. It makes much more sense that the LS guards still come from the hilt (where the main LS blade is generated, the guards come from this source too), as opposed to being generated separately by the little nubs. This actually would confirm my theory a little bit: what you call "lightsaber parts" are actually a covered LS blade, and it's covered specifically to protect Kylo's hands yet be strong enough (due to the LS blade inside of it) to withhold an opponent's LS. – Flater Jul 24 '17 at 8:13
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I suspect that there are many practical reasons why you might not have a guard. For example they may get caught, or stuck in clothing or against straps.

However in this instance I believe that it is to do with the undertones of Japanese culture that can be seen within the Star Wars franchise films.1 There are plenty of examples of this dotted about online, but it's largely understood that it was influenced if not subtly by the films of Akira Kurosawa.2

With this in mind it's possible that the lack of guards could have been influenced by a cultural or artistic intention; Uesugi Kenshin3 believed that a true warrior doesn't need a tsuba (guard) so their katana didn't have them. Pretty unique for daitō (long swords) in Japanese history.

This is what I've always understood to be the reason, but I would imagine that there are much more detailed breakdown of why this could be the reason elsewhere.

Some of the other answers theorize some really interesting physics based explanations as to why slippage and therefore a 'guard' is not as large a concern with a light saber as you'd think. In Omegacron's answer he mentions about the lack of physical weight above the hilt, and as such the lack of opposition from forward momentum.

Consider that with traditional blades you have a metal mass above the hilt namely the blade, that you are trying to force into an object; either by a swipe or stabbing maneuver. As the two physical objects collide there is a counter-force to your initial expenditure.

For example a stabbing motion would cause the friction between your hand and the swords grip to become the focal point of the resistance met by the two objects colliding.

(Taking into account the lightsaber's plasma blade)

The lightsaber's plasma blade would indeed have a mass, but there are two considerations to take into account when calculating the factors of resistance from stabbing and swiping maneuvers.

For the most part the canon refers to the fact that a lightsaber could cut through virtually anything so in a duel between two individuals the only thing that could in theory provide any actual collision and therefore a counter-force is the opponents own lightsaber. This counter-force would not be the same as that of two metal swords clashing, as the plasma blade of a lightsaber is said to be maintained within its own magnetic field4, the two blades would likely experience a magnetic counter-force. A magnetic counter-force would not cause reverberations down the body of the hilt which would rule out one such force that necessitated guards on weapons.5

So with that in mind when it comes to a lightsabers' blade swiping, or stabbing at something that's made of organic matter, then it is quite likely that it would provide no resistance to the initial expenditure because either the 'beam' enters or passes through the object without much issue.


1 Japanese culture in star wars: Link 1, Link 2, Link 3

2 Wiki reference to Akira Kurosawa

3 Wiki reference to Uesugi Kenshin

4 Wooki link regarding plasma.

5 Very interesting information on impacts and motions of swords

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    This makes a lot of sense, considering most Jedi scoff at the use of blasters. Lightsaber guards might also be considered clumsy or random to a Jedi. – DaaaahWhoosh Jul 21 '17 at 14:39
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    @DaaaahWhoosh with the whole culture within the films around what it is to be a Jedi, and how they interact with 'the force', it's not suprising that theres a sense of spirituality to the weapons they use, evident in their dislike of the blasters as you mentioned. – Digitalsa1nt Jul 21 '17 at 15:03
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    "Subtly" could be considered an understatement. Several sources say that Lucas straight stole The Hidden Fortress and put it in space. – DCOPTimDowd Jul 21 '17 at 15:11
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    @DCOPTimDowd yeah I've read a few of the articles and blog posts around that topic, I think 'sublte' is subjective, because unless you knew about the discussions around The Hidden Fortress, from purely an 'on its own' viewing experience I think the undertones of Japanese culture is played out subtly. – Digitalsa1nt Jul 21 '17 at 15:14
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    The duel between Ben and Vader is actually very reminiscent of kendo, and the kendo swords (shinai) do not use guards as well (not in the Western sense, at least). – Gallifreyan Jul 21 '17 at 15:49
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A Jedi wields his lightsaber in flow with the Force, without it a lightsaber would be extremely hazardous to its wielder, however since most combat oriented Jedi are wielding their lightsaber in balance with the force and don't actively think about every move, more like going along with the flow of the force itself. So that's why their hands won't slip.

There are a few lightsaber resisting metals in Star Wars, such as Mandalorian iron also known as Beskar, however this will make the lightsaber a lot heavier and it will not be able to resist a lightsaber for a extended amount of time.

Further more, at the time of the movies the Jedi did not have to fight anyone in a duel for ages (not counting rogue Jedi and sparring sessions) the Sith were wiped out as far as they knew and their primary opponents where blaster wielding thugs, so no need for a guard anyway and its also why so many of the Jedi fell when they faced a dueling oriented fighter like grievous, Dooku, who was the reining master of makashi during their era which is style purely made for dueling another lightsaber wielding opponent or Palpatine who were all trained in fighting another lightsaber wielding foe.

