Wednesday, December 25, 2013

One Tin Soldier Rides Away

"Billy Jack" is the story of a half-breed Indian, a (Vietnam) “war hero” who turned against the war, and abandoned society to live somewhere on the Indian reservation, studying ancient medicine ways, while defending the wild horses from poachers, and kids at the Freedom School from the violence of some of the townspeople.

Its naturalistic filming in parts, made it seem uncontrived and honest. It has some terrific martial arts action sequences, and a brilliantly poignant scene featuring co-star Dolores Taylor.

When policemen break the law, there is no law – just a struggle for survival.
-- Billy Jack

The film stars Tom Laughlin – who passed into legend this year at the age of 82, a stand-up guy all the way, and an ass-kicker to the very end.  He also wrote, produced, directed and made the coffee in what was clearly a labor of love and an expression of some deeply held beliefs (in that regard, reminiscent of John Wayne’s "The Alamo").

This film made a big impression on me. To start with, I’m a half-breed Indian, too. I was heavily into martial arts at that time, and I was also strongly against the war --- and I had something of a short fuse.  Like Billy Jack, for a time I tried to be a “pacifist” --- and like Billy, I found that it just wasn’t in me.

For young people today, "Billy Jack" provides a window into the late 60”s—early ‘70’s, and a chance to glimpse a small slice of the heart of the anti-war/hippie/generation. 
And the message of "Billy Jack" is just as vital today as it ever was:  that good people must band together against oppression and corruption, and that sometimes it is necessary and proper to use force against violence.



Sunday, December 15, 2013

Songs of the Sword

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I first learned how to give lessons from Professor Warren Simkins, my voice teacher, back when I was a freshman in college.
As a voice major, I got together with him several times a week and each lesson followed the same format. First we’d chat a bit, the purpose of which was to get a read on where I was on that particular day, and to focus my attention and energy on the lesson. Then he’d take me through some “vocalizes,” exercises to limber and strengthen my chops.  After that we’d work on a song that was challenging, dissecting it into small sections, working on each section, then gradually reassembling the sections. That was followed by a song that I knew well, and sang well, something solidly under my command. We’d wrap up with a chat, re-capping what we’d done, going over practice suggestions, and some general chat about my life, gigs, girls – and, of course, the war.
Mr. Simkins had a real talent for knowing exactly when to push and when to go light. On days when I was “in good voice” he helped me stretch. On other days, like after a long week-end gig when my pipes needed some rest, we’d sing a little and talk a lot.
Keep in mind that the music I was doing in these voice lessons was quite different from the stuff I was singing to make my living. Clubs I played, I got very few requests for Handel or Tschaikovsky. And the only Martini requests involved an olive. But the work we did built up my voice, my breath-control, all kinds of things that were foundational to ANY kind of singing, and I found that that classical technique transferred quite readily to the folk/rock/jazz/blues genre of my gigs.  It helped quite a bit that Mr. Simkins, in addition to being a knock-out classical vocalist, had been a Big Band Crooner in his youth. So he understood that kind of performance dynamic.

I was also in a voice class that included non-music majors, and there were a couple of people in that class who couldn’t carry a tune in a suitcase. Sometimes I wondered why they signed up for the class. Their efforts were tense, tight, self-conscious, choking attempts to find a key, any key. Nevertheless, Mr. Simkins always found something praiseworthy in their performances --- not false, charity-praise, either, but things that I, myself, had neither the ear nor the heart to notice.  Years later, horses would teach me about this master teaching skill. It’s called “rewarding the try.”

