Types of Fighters

In Historical Fencing, there are three types of fighters: the Charger, the Blocker, and the Runner. Each with a unique style that when combined becomes the technique known as Shifting.

Types of Fighters

Every historical fencer can be grouped into one of three categories: Charger, Blocker, or Runner. These categories or Types of Fighters, are simple terms that describe the fighter’s general fighting style. With all the complexity and nuances that rapier fencing has to offer, simplifying is incredibly helpful.

I believe it is helpful to know these types of fighters and how to recognize them because understanding your opponent quickly can give you an advantage when you may not have time to study them in depth. Additionally, through study and practice, each fencer can utilize each general style and learn to adapt at any given moment. We use the term “shifting”, to describe this technique. 

The Charger

A Charger is predominantly aggressive and seeks to end each conflict by their own means. They tend to attack early and often, with the goal to take the shortest distance between you on their way to victory. Chargers are powerful fighters who use their natural ferocity to give them the edge.

Being a Charger

If you feel that you are a Charger, your first goal should be to train and develop your offensive skills. Quick attacks and precise point control will benefit your advances, while strong footwork will allow you to move confidently towards your opponent. In any case, an emphasis on Safety will ensure that even when pressing your opponent with a strong attack, they will not feel at risk of injury.

Fighting a Charger

When facing a Charger, you need to understand that they will not wait long before making their move. Try to notice signals or “tells” that may give you a clue when they are about to rush in. Common examples would be: lifting their heels, tensing up, holding their breath, etc…This will hopefully give you enough time to prepare and strengthen your defense.

Whatever you notice, when a Charger rushes in be prepared to block their attacks or get out of the way. You can also try to leave your point online and position it for your opponent to run themselves through. If you are able to land a shot in, keep your defenses up for a few moments while the hit registers after the Charge is complete.

The Blocker

A Blocker is predominately defensive and seeks to end the conflict by responding to their opponent’s moves. When attacked, they block and return with a “Riposte” or counter-attack. They prefer for their opponent to come to them because their defense is solid and difficult to break. This impenetrable defense gives Blockers an edge.

Being a Blocker

If you recognize yourself to be a Blocker, your primary focus should be on your defense and on perfecting your blocks. Confident defense even against oncoming opponents will serve you well as you find opportunities to return against your opponent while they are resetting from their last attack. Train yourself to always address your opponent’s blade and encourage them to attack where you want them to.

Fighting a Blocker

Movement is your ally when facing a Blocker. Because a Blocker prefers to remain in place, you should have the opportunity to move freely and attack when you are ready. Understand that a Blocker’s great strength comes from responding to what you give them, and so with speed and precision, you can break through their Defense before they have a chance to respond. No matter what, remember that when you make an attack most likely a counter-attack will follow.

The Runner

If Chargers rely on offense and Blockers rely on Defense, Runners must find a way the middle ground. As the name implies, a Runner’s greatest asset is their ability to move and position themselves where it is most advantageous. Chargers prefer to fight In-Close Range. Blockers prefer to fight In-Range. Runners prefer to fight Out-of-Range until the moment is right and an opportunity presents itself. 

Being a Runner

If you find yourself to be a Runner, the most important thing is to stay engaged with the fight. Just because a Runner likes to play Out-of-Range does not mean that they can leave the fight entirely. Remaining engaged and observing your opponent, is crucial to finding an opportunity to strike. Fluid footwork and flexible strategies will benefit your efforts as a Runner as you prepare for whatever your opponent might give you.

Fighting a Runner

When fighting against a Runner, your goal is to slowly bring them close enough for you to strike. Understanding Range and knowing when the right moment to strike is crucial to hitting a constantly moving target. Be aware that the only way a Runner is going to win the fight is if they come to you and use that to your advantage.

Shifting

Each Type of Fighter has strengths and weaknesses and utilizes all the wonderful variety of techniques historical fencing has to offer. Just because they are a Charger doesn’t mean they don’t block. The same applies to a Blocker who decides to rush in for an attack or a Runner who stands their ground when pressed. Each fighting style is merely a distinct flavor that is relatively constant over time, but what would happen if a fencer could switch gears and fight in different ways mid-fight?

This technique of changing your fundamental style is called Shifting and is incredibly beneficial to learn. It requires an understanding of each of the three types of fighters and an ability to control your mentality at any given moment.

It is a powerful technique because it allows you to adapt to your opponent or situation and give you an advantage your opponent may not realize until it is too late. If your opponent expects you to be a Blocker, who is steadfast and immovable, how alarming would it be to rush at them with all the ferocity you can muster? From my experience, it is incredibly alarming and that split second confusion is sometimes all you need to win a fight.

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