The Scuola Gladiatori Roma is the only traditional gladiator school in the world. It is not set up as tourist attraction, but as a fully fledged training academy where students learn the full range of fighting disciplines of a Gladiator from Ancient Rome.
On enrolment, students go through a rigorous physical training to test their agility, coordination, speed and strength – all of which will determine the type of training they are best suited for.
Then they will move onto specific weapons training before facing their experienced instructor in the arena.
These courses can last several years if a student has the aptitude and ability to train in all the different styles of Gladiator weapons and combat techniques.
Gladiator Training 101
Roman slaves needed to be in tip-top physical shape to make it as a Gladiator. The same applies for students at the school today.
The assault course consists of ropes, benches, dangling sand bags and a rotating blade carousel that requires, speed, coordination and advanced reflexes.
Once a student is deemed ready they then move onto weapons practice.
Just like the fighters of ancient Rome, they train with a wooden sword called a “Rudus”, which is lighter and safer than a metal blade and teaches them to judge the distance from their opponent.
This is an area where full time students can spend hours every day practicing their moves and techniques.
Only once they are fully experienced with the Rudus, can a potential gladiator move onto the armoury where they will be fully suited up in traditional amour and begin to use a weapon for the first time.
They will also be taken into the arena for their first genuine combat experience against their instructor, (also known as a Doctore).
Trainers will test their students periodically to ensure that they have mastered all the necessary skills and are ready to move on to another discipline, such as Thrax, (curved sword fighting) Hoplomachus, (standard weapons) and Secutor, (heavily armored, restricted view combat).
Other types of Gladiator Combat
In Ancient Rome there were of course many types of Gladiator. While the school aims to cover the majority of the traditional disciplines, some such as beast fighting are for obvious reasons against the law.
Other types of Gladiator training would not end well for anyone involved if replicated today.
For instance, the Andabatae Gladiators fought to the death as comic relief to the audience. Their helmets did not have any eyeholes meaning the Andabatae fought completely blind.
Rounded up closer together by arena attendants, these gladiators would slash out with their weapons in the hope of being the last man standing.
Any Andabatae that fell to the floor pretending to be dead would be burnt with a hot iron. If they were fit enough to continue they would be dragged to their feet and forced to do so.
And if they were seriously injured a Colosseum Attendant, would smash the wounded gladiator on the head with a double-headed hammer.
Considered a morning event, these bouts were not in the same league as the gladiatorial combats which took place in the afternoon, and were the highlight of the day.
List of Gladiator Types:
Bestiarii (Beast Fighters)
Bustuarii (Funeral Gladiators)
Cataphractarius (Heavily protected gladiators)
Dimachaeri (Gladiators With Two Swords)
Eques (Horseback And Sword Gladiators)
Gallus (Heavily armored gladiators)
Essedari (War-Chariot Fighters)
Hoplomachi (Armed Fighters)
Laquerarii (Lasso Fighters)
Murmillones (The Fish-Men)
Naumachiarii ( Combatants in Sea-fights)
Paegniarius: (Animal Fighters with a Whip)
Praegenarii (Opening Act Gladiators)
Provocatores (Challengers Protected by a Breastplate)
Retiarii (Net Fighters)
Rudiarius (Free Gladiators)
Sagittarius (Mounted Bowman)
Samnites: (Large Shields and Plumed Helmets)
Secutores (Two Small Eye-Holes in Helmet)
Scissores (Slashers / Carvers – Short Swords)
Tertiarius (Substitute Gladiators)
Thracian (Thrax – Curved Swords)
Velites (Fought in groups with Spears)
Venatores (Wild Animal Hunters)
After reaching the highest level of gladiator, a student at the Scuola Gladiatori Roma will again face their “Doctore” in the arena. If they win, they themselves are given a diploma of Doctore in their class and are able to go on to become a Gladiator Doctore themselves.
For those that fancy themselves as a modern day Maximus, the school does a one day insight course, allowing people to see what exactly goes into becoming a fully trained Gladiator. More details can be found on the website.