Like all good teachers, Mr. Simkins was a great story-teller, with great stories to tell. There’s one in particular that has stayed with me and I think he wouldn’t mind my passing along. So I’ll share it with you, because I think it’s worth sharing...
Like so many other young men, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Mr. Simkins, in a fit of patriotic fervor, headed right down to the US Army recruiting office to sign up. He was hardcore, too. Volunteered to be a Ranger, I think it was. Some elite-type unit, anyway. Hoo-ah.
Turns out, for a musician, he was a talented killer. Excelled as a marksman, in hand-to-hand, demolition. Had a flare for both Italian and German languages (there’s that classical singing connection), and rose to be a squad leader. 
Like so many other young men, being yet unfamiliar with the reality of war, he was chomping at the bit, eager to get into action. Spent his free time cleaning and oiling his rifle, sharpening his bayonet, conjuring up heroic exploits in his imagination.
At long last, word came down that his unit was shipping out to fight the Nazis in Europe. He made preparations. Checked his gear. Said his good-byes. Wrote his will, just in case.  He was ready to rock and roll, and was looking forward to personally kicking Hitler’s ass.
Then, an odd thing happened. Something that he was never able to understand, not for the rest of his days.
The day before his outfit was  to ship out, Mr. Simkins received orders transferring him to the Chaplain Corps.
Out of the blue, no rhyme or reason. After spending big bucks to turn my man into a lean, green, nazi-killing machine destined to adorn recruiting posters everywhere, he gets side-lined just before the big game. It just didn’t make any sense, even for the Army.  And he was pissed. It had to be a snafu. He inquired, he protested, he begged, and he pleaded. But you know what they say in the Army? “Orders are orders, Pal.”
And so it came to pass that Mr. Simkins’ buddies went into battle without him. And when they hit the beach in their very first action, every single man in his platoon was killed. No survivors.  Not one.
Except him.
He spent he rest of the war dealing with the remains of the fallen, writing letters of condolence, delivering folded flags, medals and bad news to their families.
And, much as he tried, he was never able to ascertain where those transfer orders came from, who had originated them, or why.

For all the days that came after, I think Mr. Simkins felt that he had an unspoken tontine with his dead friends, and that he, having been inexplicably spared, now had a particular obligation to live a good life.
I believe he fulfilled it.

I'd like to do the same.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

"In Ferro Veritas"

The slogan “in ferro veritas” was coined by me, back in around 1978-1979.
I was reading a bit of Latin at that time, just for fun, which gives you some idea of the range and character of things I consider “fun.”
“Ferro” literally means “iron.”  It’s Latin slang for “sword” the same way we say “cold steel” or “hot lead” or “shootin’ irons.”
I frankensteined together two phrases I liked: “Omnis in ferro est salus” (Virgil) meaning “the sword is the equal protector of all," and the popularly known “in vino veritas,”  which means “never trust a man who won’t get drunk with you.” (my own translation).
“In ferro veritas” means “in the sword is truth,” or, more loosely translated, “studying the sword will smack you face-first into a lot of truths you’re not going to like.”
We refer to our unique training method as the IFV method, with IFV standing for guess what? (If you said “in ferro veritas,” move to the head of the class).  Indeed, our not-for-profit educational corporation is named IFV, Inc.

It seems that I came up with a motto that’s a pretty good one, because since I created it, a lot of other folks have plagiarized it, used it for themselves, and without so much as a by-your-leave.
According to Wikipedia:   
Plagiarism is the "wrongful appropriation" and "purloining and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions," and the representation of them as one's own original work
Now, if people dig the "in ferro veritas" concept, I’m cool with that, daddy-o. All I ask is that they properly give credit where credit is due.  Unfortunately, at least one so-called “fencing master” has plagiarized not only our motto, but has taken some parts of our unique practice method and claimed them as his own creation. That, I regret to say, makes that particular gentleman a liar and a thief, and if he had any integrity at all he would be deeply ashamed, apologize and make amends.
But, of course, he won’t. If he had integrity enough to apologize, he’d have had integrity enough not to plagiarize in the first place, wouldn't he?

Anyway, let word go forth that “in ferro veritas” belongs to us. We have used it in “business” since 1979. It is our intellectual property, our servicemark and our trademark, for which we reserve all rights. It is NOT in the public domain.
I’m glad if you like the slogan. But please, if you wish to use it, ask us for permission first, and give proper citation when you do.
Or just come up with something of your own.

Much appreciated.



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

To Live by the Sword...

