Warrior Athlete Philosopher

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

Month: April 2016

I Don’t Guess

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When it comes to Martial Arts or life itself, I really do not guess. I trust the machine which I have been building for decades. You have been hearing me say that 86 percent of people are right-handed. During an altercation, if your assailant has his left foot forward and is agitated, he will probably hit with a huge right hand blow. I then would proceed with a Supported Elbow Frame, move in as is safe for me and elbow his temple. Perhaps he has a wrestling background and is giving away his options, as all he really wants to do is shoot on me with a single leg takedown, fine, let him shoot. From the Slam Set I would simply jam his head back with double palms, perhaps following up with thumbs to the eyes or perhaps a knee. I am completely spontaneous when confronted with an attacker. I am not clairvoyant–I just pay attention. I certainly do not have mystic abilities, I am acutely aware of my distance between my attacker and myself. A heightened sense of awareness comes over me as I am tapping into instinct and trusting intuition as these are the qualities of properly trained martial artists. As I have expressed before, most martial artists in there 50’s and 60’s (I will be 62 in June) are either broke, or broken, fat, cynical, or medicating themselves with booze and pot or whatever. Alternatively, perhaps they are teaching antiquated martial systems just to make a buck, and that orientation could get you, the student, hurt or even killed. Creativity is the highest level of understanding. Honestly, I certainly do not aspire to adopt any of the previously mentioned states of being. I never want to be right; I just want to understand more.
Believe it or not, I am quite cautious with my body, both in how I train and what I put into my body. For instance, I hike my hills 3-4 times per week as I am strengthening my legs and working my cardiovascular wellbeing. I lift weights several times a week as I am seeking vitality and creating a balance with my life. I am constantly working on sustaining flexibility from my hips to my shoulders, legs and core. Although purchasing organic foods is a bit expensive, my wife Addy and I are adding more and more organic foods all the time. I read that every 7 years your body regenerates every cell within its vast system. It occurs to me that eating the healthiest foods (organic fruits and vegetables, lean meats) would aid in that process.
At KI Fighting Concepts, we are not a traditional school, an MMA school or a Reality-Based school. At KI Fighting we are all three. Everything I build is a derivation of traditional arts. Every aspect of our stand-up fighting arts we can take to the ground with a high probability of success, and we also train blade, stick, gun arts and improvised weapons. As I said in the first sentence, I do not guess. I believe in the old adage that chance favors the prepared mind. Pay attention to how and what you train. Pay attention to what you put into your body, after all, your body is your temple. If you are fat, lose weight. If you are a drunk, get sober. If you are cynical, appreciate all that you have and love. If you are teaching antiquated martial technologies, challenge your ego to embrace and learn new ideas and constructs. Life is a precious gift, and you owe it to yourself and the ones you love to not squander it through lack of discipline or misaligned mindsets. I have learned many things in my life, and many things I have learned the hard way. I too have been fat, drunk, and cynical and have taught bullshit technologies. I am not that now. I indeed have learned many things in my life and many things of which I have had to unlearn. Through trial and error, I have learned to let go of needing to be right, and seek understanding instead. This perspective has served me well, and I believe it can serve you well too. In every stage of your timeline and new moment you face, always embrace the spirit of the white belt!
By Sifu Joseph Simonet

