My latest piece for Ralph Lauren Magazine is on the rise of American fencing. I spent about five years training up to five days a week and faced the national champion several times (the first time losing 5-0 in 45 seconds; the last time a more respectable 5-3).
At the time, US fencing was barely a blip on the international radar. But much has changed in the last 15 years, and now America routinely takes home medals in the sport.
While far more esoteric than squash, tennis, crew and sailing, fencing is nevertheless a recurring motif in WASPy books and films, and makes an appearance in “Catcher in the Rye,” “Dead Poets Society,” “The Great Gatsby,” and others.
Pictured above is my fencing master, Heizaburo Okawa, circa the mid-’60s, doing his signature counter-riposte in an impossible yoga-like contortion. The image was reproduced on t-shirts and posters that are familiar to many fencers. Okawa was the most famous fencer to come out of Japan, later immigrating to America, where he became national champion, and was recently inducted into the US Fencers Hall of Fame. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD