Luke began his training relatively late in life (given that the council was hesitant to train 9-year-old Anakin), spent only a few days with Obi-Wan and another few with Yoda. Anakin was trained for some 12 or 13 years, and most Jedi are trained for even longer. Luke spent a grand total of perhaps a week with Jedi Masters, how is it he became powerful enough to compete with Vader?

Is it possible that he was in rigorous personal training between IV and V and then again between V and VI? Are there answers from the Extended Universe (Legends) for this?

  • 2
    No canon backup, and I don't know how it reconciled (time-wise) with the other characters stories at the time... But I always assumed that there was some time-compression in the scenes of his training, as it looked like we saw some physical development during the training, as well as 'Force' skill development. Again, no backup.. just my automatic internal attempt to logically justify it when I watched the movie.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Aug 9, 2012 at 1:41
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    Strongly related: How long was Luke Skywalker's training with Yoda?
    – Izkata
    Commented Aug 9, 2012 at 2:00
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    Like this, of course. youtube.com/watch?v=pFrMLRQIT_k Commented Aug 9, 2012 at 14:19

4 Answers 4


I'd like to point out that if you look at how they fought in episodes 1-3 (flashy, super-cool) and how stupid and clumsy Luke and Vader both looked in episodes 4-6, it's clear that Vader wasn't fighting up to his ability level.

The above is not really important to the rest of the answer. I know there's a whole 4th wall "Hollywood got better with fight scenes" explanation for that, but if you are willing to suspend disbelief, it adds to the rest of the answer.

Clearly, Vader knew Luke was his son, and wanted to turn him, not kill him.

No way was Luke "powerful enough to compete with Vader". Vader only fought hard enough to keep Luke from harming him, and the one time Luke got mad enough to actually harm Vader (Return of the Jedi), Vader was caught off guard, and was still not trying to harm Luke. He was just trying to avoid getting hit.

Something similar happens sometimes when I'm wrestling around with my boy. I could easily take out a seven year old, but I don't want to hurt the kid, just play with him.

Every so often, he comes at me in an unexpected way and manages to hurt my - land a blow in a sensitive spot, etc. It happens, not because he's "powerful enough to compete with me" but because my goal is not to hurt him, and I'm holding back. His goal is to try to get through Daddy's defenses, and he has no thought of holding back.

Same with Vader. He didn't want to hurt Luke, so he was holding back, while Luke was fighting with everything he had at that point.

  • 2
    "Clearly, Vader knew Luke was his son, and wanted to turn him, not kill him. " How do you reconcile this idea (that he wasn't fighting at his full potential) with the fact that his battle with Obi-Wan is even stiffer?
    – phantom42
    Commented Aug 9, 2012 at 13:04
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    I've always wondered if they're just getting old - especially for Vader with his mostly-artificial body, might simply be not as fit as they used to be? Certainly Obi-Wan was in his 20s in Ep1, and must have been pushing his 40s by Ep3.
    – rsegal
    Commented Aug 9, 2012 at 13:25
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    +1 good refrence to father-and-son relationship and play fighting. I remember doing that with my dad when I was younger :) Commented Aug 9, 2012 at 13:52
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    @hammythepig have you tried to kill your dad with a lightsaber when you were younger?
    – Wilerson
    Commented Aug 9, 2012 at 14:09
  • 23
    "I could easily take out a seven year old" - big talk. Pics or it didn't happen. Commented May 20, 2013 at 10:46

Let's look at what Luke has actually managed to do with the power of the Force, on-screen.

Episode IV:

  • Blocking a toy dueling droid from hitting him with non-lethal lasers while blind
  • Timing perfectly a pre-programmed proton torpedo to barrel down a thermal exhaust port

Episode V:

  • Tug a lightsaber out of snow
  • Have a very vague vision of disaster (that lost him an arm)
  • Jump like Michael Jackson out of the Carbonite Pit
  • Connect with his sister's latent Force sensitivity by shouting

Episode VI:

  • Get a bunch of weak-minded lackeys to almost turn on Jabba before getting awoken.
  • Catch a lightsaber in midair like um....a good Football Player?
  • Tell that he shouldn't have been on the mission because of Vader
  • Levitate C-3P0 on a chair

Impressive... but only if you don't compare it to any of the incredible things done in the Clone Wars cartoon or the Trilogy. And, as pointed out, his lightsaber work is pretty weak.

All of this indicates that Luke's skill level is pretty dang low, despite having great potential, due to a severe lack of training. He did 'defeat' Vader, but it was through sheer aggression, and in the end was more a psychological victory.