A Walk with My Selves

A My Selves
By Sifu Joseph Simonet
In my adult life, I have always lived in extraordinary and beautiful settings. I once resided on the banks of a woodland river, in a stone cottage surrounded by several hundred-year-old cedar trees. Every morning I would walk along the waterway, listening to the voices in the current and immersed in the wind sifting through the rocks and woods around me. I have lived on the shores of the Puget Sound on Vashon Island. We had a stretch of beach immediately in front of our home, as I spent countless hours curiously seeking whatever interested me particularly crabs and sea life. For the past quarter century, I have dwelled in the snow-capped peaks above lake Chelan, surrounded by the majesty of the mountain ranges that ensconce the sparkling waters below. We have a very unusual dwelling as it is an Earth Berm home as there are wildflowers blossoming on my sod roof this time of year. As is my custom, every day I hike along the trails of this serene and somewhat challenging landscape. I find solace and illumination from my environment, I value the quality of my separate sphere in the world, and in every spare moment I take time to be physically present, intellectually engaged and emotionally immersed as is my way of being.
Over the many years of my life, as I walk, I contemplate my selves. Most of us think of self as a singularity residing in the present, but that view is but a spoke of the wheel in which to confine something so vast. After all, how long does the present actually last? The “now” is a fraction of a moment–most of our real essence actually resides in the past or the future. How can we trap all that we are and all that we will be into a mere breath and moment in time? I view myself as no exception, so I endeavor to assimilate the selves of the past and the selves of the future into my ever changing timeline. My personality, and I believe yours too, exists and is defined by timeline, by the phases of life and experience that we encounter. I clearly can remember back to how I was in every stage of my life. Sometimes when I hike at the Wind and Rock training facility, I have several Josephs, Joeys and Joes, who walk with me and I recognize that those people make up who I am and who I am becoming. Through all the trials, joys, triumphs and obstacles I have lived through, my self is formed, refined, defined and renewed–the conglomeration is all me and it has always been me.
I often visualize that I can see the 5-year old Joey scampering off, caring little for sticking to the confines of the trail. He is chasing butterflies, finding snakes and wrestling with his black lab, Rocky, totally absorbed in the moment of pure boy ecstasy. Then I see the 15-year-old Joe–he is kind of sulking, absorbed in the angst as well as basking in the glory of youth, looking for his place in the world yet at the same time thinking he knows everything. After all, it’s every teenager’s job to have everything all figured out! The 21 year-old passes him on the path with a quickened gait, as he is eager to try his hand at everything the day has to offer. Yet, he understands that he has a lot to learn and therefore proceeds with accumulating curiosity. This other Joe is about 25 years old, seeking stimulation and is rather impatient, easily frustrated and even angered at the encumbrances that inevitably cross his path. The 28 year-old is Joe is more assured, just now starting to predict and know the terrain ahead. However, he is often exhausted and diffused by the overbearing burden that comes with wanting to please everyone and wanting to be liked by all. The 40 something year-old Joseph walks up the hill with a more confident and driven stride, his thoughts are busily formulating how he is going to get to the apex of the mountain. He watches 15-year old Joe with a whimsical gaze and a knowing, empathic smile. Lagging somewhat behind is the 50-year-old Joseph, of whom is finally figuring life out, so he thinks. Increasingly aware of the toll that Father Time takes on all of us the 60 year-old Sifu Joseph sometimes has back and knee pain, but is still able to move like a warrior and thankful for every day of health and vitality. He lost his physical peak 30 years ago, however his mental acuity is at its zenith and he is only now realizing the potential of what he can create with his experiential and philosophical acumen. More than pleasing others and seeking approval, he now values genuineness and understanding from himself and others. This Sifu is continuously working on cardio training and development when hiking the trails, as it adds to his strength and creativity. More than ever, he is profoundly grateful for his children and career success such as it is, appreciating every day he can still move and think and feel, to share his work with those who would follow him.
At the end of the procession lumbers the 80 year-old Sifu. He uses a cane and steps with caution, taking his time without rush to enjoy the last vestiges of the twilight. My 80 year-old Sifu Joseph is rapidly declining and longs for a few more years, diminished but grateful, at peace. I often search for counsel from this aged sage, as he knows more than I and is wiser and more patient then the present me. He understands me more than anyone. Oh what a gift to be understood and sometimes it is the gift that one can only give oneself.
We often look back on our “old selves” as if they are separate from our being. We are perhaps embarrassed or ashamed of our mistakes, or we discount and dismiss the values we held before. Many of us look to our future selves with the dread and fear of becoming old, with trepidation that we will never truly arrive at our potential. Or, we simply don’t consider tomorrow’s self at all, and instead move forward transfixed by the transient and cluttered noise of the present. For me, my ability to enfold my present self with the selves of my past and future is a guiding light and wellspring of enlightened wisdom. When I find myself bogged down with work, embittered or stymied in my creativity and joy, I seek out the Joey who is off playing in the woods with his dog and I realign myself to the jubilance of living. When I lose sight of all that I am grateful for and become cemented in frustrations, I seek the counsel of the older Sifu, who is beholden to the offerings of his loved ones, friends and the universe of which he is truly a part. Every self in your timeline has particular gifts to give your present being, and tapping into those riches of insight, perspective and temporal life states can propel you toward a more fulfilling and complete existence. The self is many, it is a timeless sphere and embracing it as such is the quiescent ingredient of living fully in the now.

