Davenriche European Martial Artes School (DEMAS) at 3266 De La Cruz Ave. in Santa Clara is a spot where you can find two full-time professional sword fighters. School founder Steaphen Fick and once star pupil turned fellow instructor Johnny Dietzel will both describe themselves as professional sword fighters.
Since founding the school back in 2000, Fick has seen the school steadily grow from headquarters in his garage to an 8700-square-foot facility with five instructors and over 130 students.
“My whole goal with this was to create an extended family, people to play with and enjoy my time with,” admitted Fick on the early beginnings of the school. “I never knew it was gonna turn into anything like this. I now have one of the largest schools in the world. I travel around the world and teach. Last year, I was in Australia and New Zealand, Canada and Mexico. Never knew I would be doing this as a profession. Who thought you could be a professional sword fighter in the 21st century? And now, here we are.”
Fick jokes that in 2003 the school got its “first door” which he says was at the back of a fruit-packing plant in San Jose. The location became known as the “bat cave” because it smelled of pineapple, onions and guano from the bats.
Nowadays Fick’s facility includes a full library of ancient artifacts to go along with a training floor and workout room.
The ability to make a living with their true passion is lost on neither “Sir Steaphen” (Fick) nor “Gentleman Johnny” (Dietzel). Gentleman Johnny describes his experience when he tells people what he does for a living by chuckling that he has to pinch himself sometimes.
“‘I am a professional sword fighter’ is the term I like to use [when I tell people what I do], because two things come from saying that, as you can hear my inflection right now as I say the words ‘I am a professional sword fighter,’ it gives me that woohoo [excited] feeling. Not a lot of people to get make a living on what they are driven for. For me to be able to do [what I’m driven for] I have to pause every now and then and remind myself, ‘wow, wait a minute, I’m actually going to what I love to do, not my job.’”
While sword fighting may sound archaic and violent to those unfamiliar, the school requires full body armour, and offers a self defense class. The school is far more than just fighting with weapons, it’s about training the mind to be prepared for all types of situations. Not to mention, the level of sportsmanship involved may be higher than that of most “traditional” sports.
“One of the big aspects of any martial community is a level of respect for each other,” noted Fick. “It is especially inherent in our European society. While we are out there fighting each other, it is more important for our personal honor that we are honest and respect each other than just getting a point.”
In the sword fighting tournaments held at DEMAS school, participants are seen frequently showing “good honor.” Participants will admit to the official or “martial” when they didn’t deserve a point that was initially awarded to them. They will also admit when their opponent deserved a point that they weren’t initially awarded.
That “good honor” is a fundamental part of the school building a strong foundation of community. Along those lines, it is a similar sense of camaraderie that was the initial spark for Fick wanting to start the school.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is the community we develop. We have people who just hang out together outside of the school. I have had two marriages come out of here, and lots of different kinds of relationships.”
For information on joining DEMAS, you can visit their website at https://www.swordfightingschool.com.