Master of All Trades -IKF March 2007

ikf-march-2007Inside Kung-Fu

“Master of All Trades”

By Joseph Simonet

March 2007

Pg. 24

Last year Inside Kung-Fu magazine asked me to appear on one of its covers with an accompanying interview. My initial reply was, “Absolutely.” However, soon after “hurray” came my question: “Are you sure you want me on the cover? Am I qualified? The editor replied quickly and matter-of-factly: “Look, enough people hate you so you must be doing something right.”

Fast forward to today. My partner, Addy Hernandez, and I are now being asked to share a monthly column. “Absolutely,” was our immediate reply. Sound familiar? Of course, the same questioned followed: “Are we qualified?” This time the editor said, “I believe you are. However, there are critics who question your credentials and think you’re a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. It’s up to you to convince doubters that your martial skill, credentials, insight, innovation and past instructors are worthy of ‘master’ or ‘expert witness’ status. Good luck.”

First, to my critics and doubters I would ask: ‘How many of you have actually met and trained with me?” My guess is probably none. Addy and I have taught seminars for New York to Shanghai, Houston to Minneapolis, and everywhere in between. The feedback we get from every seminar is, “Amazing,” “Thank you,” “That was incredible.” I’m born-again martial artist. Not once has anyone questioned my knowledge and ability face to face.

So, am I a jack-of-all-trades, master of none? To really answer the question I would have to first reply with another question. “Who can observe the observer?”

It has been my experience that “the biggest trap of all is the one you do not know you are in.” More often than not, a critic will project his abilities, values and/or lack thereof onto others without the prospective of truth or objectivity. My suggestion to all my critics would be to come over, talk and train with me, then express your critique. All I know is that after 35 years of training in the martial arts, I truly feel like a beginner.

The definition of a qualification and/or credential has become blurred with the changing tides in the martial arts. Is it a stamp of approval on the a certificate that some other so-called expert gave you? If so, I have several on my wall. Or, are credentials the accumulation of a lifetime of events, people, places, poignant insights and bruises – physically and otherwise – you have experienced along the way?

Looking back on my martial arts journey, in 1972, I was privileged enough to observe and meet master Gogen Yamaguchi at the Heck Edmusen Pavilion at the University of Washington in Seattle. As a young man, Yamaguchi studied several martial arts systems such as judo, kendo, iaido, jodo and kusarigama as well as goju. Though he was known as a goju master, he was never considered a jack-of-all-trades. Why not? What made him different?

My 35-year background in the martial arts has been laden with multiple martial arts systems. For instance, I have been in kenpo karate for 34 years. Wing chun gung-fu, mook jong (wooden dummy) training and the Filipino arts have been a part of my training for 24 years. I have studied Yang-style tai chi for 20 years and pentjak silat for the last 15 years. All the while, I have been enveloped in the physical culture of fitness and weight training. I have been able to bench press 300-plus pounds consecutively for the last 37 years.

I believe credentials and life experiences are imperative to be considered a master. However, I also believe you must have physical prowess, an ability to teach, a high fitness level and the conceptual ability to innovate. All my certificates, instructors and places of travel throughout my martial arts career have simply amounted to my continued education.

Today, I am extracting essential elements from all the arts I have studied and synthesizing them into what I call “The Art and Science of Mook Jong (ASMJ).” The fundamental aspects of The Art and Science of Mook Jong are that it must be teachable, learnable, practical and marketable. Within this foundational formula is the “seamless transitional integration” of al the aforementioned arts and training methods.

The process behind “seamless transitional integration” is for the practitioner to move from empty hand to blade, to club and back again in a natural and spontaneous flow. This process achievable because our skill sets and training methods call upon nearly identical motor skills and attributes. Individual training in The Art and Science of Mook Jong is done by working the wooden dummy forms “Slam Set,” “Blade Set” and “Club Set.” Partner training consists of two-person drills such as, “Argument of Movement” empty hand and “Point Counterpoint” applied with a knife and repeated utilizing a club.

At this point, I do not consider myself a jack-of-all-trades; nor do I consider myself a master. I would define myself a master. I would define myself as a pursuer of truth and a scientist, which inevitably means I am an innovator striving for martial arts excellence. I will proceed along my own path regardless of doubters, critics or those putting their own interests above martial arts.

Joseph Simonet and Addy Hernandez will be sharing insight on training tips, philosophy, innovative ideas and concepts each moth beginning with this issue.


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