Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Martial Arts Breakdown: Darth Maul vs Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn

Blogger actually deleted this post, which is strike two against blogger.  Fortunately, I never write anything on Blogger alone.  Everything is kept in notes that are backed up on several different systems.  Some commentary has been lost, but I'm sure I remember most of what I wanted to say.

The fight between Darth Maul and Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn is, in my opinion, the most influential fight of the prequel trilogy and set the tone for all light saber fights that followed, both in the prequels and the extended universe, right up until the Force Awakens took force swordsmanship back to the roots of the original trilogy.

You can check the fight out here.



Turn 1

Darth Maul is clearly the fastest, so he's allowed to go first.  He chooses to All-Out Defend.

Qui-Gon Jinn Evaluates Darth Maul.  He is in a defensive grip.

Impetuously, Obi-Wan actually initiates the fight with an Acrobatic Attack by making a Flying Leap over Darth Maul's head.  This is an Evasion.  As Obi-Wan's high-jump distance is sufficient to clear Darth Maul's head.  Obi-Wan is at -5 because Maul is standing.  This requires a quick contest of DX, though Obi-Wan can substitute Jumping or DX. Given Obi-Wan's facility with Acrobatics, he elects to use that.  Because it's an Acrobatic Attack, he suffers an additional -2.  Nonetheless, he succeeds at both and gets behind Maul.

This allows him to get behind Darth Maul, and he makes the attack portion of the Acrobatic Attack.  This is at -2 for being part of an Acrobatic Attack, and -4 for being a Move and Attack, with a miss on a roll of higher than 9!  Somehow, Obi-Wan manages to hit.

This is not actually a flying attack, because it's not an attempt to get TO Darth Maul, but an attempt to get PAST him.

After making his attack, he goes into a Defensive Grip.

Darth Maul may still defend, as this counts as a run-around attack.  He's at -2 to parry, but has no trouble doing so (He likely has Timed Defense).


Turn 2

Darth Maul makes a Back Strike against Obi-Wan, which is Force Sword-2.  If he strikes, he'll deal -8 damage, but he finds that an acceptable trade-off (It's still an average of 20 damage).  For the remainder of the turn, he's at -2 to all active defenses! Obi-Wan, seemingly surprised that his flashy manuever didn't work, manages to parry (which is fantastic, given that after a move and attack, one cannot parry. A unique technique, perhaps).

Qui-Gon Jinn makes a force sword swing at Darth Maul's head (-5, +1 from Evaulaute).  Darth Maul drops to a crouch as a free action and Dodges.

Obi-Wan also attacks for the head, but misses, perhaps because Darth Maul is crouching, or because Obi-Wan is incompetent.

Turn 3

Darth Maul makes a quick, defensive attack for Qui-Gon's legs (the -2 for legs is reduced to -1 thanks to being low down, but his attack is also at -2, unless he bought it off with a technique).  Qui-Gon parries.

Qui-Gon Jinn elects to go to All-Out Defense, as he has Darth Maul's attention, and he wants to hold it.

Obi-Wan makes a quick attack at Darth Maul's back, but Darth Maul makes a Timed Defense (-2, +1 from the Defensive Attack) to parry the attack.

Turn 4

Darth Maul stands as part of his step and makes three (-12, or -6 with weapon master) rapid strikes for Qui-Gon's leg (-2), then arm (-2), then a Spinning Attack (-2) for his other arm (-2).  Qui-Gon Jinn, all-out defending, is able to fend off all three while retreating (he parries at +1 from defensive grip, then +0, then -1.  Defensive grip treats the weapon as two-handed for parries, and Qui-Gon is a weapon master).  As part of his step, he turns so that both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are in his forward hexes.

Qui-Gon Jinn continues to All-Out Defend.

Obi-Wan makes a spinning (-2) attack at Darth Maul, who casually parries.

Turn 5

Darth Maul makes two (-6 or -3 for a weapon master) rapid-strikes, one against Qui-Gon and one against Obi-Wan.  Both parry.