When in Doubt, Train

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For as long as I can remember I have embraced the notion of “When in doubt, train.” As we navigate through life, regardless of diligent and prudent preparations, life has a way of derailing the “best-laid plans of mice and men.” Perhaps you have been through an awful divorce as your ex-wife is shacking up with your best friend. Maybe you have been laid off from your job that you have worked for decades and now you have to start over. Life is a wonderful gift, but sometimes that gift one would just like to return. As an antidote for me over the years, I have resorted to training my body while pressing the reset button on personal goals and forging ahead. Training has always been a tireless ally for my physical and emotional well-being. Recently, however, I am somewhat like a ship without a rudder as I drift about, weighted down by the drudgery of it all. Training alone no longer soothes my soul as it once did, no longer provides me the surefire prescription necessary for revitalized contentment.

Everywhere I turn I am confronted with an avalanche of discontent – everyone hates everyone. It’s as though we as people have lost the mechanism for accessing civility. I often feel the tightening of society’s tension wrapping around me like a python, slowly suffocating my life source. My circle of close friends has turned into a straight line, leaving me alone with the few among whom I truly feel loved. Since I no longer can lean solely on training for reprieve, I have sought safe harbor elsewhere.

My recent plunge into despair has presented me with yet another solution for standing strong against the machine. I refer to my equation of sanity as “withdraw into reason.” Being able to “reason” myself away from the world has been instrumental in ensuring that I continue to be a proactive participant in the world. Reasoning expels the exhausting repetition of emotional data that often causes self-doubt or self-defeat. Bills, bankruptcy, injury and other modes of entropy are exhausting to say the least. I am not suggesting that you delve into a delusional construct. I am proposing that you build a platform of logic and reason, test it through trial and error, and then erect an irrefutable set of tenants upon it that you can wrap your heart and head around. Ignore the moronic vacuity that permeates our so-called culture. Seeking solace through your own ability to reason is the most profound and proven way to enlightened reality.

My approach to sanity has come full circle. For decades, I sought refuge from the ills of the world through training. Only recently have I come to realize that training alone isn’t enough. So, I have turned to reason and logic as my vehicle to sound mental health. The fact is that training and reasoning have always coexisted within the boundless parameter of the Slam Set (wooden dummy form). I now envision the Slam Set as one of my life’s work, my masterpiece.

I have been working the wooden dummy for over a third of a century as I am only scratching the surface. Just as a musician never completely masters his instrument, I don’t expect to wholly master my instrument, the wooden dummy. Unlike the traditional arts I have engaged in, the Slam Set is growing in scope and density. Within the movements are multiple interpretations that represent a plethora of functional applications. I am experiencing the unending appreciation of transitions. As I process each movement, I am captivated by the seemingly endless variations within the transitions. I am compelled to fill every space with meaningful and personal perspectives. One of the beautiful features of wooden dummy training is that of engaging both the creative and the logical aspects of my mind. It’s the combination of creativity and logic that insures the integrity of my art, which will endure intelligent scrutiny over time. For example, in one section of the Slam Set I perform a brush block from Kenpo Karate or FMA transitioning into a Wing Chun gaun sau. Also; when the brush block transitions into a gaun sau, it then moves into a reverse supported elbow frame, into an empty hand X-Frame from X-Dtac™, and follows up with a lower gaun sau and straight punch from Wing Chun, clearly densifying the form. Originally there were 108 Movements of the Slam Set, now it’s going on 180 movements. There are no fillers or superfluous movements within the Slam Set form.

Another approach I am undertaking is the development of functional training drills from elements of the Slam Set. Creating complex agility drills while also accessing the cerebral cortex enables the practitioner to function at a very high level. In my opinion, the development of the mind and body should not be left up to chance. Engaging complex motor skills with strong visualization and reinforcing them with tactile stimulus enables the martial artist to train at one’s zenith. Add to that equation a heart pounding cadence to elevate the heart rate and achieve maximum cardiovascular value and you have yourself a complete mind-body escape from the nonsense and annoyance of everyday life.

As to my point, I wrote this blog with the intent to literally have you “withdraw into reason.” I hope for at least a few minutes you escaped into my head to reach inside yours. “When in doubt, train.