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    "A Jedi wields his lightsaber in flow with the force". Citation needed – mathreadler Jul 23 '17 at 13:49
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The purpose of guards in our world is to protect the hands. As can be seen in the original three films, both Luke and Vader get hands replaced. You don't need guards to protect such easily replaced items!

What works as a weapon or armour depends a lot on context and also on tradition. Swords with full guards only really occurred after the medieval period1, when the pairing of weapons with shields and armour lessened2, and a style of fighting where the hand was forward was adopted. You may as well ask why Jedi don't wear armour or carry shields - essentially they are relying on speed to not get hit at all.

Another function of the hilt is to prevent the hands sliding forwards when thrusting. This can be achieved by a cross guard, quillons, widening the handle in front of the grip (e.g. a Sashka), or placing the heel of your second hand at the base of the handle. But it seems that light sabers meet much less resistance than swords do when thrusting, so this probably is less of a problem.


1 Examples of medieval style weapons at the height of the period - Long-sword, Arming sword, Broadsword

2 Examples of the decline of shield use - Good answer here, Excellent answer on the decline of shields in Japanese warfare

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    That's funny, but I think we can agree that using a guard is more practical than chopping off hands and then replacing them, at least time-wise. And not to mention that a guard would allow one to continue the fight immediately, while both Luke and Anakin had first to get a new arm, which I think can't be done in the field. – Gallifreyan Jul 21 '17 at 16:21
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    @RichS only half a joke - the utility of a guard is perceived to be less than the cost of that it mitigates. – Pete Kirkham Jul 21 '17 at 16:25
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    This made me 'lol', but unfortunately it's not an accurate comparison to the kind of influences that the film took from history (and certainly not from the western medieval era). It was less a 'time period' adoption of sword guards, and more a cultural interpretation of the 'warrior' and his relationship to his weapon that is reflected in the films. – Digitalsa1nt Jul 21 '17 at 17:56
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    I reversed my downvote after you added the second paragraph - that is a good observation. – Gallifreyan Jul 21 '17 at 18:44
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    With some more context around that second paragraph, with some supporting sources I think there's certainly a parallel between a historical move to sword guards over shields, +1 – Digitalsa1nt Jul 21 '17 at 19:42
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In-universe, lightsabers do not require a guard because the blade itself has no weight and does not bind when entering objects.

The purpose of a cross-guard on a sword is to keep your hands from slipping onto the blade. This does not happen because of sweaty palms (although that could make it more likely) but instead because of simple physics. When the blade is moving forward and strikes another object, the full weight of the blade stops, but the weight of whoever is wielding it continues to move in that direction. Without the guard, only the wielder's grip on the hilt prevents the hands from sliding forward towards the sharpened edge.

With a lightsaber, there is no physical contact between the hilt and the object it is striking. Since the wielder is not putting their weight behind the lightsaber like they would with a physical blade, this situation no longer occurs.

  • Of course the slippage "towards the sharpened edge" you're talking about is only during a thrust, not during a cut. – Erik Jul 21 '17 at 21:19
  • @Erik that's true but even with a swipe (cut) motion there is a counter movement, which would pivot the handle in the owners hand, the guard works as a counter point against the persons grip, a little bit like trying to push over a pole that goes into the ground, but just above that has a cross pattern, the extended arms act as a support. – Digitalsa1nt Jul 21 '17 at 21:21
  • @Digitalsa1nt yes there is always a counter movement per Newton's laws, but I don't think the guard plays much of a role in protecting yourself from your own blade. I can see where during a thrust it is possible it might offer some sort of safety backup. At all other times a guard is really about protecting your hand from the other person's sword. – Erik Jul 21 '17 at 21:28
  • @Erik to clarify I wasn't saying that it necessarily protected the user from the blade itself on a swing maneuver, more so that it helps limit the possibility of the sword being knocked out of the users hand. It actually helps limit the available pivot in a situation where two blades clash and force is being applied. I've linked a site that explains sword impacts and motions in my answer, it's an interesting read. =) – Digitalsa1nt Jul 21 '17 at 21:30
  • There's physical contact when you enter a bind with another lightsaber. I always thought a guard was to protect you from theirs... – Mazura Jul 23 '17 at 2:31
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Main reason: Money

I think the original reason may be outside of lore. The first film had, for the time a low budget ($13m in 1977) and many many props, locations and costumes to make. This is also why relatively unknown (at the time) actors and actresses were used. If you look at many of the lightsaber designs they are balance on complex looking but simple to make. Many of the lightsabers in the original films were made from spare parts of lights, cameras, tubing, etc.

Examples of lightsabers from the original 3 movies Lightsabers from the original 3 movies

Looking closely you can see the various bits soldered/brazed together. Other features that look complicated (such as the 'accordion' banding on the top two) is a trivial task on a lathe. Many of the early lightsabers are a great example of maximum complexity at minimal cost/effort. They have a very unique sci-fi feel,but are still immediately recognizable. Adding an extra part such as a hand-guard would have made each saber much more complex, with not much added value to the overall look.

More complex designs only came about once there was the budget to do so.