Qui-Gon makes an attack at Darth Maul's legs (-2), who parries.

Obi-Wan makes an attack at Darth Maul's head (-5), who parries (at -1, for wielding a two handed weapon and parrying for a second time) while making a retreat (+1).

Turn 6

Darth Maul Beats Obi-Wan's lightsaber and succeeds.

Qui-Gon strikes at Darth Maul's leg (-2) and Darth Maul barely parries.

Obi-Wan attacks at Darth Maul's head (-5) and Darth Maul parries (-1 for his second parry, +1 for retreating).

Turn 7

Sensing that he can't maintain this pace, Darth Maul kicks (Karate-2) Qui-Gon in the face (-5).  Qui-Gon fails to parry or dodge, and inflicts at least 1 point of damage.  This forces a stun roll, which Qui-Gon fails.  He falls.

Qui-Gon is stunned.

Obi-Wan makes a spinning attack (-2) at Darth Maul and simply misses.

Turn 8

Darth Maul moves, making an acrobatic flourish, just because he can.

Qui-Gon rolls to recover from stunning and fails.  He Does Nothing.

Obi-wan moves after Darth Maul.

Turn 9

Darth Maul Concentrates on TK-Grab and tosses a piece of debris at a door button, opening it.  He steps as part of his action.

Qui-Gon rolls to recover from Stunning and succeeds. He changes posture to a kneel/crouch.

Obi-Wan steps while evaluating Darth Maul, and spinning his lightsaber in a flourish (Intimidation attempt, which fails).

Turn 10

Darth Maul makes a much more dramatic flourish and then makes a deceptive attack on Obi-Wan, who (thanks to his Evaluate) parries.

Qui-Gon Jinn moves to join the other two.

Obi-Wan makes a spinning attack at Darth Maul's leg, and it actually works, giving Darth Maul a penalty to his defense.  Darth Maul makes a feverish defense against Obi-Wan and succeeds.

Turn 11

Darth Maul, having parried Obi-Wan, Beats Obi-Wan's lightsaber, exposing the young padawan.

Qui-Gon flies to his ally's rescue with a sudden step and attack.  Darth Maul parries.

Obi-Wan attacks Darth Maul's head (-5) and Darth Maul parries (-1) while retreating (+1).

Turn 12

Darth Maul elects to All-Out Defend.

Qui-Gon attack's Darth Maul's legs (-2).  Darth Maul parries (+2 from All-Out Defense).

Obi-Wan makes a spinning attack (-2) at Darth Maul, and misses.

Turn 13

Darth Maul kicks (-2) Obi-Wan in the face (-5), inflicts at least 1 point of damage, forcing Obi-Wan to make a stun check, which he fails and falls.

Qui-gon makes a spin attack (-2) and misses.

Obi-Wan is stunned.

Turn 14

Darth Maul makes a Flying Leap to move away from Qui-Gon Jinn.

Qui-Gon Jinn moves to pursue Darth Maul.

Obi-Wan recovers from stunning and changes posture to kneeling.

Turn 15

Darth Maul elects to All-Out Defend and moves deeper into the structure.

Qui-Gon Jinn steps to follow and makes two rapid strikes (-3) and attacks Darth Maul's legs (-2) and then head (-5).  Darth Maul parries both (+2 from All-Out Defense and +1, including the penalty for his second parry)

Obi-Wan rises to standing and moves to pursue.

Turn 16

Darth Maul contiues to All-Out Defend and does a fancy spin, because he can.

Qui-Gon Jinn makes a spinning attack (-2) and connects.  Darth Maul parries.

Obi-Wan rejoins the party with a move.

Turn 17

Darth Maul, having parried Qui-Gon Jinn, makes a rapid strike (-3), first to beat Qui-Gon's lightsaber and critically succeeds, throwing Qui-Gon Jinn completely off balance, then to attack Obi-Wan, who seems surprised but nonetheless parries.

