By Alice M. Lee
Updated December 13, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

Time to buckle your swash — the art of the sword is back. This fall alone, Madonna mended fencing as Die Another Day’s instructor, Verity; Daniel Radcliffe and Tom Felton displayed some en-garde-inspired wand wizardry in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; and October’s French swordfighting film On Guard was a critical hit. Next summer Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Depp get to the point in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Princess Diaries producer Debra Martin Chase plans to bring the story of African/Asian-American Olympic fencing medalist Peter Westbrook to the big screen. Celebrities aren’t the only ones taking a stab. The U.S. Fencing Association reports a 53 percent increase in membership since 1997, and recreational fencing is on the rise at schools like L.A.’s Westside Fencing Center, where Viggo Mortensen and Patricia Arquette have also parried some blows. ”If you meet a villain face-to-face with sword in hand, it takes the most courage,” says Great Britain’s former Olympic fencing coach Bob Anderson, who trained the casts of Die Another Day, Pirates, and 1998’s The Mask of Zorro, as well as two of the Star Wars flicks, about the appeal of steel against steel. ”It’s the ultimate weapon in the fight between good and evil.”