Lately, I've been working on a lot of computer-based stuff, dealing with the internet and so on. Not typical for me, and not my field of expertise by a long shot.
But there is one benefit: it reminds me anew of how much I cherish the sword.
Others, older and wiser than I, have already noted that the sword never jams, never has to be re-loaded and is always ready.
To that I would add that it never freezes, never crashes and never has to be re-booted, either.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

To Live by the Sword

Not when you think you know everything without questioning,
but when you question everything you think you know.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Lesson from the GOAT

You might WANT it.
You might WISH for it.
But you've got to WORK for it.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It Depends...

Part of the beauty of the Sword is that it teaches you that there is no "right" answer.
There are many right answers.
It all depends on the tactical circumstances: the nature of the fighter, the nature of the opponent, and the nature of the environment. It encourages creative solutions, i.e., actions that your opponent does not expect and cannot predict.


Friday, September 20, 2013

This Old Salle

My salle d’armes is a modest and rustic place. 
It started out life as a garage. It was owner-built, with help that was paid liberally in beer. Thus, nothing in the structure is quite square, flush or plumb. A singer’s dream; a carpenter’s fevered nightmare.
It was reincarnated as a salle d’armes thirty years later, under the supervision of a handyman-of-all-trades, with even less skilled folks like me supplying the grunt labor.
The 20x30-ish size is good for my practice, because I like working with small groups of 6-8 people at a time. That’s a perfect number to allow for safety, a good group dynamic, and some personal attention, too. Not a real money-maker, though.
Inside, we have one wall with mirrors floor to ceiling. Weapon racks. Some inspirational artwork.  A small stereo. Rubber gym mats provide a comfortable working floor. One large blank wall is perfect for showing swashbuckling movies, like swashbucklers themselves, bigger than life-size.
But the building needs a lot of work.
A lot.
The “insulation” (notice I put that in quotation marks) keeps out the cold about as well as a damp Kleenex would stop a .45 slug.  In summer, bread would rise at warp speed.  However, a wide variety of insects and small rodents find it irresistibly comfy.  The floor has become uneven in spots (much like my temper), likely because the garage was built in a slab and not on a real foundation. The ventilation is poor, the roof is sagging like an out-classed fighter staggering into the championship rounds. The siding has long since begun to rot, and one or two chipmunk entrances have appeared in the fascia boards, one of them with a traffic light. Entropy, in short, is hammering away with hooks and uppercuts and overhand rights as we rock against the ropes, try to cover up, and answer with a punch or two of our own, now and then, when opportunity presents.  But we’re way behind on points and our scoring a knockout, or our opponent suddenly suffering a massive heart attack, seem paths to victory that are equally remote.

It struck me, in a moment of tequilafied clarity, how this old salle is a perfect metaphor for chivalry.
Inside, we fight to preserve something good and clean and noble, while all around us the world crumbles into corruption, decadence and despair. It’s a full-time chore to keep that decomposition from finding its way inside us, taking root in out hearts,  rotting our spirit, rendering us caricatures of ourselves, the way Elvis, himself, became the world’s most mediocre Elvis-impersonator.
Stone walls do not a prison make, they say, nor iron bars a cage. But it doesn’t hurt.
Nevertheless, a salle d’armes, too, is not made of wood, and stone and steel.
It’s made of spirit.
If we can keep our spirit strong we will prevail, good over evil, justice over corruption, and bleach over mildew.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Conversation in Steal

 I’m from Chicago.
It’s a city that is not without the influence of organized crime. Maybe you’ve heard.
When a legitimate business gets profitable, the mafia gets interested. They move in on that business, squeeze it for “protection” money or even take it over completely.  The mafia isn't keen on doing any real, honest work, themselves, but they won’t hesitate to steal from those who do some.

