Here in Santa Clara, one school is practicing martial arts that date all the way back to the 15th century. The Davenriche European Martial Artes School (DEMAS), is currently located in the northern part of Santa Clara (off De La Cruz Boulevard), and teaches various forms of ancient weaponry.
According to their website (swordfightingschool.com), DEMAS helps students, “age six to seventy-six learn how to safely swing swords, fight with long sticks, daggers and rapiers, and learn other techniques that were part of the tradition of knights centuries ago.”
On Saturday, DEMAS held their semi-annual open tournament. The weapon used in this particular tournament is referred to as a longsword, which is about 3.5 feet in length. Saturday’s festivities began with a kids jamboree style nerf sword competition and ended with a 20-person adult round robin and elimination tournament.
The words “good honor” could be heard regularly on Saturday with opponents frequently admitting to being struck even if officials were not awarding points to their opponent. Third place finisher Azizz Coogler even immediately gave up his bronze medal to Ryan Well, acknowledging that Well would have beat him if he wasn’t forced to bow out due to injury.
Not only are DEMAS fighters extremely honorable, but the school teaches more than just sword fighting. Founder Steaphen Fick has been running the school since June 2000 and currently offers a self-defense-style class called “Be S.A.F.E.” (Secure, Aware and Free Empowered).
Prospective students for any DEMAS classes can take up to three free one-hour classes to start. The free classes allows potential new members an opportunity to get an idea of the atmosphere before taking out their checkbooks. Classes primarily run weekday evenings between 6-9 p.m., but DEMAS also has some day-time classes available.
One of Saturday’s tournament organizers is Leyla Azizova, who started as a student herself just about two-and-half years ago.
“I saw a fencing demo and that sparked my memory of a friend of mine who had talked about historical fighting. I thought it looked super awesome. At that point I found [DEMAS] and it turned out to be super close to where I live so I just walked over,” recalled Azizova. “As I walked over I saw there were people in the parking lot with swords, real metal swords with sparks flying and everything, it was awesome. I went up to them and just said, ‘Hi people.’ It was a little bit scary to come in and just say ‘Hi, I would like to swordfight, can you teach me?’ I was lucky that Steaphen was there that day and he was like ‘Sure, come on in, grab a sword!’
DEMAS instructor Johnny Dietzel believes that with over 150 students, they are the largest school of its kind in the entire United States.
As for Saturday’s competition, tournament director Corey Somavia was extremely pleased with all the participants.
“I thought things went very, very well today. The turnout was good. We had the usual hiccups and stuff like that, but those always happen. What I’m most impressed with is how the staff just rolled with it and adjusted as things went. Everyone seemed to have a very good time. Even though there were a few injuries, there were never any hard feelings. It was a very intense, but good-natured competition.”
DEMAS will host their next tournament in January.