What is Sword Academy?
Sword Academy is a school devoted to the practice of martial arts. Within Sword Academy we practice only European martial arts techniques – known as Western Marital Arts (WMA) or Historical European Marital Arts (HEMA). These techniques have been gathered from an abundant collection of surviving historical sources – one nearly 2,000 years old while most are between 300 and 700 years old. We are very fortunate that today scattered in museums and private collections are documents capturing a glimpse of the period techniques – sometimes as a text, sometimes illustrations, and often both. This creates the basis of our teaching which we interpret and then augment with our own insights coming from lifetime of practice.
Studying any martial art is hard work and Western Martial Arts (WMA) / Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) are no exception. As with any challenging activity, success is very rewarding and seeing your own skills improve is the greatest reward of all. Sword Academy is based on the idea that actions speak louder than words. Sign up today and see for yourself.
How did Sword Academy come to be?
Sword Academy was founded by Milan Petricevic – an elite athlete in the field of sport fencing for over 13 years, who was a member of the Croatian national team. Even after accomplishing the rare feat of winning medals in all three disciplines of sports fencing (foil, epee and sabre) he was not entirely satisfied.
Milan’s love of swords led him to explore the world of historical fencing, and after handling a replica rapier he recognized that the techniques of sport fencing would not be applicable to such a weapon. The more he learned the clearer it became that Europe had been home to a highly developed combat system. A system that had been lost, but was preserved in various historical record.
Milan realized that since there was no one in Calgary that could teach him historically accurate swordplay at the level he would find acceptable, he would have to teach himself. Starting from scratch with a handful of historical manuals and a serious athletic focus, he opened the doors of Sword Academy in the spring of 2000.
What happens in a Sword Academy class?
Prospective students should expect a friendly and supportive environment that is based around a structured and disciplined class focused on historically accurate learning of Western Martial Arts (WMA) / Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA). The introductory course provides new students with the foundational skills that will enable them to be successful. Sword Academy class will start with the athletic warm-up / energetic sport game such as ultimate frisbee, basketball or badminton. All students are given the opportunity to learn from both Milan, senior students and their peers. Training encompasses the diverse weapons and fighting techniques from across Europe, as Sword Academy uses pan-European approach to studies drawing from five different traditions. After a student has been present for three months, they have the opportunity to earn their Sword Academy shirt. Earning a shirt requires a grasp of various relevant historical facts and the demonstration of specific skills obtained in class.
Why practice Western Martial Arts?
For us it is a need, almost an obsession to work with swords and other historical weapons, to rediscover their use and to teach others who share our enthusiasm and passion. We use it also as a link to our ancestral heritage and keep an active link to it. But it is also a fun, challenging activity and a great source of exercise. Come by, give it a try and maybe you will find it is something that you enjoy as much as we do.
With the advent of firearms, the relevance of Western Martial Arts (WMA) / Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) began to fade and eventually the living, uninterrupted tradition was lost, leaving behind only sports such as fencing and boxing. Because of this, research is necessary to rediscover the many fighting styles of Medieval and Renaissance Europe. The sources we study are period manuals, of which, Sword Academy has an extensive library. Also important to our understanding of Western Martial Arts / Historical European Martial Arts is the ability to view and handle the weapons and armor of the period. We are fortunate to have access to one of the largest collections of swords in Canada at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.
We are not primarily a research group, though when some research is needed we will undertake it internally. Nowadays there are numerous printed and online sources of historical resources but we are rarely interested in (other people’s) interpretations.
Sword Academy puts on many demonstrations every year and we are always looking for opportunities to expose myths about and improve the general public’s understanding of HEMA / WMA. We have worked with movie theaters to present our message to the viewers of Lord of the Rings and other movies involving HEMA / WMA. We were also involved with the Museum of the Regiments’ Soldiers of Two Millennia and the Calgary Highland Games. We have given demonstrations to Boy Scouts, to students at school, in Prince’s Island Park during the summer, at our own open houses and even at a medieval feast.
As a club of active people with shared interests, we partake in many club events. Sword Academy arranges student activities such as archery, javelin and hatchet throwing, seminars such as flintknapping or armor making, behind the scenes visits to the museums and social nights.
Due to our philosophy (and its application to training) Sword Academy uses steel weapons exclusively in our Western Martial Arts (WMA) / Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) curriculum as they have many benefits over wooden, synthetic or other materials.