The Jedi Trials: The Trial of Skill

Reposted from Return of a Jedi, the blog of Destiny Froste, with permission.

I walked away from the Jedi community in Spring of 2008.  At that time, various sites and groups had all made attempts at coming up with some sort of “Jedi Trial,” but each attempt was short lived.  We had the idea teased to us when Phantom Menace came out in 1999, but it was not until September, 2010, with the release of The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force, more than two years after I had left the community, that we finally received a description of what these trials were.  I was ecstatic when this book came out, so full of possibilities and inspiration, but the resource, to me, appears to be squandered.  Over the next five weeks (starting this Thursday), I want to look at each one of the five Jedi Trials, starting this week with the Trial of Skill.

The current way I have seen these implemented is somewhat of an application process.  In a way, I can see that making sense.  If someone has already experienced something that was at a trial level, just like in the Jedi of fiction, they should be able to be waived from being tried in that area again.

I have also seen some attempt to standardize the trials, which I do and do not agree with.  Yes, you want consistency, and you want to make sure everyone meets a certain baseline, but everyone has different strengths or weaknesses, and the trials should focus on both of those.  If you are prone to arrogance and temper, that boundary needs to be pushed in order to make sure you can control yourself.  If you are someone who claims to be a top martial artist, you need to be tested more than someone who has learned to fight only as a means of defense.

Finally, the “trials” that I have seen at gatherings are basically a two-ish hour interview process.  Granted, many feel that it is more of a review of piers than a trial.  So, my thoughts on timing, is that each trial should be given individual attention, and it could take several days to complete them all.  The Trial of Spirit, for example, could take hours, just going through a Jedi’s life to find their fears, guilt, insecurities, etc.  Proper time must be allotted.

The Trial of Skill

From The Jedi Path by Daniel Wallace:

The Trial of Skill demonstrates a Jedi’s competence with a lightsaber and the Force principles of Control.

Don’t be fooled into thinking of the Trial of Skill as a physical challenge.  Master Vaunk and the Council members will judge your performance based on a series of lightsaber tests, but in truth this Trial hinges on a Jedi’s ability to maintain self-discipline in the face of distraction.

Lightsaber combat is attached to the Trial of Skill as a matter of modern convenience, for every Jedi must demonstrate the ability to wield a blade.  Yet lightsaber combat springs from the discipline of Control.  Early in the history of the Order, the Trial of Skill took many forms, including acrobatics while balanced on the tip of a wooden staff and keeping a single pebble suspended while standing in the vortex of a howling Tythonese hailstorm.

Do not bother to anticipate what type of lightsaber challenge you will encounter during the Trial of Skill or which opponent you will face.  The popular rumor among Padawans is that you must outlast the Jedi Battlemaster in a session that may span hours.  This could be true, for aching fatigue provides exactly the kind of challenge to a Jedi’s focus that the Trial of Skill is meant to evaluate.  Yet you may face multiple opponents at once; a succession of fresh opponent while you become increasingly exhausted; a duel with one Jedi while another manipulates your perceptions or shifts the floor tiles beneath your feet; or perhaps even a duel with a member of the Council, including our venerable Grand Master–a rare privilege indeed.

Such challenges are not meant to be unfair.  All are designed to mimic challenges you may one day face if you are to serve the Order and the Republic as a Jedi Knight.

The latest feature in the Jedi trials Chamber is a holographic projector, introduced after the victory at Ruusan and capable of creating enemies from the air itself.  With this tool you might face Darth Ruin, Lord Kaan, or any of the worst monsters to ever rise from the dark side.

“The Trial of Skill is not a test of athleticism, but of control.”

So essentially, the Trial of Skill is more a test of the Force control than of just your fighting, which at first thought could leave the Jedi of Earth in a bit of a quandary.  We do not have Force abilities like what is shown in the fiction.  However, control can still be tested.

First, I think that combat should remain part of this Trial.  Yes, there are some Jedi out there that choose more the path of a healer, diplomat, or some other, less combative path, however I believe that all Jedi should be able to, at the very least, defend themselves and others if need be.  Within the fiction, all Jedi carried a lightsaber, and therefore all Jedi were trained in how to use a lightsaber, whether they actually ever had need to use it or not.  So how to test control within this?

Well first off, there is the simply act of distraction.  Have the student sparing with another, set up a distraction to occur mid-sparing, and see how they react.   The distraction should not be something that would require the student to act upon, but something simple and just out of place.

Also, many styles of Martial Arts already have this control in practice.  For example, in Capoeira, the ranking is reversed.  Instead of the belt darkening, with the idea that it grows dirtier the longer you train, your pants grow lighter, with the idea that the longer you are training the more control you have over your body and the less likely you are to get knocked to the ground.  It is also a sign of a capoeiristas proficiency NOT to knock a sparing partner to the ground.  During a Jogo, the players should never actually make contact, but instead should show their level of control by pulling back on the strike before it makes impact.

It is difficult to say how one would “test out” of the Trial of Skill.  Holding a certain belt level could qualify, but only if the school has been vetted by a Jedi with expertise in Martial Arts in general, if not in that specific style.  There are many martial arts schools out there who will pass people simply because that is what they are paying for, and they produce a lot of black belts who could not hold  their own in a true fight.

Military service is also a very gray area.  Just because a person is enlisted and served overseas does not mean they ever saw true combat, and with this, there is no real way of vetting a students experience.

As will be the case with many, if not all of the Trials, the exact Trial should be taken on a case by case basis.  If a student was reluctant to learn any sort of Martial Arts/Self Defense, then their ability in such should be more closely examined, though control/concentration still taken into consideration.  If it is a student who has already shown prowess and enthusiasm in such fields, the focus would be more on the control/concentration, and also perhaps on whether they have a case of “lightsaber syndrome.”

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