A Succession of Breaths

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It has been written, “From the first gasping breath of a newborn child to the last gasping breath of the aged sage, life can be measured as but a succession of breaths.”
Upon hearing that quote for the very first time, my mind drifted to a place and time much different than the physical reality that enveloped me. The notion of breath and time, new and old, demanded that I stop and listen to silence. This high-tech world of cubicles and entanglements cluttering our minds, and these meaningless distractions cause us to lose our sense of self and time.
Perceiving our lives as a “succession of breaths” is an interesting way to measure it, and one that provides valuable lessons. It has been my experience time and again that poignant moments are often expressed in terms of breath. For example, “When she kissed me, I was breathless.” “I got the wind knocked out of me.” “I breathed a sigh of relief.” “I got my second wind.” “I held my breath in anticipation.” “When I first laid eyes on you, it took my breath away.” Surely most of us have experience moments when time, breath, and acute awareness coalesced into a special moment.
It seems somewhat odd to me when pondering the immense value of breathing that we all take it for granted. As humans we can live for weeks, even months, without food. We can also sustain life for a few days without water. However, we all know that without breath, the gift of life ends in mere minutes. Once again, life, time, and breath exist together as inseparable components. And so it occurs to me that tapping into the power of breath, consciously or otherwise is an essential element to living life on purpose.
My martial arts training has provided me with endless lessons in the way of breath. In November 1993, I was at ringside at Ultimate Fighting Championship 1 at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado. Awakened to the necessity of adding a ground game (grappling, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu) to my martial arts training, within days I was wrestling with the local Manitou Springs High School wrestling team. I was nearly 40 years old, yet the coach allowed me to train with the team at all their practices. Having never wrestled before, I got my butt kicked. My biggest challenge was cardiovascular endurance; the elevation of Manitou Springs is about 6,000 feet. Training at such elevation, coupled with my absolute ignorance of the rigors of wrestling, I was quickly and permanently humbled. The value of breathing took on a magnitude I had never experienced before. At the time, I already had 20-plus ears of training, along with multiple black belts. I also had run a half-marathon (13.1 miles) and had sparred hundreds of rounds of kumite. Despite all that training and experience, I was rendered helpless as a result of running out of gas (air) when wrestling. At one point I didn’t care if the student wrestlers pinned me, hurt me, or simply dominated me. All I wanted was another breath. There is a simple lesson here: don’t kid yourself into thinking you’re in great shape; work your cardio.
Oftentimes in athletics endeavors, participants confuse being tense with intense. This is manifested in such ways as holding your breath and thus adding muscular tension. Relaxation and body control are by-products of being conscious of your breathing. Taking deep, slow breaths is a beginning step to achieving self-control and peak athletic performance. Also, a common flaw in combat-level grappling is for the athlete to hold his breath while exerting a great amount of energy. Obviously, physical exertion while holding one’s breath leads to potential failure and, of course, pain. In training, awareness of breathing and relaxation are as important as the technique or intent.
Confusing being tense with intense is also a common flaw when performing Filipino Sinawali. Sinawali is generally a two-person stick drill performed at high speed with rattan sticks. Matching angles of attacks, two participants perform structured stick patterns using footwork and high-speed eye-hand coordination. A frequent problem when accelerating the stick action is that people tense up and either hold their breath or resort to shallow breathing, which hinders their stick performance. One way to work the sticks is to focus not on the pattern or stick speed, but rather on taking long, deep breaths. Conscious deep breathing when training sinawali will ultimately raise your level of stick prowess as you become more relaxed and supple.
I highly recommend standing meditation (qi gung) for everyone over 30 years of age. If you are an MMA fighter, I recommend that you begin meditation immediately, regardless of age. Learning to relax and focus on deep, controlled and rhythmic breathing will help calm your nerves before a fight. Meditation has long been proven to lower blood pressure, clear the mind, and slow time. I suggest finding a quiet, serene location for your meditation. Of course, you can meditate anywhere or anytime, but consistency is vital.
I live at the Wind and Rock Training Facility in Chelan, Washington. Regardless of time of year, I often meditate on an outdoor platform where I have a spectacular view of Lake Chelan with snowcapped mountains and isolation. Every time I meditate, I refer back to the quote that life is but a succession of breaths. Being alone, focusing on long, deep inhalations of fresh mountain air allows my mind to be quiet, clam, and in repair.