Warrior Athlete Philosopher

World-Class Martial Arts with Joseph Simonet and Addy Hernandez.

Month: February 2016

The Impetus for Innovation

Creativity, as much as it seems to come in explosive bursts, is for me first precipitated by years of tenured learning, coaching and curiosity. Ultimately, the creative mind achieves a synchronization with the universe and opportunities that demand the genesis of better systems that present themselves. The alignment of passion, open-mindedness, learning and necessity is the impetus for innovation. This is the story of how that process yielded one of my most important discoveries: that of the Slam Set.
I have been training wooden dummy for over 1/3 of a century and I am continually puzzled by its simplicity and intrigued by its complexity. It is a perfect vessel upon which I could explore the potential both within myself and within the movements. I built my first wooden dummy in 1982. It was an archaic and rudimentary tool, but it quickly became the target of my best effort and imagination. I had trained with Sifu John Beall from Greenlake Wing Chung from the early to mid-1980’s, which was significant because he was a student of James DeMile, and James Demille was a student of Bruce Lee. As I continued to accumulate training perspectives and learning experiences, I integrated these all into my Mook Jong practice. In 1986, I attended a week-long seminar from Master Wang Kiu in Whistler Mountain, BC, after seeing an advertisement for the seminar in Inside Kung Fu Magazine. Although the hosts expected 50 students to attend, only 6 enrolled. This enabled each student to have his own instructor, and that provided me with the individualized attention needed to really spark and grow my discovery. From these instructors, I learned the Classical Set, which consisted of 108 Classical Wing Chun movements. I cherished this above all other systems at that time in my life because I actually learned it from a student of Ip Man himself. In 1988, I had the beginnings of the Slam Set, which we call the non-classical Gung Fu set. Ultimately, the Slam Set was borne from a collection of seeds originally planted by Bruce Lee.
Skip forward 4 years, when I moved to Colorado in May of 1992. I had at that point been in martial arts for 20 years and at 38 years old I realized my journey had just begun. That year was a period of explosive growth for me, as I learned several martial arts and combative arts systems. I was training a Dutch Indonesian art called Pentjak Silat Tongkat Serak from Maha Guru Victor DeThouars. I was learning Yang-Style Long Form Tai Chi from Dr. John Candea, and I also received my tutelage in boxing from coach Ed Weichers from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Then, in 1993, I was lucky enough to sit ringside UFC 1, where it dawned on me that I needed to work on my ground game. So I joined up with the Manatou Springs Wrestling Team, whose coach happened to be very open to my thinking and processing. That year, I also became a faculty member of the Denver Business College where I was teaching hand-to-hand combat and working with the criminal justice program. During that time, I went to the North East Martial Arts training camp in Upstate New York. It was Danny Inosanto, Frances Fong from Atlanta, Chai Sirisute from Muay Thai and Larry Hartsell, who was part of the “Cauliflower Ear Club”. Rolling with Larry Hartsell was an excruciatingly painful experience that taught me how to both endure agony and use it as a compliance point against an opponent. This flurry of study was an awakening for me as I culminated multiple systems simultaneously and began to see a pathway to their merging. Embracing the spirit of the white belt enabled me to suck the marrow of learning from the masters. I was also blessed with an open mind and a curious perspective, hungry for creativity and eager to build better systems. However, these endowments were a necessary but not sufficient condition of me generating my first martial arts system. I was awaiting the catalyst of creation, and it took the form of two curious and interesting students who imposed upon me a demand for unique training. One of these men I lovingly referred to as “Big Brown” (use your imagination, he was 6ft 6in and weighed 330lb). The other was a Mexican named Joseph who had the unique characteristic of lush brown hair that cascaded down to his waist. When I put a wooden dummy in my office, they were naturally curious about it so I showed them the first 5 movements that later became the Slam Set. A week later they asked me “what’s next”? Students are, for me, a significant impetus for creation, as ingenuity is borne out of necessity. I showed them a few more movements and unbeknownst to me, I was creating the Slam Set protocol up to about 40 moves.
The formulation of the Slam Set culminated when I was living in Manitou Springs on the banks of the fountain creek at the base of Pike’s Peak. I lived about 1/4 mile from the Garden of the Gods. Back in the 1990’s I used to drink beer, smoke pot and chase this with coffee. The beer made me aggressive and cocky, the pot made me paranoid and cold, and the coffee made me awake and aware. I would do several rounds of this, never blatantly drunk or high, but simply in a state of heightened stimulation. During that time of my life, it was stimulation that I most often sought after. Although stimulation was what I was seeking, my emotional state was that of frustration, agitation and irritation. Now I am in my 60’s and have been sober for several years. I am now Grateful, happy and forever curious. In the dead of Winter, I went out to my wooden dummy in the shed with no insulation, where it was slightly warmer than the balmy 8 degrees outside. Because of the alcohol, pot and coffee, I had multiple epiphanies that, once they started, unleashed a flood of innovation. It was as if I were sprinting down a hallway with doors that kept opening in my path. I would venture into each new direction, my mind leading me places I had never before seen but long had been accumulating. I stumbled upon new perspectives on the Slam Set that I have never encountered until that point. As a result of my training in Pentjak Silat Serak, Yang style Long Form, Boxing, grappling, etc. I was able to finally assemble a construct that was much more than my training.
It was now 3am and I roused my first wife from her slumber. I gave her blankets and put her in an old leather chair, surrounding her with a half-moon of candles burning into the darkness. I gave her a notebook and pen and implored her to write down every word I said. From that point, I proceeded to outline the Slam Set with technical precision, conceptual perspectives and practical outcomes. It incorporated 108 movements, just as Tai Chi and Sil Lum Tao, just as there are 108 wooden dummies in the Shaolin temple, coordinating with their celestial systems. When I got to 108 I stopped. I woke up the next day and read all my wife wrote. It was mind-boggling in its detail, a unique lensing that both expanded and constricted all I had learned. I am still mining it to this day and have built upon it so that now it includes 160 movements. I continue in the process of seeking the vanishing point, and that spirit will follow me into the afterlife.
Creative innovation cannot happen in a vacuum. One must first diligently build a strong foundation of learning and understanding of extant systems. Keeping an open mind that endlessly pursues understanding (for understanding, like truth, is endless), one is then positioned to answer the incumbent call for better systems and more enlightened processes. The creative burst is the result of the synchronization of acumen, mindset and circumstance and like a phoenix rising, new paradigms are birthed.

