Warrior Athlete Philosopher

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

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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.

Warriors Among Us

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Well, I guess I didn’t get the memo. It seems all I hear these days is that the only “real” martial art is mixed martial arts (MMA). From every corner of the martial arts media landscape, it’s MMA this and MMA that. According to so-called contemporary experts, the only functional martial arts are Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), Muay Thai, and Wrestling. Factor into the mix a little Greco-Roman wrestling, judo, and so-called ground and pound, and there you have it – a complete encyclopedia of an “Ultimate Fighting Curriculum” (UFC). Considering the phenomenal global success of the UFC franchise, as well as other MMA fighting organizations, you just might have to agree that only true Martial Arts are indeed being showcased within the hollowed Octagon.
On the other hand, isn’t it difficult to argue against hundreds if not thousands of years of martial arts history from the world’s greatest fighting cultures? What about the warring arts from Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Indonesian, and African warriors, as well as European Knights and Gladiators, Indian wrestlers, and a myriad of lesser-known practitioners of the fighting arts? Is it time to disregard the proud histories of valiant warriors who faced death in the heat of battle without the safety net of rules, regulations, and the predictable tap-out submission? How about Native American braves who faced humiliation, starvation, death, even extinction if defeated? Should their ways of living a warrior’s life be dismissed by today’s slick media marketing and merchandising? One might argue that a romantic historical view of ancient warriors is fine for Books and the History Channel, but what about the state of war arts right now? Are the strip-mall dojos that litter cities across America today representative of warrior traditions of ancient cultures, or are they most likely filled with wannabes sporting bloated stomachs, unearned ranks, and inflated egos? We’ve all seen the martial arts “studios” with their plastic, dusty trophies representing silly fight-less tournaments and mindless preprogrammed katas. Oh, let’s not forget the Reality-Based martial arts. Are their practitioners the truly gallant men and women from the Military and Law Enforcement communities who fight to protect our nation? Or do they represent the gun-toting, camo-wearing, paintball-playing weekend warriors who sleep all day and guard empty malls on the midnight shift.
Regardless of one’s profession, the world is full of frauds, fakes, and of course the real deal. The world of Martial Arts is no different. I believe there are true Fighting Champions, Traditional Masters, and Real War Heroes. Unfortunately, it’s very challenging to separate the wheat from the chaff. And so I go about my business of training hard with effective sustained effort. I am certainly not a fighting champion, master, or war hero. What I am is a dedicated man who believes I have to work hard, work smart and maintain an objective point of view to what is real. When in doubt, train.
When I watch the UFC, I realize that those fighters represent World-Class conditioned athletes who are truly dedicated to their craft. Do I accept the notion that BJJ, Wrestling, Muay Thai and Boxing are the ultimate fighting methods? No, but I do believe that mixing martial arts is Essential in creating the Ultimate Fighting System for me. The infamous Bruce Lee said, absorb what is useful. My perspective is Extract what is Essential. My personal mixed martial arts are a combination of Kenpo Karate, Wing Chun, FMA, Pentjak Silat, and Tai Chi. I also Box and Wrestle, and have been training in Gracie jiu-jitsu on and off for several years. What is interesting to me is that BJJ is logically built. When a Martial Art is logical, it can be predictable. For me, when an art is predictable it can become defeat able. I have also built several systems such as the Slam Set, Argument of Movement, American Wing Chun Silat and many other systems of which X-Dtac™ (extreme defensive tactics) is my ultimate expression of who I have become. So, yes, I do MMA. I am following Bruce Lee’s model of finding what works for me.
I respect the Traditional Martial arts practitioners who chooses to learn and master a specific art. I have often heard from my gun-enthusiast friends the old adage, “Beware the man who owns one gun, for he truly knows how to use it.” So I suspect that adage would also work for practicing just one martial art. I don’t have a problem with that notion if that is your choice. However, I train with several guns, each representing different functions at different ranges. Guns are quite similar to martial arts in the way: each art – or gun – has different functions at different ranges. I use the model of MMA when pursuing my firearm knowledge. Is there one perfect martial art? I believe the perfect approach to becoming proficient in martial arts is the combination that works for you. Is there one perfect firearm? Again, it’s the combination that works for your needs.
As I mentioned, UFC fighters are world-class athletes. I have little doubt if you choose to talk trash about their craft they would be more than happy to accommodate you in the Octagon. That being said, it doesn’t take a world-class athlete to shred your neck with a blade or to put a little red dot on the back of your head and squeeze the trigger. The point is, let’s all Respect each other’s arts and training methods. Whether an MMA fighter, a Traditionalist, or a Reality-Based Martial Artist, we all have our secured place in the fighting arts environment.

