Thursday, January 8, 2009
Inside Kung-Fu Magazine
Following a vision
By Addy Hernandez
Late last summer, my instructor Joseph Simonet and I had just finished an amazing tai chi session together. I was sitting in the center of our Bagua (the name of one of our training platforms at Wind and Rock) as Joseph went and gathered some organic apricots from one of our trees. He brought them to me without a word as we sat and enjoyed the sweet fruits of our labor. It was one of those moments!
This feeling of wholeness and well-being overtook me. As a cool breeze and warm sun intoxicated my senses, I felt and intuitive vibration of being here in the now. Breaching the silence, I simply said, “Thank you.” Without hesitation Joseph replied, “Don’t thank me, thank Lillian, Lillian Susumi.”
I learned from Joseph that Lillian was one of his earliest tai chi instructors back in the 1980’s. She specialized in tai chi chueh and was the one who introduced Joseph to Gao-fu, his most prolific tai chi teacher. Joseph told me the story of Lillian calling him from several states away, asking permission to come and visit him on her vision quest of enlightenment. Apparently, she was seeking a favorable location to live her art. She felt a need and a calling to reach out to Joseph. A few days later she arrived and visited with Joseph for several days.
During her visit, she had identified several vortexes on Joseph’s property. After a few days rest, she left, never to return.
As Joseph told me this story, once again, I was enveloped in this sense of bliss. “So,” I asked, “Are you telling me that I’m sitting in the center of a vortex?”
Joseph replied, “It’s not that simple; let me explain.”
Joseph proceeded to tell me that he felt his art, “The Art and Science of Mook Jong,” was really very simple. It was really more like the “Art of Intuition.” He summed it up by saying it was all about, “the skill of thinking intuitively” and manifesting it physically through the notion of synchronicity.
Intrigued, I replied, “What is synchronicity?”
Joseph answered, “Synchronicity is a theory from Carl Jung relating to meaningful coincidences. Jung was a student of the I-Ching.” Joseph later confided in me that during Lillian’s visit she had also opened a gate for him. He learned to let go of knowing and began accessing the not knowing – an intuitive synchronicity. Joseph proceeded to tell me that when he built the “Bagua” training platform, he simply let go and filled in the blanks. He had a vision of what the platform was meant to be and followed that vision literally.
However, after designing, building and training on the Bagua, the intuitive, metaphysical, spiritual and historical significance has only now begun to reveal itself. This is where the story gets interesting. Unbeknownst to him, in building his “training platform” Joseph tapped into a 100 million-year-old life form-one of the oldest and most valuable written texts on the planet, all the while creating a giant natural magnet out of earth crystals.
Starting with the “vortex” location that Lillian had sensed, Joseph outlined an octagon shaped with basalt rock columns. Basalt rocks have a strong magnetic property, are hexagonal in shape (six-sided), and are a group of rock formations referred to as metamorphic rock or changes in form. This coincides with the 64 hexagrams of the I-Ching (The Book of Changes) and Bagua’s palm changes. At the center of our platform is a brown Moroccan marble yin/yang symbol, which is also a part of the metamorphic rock classification. Captured in the brown marble is a fossil from the cretaceous period (150 million years ago). It’s a nautilus fossil whose species has survived several severe extinction events. Joseph also built an 8-foot waterfall which crashes into rocks and emits negative ions. Negative ions help purify the air, similar to the surrounding trees which create negative ions during photosynthesis. Imbedded in the concrete octagon are the 8 trigrams and the 64 hexagrams of I-Ching. Granite is known for its high level of oxygen composition.
Adding up all these “coincidences,” I realized that when Joseph said Lillian had opened up a gate for him, he truly tapped into a universal matrix of intuitive synchronicity. No wonder I feel an amazing energy when I train on the “Bagua.”