A Leveling Experience

defensive posture (2)
Hello, I’m Sifu Joseph Simonet. I am the founder of Ki Fighting Concepts™ and the creator of my most current martial system X-Dtac™ (Extreme Defensive Tactics). I started my martial arts career when I was 18 and now I am in my 60’s. I’d like to tell you about a time when I was profoundly challenged and humbled, and how this experience completely changed my life. The year was 1986. I was 32 years old, and had been training for 14 years. I had attended a Dan Inosanto seminar, going into it feeling like I was at the top of my game. I was fit, skilled, young and strong–and to be honest I felt like I was a master. I went into the event expecting to impress others and manifest my confidence. Instead, I found myself driving down the highway in my 1969 Volkswagen bug having the most leveling emotional experience of my life. With tears streaming down my face, I was screaming and hitting the passenger seat over and over, harder and harder, in agony, to the point that I actually broke my car. Looking back, I see that the most painful experience of my life are also the times when I transcend to a new level of being, and in this instance I was growing in an extraordinary way. You see, when I was exposed to people who had mastered their art on a level I had never conceived, I was overwhelmed with just how little I truly understood. In that moment, the platform of my existence was shaken. Instead of taking my ball and going home, I resolved to rise to the challenge and develop myself into more of a martial artist, more of a student, and ultimately more of a man.
Have you ever had a similar experience? Maybe you feel the way I did and desperately want to push yourself to that next level. If you are like me, you don’t want to be right, you don’t want to know, you want to “understand” and maybe you never stop pushing yourself to pursue the vanishing point of growth and enlightenment in all aspects of your life.
Yet it is exactly this never ending questioning of myself and others that has gotten me kicked out of every martial arts system I have ever been part of. Most of the extant systems are run by people who “know”, who have to be in charge, and that position has caused them to reject and deny me because I threaten their so-called truths. Once again, I could have responded to this rejection by quitting, becoming complacent or becoming cynical. Instead, I chose to develop my own systems and schools where I could follow my truth and pursue my higher meaning. Martial arts is just one of the ways that I seek growth and clarity, and maybe you are like me, also on a never-ending quest for a refined way of being.

The Essentials of The Supported Elbow Frame™ – Joseph Simonet

The Potential of Agility

The human potential for agility has many and varied expressions, which cluster generally into the physical, intellectual and emotional dimensions. I define agility as one’s potential to make adjustments with grace, presence and speed, according to fluctuating circumstance and changing environmental demand. As we navigate through our various life roles, one’s agility allows a continuous re-calibration to new variables that must be negotiated.
When I train a student to understand the concept of frame, taking space, transitions and fulcrums of movement in X-Dtac™, I am asking them to be intellectually agile. When that student is practicing the execution of movement, speed and force, I am asking them to be physically agile. When I am encouraging a student to tap into some deeper strata of power and aggression in order to have a lethal attitude, I am asking that student to be emotionally agile.
As a teacher, I don’t simply explain the system I built, I also challenge students to have the physical agility to carry out that system. What surprises many of my clients is that I must also have them emotionally immerse in the training as well. This emotional immersion creates a psychological state of aggression, power and awareness, which the body then actualizes. Though a student of mine may indeed possess physical abilities that are off the charts, what may hold them back is their lack of emotional immersion. However, sometimes those who are physically very gifted with agility are not particularly intellectually engaged. By explaining more detail in the system, I pull them forward cognitively, emotionally and physically. Just as when I teach heaven 6, it is slow at first but then the student performs the art faster and faster without being aware of it. When I am coaching executive leaders, they are often surprised that I require them to tap into physical agility. Contrastingly, when I am training a fighter, they are often confused that I require them to tap into intellectual agility. If a student is unable or unwilling to pursue all three levels of agility, I find my effectiveness as an instructor is diminished in kind.
Part of the protocol at Ki Fighting Concepts™ is motor skills, muscle memory and tool development based on probabilities. Two other important aspects are tapping into instinct and trusting intuition. These latter elements allow one to be more emotionally prepared for survival. Based on intuition, a student is able to trust the intellectual ability that allows self-protection. I pay attention to the peripheral subtleties in those I serve, because it is these elements that differentiate us at the highest level. A leader is poignantly aware of peripheral subtleties in himself and in others, and this propels one into the upper strata of achievement and leadership. Similarly, the best fighters are those who are emotionally immersed in their art as well as intellectually agile in their endeavors. These three pillars of humanity must be actualized in synchrony if training is to be truly meaningful. I focus on these three pillars because I see them all as essential elements of success in any endeavor. Everyone is deferentially endowed in their areas of agility–some are more physical, some are more emotional and some are more intellectual, but without strength in all areas, a person is critically lacking.
If one is to behave with intentionality, one must first be physically present, then intellectually engaged and finally the deepest level involves emotional immersion. Only when we immerse are we able to tap into our full potential and creativity.

