Northwestern fencing coach prepares students for sport, life

May 23, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Kaihatsu has been coaching at Northwestern since 1989, after his own college career, where he was a first team All-American and a Big 10 fencing champion.

Besides coaching, there are still plenty of competitions.

Kaihatsu discovered fencing at Maine South High School, choosing fencing when he realized he wasn't big enough for football or tall enough for basketball.

He quickly discovered a sport he loved.

"in high school, the third year of fencing, I knew I wanted to be a fencing coach," said Kaihatsu.

It has been his life ever since, even extending to his family. Wife Jean was also a fencer. Son Kenji and daughter Anjolie are already learning.

In fencing, there's strategy, speed, precision, technique, using the epee, foil and sabre.

One important point:

"Fencing is an independent sport," Kaihatsu said, "even though you compete as a team. It's an accumulation of individual bouts. It rules out a lot of team sport players."

After college, the rare, talented fencer might go on to the Olympics. There are World Cup competitions.

But, for most, the emphasis is on how fencing prepares you for life.

To Kaihatsu, that's the point. He's thinking about his students' futures.

"My purpose in coaching: Make them better students, fencers, friends, in the boardroom, courtroom, operating room," said Kaihatsu.

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