Knowing Tai Chi

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In late fall 1994, I arrived early for my kung fu training lesson with Sifu Joseph. Walking up the winding 1,000-foot driveway to his earth-berm house, I gazed out into the grassy meadow and witnessed something that would change the direction of my life forever. Surrounded by the majestic backdrop of the Cascade Mountains and the shimmering aura of Lake Chelan, I was hypnotized by the melodic flow as Sifu Joseph moved effortlessly through what I would later learn was the Yang-style long form of tai chi.
I had never seen this side of Joseph before. Granted, I was a fairly new student and hadn’t known him very long, but this was a radical shift from what I had experienced when training with him thus far. It was common for us to start a training session with 1000 straight punches or perhaps endless repetitions of Filipino Sinawali, leaving my hands blistered or my knuckles bleeding from contact with the sticks. Training with Joseph was often a volatile collection of intensive rants, exhaustion, and spontaneity. So let’s just say that watching this powerful mass of energy being harnessed and focused into an angelic conductor was truly a new perspective.
I was walking over to greet Joseph and asked him about his tai chi. With this seemingly simple question began one of the most thought-provoking lessons I had ever had with him. For the next couple of hours, Joseph and I hiked together as he introduced me to tai chi.
“How long have you known tai chi?” I asked
“I will never ‘know’ it”, Joseph replied and then explained that tai chi mirrored life itself, that tai chi was about the experience, not the knowing.
He could tell that I was puzzled, as this was a completely new perspective to me, so he continued.
“Does the knowing have anything to do with the experience?” he asked and then proceeded to answer his own question. The knowing and the understanding come before and after the experience in such forms as expectations and reflections. Only the experience is real; everything else is perspective.
Continuing with his dissertation, Joseph said that, yes, we learn about intent, posture, chi, yielding, relaxation, and so on. We are told stories of the great and wise Chinese masters, such as Yan, Chen, Wu, and Hao. We learn the names of such positions as single whip, snake creeps down, and cloudy hands, but only the experience of doing tai chi has true meaning.
Joseph’s analogy between life and tai chi continued. “As in life, we have a past, present, and future; but it’s always the ‘now’ that we are experiencing. One doesn’t practice living; one simply lives. I don’t practice tai chi – I do tai chi. How else can it be?” Joseph professed.
After listening to his lecture, still confused, I finally exclaimed, “I would like to learn tai chi, but how can I learn it when you say that I can never know it?”
Joseph told me that he could teach me the tai chi form, but it was only in the doing of it that true knowing and understanding would come into play.
Even more confused and somewhat irritated by all of Joseph’s contradictions, I proclaimed, “With all due respect, you just said you would never know it! Now, you’re saying that experiencing tai chi is to really know tai chi? How can you say both ‘never’ and ‘always’ about the knowing?”
Seeing my obvious bewilderment and frustration, Joseph patiently replied, “Enough discussion; let’s train.”
We then spent the next hour or so going over a sequence called “cloudy hands.” Joseph was very detailed and patient as he walked me through the mechanics of the movement. I was surprised at the amount of detail he taught me, including maintaining correct posture, breathing, and calmness. I was thinking that for a person who claimed not to “know” tai chi, Joseph seemed to be vastly knowledgeable about it.
At first, the movement seemed a bit tedious and awkward, but after a while they felt more natural. We repeated cloudy hands several times and then we walked again, enjoying the last moments of sunlight and shadows. When we reached the top of Pine Hill, overlooking Lake Chelan, Joseph requested that I stay there alone and repeat the cloudy hands movement. Then we’d meet back up at the house when I had finished.
There I stood, with the last moments of the day’s sunlight warming my face, my body relaxed and supple as if moving within a gentle breeze. My breath emptied and filled, deeply inhaling and exhaling. As my body flowed through cloudy hands, I was overwhelmed with a sensation of joy, pure and complete. I was truly lost in the moment, as if time stood still.
It has been twenty plus years since my first experience of tai chi. Now I too realize that I will never “know” tai chi but I will experience if for the rest of my life.

