Pain is the greatest teacher, but no one wants to study under him.
Techniques and philosophy
Var Shek, unlike Echani fighting styles, was extremely ruthless and brutal, designed to quickly kill or incapacitate an attacker. Unlike the use of the lightsaber, it had no higher cultural or philosophical connotation; it was developed by Massassi warriors and lesser Sith Lords, to combat enemies on the battlefield at close range. The style relied heavily on powerful hand techniques and low kicks; though higher kicks were taught for flexibility and muscle training, in actual combat kicks above the groin were very rare. It also incorporated footsweeps, throws, and takedown techniques. Groundwork in Var Shek was limited, as the aim was to kill an enemy outright rather than force him to submit.
Training in Var Shek was intense, and involved a good deal of physical conditioning, both of striking surfaces (hands, knuckles, shins) and surfaces of the practicioner's body that he might expect to be struck (stomach, thighs, forearms, and, again, shins). As it had no cultural background, Var Shek lacked "forms" in the sense of long series of prearranged moves, though novices were taught basic techniques with counters as partner drills. Instead, training was split almost evenly among drills, body conditioning, and partner practice (both on individual techniques and free sparring). Individual variations in the style were encouraged, as it was designed exclusively for practical use. In traditional Var Shek training, students occasionally killed each other in sparring practice, though this was usually discouraged.
Unlike Teras Kasi, Var Shek was taught widely to the non-Force sensitive, and by the time of the Great Hyperspace War was required training for all Massassi warriors. It proved especially useful for Sith engaging Jedi at close range, especially if one or both had been deprived of a lightsaber. "Unfair" advantages were considered more than fair by Var Shek practitioners, and those heading to battle often wore spiked gloves, shin and groin armor, and the like.
Like all aspects of Sith culture, Var Shek faded to near extinction following the defeat of Naga Sadow and the subsequent obliteration of most of the Sith Empire. In modern times, one of the few known masters of Var Shek was Tak Sakaros. Realizing that his pool of students was greatly diminished and training fatalities would not be acceptable, he refined some training measures to ensure that his students survived.
Other practitioners, all students of Sakaros himself, were:
- Astariax Drago (basics)
- Khrado Ragnos
- Khrado, Marquand, and Tariun Sakaros
- Andromeda Keane (basics)
- Rin Sakaros
- Ye'keb Millennium (basics)
- Alluria Quinn (intermediate)
The Sith Lord Gav Daragon, a comrade and later nemesis of Sakaros, was also a trained Var Shek master. The two Sith are known to have trained together, but Daragon's original teacher is unknown.
The Merquise Syndicate Elite Guard were taught a modified form of Var Shek by Sakaros and Alluria Quinn. Andromeda Keane's grandson Jarek Solios also became proficient in Var Shek after training with his grandmother and improving his skills with Alluria and the Elite Guard.
In a life-or-death fight, the only wrong thing you can do is lose.
Most of Tak Sakaros's Massassi troops were taught Var Shek techniques. When Rin Sakaros dueled her father and took his fleet in 87 ABY, she took the fleet and the Massassi to begin her Golden Empire. Var Shek became the official martial art of the Order of Keltrayu, and all Centurions were required to demonstrate at least basic proficiency in its techniques, excepting a few Rin personally excused and taught Echani instead.