Torao Mori was a successful kendo champion in his native Japan before moving to the United States in 1938. Once there, he took up western fencing under the tutelage of the Los Angeles Athletic Club’s Henri Uyttenhove and quickly rose through the ranks, becoming one of the top West Coast fencers. He taught both kendo and fencing, eventually buying out Joseph Vince’s Beverly Hills-based fencing club and his equipment company. Mori was instrumental in the development of the Japanese fencing team in the run up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, coaching the team in both ’64 and the 1968 Mexico City games. In 1969, while fencing kendo, he died of a massive heart attack at the age of 54.
A number of things have come my way recently through various paths. Taken individually, they add to the collection in nice ways, but don’t necessarily give me the grist to crank out a full story around them.
When I struggle with ideas for writing about fencing history for this site, I have a couple of favorite fallback topics. If you’ve been reading for awhile, you can probably guess most of them.
Driving around Southern California may not seem like much of a Holiday, especially when traveling alone, but a recent weekend outmatched all my expectations. The plan was to make four different stops in hopes of collecting fencing history.
There is nothing in the world quite like Jerry Biagini’s greeting to me when I visited him about two weeks ago. Me: “Mr. Biagini, how are you?” Jerry: “I’m 90 years old and cranky!”
When I have the opportunity to visit someone who has fencing memorabilia that I can scan for my collection, I often don’t get a chance to thoroughly take in the significance of everything I’m working with.
During an otherwise very pleasant Italian meal I shared with two-time, two-weapon National Champion and Olympian Sewall “Skip” Shurtz and Andy Shaw of the Museum of American Fencing, Andy mentioned that he’d come to appreciate, late in life, a difficult-to-like fencer who was once a teammate of Skip’s.
I confess, I don’t know a whole lot about Kendo. Outside of the countless samurai films I’ve seen (which I don’t pretend are representative of Kendo), I’ve only been around the sport a couple of times.
Fear. It’s a motivator for me. Not the average, everyday kind of fear, nor an amorphous fear of zombies or clowns. Rather, the fear of loss. A very specific kind of loss.
The Joseph Vince Studio was on Santa Monica Blvd, in the heart of Beverly Hills; a grand location to attract an amazing assortment of Talent with a capital T. Quite a number of Movie Stars spent time with Joseph Vince.
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