Time Gives Back In The Form of Opportunity

By Sifu Joseph Simonet
Herodotus was the first to write of the fountain of youth in the 5th century B.C. and it has been the much sought-after object of legend and mystery ever since. As we live longer, spending proportionately more of our lives in the ‘older years’, our coveting of youth has only grown stronger. Today, products and services designed to restore youth (or the illusion thereof) unburden us of billions of dollars every year, as our continuous struggle against the onslaught of age intensifies. The promise of youth is cruelly deceptive however, and no amount of vim and vigor can release us from the burden of aging, gracefully or otherwise. Father time is indifferent to our human strivings and despite our delusions of invincibility, from the moment of conception death courts us all.
Perhaps borne of our frustrated angst, we now so applaud the young, in their beautiful becoming, that we enable them to sit back on their unrealized potential and bask in the glory of that which they could be. Unrealized potential simply means you haven’t done anything yet. So we ride this wave through our teens and 20’s, preferring the far more parsimonious and comfortable route of “the world is my oyster”. We avoid challenging ourselves to rely upon or appreciate experience, because we intrinsically lack it when we are young, and arrogance rejects reliance on external help. Since we want to be self-contained and independent in our glory, we discount experience. As we dismiss the value of experiential understanding and replace it with a worship of our “unrealized potential” in youth, are we setting ourselves up for later misery? The so-called “midlife crisis” and existential turmoil that is there to meet us on the other side of our young years could be lessened if not avoided altogether, if we challenged ourselves to take a different perspective on age. Although few people say “I can’t wait to be 60”, the truth is, the older you get, the more you can draw from the understanding unique to a matriculated timeline. Young people should not arrogantly bask in the glory of youth, and the elderly should not succumb to the depleted stance proscribed by dominant social paradigms.
Time, as much as it takes longevity from us, gives back in the form of opportunity. The accumulation of years and experiences provides one with more chances to improve, learn, grow and recalibrate to a higher plane of existence. The mind that is open to evidence of needed adjustment, seeking wisdom through missteps, gathering perspectives that are valuable and guarding against deleterious encounters with those who would compromise clarity of understanding. Mistakes are a necessary part of the learning curve, and should be embraced as the fodder for experiential perspective. Fear of death is compounded when life choices are not aligned with meaningful living. How hastily we plunge into the onslaught of illusion, ignoring the warnings against indulgence until the trap door is sealed–and how many traps are there? The worst kind of trap is the one you don’t know you are in, and there are several alignments of perception that prevent the recognition of such traps. Realigning toward positive course correction is often difficult for people of all ages, but most particularly in those who are still under the spell of youth. Inexperience, pride, and an egotistical avoidance of reality will impede the progress of the young. Sadly, petulance can infect people of all ages and too often, stubbornness is acquired in youth but grasped until old age. Those who are closed minded, inflexible and self-righteous are, in my view, captured in a black hole and escape velocity can only be achieved through critical self-assessment. Although these observations may be “obvious” to the reader, perhaps it only became so apparent when someone pointed them out. In order to work your way out of the traps that have so captured you, take stock of the things you do on a daily basis to add comfort to the ones you love. Are you immersed when listening to your loved ones reveal their most intimate vulnerabilities? Age adds urgency to the need for making needed adjustments that will propel our true life’s intentions. No matter what age you are now, see each day as an opportunity to improve, and repel the tempting lure of assured but unexamined convictions.
In his masterpiece, “The Glass Bead Game”, Herman Hesse writes:
Our days are precious but we gladly see them going
If in their place we find a thing more precious growing
A rare, exotic plant, our gardener’s heart delighting;
A child whom we are teaching, a booklet we are writing.
I am now in my 60’s, just at a new starting line. As the bar continues to rise for me, I am able to hold on to the dream of tomorrow, striving each day to actualize my full potential. If we are up to the challenging and often uncomfortable position of not being an “expert”, not resting on our laurels and coasting our way through the twilight years, we may find that time to be the most compelling and fulfilling point in our life’s course. Perhaps it is that orientation that holds the fountain of youth, or even something more valuable than youth–wisdom.