Three Kinds of Fighters

There are three kinds of fighters, particularly in the SCA. Now, before we go any further I will be the first to admit that this is not an exhaustive list. There are of course nuances outside the scope of this article and that’s perfectly fine. This merely serves as a general guide to help people figure out where they want to go next. As well, no one is going to just be merely one of these kinds of fighters. Humans are complex, but archetypes are still a useful way of framing things. With all of that out of the way, let us delve in.

The Competitor

This is the fighter that lives for tournaments. They are motivated by being better than they were last week. The Competitor will likely be one of the most driven people at your practice, but they’re also easily discouraged. A good deal of their self-worth comes directly from how well they see themselves doing in direct relation to other fighters. This means that if they don’t see clear progress happening from week to week, or someone they “should” be better than beats them, they may be down in the dumps for awhile.

The flipside to this is that if they aren’t being challenged, you may only see them sporadically. Sometimes this is solved by getting one of your better fighters to give them a nice beat down and remind them of how much more there is to learn. However, they may end up dismissing this saying, “Well, no one can beat X.” or “X isn’t even human.”

Worse yet, Competitors may blame their loss on size, age, or their opponent’s athleticism. A good remedy to this might be to find them a rival close to their level. This way they can see themselves getting better certain weeks, while other times being leap frogged and having the urge to catch up.

The Player

No, not that kind of player! This is the fighter that comes to practice just to have fun. That can manifest itself as spending most of practice hanging out on the sidelines chatting with their friends who they only see at practice. Alternatively, they may be there because they have a genuine love for swordplay purely because they think it’s fun.

The Player is one of the easiest kinds of fencers to get along with, but they can also pull Competitors into a social trap where they suddenly look up at the clock and see that practice is almost over. If you find that one of you students is a strict Player, do not force them into being a Competitor, or you may risk losing them. Players can easily be turned off by high pressure environments. If tournaments aren’t fun for them, but it’s what everyone else talks about incessantly, suddenly the Player might realize there isn’t any more fun to be had at practice.

The Scholar

This fighter wants to find all the nooks and crannies of the art. They have found a description of cuts both based off of where they start as well as where they end. You talk to them about technique and they can tell you which number plate you’re referring to. Whereas Competitors will hone in on the two or three techniques they need to win, Scholars want to know everything that’s out there.

With Scholars, we wouldn’t have found many of our texts to begin with, or even had them translated. Whereas tournaments may be the most visible part of what we do, the work Scholars put in makes it possible for us to be here in the first place. It is important to note, though, that scholars (or students of scholars) are possibly the most likely to get frustrated of the three.

Scholars may want to focus in a particular technique from the back of the book, but not understand why their opponent isn’t giving them the proper opening. As well, Scholars have a tendency to branch out quickly. This will often mean that when it comes to sparring, they get their lunch money taken from them by Competitors who have honed their relatively smaller tool set to have a much finer edge.

Hopefully this quick guide will help you figure out why you or your student isn’t progressing the way you want to. Although we may all share a joy for the combative arts, different people often have different goals and forcing people to do something they in their hearts don’t want to, is one of the fastest ways to turn people away.

Written by Arik Mendelevitz

Known in the SCA as Warder Raphael di Merisi, Arik has a great love for the art of the sword and specializes in the Italian rapier of Niceletto Giganti. From time to time, though, he can be seen playing with Pacheco's version of Destreza, Bolognese sidesword, or Fiore's art of grappling.