In short, Luke's actually not that good compared to the Jedi Knights of old.


The storyline of the original three movies which I saw as a kid, (now IV, V, and VI) have a completely different story if taken separately from I, II, III. The Republic still stands for Anakin he goes through the whole transformation from Jedi to Sith, originally trained by the actual "school" for Jedi with an actual teacher, as the Republic falls and the Empire is born.

The reason, if there is one, for the discrepancy that you point out is that Luke is constantly being shocked into getting better at using the Force. Think of the idea of if someone is pointing a gun (or a laser gun) at you, you will be forced to get better quicker: saving the princess, learning Vader is his father, losing his hand, getting a lightsaber, flying in a space ship, destroying a Death Star single-handedly. Remember he was a dirt farmer for all appearances' sake. Anakin was building droids and racing pods!

Alternative ideas may stem from the idea of balance in the Star Wars universe, the balance between light and dark, and good and evil. I think they made it clear there aren't many good Jedi at that point, and by the time the final battle with the Emperor and Vader takes place, both Yoda and Obi-wan have died and are with him in spirit. Is it possible that he, without much control over it, has a boatload of power (which can buy you a lot in a fight, especially when it involves the Force)?


The speed at which Luke mastered the Force is a testament to two main things. One being his sheer determination, which made him a quick study.

The second in his off the charts midi-chlorian count, being the same as that of Anakin. Luke was also in a prime setting on Dagobah, a planet full of life and thus, full of the Force. Also, he was training 12-14 hours a day for several weeks in a one on one setting with Yoda.

Don't forget that Luke already had some rudimentary abilities with the Force due to Obi-Wan's introducing him to the Force several years earlier. So that also helped him to bring his powers up to a far higher level in such a short time under the direct supervision of Yoda.

In the book "Shadows of the Empire", Luke was training in Obi-Wan's home on Tatooine for six months between the end of the original Star Wars A New Hope and the "Shadows of the Empire" book, which takes place between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He achieved a great level of skill and progress in that six months of non-stop daily training and practice. So much so that by the time he went back to Yoda after rescuing Han in Return of the Jedi, Yoda said

No more training to you require, already know you, that which you need."

During t"Shadows of the Empire", Luke was fighting Prince Xizor, head of the Black Sun galactic mob. He feared no one, was a master of martial arts and was not afraid of Vader, either. He wanted to take him on directly, but said that the Force make Vader too powerful to attack directly. He had a (Human Replica Droid) named Guri that was also his personal bodyguard. She was female and a machine, but was a lifelike as a terminator, with super strength, nearly invisible speed and amazing fighting skills. Luke had to take both her and Xizor on in direct combat, which he did and survived.

During the fight with Guri, who was undefeated until she ran into Luke, Luke attained a level of such oneness with the Force, that even though she was attacking him at near invisible speed, each blow seemed to take several seconds or longer to reach him. Though she was giving him major problems until then, this helped him to get so deep into the Force that he attained a new level of power in it. This is also one of the major incidents that helped him to grow so much stronger in the Force between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

In my gong-fu training, I was also trained one on one with my teacher for about 3 hours a days 3-5 days a week. That plus I practiced at least 2 hours a day on my own, so that after only 3 months I was better than other students at the main school that had been training for 4 years, that according to my teacher himself.

So I know from personal experience that one on one training makes a huge difference in how fast and how well you learn. There is also the natural potential of the person. I've always been into the mind since I was 10 years old, practicing concentrating exercises and doing other mind training. So this also gave me the capacity to, at times, learn some techniques in a matter of minutes or seconds, to the shock of my teacher.

Luke would also have this similar ability due to his incredible natural Force power and potential. This was confirmed when he was able to learn so much, so fast while training alone with Yoda on Dagobah as mentioned above.

  • How do you know he trained with Yoda for several weeks?? Sure, we do not know how long it really took the Falcon to limp from the Hoth asteroid belt to Bespin with the emergency hyperdrive, so technically it COULD have been weeks, but can you verify that?
    – BMWurm
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 18:33
  • It is stated in the book version of "The Empire Strikes Back" It said that his sheer determination made him a quick study and he's mastered skills, powers and techniques in weeks, that took other Jedi years to master. Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 20:57
  • That's a cop out. There is no way Luke could have mastered the ways of the Force within a few weeks. This was Lucas' attempt to cover up his mistake in not having Luke return to Yoda to finish his training.
    – Dee Rush
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 15:45

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