Fencing, the ancient art of offense and defense with swords,
passed down from Master to Apprentice for over 1000 years.
Traditionally fencing was a serious and deadly martial art,
the domain of European
swordsmen and aristocratic duelists. Today, this tradition
continues at the Mississippi Academy of Arms, where the western
martial arts of
Classical Fencing, Historical Swordsmanship, and Cane Fighting
are still taught.
addition to being a fun and exciting activity, classical
fencing is a "superb
exercise, which builds endurance, strength, flexibility,
the capacity to relax under fire. It improves coordination,
while benefiting both circulation, and respiration. Mentally
it is as stimulating
enhancing observational skills and the ability to think
abstractly. Ultimately, fencing blends both mind and body into
an effective whole.
develops self-confidence, self-control over one’s
own reactive nature, and patience."
to Rez Johnson, the Headmaster of the Mississippi Academy
of Arms, "Most
people have trouble sticking with typical fitness routines
for very long because most fitness routines are repetitive,
monotonous, and boring. It's just plain hard to stay motivated
exercise. Fortunately, we don't have that problem in classical
fencing. Swordfighting is so much fun that you don't realize
are getting until it's all over. Then you go 'Whew, I'm
exhausted.' But it's a good kind of exhausted which leaves
you feeling relaxed
at the same time."
has had several students lose as much as 50 pounds through
One of Rez’s students who is a diabetic
was able to switch from taking insulin injections to taking
pills. His doctor asked him
what he was doing and he told him the only change in
his life was that he had taken up fencing six months
earlier. His doctor told him,
fencing.' Rez is noted for successfully using classical
fencing drills as a form of physical therapy
and rehabilitation to help students with disabilities
overcome their physical limitations. Other
students have noticed increased levels of energy, flexibility,
leg strength, endurance, and balance after
just a few weeks of classical fencing.
of it's chess-like strategy fencing exercises
the brain too. Students develop higher levels of alertness,
and the ability
to think strategically. According to Rez, "Fencing
is one of the best ways I know of to forget all the hassles
of work and school and
burn off the day's stress. And then there's that esoteric
level of fencing, you know, there's just something about
hitting something or
is inherently pleasant to man. And of course it's all safe
and good-natured, in all our duels no one gets hurt, no
one really dies. The deaths are
only theoretical because our swords are flexible and the
points are blunt. Everyone lives to fight another day,
and without 'running away'
old cliché goes."
a child Rez was an avid fan of swashbuckling films and would
often organize swordfights in the backyard with his friends
using sticks. He read everything he could find about knights
and swordfighting, but could find no fencing teacher in Mississippi
in the1960s and 1970s. So instead he took up judo as a child
and studied several different martial
was first introduced to fencing at the age
of 19 by his good friend David
From the start Rez aapproached fencing from the realistic viewpoints
of "what if they were sharp?" and "What if this
was a real duel?" Rez never enjoyed fencing which wasn't
realistic or true to its roots. In spite of Rez's past accomplishments
as a certified sport fencing coach he never abandoned this
Rez was instrumental in introducing fencing to Mississippi in
the early 1980s and instrumental in reintroducing it in the early
1990s after moving back from graduate school in Texas. Rez hold
firsts in Mississippi. (See
list after this article). Rez has been teaching fencing in
Mississippi and Texas since 1980 and holds instructor certification
in foil, epee, and sabre
through the Academie d'Armes Internationale and the United States
Fencing Coaches Association. His training to become a fencing
master was done the traditional way, through a long apprenticeship
with a fencing master, the former USFCA President and Olympic
fencing coach, Robert F. Scranton of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Fencing is an activity which can be equally enjoyed by men,
women, boys, and girls of all ages, abilities, and disabilities.
can be pursued
on a purely recreational level, on a highly competitive
level, or in the case of the Mississippi Academy of Arms, from
the perspective of
a traditional martial art.
Rez's e-mail signature is a quote from the
Arturo Perez novel, The Fencing Master, and
he sees himself
as an instructor of the old traditional styles
of fencing; "Standing
guard on old, forgotten roads, that no one travels anymore."
you are interested in learning more about the western martial
arts of Classical Fencing, Historical Swordsmanship, or Cane
visit the Mississippi Academy of Arms' website at www.msfencing.org
then use the contact page to send us an e-mail.
a narrow mind could doubt that classical fencing is
an art. True artists recognize and admire other arts besides
own, and I have yet to
find one, be he musician, sculptor, painter, writer,
or actor, who does not succumb to the galvanic attraction of
fencing as soon as he
grasps its full meaning. The greater the artist, the
greater his ever-increasing passion for it. Perhaps this is
so because all arts
are interwoven into
Aldo Nadi, World Professional Foil Champion, 1926
Rez was instrumental
in introducing fencing to Mississippi
in the early 1980s and has
many fencing firsts.