Effective Sustained Effort

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Recently, after a vigorous training session at my martial arts gym, a young student of mine (early 20s) asked to talk to me in private. “Well of course,” I replied, “what’s on your mind”?
“How do you do it”? He asked.
“Do what?”
“How do you stay so positive, so upbeat and energetic? Here you are twice my age, and you’re fitter, stronger and seemingly happier than me. Oftentimes, I feel like I’m at the end of my rope and you’re always talking about how it’s just the beginning. I feel like I need direction, motivation, hope, something I can hold on to. What’s your secret?”
“Well” I replied, “The simple answer is ‘effective sustained effort’ and ‘when in doubt, train.’ Through life’s ups and downs, in these uncertain times, training my mind and body has been an enormous foundation that I can stand upon with certainty.”
“No offense Sifu, but aren’t you a little old to still be training so hard? I mean seriously, you’re older than my dad and he doesn’t even work out, not like you anyway.”
“No offense taken,” I answered.
I proceeded to explain to the young man that self-doubt has destroyed many people’s lives. Many unfulfilled dreams have been a result of self-doubt and a lack of motivation and discipline. Most martial artists in their 50’s and 60’s are either broke, broken, obese, or medicating themselves with pot, drugs, or alcohol. Or perhaps they are cynical and are teaching antiquated martial arts systems. I am now in my 60’s and I don’t aspire to be any of these. “Keep training,” I said, “no matter how challenging or difficult life seems sometimes.”
Later that evening, I thought about my student and what we had talked about. I was about 20 years old when some old guy (about my age now) explained to me how “it’s such a shame we have to waste our youth on the young.” How ironic. I am now the “old guy” and here I am, caught in a full circle chain of events.
Looking back at my life, I realize I have had to endure several heartaches and trials to get to this point. I fell in love, got married, then divorced, then remarried. I raised my children into fine adults and now have a six-year-old. I buried my grandparents, buried my father and buried my brother. I became addicted. I got sober. I made money. I lost money. I had moments of triumph and also got my teeth knocked out. I achieved black belt status only to get thrown out of systems by teachers I revered. I have been sued and slandered. I have read books and have authored books. I have traveled the world and back again, and so on.
I have lived over a half-century, only to realize I am just starting to figure things out. Yes, it is only the beginning, and through it all, I have never stopped training my martial arts. Whenever life’s challenges got me down, or dealt me a blow, when joy turned into sadness and doubt, my training kept me on task. I have survived several course corrections, but never have I abandoned ship.
I have been very fortunate to have had many great martial arts teachers and students in my life. Several times in my career I have studied multiple systems at the same time. For instance, in 1976 I was studying Goju and Hung Gar as I was teaching Kenpo karate. Sound confusing? I suppose it was, but I was 22 years old and had an insatiable desire to learn. It was the learning, needing to understand, training and discipline that fueled my motivation that kept my life on track. In 1992, I was training Pentjak Silat, Yang-style tai chi, boxing, and working out with a high school wrestling team all while furthering my development of the “Slam Set – The Art and Science of Mook Jong.” Once again, the common thread was effective sustained effort.
Cross-training with weightlifting has also been a powerful and essential ingredient not only to my martial prowess, but also to my positive state of mind. I started lifting seriously when I was 15 years old. By the age of 16, I could bench press 310 pounds. I was obsessed with lifting. In my mid-twenties I weighed 195 lbs. and I could bench press 390 lbs. doubling my body weight. I sustained a 300 lbs. plus bench press for 44 years in a row. Looking back at my obsession, I now realize that no matter what negativity was coming at me – alcoholic parents, peer pressure, social upheaval (i.e., Vietnam, civil unrest) – weightlifting gave me a sense of control and empowerment. As my poundage increased, so did my confidence and self-worth.
My advice to anyone reading this blog is to start training, stay training and encourage others to do the same. Oftentimes, in martial arts as well as life itself, we get bogged down by injury, politics, dissenting opinions and self-doubt. The reason I call this blog “Effective Sustained Effort” is because mere “sustained effort” is not enough to realize success. For example, how much effort is involved in sustaining alcoholism, acrimonious relationships, guilt about the past, anger and yo-yo dieting? Although these behaviors involve a great deal of energy and are often enduring in one’s life, they can hardly be called “effective”.
To live a great life and realize your unique values, you must train diligently; sharpen your skills, open your mind and embrace the struggle. As a Chinese master once told me, “There are a thousand doors to the same room.” I suggest that hard work, discipline, rigorous martial arts practice, supplemented with cross-training with a lifelong commitment to effective sustained effort is the key to unlocking your door.

