Total Domination part 2

Inside Kung-Fu


Interview by Michael Janich

July 2005

Pg 62-66, 108, 111

The attitude behind Jospeh Simonet’s KI Fighting Concepts system is simple: One move and you’re done.

In last month’s Inside Kung-Fu, Joseph Simonet explained the 30-year background behind his impressive martial arts resume and the genesis of his eclectic KI Fighting Concepts curriculum. In part 2 of his interview, this outspoken martial artist explains his personal fighting philosophy, the role of wooden dummy training in the quest for personal martial excellence, and his plans for the future.

INSIDE KUNG-FU: What are the key components of the KI Fighting Concepts philosophy and curriculum?

JOSEPH SIMONET: Every aspect of my personal study of the arts was a quest to fill in the gaps in both my own knowledge and skills and the curriculum that I offer to my students. After devoting myself to a variety of different arts, I stepped back and began to cherry pick the elements that were most valuable. Again, the goal was to synthesize the various elements at the foundational level, not to arbitrarily lump things together.

In its current form, the key elements of the system include proper structure and alignment, as derived from my interpretation of wing cun and silat; sensitivity and spontaneity, adapted from the Filipino arts, taijiquan, and wing chun; and an attitude of “wherever you’re standing, you’re stand in my spot,” which is a reflection of both my personality and some elements of Indonesian silat.

IKF: Wherever you’re standing, you’re standing in my spot. What does that mean?

JS: It means having the attitude and commitment to totally dominate your opponent. Most martial arts separate fighting into four ranges: kicking, punching, trapping, and grappling. We believe in only one range: trampling range. That’s the range between my initial impact with your body and your impact with the ground. At that point, I’m standing in your spot.

IKF: Certainly somebody of your size and strength could pull that off. But is that a sound foundation of an entire system?

JS: The system works because it is based on proper anatomical structure and a committed attitude. My partner and assistant instructor, Addy Hernandez, weighs half as much as I do and is about one-third as strong, but she can easily knock most men my size on their butts. If the system works for her, it will work for anyone.

IKF: What is Addy’s martial arts background?

JS: In addition to being the first person to earn a black belt in the KI Fighting Concepts curriculum, she has also earned black belts in kenpo, doce pares eskrima, and eskrido, and has instructor’s certification in taijiquan and yoga. She has also kickboxed competitively in the ring.

IKF: If KI Fighting Concepts is a superior system, why did she train in the traditional arts as well?

JS: To teach the full KI Fighting Concepts curriculum effectively—especially to people already trained in other styles—it was important for her to experience some of the traditional arts in their pure forms. That gives her the frame of reference to relate to the other arts, to understand the lineage of our core concepts, and, most importantly, to have a full appreciation of what we do and why. As my assistant and protégé, she needed the additional background. For anyone else just interested in developing fighting skills, the KI Fighting Concepts curriculum is all you need.

IKF: How would you describe your typical student?

JS: Most of our students, both at our school in Wenatchee, Wash., in our affiliate schools in New York, and in our distance learning programs, are experienced martial artists over 30 years old who are frustrated with the traditional arts and really want to learn how to fight. They’ve been around the block, are tired of the hype and want something real.

IKF: Why do they come to you?

JS: In most cases, they got a taste of my approach through my book or one of my videos and like what they saw. They were looking for both a system that made sense and a mentor with the courage to lead, so they came to me.

IKF: You’re a pretty tough and opinionated instructor. Why do they stay?

JS: It’s interesting that usually whatever brings a student to us is never what keeps him here. Our students always grow in ways they never anticipated. Many of them came looking for a physical challenge and never expected the mental and emotional growth they experienced. Others came to me to give them confidence and they ended up finding it themselves through the physical aspects of what we do. It’s just further proof that the martial arts is a personal journey, not a production line to create people who all move and fight the same way.

IKF: Wooden dummy training is usually associated with the practice of specific Chinese systems like wing chun or choy lay fut. Why is this traditional training method such an important part of your eclectic art?

JS: The wooden dummy allows me to practice proper form and structure with full power and resistance. Unlike a heavy bag, it also provides the anatomical tools to practice full-power blocks, traps and other techniques with great realism. Best of all, it’s the only training partner I’ve ever had that never whines and is never tired, sick, bored or injured.

IKF: The core of your wooden dummy training is a form you developed called the “Slam Set.” Why would an eclectic martial art need a form? Are you just replacing someone else’s tradition with your own?