Rez co-founded Jackson's first fencing club with David
Williams and John Fritts.
2. Between 1980 and 1988 Rez introduced fencing through eight annual sports
camps to over 1000 children in Mississippi and Texas.
3. In 1992 Rez co-founded the official Jackson Fencing Club at Belhaven
College with David Williams and John Fritts.
4. In 1999 Rez became a professional fencing instructor and established
Mississippi's first professional school of fencing which he named the Mississippi
Academy of Arms.
5. Later in 1999 Rez founded the new Jackson Fencing Club at First Baptist
Church in Jackson, MS.
6. That same year he also founded Ridgeland, MS's first fencing club at
the Ridgeland Recreation Center.
7. In early 2000 Rez founded Clinton's first fencing club at the Baptist
Health Plex on the campus of Mississippi College. Rez served as head coach
for all three fencing clubs simultaneously and later trained instructors
to teach for him at his Clinton club. (The Mississippi Academy of Arms
and Rez are not affiliated with the current "new" Clinton Fencing
Club. Ironically however, its founder/instructor, Richard, was first introduced
to fencing in one of Rez's Fencing Intro Courses held at Rez's "old" Clinton
Fencing Club. Richard later under went several months of training under
Rez for fencing instructor certification.)
8. In 2002 Rez established Mississippi's first full service professional
Salle d'Armes (The Mississippi Fencing Academy) which was located for several
years in a 4000 square foot building across the street from Barnes & Nobles
on County Line Road in Jackson/Ridgeland.
9. Rez hosted (and served as tournament director and
referee) the first USFA tournaments ever held in Jackson and Ridgeland
and all of the USFA tournaments held in the Jackson Metropolitan area
between 1999 & 2002.
10. Rez's competitive sport fencing students won numerous
1st, 2nd, and 3rd place medals and trophies in USFA regional events.
Rez's students were State Champions, Divisional Champions, Junior Olympic
Qualifiers, National Qualifiers, North American Cup Champions, and
11. Rez hosted the first United States Fencing Coaches Association (USFCA)
Fencing Workshop ever held in Mississippi.
12. Rez hosted the first United States Fencing Coaches
Association (USFCA) Coaches Workshop ever held in Mississippi.
13. Rez (simultaneous with his assistant instructor David) was the first
USFCA certified Fencing Master Apprentice in the state of Mississippi,
having been invited by then USFCA President, Fencing Master Robert Scranton
to become his apprentice.
14. Rez (simultaneous with his assistant instructor David) was the first
coach in Mississippi to pass the USFCA Foil Instructor Certification
exams (written and practical) and become the first certified Foil Instructor
in the state of Mississippi.
15. Rez (simultaneous with his assistant instructor David)
was the first coach in Mississippi to pass the USFCA Epee Instructor
Certification exams (written and practical) and become the first certified
Epee Instructor in the state of Mississippi.
16. Rez (simultaneous with his assistant instructor David)
was the first coach in Mississippi to pass the USFCA Sabre Instructor
Certification exams (written and practical) and become the first certified
Sabre Instructor in the state of Mississippi.
17. Rez (simultaneous with his assistant instructor David) was the first
coach in Mississippi to pass the first six written and practical instructor
exams toward USFCA Fencing Master certification and becoming the first
fencing coach in Mississippi to earn the rank of Moniteuir de Escrime
from the USFCA and the Academie
Long after dropping USFA sport fencing from the Academy's offerings
(2002) Rez's sport fencing influence is still being felt in Mississippi
and other states with fencers and coaches he trained. Rez's former
assistant Instructors David Williams and Richard Jones are now writing
the pages of 21st century sport fencing in Mississippi with their
continued teaching of sport fencing in the Clinton area.
19. First Classical Fencing Instructor in the state of Mississippi
20. First Historcial Fencing Instructior in the state of Mississippi.
21. First Goju-Shorei Weapons System Instructor in the state of Mississippi.
22. Won 1st place in the state's first Classic Duel
Won 1st place in the state's second Classic Duel
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