Immersion

On August 16, 1987, the Harmonic Convergence, one of the first globally synchronized human gatherings, occurred on Mt. Shasta–coinciding with the alignment of celestial bodies and the Mayan calendar. Although I was unaware of this event, on that day I got in my car heading home to Seattle, WA out of Coos Bay, OR, on the West Coast of the United States, bordering the Pacific Ocean. I found myself driving a hundred miles in the opposite direction–instead of heading north to Seattle, I was heading south toward Mt. Shasta, which is in Northern California. When I realized the mistake, I pulled over to gather my thoughts. It later occurred to me that my inexplicable change in course was due to the force of energy in these gathering people. This is not as far-fetched as it sounds when you consider the role that electrons play in our experience of consciousness. Electrons synchronize with each other, eventually spinning in the same direction, even if separated by several feet of steel. Human consciousness is affected heavily by the spinning of electrons. For instance, when a person is under the effects of anesthesia, the only physical change is that the electrons in the brain stop spinning.
In my experience, humans demonstrate a very real tendency and drive to synchronize with one another. Carl Jung was the first to write about the phenomenon of mutuality in meaning, saying, “Synchronicity is an ever-present reality for those who have eyes to see.” We seek a convergence in our physical, intellectual and emotional wavelengths, which results in what I call “immersion”. This immersion is the birthplace of the truly productive, fulfilling and creative outcomes that are borne out of our interpersonal collaboration. You experience this when you are understood and attuned with someone you love. You feel this when training with a particularly good partner, almost as if they can anticipate your needs and respond in kind, and you them. Good teachers feel this with their students. Synchronicity forms the foundation of self and mind created between parent and child.
Children seem to synchronize better than adults do. I believe this is because children are more naturally able to be present in the moment. This fact became very apparent to me while I was teaching a Filipino martial arts seminar at a park in Eugene, OR, during the same weekend of the Harmonic Convergence. As it was ending, I was poignantly cognizant that I needed to depart for my grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary. I did not wear a watch, so I began asking people at the park if they had the time.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” I asked a woman pushing a stroller, “Do you have the time?”
“No, I’m sorry I don’t have a watch,” she shrugged.
I waved down another man who was running. Without a pause in his gait, he shook his head that he, too, could not give me the time. By this point, I was becoming almost frantic. Then I heard the rushing of small feet behind me. It was a group of three seven or eight-year old boys, weaving a course of grace and havoc (borrowing from Joni Mitchell) across the lawn. They were immersed completely in their sprint while spinning hula-hoops like wheels on the grass, laughing and running through the park in the carefree and joyful way they do at that age. One boy, without even breaking his stride or looking up, with heaving chest and out of breath, yelled, “Hey mister, don’t ya know what time it is? It’s now!”
I was dumbstruck, stunned with an epiphany that would forever change my life. This child had, in the most carefree and exuberant way, startled me out of the tasking, stressed and completely misaligned coma that I had been creating in that moment. The contrast between his synchronized vitality and my strained distraction was overwhelming. Most adults would have simply dismissed his comment as foolishness, but out of the mouths of babes come some of the greatest wisdom. This boy showed me what it meant to be in the moment, to be present. His happiness and the thrill of his play was his whole world in that slice of time. He was truly alive in his immersion.
For me this was not only a lesson on how to be mindful, it was also a lesson on attentiveness. Encounters, events and interactions should not be ignored automatically and passed over without consideration. Some of the most important insights of my life have come from unexpected sources because I pay attention. I realized that life is the moment, nothing more and nothing less. It is not your plans, your past, your future, your schedule or your worries that makes you alive. Those are the impediments to living that so consume the most precious commodity we have–time. We are governed by schedules, which, by definition, prevent momentary presence. Our lives today are riddled with constant intrusions and derailments, keeping us continuously thinking about anything but what is right in front of us. So many of us squander the moment because we are not present, and find ourselves bemoaning the transience of our existence. We cry for the lack of fulfillment and meaning that results from an inattentive and unintentional lifestyle. We cannot synchronize within ourselves, we cannot synchronize with others and we wonder why we feel stripped of meaning, robbed of fulfillment and cut short of the time needed to live with satisfaction.
In order to live the moment, you must search for and eliminate those things that rob you from it. Do you give your presence over to resistance with others, resentment and grief about the past, fixation on achievements and schedules, preoccupation with dynamics out of your control? None of us has any dictation over how much time we are afforded, but we can actualize the quality of that time through seeking mindfulness and synchronicity. Ultimately these are the elements that make being human an extraordinary condition indeed.

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.

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