Santa Clara’s Davenriche European Martial Artes School (DEMAS) celebrated its 21st birthday on July 17. The school opened its doors to friends, students and the community and invited them to take part in sword fighting demonstrations, games and the birthday celebration.
Owner and founder Steaphan Fick was excited to share the day with the community. He says he wanted to celebrate DEMAS’s 20th anniversary last year, but COVID-19 made it impossible. Now that he’s reached the 21-year milestone, it’s that much sweeter.
“21 years, which is a big milestone just in any business, especially after the year we just had,” said Fick. “Then you have a 21-year-old martial arts school. That’s a big thing. When it’s historic European martial arts, which most people have never even heard of, it makes it an even larger milestone.”
Fick founded DEMAS in 2000 in his backyard. As his group of students grew, he established a training facility on De La Cruz Blvd.
DEMAS specializes in English and Italian martial arts. Fick and his instructors teach everything from fighting with a longsword to the rapier. They also teach axe throwing, knife throwing and grappling.
“‘You can really learn this stuff?’ That’s what I hear most often from people,” said Fick. “We love sword fighting movies and for people to find out that there’s actually a place where they can come in and do it, it gives them that ability to live that fantasy; that idea of knighthood and chivalry.”
Students say the appeal of learning sword fighting may have been why they came initially, but they’ve stayed for other reasons.
“[Steaphan’s] style of teaching fit my personality. He really teaches about understanding the principles. The whys of what you do. The physics of the human body,” said Corey Somavia, who started as a student and is now an instructor at DEMAS. “That sort of style really appealed to me, as opposed to just do this. It was understanding why we do it. It doesn’t look because you’re swinging a giant sword, but there’s actually a lot of physics and geometry that goes into it. Exactly where you strike the blade can deflect them.”
“I have a daughter who is 13 now, but five years ago, she was wanting to learn about sword fighting…I always wanted to learn sword fighting. So, I signed up both her and me. I was hooked on it pretty quick,” said Phoenix Artifex. “It’s an extremely, extremely welcoming environment here. Everyone really encourages everyone…Everyone works with where you’re starting from, encourages you and helps you grow. So, the environment here is fantastic.”
Fick says that’s just how he wants students to feel. For him, DEMAS isn’t just about learning to fight, it’s about creating a community.
“What I like most about what this has become is we train hard; we fence; we fight. But we’re a family,” said Fick. “It’s a nice, tight group. I’ve had two or three marriages come out of the school. Lifelong friendships. That’s what I like most.”
Since California “reopened” in June, DEMAS has returned to full instruction. Classes are held on most evenings as well as weekends and students are allowed to learn at their own pace. To find a complete class schedule, visit www.swordfightingschool.com.