Qui-Gon Jinn recovers his balance.

Obi-Wan rapidly (-3 or -6) attacks Darth Maul's legs (-2) and Darth Maul parries and then makes a spinning attack (-3) to Darth Maul's legs (-2) but Maul parries.

Turn 18

Darth Maul elects to all out defend and continues to retreat.

Qui-Gon attacks Darth Maul's head, Maul parries.

Obi-Wan crouches and then moves away, perhaps surprised that his master is swinging his lightsaber over his head.

Turn 19

Darth Maul rapid strikes (-3) Qui-Gon, who retreats and parries twice (+1 defensive grip, +0 for the second parry).

Qui-Gon elects to go into All-Out Defense.

Obi-Wan lamely attacks and misses.

Turn 20-23

Darth Maul moves to the edge of a precipice and concentrates.  He elects to Wait until his opponents attack.

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan move to block him off, sensing victory but also a possible trap, and Evaluate.

This might be a Contest of Wills.

Turn 24

Darth Maul evidently wins the contest of wills.  The two attack, but Obi-Wan suddenly and inexplicably hesitates (perhaps a Mental Blow, or perhaps his failed Contest of Wills)

Qui-Gon attacks.  Darth Maul Acrobatically parries as he flips backwards, using Flying Leap, two escape the two, drawing them deeper into the complex.

Analysis

This is a much, much more kinetic fight than the previous fight.  Here, we have very few moments of standing around.  Even when characters disconnect, they tend to remain in motion.  When engaged, they often make dramatic, stylish and even frivolous attacks.  It honestly looks to me like Obi-Wan is often swinging his lightsaber just to swing his lighsaber.  Furthermore, both Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon focus their attacks on Darth Maul's head and feet rather than his torso.  Why?  Because an attack to the torso would be difficult for Darth Maul to parry with his ridiculous weapon, which would ruin the drama of the fight, and it's only at the very end of the fight that Qui-Gon finally makes a shot at Darth Maul's lightsaber  In some ways, the fight seems more about giving the impression of a lightsaber fight than actually showing us a lighsaber fight.  

That said, we can see some real skill here, especially on the part of Darth Maul (Ray Park, who played him, was a genuine martial artist, and the difference between his skill and, say, Ewan McGregor's acting are pretty stark).  He clearly sees he cannot take on two jedi, and so often engages in "Divide and Conquer" tactics.  He routinely finds a way to part the two, stunning one and then racing off to encourage the other to follow him into some isolated place.  Sadly, the two Jedi are too foolish (lack of tactical training?) to see what Darth Maul is doing.

Qui-Gon Jinn seems intent on protecting his student.  He often dives to his student's defense, and perhaps he's aware that Darth Maul is trying to separate the two, but assumes that means that while he may die, his student will live on.

Anakin and Obi-Wan demonstrate
advanced lightsaber techniques
Finally, Obi-Wan clearly doesn't know what he's doing.  While all characters make excessive motions, he makes the most.  While it's not the completely pointless flailing he makes in Revenge of the Sith, it comes close.  He'll spin around to make attacks at the air, or swirl his lightsaber just to swirl it.  This might be an effort to keep the viewer engaged, but it can also be shown as an example of his incompetence.  Obi-Wan is only able to defeat Darth Maul because the latter dismisses him as a threat, and because he tapped into his anger (showing just how unsuitable he is as a teacher for Anakin).

I am struck by how often they use hand-to-hand attacks.  It appeared in the Empire Strikes Back, and again here, but generally falls away in later films, and especially the expanded universe.  Not only does Darth Maul make use of pommel strikes and kicks, Qui-Gon Jinn himself grapples and punches Darth Maul!

The fight reminds me of most action movie fight scenes.  Combat is constant and frenetic, more focused on choreography than emotional content.  Darth Maul shows up, and without further introductions or monologing, we go straight to combat, because why not?  No pauses, no weighty emotional moments where we contemplate how tired the characters are.  They are combat  automatons.
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