Starting in 1980, when I received my Fencing Master Diploma from Maitre Jean-Jacques Gillet’s American Fencing Academy, and certification from the now-defunct US Academy of Arms,  and continuing for all the years I was a member of the NFCAA – now the USFCA – I lobbied for them to recognize, preserve and promote classical fencing (which was then known simply as correct fencing!) as well as other weapons such as the rapier, the smallsword and the longsword.
For several decades the USFCA (and it’s Tweedle-dum twin the USFA) derided, denigrated, dismissed, disparaged, trivialized  and insulted classical fencing,  and sneered at the very notion that fencing as a martial art could even exist. In their “coaches college” only the three “modern” weapons used in competition were considered, solely and exclusively, with Olympic gold medals the be-all and end-all of their efforts. The USFCA is aptly named: The United States Fencing COACHES’ Association. They are coaches training people to win at a competitive sport.  They are not fencing masters, at least not by the definition I was taught:  one who had the skill, knowledge and spirit to teach any person the correct use of any sword for any purpose. A  fencing master may sometimes function in the role of coach. But being a coach does not make you a fencing master.
Over that same period of time, the “sport” of fencing devolved into a meaningless and graceless game of electronic tag, bearing utterly no resemblance to a “frank and courteous encounter” (a duel, that is), and played by rude, screaming narcissists, for whom real fencers have long since grown weary of apologizing. Thankfully, the numbers involved in this game are starting to dwindle. With luck, it will cease to exist at all.
Meanwhile, Classical Fencing and “Historical European Martial Arts,” (HEMA) have found something of a niche, and that niche is growing.  Clearly these people are looking for something that the “Olympic fencing” game of poke-and-hope does not provide --- and they are willing to invest a fair amount of money in this pursuit. They are willing to pay for equipment, and they are willing to pay for instruction.
Naturally, overnight “masters” spring up like mushrooms --- or actually, more like “10th Degree Supreme Ultimate Grand Masters,” first in karate, then kung fu, then ninjitsu, then hapkido, then aikido, in accordance with what was featured in the latest, most popular action movie. (All the same guys, mind you. Only the sign in the dojo window changed.)
And, naturally, now that there’s money to be had, the USFCA is suddenly interested.
Now, out of the blue,  with no history of any prior involvement in, or support of classical fencing or HEMA, the USFCA, like the mafia (only without the accents and the snappy clothes), wants to take them over and siphon off whatever profits there are to be had from the people who have rightfully earned them, to distribute amongst their own pompous, plagiaristic and self-aggrandizing chosen few.  They thus anoint themselves as the arbiter of who is or isn’t “certified” to teach, form a committee for that purpose and bestow lofty titles on themselves – all with no demonstration of any expertise in the subject whatsoever.  Make no mistake, their next step is obvious: they will deride, denigrate, dismiss, disparage, trivialize  and insult all those who do not possess USFCA certification, and they will try to convince the public (that is, the market) that those not blessed with the USFCA nod are incompetent charlatans who will put little Tom and Suzie in peril of life and limb.
But it isn’t just about money.
It’s also about ego, power and, above all, CONTROL. The USFCA, like an abusive spouse, craves control over every thought, word and deed.  Without that control, they might be seen for what they are, as would the once beautiful and noble “sport” of fencing which they enthusiastically helped to ruin.
Classical Fencing and Olympic fencing, you see, are not two variations on the same theme, like two different flavors of ice cream. They are not different “styles” of fencing.  (The former is fencing, the latter is not. What it is, I’ll leave it to you to figure out).
Classical Fencing and the “sport” called fencing are, in fact, diametrically opposed and mutually contradictory both technically and philosophically.
How could the organization that has led the charge against Classical Fencing for so long, now represent classical fencing?  It’s preposterous. Far be it from me to suggest that the USFCA would know ethical conduct if they stepped in it, but is there not just a teensie-weensie bit of conflict of interest here?  Is the fox really qualified to certify the security guards for the henhouse?
Those of us who are professional fencing masters, who make our living teaching the true art, science and spirit of the sword, would be well advised to wear wreaths of garlic around our necks to keep the USFCA at bay until we can find out where they sleep during the day and stake them firmly down in the coffin of absolute irrelevance they so deserve.
We need USFCA "certification" like a swimmer needs an anvil. What we could use is a loose association of independent professional fencing masters who can agree on what a fencing master is and what you have to do, know and be, to be recognized as one by the rest of us.  That’s assuming that there actually are enough professional fencing masters out there to fill one of the larger booths at Denny’s.  Personally, I can count the ones I know of on one hand, and still have enough fingers left to deal off the bottom of the deck. But you have to start someplace.
It would certainly be better than allowing the mafia to muscle in and take over.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fight Dirty

Crown's Law of Dirty Fighting:
There IS no such thing as dirty fighting.
There's only fighting.

