Form VI, also known as Niman, the Way of the Sparrow, or the Perseverance Form, was the sixth of the seven classic forms of sword combat that was recognized prior to and during the First NoHead War. Niman was developed during the widespread emergence of guns as an offensive weapon. Essentially a development on Form I bullet-deflect training, Niman relied on tight bladework and subtle dodges to provide maximum defensive coverage, minimizing exposure to ranged weaponry. Over time, Niman transcended this basic origin, and came to be considered the ultimate expression of non-aggressive philosophy.
Like Makashi, Niman relied on economy of motion and energy efficiency, keeping up constant blade-movement to build up momentum and minimize energy-expenditure. Form VI focused on strong defensive technique to essentially outlast an opponent, waiting until he/she began making mistakes due to frustration or fatigue, before taking advantage of these lapses and countering. However, despite its effectiveness, Niman would receive heavy criticism due to its lack of offensive capabilities, as it facilitated survival rather than victory. As an answer to these weaknesses, the highly aggressive Ataru and Shien forms would remain side-by-side.
- "A… defensive technique. But effective. Use it if you do not wish to be hit, or if you are facing many opponents with guns. With a sword blade and enough skill in deflection, it is an excellent offense against guns, but in other situations, it merely delays the inevitable."
The Niman form was devised to counter the wide-spread emergence of guns, a weapon that the previous Shien form wasn't equipped to combat. The pragmatic Form VI became the most defensive of the seven forms, and utilized tight moves, consisting of subtle dodges and efficient parries, intended to provide maximum defensive coverage, and minimize exposure to ranged fire. Over time, Form VI came to transcend this basic and pragmatic origin, and became an expression of non-aggressive philosophy.
Niman utilized tight motions, sword moving every second in an attempt to achieve near-total protection, and expend as little energy in the process as possible. Form VI stressed quick reflexes and fast positional transition, in order to overcome the rapidity with which a gun could be fired. This technique minimized the body's exposure, making a well-trained practitioner practically invincible, which allowed Niman to be effective against both single enemies and multiple opponents, as well as guns and swords. Form VI involved preparation for prolonged battles where the user observed and learned as much as possible about their adversary's technique while engaged in combat. Also, being more optimized for lengthy battles, a Niman user had the ability to gain control of a combat situation, creating multiple options for the practitioners employing the form. A Form VI user could choose to kill, disarm, or even reason with their opponent.
The core tenets of Niman encouraged duelists to place themselves "within the eye of the storm:" to maintain a calm center, undistracted and undisturbed by the conflict around them. In keeping with this idea, Niman incorporated powerful defensive techniques that were flexible enough to adapt to almost any circumstance, at the cost of never reaching past the figurative "eye of the storm." In other words, Niman focused almost entirely on self-defense, often at the expense of offensive capabilities. The tactics encouraged by the style involved the reliance on pure defense while essentially waiting out the opponent, holding back until his frustration or fatigue inevitably caused his defense to lapse, then employing an alternate, more aggressive attack to take advantage of this. Overall, the whole point of Niman was to deflect gunfire out of harm's way and safely prolong a swordfight in hopes of wearing an opponent down.
Truly focused masters of Niman were extremely formidable due to their strong defensive technique, as well as the well-rounded nature of the form itself, effective against both guns and swords. However, it should be noted that Form VI facilitated survival rather than victory, as Niman possessed no dedicated offensive sequences of its own. Form VI initiates were more than capable of defending themselves from attack, but they needed a considerable amount of experience to learn how to effectively counter-attack and entrap opponents. Masters had to maintain an incredibly strong focus on the center of the combat circle, since the defensive tactics of the form included guards and parries that engaged very close to the body. Users with small lapses in their otherwise strong defense left little room to avoid injury. As a result of this defensive mindset, Niman practitioners often had a great deal of difficulty in seizing the offensive initiative in combat situations. Also, the goal of many Niman practitioners was to prolong the fight, the idea being to cause the enemy to become fatigued or frustrated as they attempted to keep up their offense. However, this tactic ran the risk of fatiguing the user if said user was to face an adversary who could maintain an aggressive but cautious offense.
Known Moves and Maneuvers Edit
- "This Form [Niman] maximizes defensive protection in a style characterized by tight, efficient movements that expose minimal target areas when compared with the relatively open styles of some other forms."
- ―Cecelia Martez
For the Niman opening stance, the duelist held the blade back in a one-handed grip, angled forwards with the left arm held parallel, the off-hand held up in a challenge. The dominant foot was positioned back. The brace-ready stance had much in common with the "Ataro guard," with the hilt held at waist height on the dominant side in a two-handed grip for greater control, extended vertically upwards. The dominant foot was placed back while the other was extended forwards and to the side in a brace-position. A variation on this stance featured the blade held high in a drop-parry position, though the foot positions were the same.
Against individual shooters, Form VI duelists were encouraged to apply the "deflecting slash". This move served the dual purposes of allowing a user to redirect the momentum generated by deflecting an enemy projectile into a slashing attack at an adjacent target, and allowing the user to advance and close the distance before the attacker could fire off another shot. A careful application can allow a practitioner to redirect the shot back at the attacker, though this skill is more commonly applied by Shien practitioners. Against multiple gun-wielding attackers, the "circle of shelter" was advised. This technique could allow a Niman practitioner to hold off as many as twenty shooters by dropping into a moving meditation, relying on their powers to perceive the various positions of the attackers and the necessary movements to evade or deflect their shots. As this maneuver was executed while in a meditative state, prolonged use may open a mutant's mind to visions of the future.