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    Not a bad answer, but I think the question is asking for an in-universe explanation. In-universe, at least some Force-users would likely consider spending more money to prevent accidental injuries to be worth it. – Bellatrix Jul 21 '17 at 21:23
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    Not downvoting, but it seems to me that the first Star Wars was exceptional for the amount of investment (time, energy, thought, and money) on special effects details. And the cost of having a wider piece of metal junk at the end of a prop already full of junk would be zero or no significant part of the $13 million budget. – Dronz Jul 21 '17 at 21:37
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    They didn't really "make" them. petapixel.com/2011/07/11/… – RedCaio Jul 22 '17 at 0:59
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    It's never occurred to me until now how uneven the lathing is on the rings. – Pharap Jul 22 '17 at 10:06
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    @RedCaio That actually might go even further to explaining why they have no hilt guards. What part on a motion–picture camera of the time would look convincing and not ridiculous as a hilt guard? – can-ned_food Jul 23 '17 at 1:24
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The main physical reason that lightsabers do not have a guard is that the blades bind (or stick together due to friction) on contact. In the real word, blunt blades do not bind, and sharp blades will have a slight bind when they meet edge to edge (but this ends if the blade is twisted, or does not occur at all if the flat is hit).

This means that on a real sword, if your opponent pushes on the blade, then depending on the angle of the push, their blade will either slide off the tip of your blade or slide down to the hilt. If it slides down to the hilt and there is no guard, then you'll get your hands chopped off; this is generally a bad thing, so almost every historical sword design that was intended to be used for parrying has a guard.

Now, lightsabers don't need to worry about that kind of thing: when they hit, they stick. If you push harder, your blades will stay in the same spot relative to each other, and just the angle will change. This means that the opponent's blade will usually not slip down to the handle to threaten the hands. If the hands aren't being threatened, then why have a guard?

An aside on the matter of Dooku's handle: having a bent handle in fencing is refered to having a canted blade, and is the only way a straight handle (a french grip) is used at a competitive level in fencing. It's much easier on the wrist because you don't have to bend your wrist down to point the tip of your blade at your opponent. An example of a specialty french grip.

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    Then why don't we ever see lightsabers stuck together in any movie or tv show? – phantom42 Jul 21 '17 at 18:40
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    @amflare I would stand that on its head: is there any canon source where a lightsaber slides down another lightsaber's blade? – Jared Smith Jul 21 '17 at 19:22
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    @amflare I see no reason to assume that physically impossible magic laser swords behave one way or another. If we've seen a lightsaber blade slide down another's blade then we know for sure they don't "stick", if we haven't then the question remains open. Russell's Teapot is not relevant. – Jared Smith Jul 21 '17 at 19:30
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    Fair enough, but I've been a fencing coach for over a decade now and this is a perfectly reasonable theory as to why lightsabers wouldn't have guards. Nor do I remember any sequences in the films with a contradictory example. – Jared Smith Jul 21 '17 at 19:34
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    @JaredSmith There is another canon example in Dooku's execution. If you're right about them being unable to slide then this execution would be done either by pulling the hands together like a pair of scissors, or thrusting the hands straight forward. Anakin instead spreads his hands outwards, which only makes sense if the two swords are sliding along each other so that the contact point slides from midway down the blade to the end of the blade.. – CR Drost Jul 21 '17 at 22:02
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Some lightsabers do have guards in Legends

In Legends continuity, there is the lightfoil, which does have guards:

Lightfoil

Lightfoils are petite and elegant lightsabers which are popular among certain young Tapani nobles, especially those that call themselves saber rakes. In the beginning, lightfoils were built by a few technologically adept saber rakes, following the designs of actual antique Jedi lightsabers they had on hand. Gradually, as the designs were established, others got into the act, and lightfoils are now a hot item on the fringe markets frequented by saber rakes.

Lightfoils are weaker than authentic lightsabers, largely because those who build them do not use the same focusing crystal designs found in real lightsabers. They aren't crafted with the attention and devotion to excellence the Jedi gave to real lightsabers, either. They have a tendency to fail at the worst times. But to the saber rakes, this just adds to their appeal.

Star Wars: Lords of the Expanse Sector Guide

Lightfoils are based on antique lightsabers, but in contemporary times are used by non-force sensitive young nobles cashing in on a fad, instead of by actual Jedi.

Most Imperial officials see the fad for what it is—a simple infatuation with an elegant antique weapon vested with a rich and regal history. Few saber rakes have more than a passing knowledge of the Jedi Knights.

Star Wars: Player's Guide to Tapani

I suspect that the guards exist on lightfoils because the non-force sensitive nobles find it more comforting to have them, whereas trained Jedi find them unnecessary. There is also a mention of how even non-functioning lightfoils are used as a status symbol, and having a guard makes them more identifiable, especially at a distance.

All houses (with significant Imperial pressure) have since agreed to ban functioning lightfoils in the sector. This hasn't stopped the saber rakes from wearing non-functioning ornamental lightfoils at their belts (some of which just happen to activate if the right hidden buttons are pushed).

Star Wars: Player's Guide to Tapani

  • Good find, but those are exceptions to the norm. – can-ned_food Jul 23 '17 at 1:26

protected by Möoz Jul 26 '17 at 3:10

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