Some people don't understand the difference between fighting and playing. They play hard for five minutes, sweat a lot, get out of breath and so they think that's really fighting.
It isn't.
For one thing, real fights don't last five minutes. They last about five seconds.

 Here's a photo of a toy lion. It's soft and fluffy and children find it cuddly.
 Here's a real lion.

Though they share some superficial similarities, it would be silly to confuse them, to treat one as if it were the other.

Fatally silly.

Thus let it be with Caesar.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Moderation is for Monks

To be ABLE to do 
what others can't,
You must be WILLING to do
what others won't.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Mind as Keen as a Well-tempered Blade

There is a sound, rational reason for everything we teach.
If it isn't supported by solid evidence, we don't do it.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Simple Math

The difference between what you say you believe in 
what you actually believe in 
is what you do.

The difference between who you say you are
who you actually are 
is what you do.

See the pattern?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013

In Case You're Confused....








Thursday, July 11, 2013

Choose Wisely, Grasshopper

First you make your choices.
Then your choices make you.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Tao of the Sword

You can make progress or you can make excuses. 
You can't do both.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Education vs Indoctrination

While most children are forced to go to government-run "public" schools where they are trained to become "productive" workers and obedient soldiers, the children of the elite, the "1%" go to quite different schools and learn quite different things.

John Gatto explains in this clip.

Nota bene the role of "sport."


Friday, June 14, 2013

On Strength and Mercy

Discourtesy is a coward's imitation of courage,
A weakling's imitation of strength.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Lion and Lyin'

The truth is the truth, even if no one believes it
A lie is a lie, even if everyone believes it.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Bravo Briar MacLean --- and SHAME on this Calgary School.

June 02, 2013

13yrold student reprimanded for stopping a knife-weilding bully at school

Briar MacLean was sitting in class during a study period Tuesday, the teacher was on the other side of the room and, as Grade 7 bullies are wont to do, one kid started harassing another.
“I was in between two desks and he was poking and prodding the guy,” Briar, 13, said at the kitchen table of his Calgary home Friday.
“He put him in a headlock, and I saw that.”
He added he didn’t see the knife, but “I heard the flick, and I heard them say there was a knife.”
I heard the flick, and I heard them say there was a knife
The rest was just instinct. Briar stepped up to defend his classmate, pushing the knife-wielding bully away.
The teacher took notice, the principal was summoned and Briar went about his day. It wasn’t until fourth period everything went haywire.
“I got called to the office and I wasn’t able to leave until the end of the day,” he said.
That’s when Leah O’Donnell, Briar’s mother, received a call from the vice-principal.
“They phoned me and said, ‘Briar was involved in an incident today,’” she said. “That he decided to ‘play hero’ and jump in.”
Ms. O’Donnell was politely informed the school did not “condone heroics,” she said. Instead, Briar should have found a teacher to handle the situation.
“I asked: ‘In the time it would have taken him to go get a teacher, could that kid’s throat have been slit?’ She said yes, but that’s beside the point. That we ‘don’t condone heroics in this school.’ ”
Instead of getting a pat on the back for his bravery, Briar was made to feel as if he had done something terribly wrong. The police were called, the teen filed a statement and his locker was searched.
Calgary Police Service confirmed there was an incident at Sir John A. Macdonald junior high school Tuesday: a third student intervened in a fight between two others and a knife was involved.
The incident is being investigated and no one has been charged.
Ms. O’Donnell said the bully had since been suspended.
Sitting in their northwest Calgary home as Briar’s younger brother played with Buzz Lightyear action figures, Ms. O’Donnell said this isn’t the first time her child had been in trouble for confronting bullies, either.
She teaches her son to stand up for others, and for himself. His heroics were featured on the front page of Friday’s Calgary Sun. His mother had obtained several copies she stacked on her coffee table.