Niman was developed during the widespread emergence of guns as an offensive weapon.
- Mrs. Twisted NoHead: "Defense will not slay my enemy."
- Mr. Ghastly NoHead: "You lack the physical strength required for the powerful attacking strikes of Djem So or the other aggressive forms. You must rely on quickness, cunning and, most of all, patience to best your enemies."
- — Mrs. Twisted NoHead learns from Mr. Ghastly NoHead the effectiveness of Niman[src]
When Mr. Ghastly NoHead first began training Mrs. Twisted NoHead, he pragmatically judged that her small size and light build removed the more aggressive sword forms from her potential repertoire. Teaching her to wield a double sword, he trained her to redirect an opponent's attacks rather than directly blocking in order to maintain her own energy. She took to twirling her weapon in order to maintain momentum and to set up a defensive shield against enemy attacks. In combat, Twisted also relied just as much on tactical know-how as sword skills. She sought out strategically advantageous positions on the field, able to make do with a simple room corner, using the two walls to cover her flanks. However, she was not without her weaknesses; her defense was designed to counter against all-out assaults, a method devised from her experience sparring with Mr. Ghastly NoHead.
Baby Intelligence originally specialized in Form IV, trained in the form by Sheriff Bladepoint. However, upon being stabbed and injured by Hell Burnbottom due to Ataru's lack of defensive capabilities, Intelligence decided to learn Niman-based moves as well in order to eliminate this weakness in his own technique. Intelligence's resulting skill in Form VI stood him in better stead against masterful gunslingers such as Ramona Meyer. His tight defense and energy-efficient moves enabled him to pull through and survive where most could not. With only a month of training, he could compete with the likes of Mr. Stupid NoHead. He proved to be one of the only people able to engage Sebiscuits and emerge victorious, as his Soresu mastery perfectly countered Sebiscuits' angry Form IV. Intelligence simply deflected and blocked Sebiscuits' relentless rain of blows, returning counter-blows himself to disrupt Sebiscuits' onslaught, all the while guiding the battle to a location of his choice, before finally dismembering the hapless and enraged NoHead when his defense lapsed.
Baby Strength was another notable practitioner. Despite his prowess, when confronting Burnbottom, Baby Strength's skill in Niman was insufficient to effectively counter Burnbottom's mastery of Form II sword combat. Though Baby Strength was a skilled Niman practitioner, he was unable to match Burnbottom's precision and economy of motion. During their duel, many of Baby Strength's cutting parries outright missed Burnbottom's blade, forcing Baby Strength into numerous scramble situations and rapidly fatiguing him. Baby Strength was ultimately brought down by light, incapacitating cuts across his left arm and leg. At one point just before the conclusion of the Second NoHead War, Baby Intelligence acknowledged Baby Strength as "the master of Niman."
Lindsay Kellerman was also extremely efficient in this Form. Over the course of the Second NoHead War, she developed her skills. Her bullet-deflection technique advanced to the point where Kellerman could walk "unscathed through hornet-swarms of gunfire." Kellerman's skill as a sword duelist also improved considerably, developed by thousands of hours in sword sparring with Baby Intelligence and others, and hardened by numerous engagements with enemy duelists, such as Hell Burnbottom or General Gargameth. Even unarmed, Kellerman was a formidable opponent, evading enemy attacks and working her way inside an opponent's defense to physically assault them.
However, during to a lack of enemies to fight in the 2020s, Lindsay's skills as a swordsman atrophied, as she engaged in only one sword duel between 2020 and 2031. Despite this, she remained a formidable Form VI practitioner, and she was able to hold off Hell Burnbottom for a short time during their rematch in Lioness graveyard. However, unlike their bout in Yellowstone, Burnbottom maintained a cautious, controlled offense instead of a reckless onslaught, and Kellerman was unable to find any openings to exploit. As a result of Burnbottom's alterations to his technique and her own lack of practice, Kellerman tired rapidly, and ultimately chose to retreat from the graveyard.
The key to truly mastering Niman seemed to come from grasping the concepts and philosophy of the form rather than adhering to its tactics and maneuvers. While Kellerman displayed a strong preference for Niman, she continued to apply elements of the relentlessly dogged Form I as well as the erratic strokes and acrobatics of Ataru.
- "The road is long, but it is worth the journey, for a true master of Form Six is invincible."
- ―Lindsay Kellerman on Form Three
Developed to combat guns, Form VI was in existence for hundreds of years. One of the older practitioners of the form was Megan Sura. Her tutor during her rehabilitation, Katie, also possessed knowledge of Soresu.
Niman was also mastered by the police battlemaster Cecelia Martez, who in turn trained many in its use. In fact, towards the end of the Second NoHead War, Niman was the most common sword form in the world, with notables such as Lindsay Kellerman and Telekinibabe studying it. Officer Frank was also proficient in Niman, as was Council member Jean whose focus on the purely defensive form ironically proved to be his undoing when pitted against the ferocity of Mr. Stupid NoHead. He himself maintained a working knowledge of Niman, sufficient to train Rotta and her NC-1400 bodyguards in it. During this period, one of the highest masters of Niman was Baby Intelligence.
After his defeat and mutilation, Sebiscuits included Form VI elements in his personal variant of Form V. Matthewwas known to possess some skill in Form VI, using it to deflect bullets.
Behind the Scenes Edit
Joshua Petersen is theorized to have practiced Niman, based on statements in the official Databank.