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Finding Minnesota: The Minnesota Sword Club

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Twin Cities club is resurrecting a part of history and turning it into a competitive sport.

Students study a variety of weapons techniques that were used in the 13th-16th centuries.

"It's historical European martial arts," said Brandon Foat, head instructor at the Minnesota Sword Club. "It's doing for fencing what MMA did for martial arts."

Each week Brandon instructs a growing group of swordsmen at the Minnesota Sword Club.

"Depending on the month, I've got between 40-70 students," Foat said.

Students start with the basics, learning footwork, physical conditioning and working with wooden sticks or fiberglass weapons.

The class is broken into different levels with beginner, intermediate and advanced.

The most experienced eventually practice their skills with steel weapons while wearing protective gloves, jackets and masked helmets.

"Off in the corner, it's the sharks playing with the steel weapons and that's where you want to be," said Dale Utt, an advanced HEMA student.

For many of the HEMA students, interest in the medieval era was the initial draw to the club.

"Ever since I was a kid I was interested in the medieval period," said Josias Arcadia, an advanced HEMA student.

"I've had an obsession with swords since I was old enough to pick up a stick and swing it. It really appeals to me," said Philip Ristow, another advanced student.

All the HEMA swordsmen quickly realize the skills learned have a place in 2017.

"It, more than anything, develops mind and body together," Arcadia said.

While training, the emphasis is on authenticity in weaponry and technique. Advancing in HEMA involves a lot of studying.

"Just conceptually, people that actually used this to survive wrote it down and told us how to do it, so to understand sword fighting, you have to be able to look at that and then interpret the meaning," Arcadia said.

"I think the most interesting part is the fact that we're recreating an art based upon textbooks written in the 14th century," Foat said.

The teachings show that combat is not necessarily a contest of brute strength. Success is found in the simplicity of anticipating a reaction through distance and timing.

"It's the mental challenge of sizing up your opponent," Ristow said. "The more skilled you get, the more control you have."

"Everything in modern media plays up the wrong aspects of sword fighting," Utt said. "The simple game is always going to win over the complicated game if executed properly."

In addition to the discipline and skill that comes with HEMA, students find there's always people who are interested in learning more about the sport.

"It's a nice conversation starter," Utt said. "You end up going out with friends at bars and it's, what do you do for fun? I fight with swords in a sweaty basement."

Several members in the Minnesota Sword Club compete in HEMA competitions.

Anyone can join the Minnesota Sword Club and learn the skills. It's open to anyone 16 and older.

For more information, click here.

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