In Buffy, the slayer has to have super human strength in order to fight vampires. We know that the vampires don't have fighting skills before they are turned. In the episode Gingerbread, Joyce sees a vampire and says

It's Mr. Sanderson from the bank! -buffyworld script

Dawn even makes a comment about their fighting skills in the episode Lessons when she's about to fight a vampire coming out of it's grave

But, he's new. He doesn't know his strength. He-he might not know those fancy martial art skills they inevitably seem to pick up. -Buffy Guide Quotes

Where do the vampires learn how to fight?

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    “We know that the vampires don't have fighting skills before they are turned. In the episode Gingerbread, Joyce sees a vampire and says ‘It's Mr. Sanderson from the bank!’” For all we know, Mr Sanderson from the bank was a black belt; people do have hobbies. Dec 28, 2015 at 11:17
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    As a martial artist currently making my way through Buffy for the first time (I haven't gotten to "Lessons" yet), I was about to snarkily say "they don't." Dec 28, 2015 at 19:50

2 Answers 2


The general rule of thumb with the Buffy-verse is that when someone becomes a vampire, the body's original inhabitant takes a hike (their soul travels to heaven or hell) and a demon then inhabits their dead body.

It follows that the martial arts skills of the newly hosted vampire are those of the demon, augmented by whatever skill the original owner had.

Buffy: (looks down at the people) These people aren't gonna get changed, are they? The rest of them, they're just fodder.

Ford: Technically, yes. But I'm in. I will become immortal.

Buffy: Well, I've got a news flash for you, braintrust: that's not how it works. You die, and a demon sets up shop in your old house, and it walks, and it talks, and it remembers your life, but it's not you. - Buffy: Lie to Me

It's worth noting that some vampires are far more influenced by the body's owner than others. Harmony, for instance seems almost human (aside from being evil) with the same deep interest in fashion and an almost pathological inability to fight properly.

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    The last paragraph may be speculative. Perhaps the demon that comes to inhabit the body is "chosen" by their affinity with the original owner's personality. So it is not that Harmony influenced the demon, the demon that took interest for Harmony's body had similar tastes. Dec 28, 2015 at 16:00
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    Maybe Harm's demon is just particularly smart, because being bad at fighting gave her significantly more life time around Buffy than most other vampires managed.
    – nwp
    Dec 28, 2015 at 17:09
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    @nwp - It led her to a range of self-destructive behaviours though, joining the vamp cult, creating her own gang to kill the slayer, attacking Buffy through Dawn, etc etc.
    – Valorum
    Dec 28, 2015 at 17:12
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    @J.F.Sebastian - Because the dreams are being manifested by a small boy. My guess is that since he has limited experience of vampires, he's basing it on Buffy's own fear about what being a vampire would be like. She's not a real vampire, she's a caricature of one.
    – Valorum
    Dec 28, 2015 at 23:08
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    @Richard: the nightmares themselves and elements in them are unknown by Billy. The boy makes the nightmares real regardless of their content, he doesn't control the specifics. A possible explanation: Buffy's nightmare is NOT that she becomes a vampire and the demon occupying her body slaughters her friends.
    – jfs
    Dec 28, 2015 at 23:36

They don't.

I don't think they are supposed to start out with any fighting skills, unless they had them as humans. There are quite a few examples in the series of newly turned vampires that are plain incompetent. The episode mentioned in the question, "Lessons", spells this out a bit in the bit quoted in the question, and a few lines later, there's also this.

Buffy: He's a vampire, OK? Demon. Preternaturally strong. Skilled with powers no human could possibly ever—

Vampire (trying to get out of his grave): Excuse me. I think I'm stuck.

Their demon blood gives the vampires superhuman speed, strength and some kind of predatory instinct. That makes them dangerous to ordinary humans even if they're just lunging randomly. But a newly turned vampire is no trouble to Buffy, and even the rest of the gang stand a chance against them once they've actually had some training. Experienced vampires (for instance, Darla, The Three, Drusilla, or Spike) are shown as much more of a challenge. If the vampires survive long enough, then they can start learning the best way to fight.

I'm rather thinking that Harmony's continued incompetence demonstrates this - a vampire has to practise to learn to fight, the same as anyone else, and I can't imagine Harmony practising her martial arts skills when there are gossip magazines to be read. I imagine Spike tried to teach her at some point. I imagine he gave up in despair pretty soon.

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