Crown's Law

Never let anybody else do your thinking for you --- 
and that includes me.

-- aac

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What Makes a Climate for Learning?

I hope you'll enjoy this witty and engaging presentation on creating a learning environment.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013


How do the principles of the sword connect to the rest of your life?


Monday, May 20, 2013



Champion, advocate, mentor, cheer-leader.
I wish I'd had a teacher like this when I was a kid.

I hope I am one.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

What is Good Teaching?

What bad teachers think good teaching is. 

                   What good teachers think good teaching is.

                                                          What good teaching actually is.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Who WAS that Masked Man....?

Clayton Moore.
The Lone Ranger.
And his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, played by Jay Silverheels.
With their horses, Scout and Silver.
And, even now, I can never hear the finale of Rossini's William Tell Overture without wanting to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear.

As a little kid, I always liked it that the Ranger wore a mask, so that his good deeds were anonymous, and that he never stuck around for a "thank you" after saving somebody's grits.  I admired that he used bullets made of silver to remind himself that life was precious -- even the bad guy's life -- and that he didn't shoot to kill, but to disarm, a practice that may be of extremely limited tactical utility in real life.

Funny thing, Moore and Silverheels apparently came to take their parts --- and their position as "role models" for us kids -- very seriously.

Three parts of the "Lone Ranger Creed" that stuck with me:
  • that all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.
  • being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.
  • that all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on forever.

 Like the Lone Ranger, I sometimes wear a mask.
Unlike the Lone Ranger, I am sometimes, of moral imperative, an outlaw.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Character is Destiny

The psychopath is incapable of ever becoming a person of character. It isn't their "fault." They just don't have the tools.

Most people, though, can become a person of integrity, worthy of respect.

It's a matter of practice,


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Multiple Opponents

Just as I'm prepping to teach BLUE SUEDE SHOES: Womens' Basic Self-Defense Awareness, I had a chat with a dear friend and colleague on the matter of multiple opponents.  So I thought I'd share something from the Blue Suede class.  The illustration captures, I believe, the spirit of it.  May you never know first-hand what this is like. 


It ain’t like the movies. Fighting multiple opponents is extremely dangerous and no matter how good you think you are, there’s a point where many becomes too many, and it’s a losing battle. Here are 10 good rules to maximize the odds of minimizing the damage to yourself.
1.            Avoid the Situation.
Always the best option. Here’s where situational awareness and early pattern recognition come into play.

2.            Run like hell.
Assuming you can get away safely and you’re not leaving somebody behind who can’t run with you.

3.            Have a weapon and know how to use it.
No doubt about it 3 or 4 unarmed attackers (or attackers armed with knives or clubs) against 1 unarmed defender is a one-sided affair. Same 3-4 attackers against a defender with a firearm and suddenly the odds have changed.

4.            Target the Leader.
Quite often the biggest, nearest, and has the loudest/foulest mouth.

5.            Line ‘em up
Avoid being surrounded. Move to one side so that they become obstacles in each other’s way. Use the nearest as a shield.  
6.            Strike First, Strike Hard Take the initiative, “attack on the preparation.” Avoid making meaningless movements that waste energy; take simple, devastating action instead. Get the first lick in and make it count.

7.            Fight Dirty.                                                         
         Use knees, elbows, teeth, head butts and attack eyes, throat, groin.

8.            Use the Environment.
Take advantage of chairs, tables, walls, trees, cars, etc as obstacles and as possible weapons.

9.            Keep Moving.
A moving target is harder to hit and harder to surround.

10.       Hit and Run.
As soon as you can safely do so, disengage and retire.

The first one dies, the second one is maimed, 
the third one runs away.