With the popularity of television shows like “Game of Thrones” and movies like “The Hobbit Trilogy,” interest in Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) is at an all time high. Experts like Ken Dietiker, principal instructor at Seven Swords Academy (2321 104th St. Ct. S., Lakewood), are excited to teach new students the historic art.
Seven Swords Academy is a training school that deals with combat, both armed and unarmed, through the lens of HEMA. The 1,800 square foot. training room is home to newbies and experts alike, learning from HEMA certified instructor Dietiker.
“We cover everything, from unarmed combat to dagger to a spear or staff,” Dietiker said.
Basic classes go through the fundamentals of HEMA, which includes footwork and basic cuts, guards and strikes. These fundamentals are the basis of every weapon you will use in the academy, and understanding them is essential to advancing in the art. The fundamentals also have practical uses, such as an exercise in defending yourself against an attacker with a knife or dagger.
“What it really comes down to is moving to defend yourself, and that’s where the cardiovascular exercise comes in,” Dietiker said.
While Seven Swords teaches an ancient art, it uses modern sensibilities for safety protocols. Practice weapons are made of high quality plastic rather than wood, and students armor up with everything from a mix of modern fencing helmets to padded jackets. The worst that could happen while sparring is some bruising. The facility includes safety mats, changing rooms, an observation deck and loaner equipment for beginners.
“Everyone knows that swords are cool. People watch or see things and say, ‘I want to be cool like that,’” Seven Swords employee Matthew Fiebig said.
Seven Swords really focuses on the theory of historic manuals left from the 14th and 15th centuries by masters of the art such as Fiore dei Liberi and Filippo Vadi, as well as the Liechtenauer Tradition (Doebringer, Ringek, and von Danzig). While many schools will focus on the forms of one of these experts, Seven Swords takes the time to study them all.
If you are interested in joining up with Seven Swords to learn cool spinning moves shown in your favorite video games, you may want to look elsewhere. The true art is direct and fluid – in fact, you may never look at sword fights the same way again.
“One thing I tell students is, ‘I will ruin every movie and video game you’ve ever enjoyed because you’ll have a critical eye,’” Dietiker said.
Instead, people’s true love with the art often comes the first time they pick up a sword.
“When someone picks up a sword, sometimes you can see a light in their eyes, a primordial response. It’s a human thing, it really is,” Dietiker said.
Seven Swords offers several different payment options. A regular class is $125 per month, a beginner’s class is $100 for the first month, and an additional family member can take the class for $90 per month. Stopping by once a week only is $100 per month, while drop-in classes are $25 per session. Seven Swords offers a military discount of 10 percent, meaning a regular class is $112.50 per month. For more information, visit http://www.sevenswords.us.