Thursday, June 30, 2011

Codification of the Fighting Scale

By Peter K. Stephens

If anyone were to ever ask me, I would have to say that I'm a lover, not a fighter. However, this wouldn't be entirely truthful, since I’m probably not much of a lover either. Which I suppose means I'm neither. Which I suppose means I'm just a pussy. However, there was a brief period in my life when I became obsessed with the idea of getting in a fight. I'm not a violent person by nature, and I didn't really want to hurt anyone, but I wanted to get into one good fight during the time of my life when it could be shrugged off as 'boys being boys.' Now that I'm 26, if I were to get in a fight it would probably just end with something embarrassing, like me getting sued or the loss of a tooth.

For whatever reason, this time in my life[1] happened to coincide with a similar thirst for fighting in my friend and colleague Evan.[2] During countless discussions about getting in fights,[3] we realized there was a slight possibility that our hypothetical 'fight' could turn into a very real 'ass kicking.' We simply didn't know where we stood. I've never been in a real fight before, at least one that wasn't against someone who I happen to be brothers with. Evan grew up with sisters, at least one of whom could still kick his ass, so it was an even tougher gauge for him. So, like anyone who talks about the meaning of getting in a fight instead of just getting drunk and sucker punching someone at a bar, we came up with a five point scale to rank everyone's fighting ability.

The Fighting Scale proved useful for a variety of reasons. We determined that we were both Threes, directly in the middle of the fighting scale. This was good, because it meant that if we were to get in a fight with another three (the preferred scenario) it most likely wouldn't result in any long term consequences. A fight between threes would rarely if ever result in a hospitalization or an arrest. We also realized that all of our friends were more or less completely incapable of supporting us in a brawl. Whether through cowardice, un-athleticism, lack of size, or generally cordial dispositions, there wasn't a fighter in the bunch.[4] This meant that in the event of a group fight, we would most likely play the role of a West Side Story gang, with the other group playing the part of MS-13. With group fights out of the question, we were limited to solo endeavours, and due to my general inability to generate enough anger to get in a fight with a random stranger, no fights ended up occurring.

However, the Fighting Scale lives on to be shared with the world today. Feel free to reference it if you're considering a fight with a stranger in the future[5]:


A five is a complete nonfactor in a fight. This may be due to several factors. They may be a dedicated pacifist, physically incapable of defending themselves due to morbid obesity, or somebody's grandmother. In a more real-world scenario, a five would be a friend who would watch their friend get their ass kicked without interceding. There is absolutely no circumstance that would precipitate them getting in a fight.


A four is someone who would fight if it was thrust upon them, but would lose. As it turns out, most of my friends would be classified as fours.


A three is our prototypical baseline fighter. They stand out by not standing out in any particular way. Average athleticism, average temperaments, and no real fighting experience would be typical. A battle between threes would typically start with insults, involve a couple punches which wouldn't connect, and would end in more insults. The primary difference between a two and a three is opportunity. A three with enough fighting experience will most likely become a two.


A two is a capable fighter who could generally be counted on to beat up a three. As a three myself, they're easily identified as someone who I think would probably kick my ass if we got in a fight. Anyone who has been in multiple fights and handled their own is probably a two. While a two can be relied upon to win their individual portion of a group brawl, they can't carry a team, which is the defining characteristic of the next category.


A one is someone capable of anchoring an entire group in a fight. In the event of a fight, they will be a whirlwind of destruction. The cave troll from the first Lord of the Rings is a good example. Their fighting skill could be due to steroid usage, martial arts training, or a general rage problem. The irony of course is that all of these qualities would make someone a liability to hang out with in any situation that doesn't involve mortal combat. While a one increases your chances of winning a fight, they also increase your chances of getting in a fight, especially one that ends in arrests or curb stomping. A typical one is a barely functioning member of society. Within a group of friends, they're likely to spread a Sid Vicious-Nancy Spungen level of dysfunction. Ones can usually be identified by their sloping criminal foreheads and Tapout T-shirts. They may try to talk you up about upcoming MMA fights, but this ostensible friendliness is usually just a prelude to a headbutt.

So there's the fighting scale, laid bare. Through codifying it and by evaluating myself, I've established myself as a solid three, and found my place in the world. I've ascertained the meaning of fighting without actually fighting, which is what writing is really all about.

[1] We'll call it "Peter's Red Period."

[2] A real testosterone renaissance.

[3] Evan and I tend to talk about the possibility and meaning of things much more than actually doing them, which is why I never ended up getting in a fight and instead ended up writing an essay about it five years later.

[4] These same characteristics lead to a distinct rebounding disadvantage for our intramural basketball team.

[5] Incidentally, if you feel the need to consult an essay before getting in a fight, you probably should just avoid the fight in general.


  1. Can you give us a breakdown of who you think falls in each category? Real or fictional or pseudonyms to protect the innocent?

  2. I would say I fall on the Female Fighting Scale at about a level 2.5 - I have both started and been started with a fight. This is how I ended up when I started a fight (in my defense an entire league of heavyweight women jumped me after initial contact):

  3. Brenda-I do remember that party in college when that one chick threw a drink on you and every guy in the place was thinking, "oh my god, this is gonna be awesome!" I'm pretty sure Kenny and I were standing up on the couch to get the best view. If I recall correctly, you decided not to fight. So that would make you a 4, except that those pictures are badass and show you are willing to fight, so I would say that you are a 2 on the Female Fighting Scale.