JS: The Slam Set represents all the essential elements I’ve learned in 33 years of training condensed into a 60-second form. If you’ve been around the arts for a while, when you first see it, you’ll see what look like elements of kenpo, eskrima, silat, muay Thai, whing chun and other arts. But when you analyze the form and start extracting applications from it, you realize that what looked like kenpo was not only kenpo, it was also an element of eskrima, and expression of taijiquan, and a fundamental concept of silat. Ultimately, it becomes a window to understanding the common ground of all martial arts.

I developed the Slam Set as a vehicle to train all the core principles of the arts I’ve studied and to provide a set of essential fighting skills in one form. I did it on the wooden dummy so that all the movements would have to be done with contact and intensity and would not degenerate into a meaningless dance. In the process of developing the set, I subconsciously included a number of elements that I knew needed to be there, but at first even I wasn’t completely sure why. As I practiced and analyzed the form and its possible applications, I realized that it truly includes all the movements and skills essential to a real righting system. Even now, years later, I will see a technique or application from another art that I really like and I re-evaluate my curriculum to make sure I haven’t missed anything. In most cases, I end up discovering those movements somewhere in the Slam Set.

IKF: It still seems like practicing a rote form is inconsistent with the spontaneity and “formlessness” you claimed to achieve with KI Fighting Concepts. Aren’t they opposites?

JS: Forms, like oral traditions, are a convenient and effective way of passing on a large body of knowledge, because they allow you to remember things in a sequence. You just need to understand that it’s the knowledge that’s important, not the sequence.

Any movement or series of movements in the Slam Set can be practiced individually as a drill, in any combination, and in any order. With proper visualization and intensity, they can also represent thousands of different applications. For example, what looks like a wing chun bong sao/lop sau/backfist combination to you might be a figure-four armlock to me. The movements are the same, but the intent—and therefore the application—are very different.

By mastering the physical movements of the Slam Set and then creatively expressing them in as many different ways as possible, you don’t do techniques; you make techniques.

IKF: What is the Art and Science of Mook Jong (ASMJ)?

JS: Once I realized that the Slam Set is, in fact, a distillation of all the essential elements of KI Fighting Concepts, it made sense to use it as a primary tool to teach the system to others. In the ASMJ program, students begin by learning the Slam Set form and the most obvious, literal translations of the movements as applications. Once they are competent of the movements. That’s the science.

Then, based on their understanding of the applications, they start analyzing the form and discovering their own combative expressions of the movements. They start seeing applications in the transitional movements of the form—between the “techniques”—and tap into the full potential of their skills. That’s the art.

IKF: How does someone get involved in your curriculum?

JS: We recently established a worldwide federation to provide an infrastructure to share our art. We also host an annual training camp at our facility in Chelan, Wash., which features more than 40 wooden dummies, and teach seminars all over the country. The resources are already there. You just need an open mind and the guts to train hard.

IKF: What are your goals for KI Fighting Concepts and for you as a martial artist and instructor?

JS: I want to build a professional organization of like-minded people who are interested in continuing the development of the effective fighting arts. I want to find worthy instructors who are interested in sharing this information with motivated students. Most of all, I want to leave more than I take.

It’s not about me taking credit for what I’ve done; it’s about enabling others to continue to build upon it without having to do it all over. They shouldn’t have to repeat history. I know that there are plenty of people who have changed their approach to the arts after seeing what I do without ever giving me credit. That’s fine. As long as the evolution continues, I’ve done my part.

IKF: That sounds amazingly humble compared to some of the other things you’ve said in this interview.

JS: Humility is about balancing what you can do with what you say you can do. It’s not about selling yourself short to try to impress someone. When you get right down to it, most of today’s martial arts legends has-beens surrounded by wannabes. I’m here now and I’ve got a lot to offer. People who really want to learn appreciate that and are lining up to train with me. That’s it.

IKF: Nevertheless, I’m sure you know that you’ll probably ruffle a few feathers when this interview is printed. Any final words for your critics?

JS: Sure. I don’t accept challenges; but I do respond to attacks.

Michael Janich is a freelance writer, author and instructor in Longmont, Colorado. He also is a founder of the Martial Blade Concepts system of edged-weapon defense and director of product development for the Masters of Defense knife company. He can be reached at http://www.martialbladecomcepts.com


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