My friend's hubby is an authentic Swordsman and knows his way about a battle. He took fencing classes for 2 years, then studied the writings of several master swordsmen and was in several fencing matches which he won most of the time. He also enjoyed writing characters and plots for role playing games.
He's taught me a lot about creating the warrior character, what weapons to put in his hands, how he should use that weapon, and no you don't have to always use a sword, to what style he'll use, and no you don't have to use Japanese martial arts. There are hundreds of martial arts, from European to French, to American, to barbarian, just pick one that suits your character. All of them are good in their own way, you just need to research them.
Important questions he gave me:
How does the character deal with stress vs problems? Stress makes us panic and do stupid things, problems, on the other hand, can be easier to handle when there's no pressure baring down on you.
Does he panic when the enemy bares down on him? Panic is bad. Very bad. But can be used as a way to create sympathy for the character.
What is his culture and how does play into his battle plans? This is a biggie. If he's from King Arthur's Court, then he'll more than likely fight as a knight. If he's a barbarian, then fight as a barbarian, etc.
Does he analyse the problem or jump in? Does he make a plan first and manipulate the enemy into in a postion in which he is defeated or go with the flow and see what happens?
How patient is he? Does he let the enemy come to him first? I find this one really interesting. My characters had choppy training so one of them lets the enemy come to him, while the other uses anything to get the upper hand.
How is he flexible enough to adjust to the enemy's fighting style? My friend's hubby said this is important. If the character can't adjust to Japanese style of fighting when he is a knight, he'll have some problems.
I'm amazed at how complex fighting can be. It's always been such a mystery to me, one that included only jabs, leaps, etc. But it's not, it's a game of chess laid out by two swordsmen and only one will come out alive. My job as a writer is to understand that game of chess and bring it out to the reader bit by bit. He uses The Princess Bride as a great example in that the fighting scenes are all fencing moves and each fight scene is unique, like a dance. that's what I want to bring to the reader, a dance. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7zvffHu_wo
My characters will have obvious weaknesses as their training was interrupted several times by cruel leaders who tossed them into prison and the death of their masters. It will take some digging on my part to create their style and fighting stances, but I'm up to it and giddy as a school girl. I can't wait to jump into it. This is making my characters stronger, weaker, vulnerable and just plain nasty. :))