Inside Kung-Fu Magazine
February 2009 Vol. 37
Instructor of the Year
By Dave Cater
It took Joseph Simonet nearly 25 years to become an overnight sensation. Simonet, a contributing editor of Inside Kung-Fu for the past two years, has taken the martial arts world by storm with a teaching concept both unique and traditional. One-half (along with 2008 “Woman of the Year” Addy Hernandez) of the juggernaut martial arts system known as KI Fighting Concepts, Simonet has taken the best ideas of his predecessors and synthesized it into a magical collection of training, conditioning, technical and application skills that can benefit anyone of any discipline.
“What good is a martial arts technique if you can’t use it?” ask Simonet, whose Unique Publications books and DVDs are among the company’s best-sellers. “For an application to be beneficial, it has to be easy enough to learn and even easier to apply,” adds Simonet.
Now don’t think for one minute that Joseph has borrowed from his martial arts brethren. Far from it. Long before the world knew who he was or what he could deliver, Simonet was training with some of the most-respected minds and most-admired technicians in the martial arts world.
Like any trailblazer, however, Simonet was not content to stand on ceremony. In other words, he was not afraid to tinker with perfection. What may have worked in the 1500s was due for some modernization; the street fighting techniques practiced 40 years ago needed a facelift to tackle the dangers of today.
Through seminars around the world-from China to New York and hundreds of stops in between-Simonet is spreading the gospel of his exciting new discovery. KI Fighting Concepts is a living, breathing 21st- Century approach to training that fits around the practitioner like a new pair of jeans. The more you wear it, the more it stretches to fit your style. It takes a martial artist of vision to create something so revolutionary. It only took the rest of the world 25 years to take notice.
KI Online Training
By Joseph Simonet
In the fall of 1995, Addy Hernandez was attending college near Spokane, Wash. The three hours of travel time from our hometown to Spokane created a bit of a challenge for us to get together and train. We would usually alternate travel on weekends; she would come home one weekend and I would travel to Spokane the next weekend. Though not an ideal situation for quality training time, we managed to make it work. On one of my trips to Spokane, Addy and I wandered into a used bookstore. The owner of the store asked us if we would like to see the “Internet” in action. Remember this was 1995 and at that point in time, I had never seen anything on the World Wide Web. So we proceeded to the store owner’s office and were amazed at all of his fancy computer stuff. At that moment, I felt like I was stepping into the future. He asked me what I was interested in searching, and I replied martial arts.
In a matter of seconds he was showing me photos and text from a Web site somewhere in Europe. Initially, I was blown away. The marvel of visiting all these different martial art sites soon dimmed as I became more disappointed in the quality, or should I say “lack of quality,” of the actual karate, kung-fu and so on. The technical genius of the Internet was overshadowed by the unimpressive and sloppy presentations of the so-called “masters” I observed. I remember saying at the time, “You can bounce it off the moon and circle it around the sun and back, but it’s still watered-down karate to me.”
The Internet has grown in availability, quality and enormous technical advances. Since my first chance encounter with the Web, I have waded through eight different “webmasters.” (It’s interesting to me how as a martial artist we spend a lifetime training to master our craft, and tech geeks take a weekend Web design workshop and call themselves “webmasters”). Our Web site, KIFightingConcepts.com, still isn’t finished nor shall it ever be. We are constantly evolving despite the long run of “masters.”
Developing, maintaining and improving one’s Web site is an enormous task. One of my main objectives for ours is to offer online martial arts training. The challenge has been waiting for technology to catch up with the public’s demands. The public is looking for affordability, availability and high-speed quality. I believe we’ve finally arrived.
Addy and I are now offering online training through our site. The subjects are many and varied. We are teaching kenpo karate, wing chun, Filipino arts (stick and blade), Pentjak silat, tai chi, boxing, weapons, wooden dummy, lock flow, sensitivity drills and grappling. Our intent is to make available the most comprehensive collection of preeminent martial arts training on the Web. We both realize that to complete this task will ultimately take years. However, we already have several hundred downloads available right now. I estimate we’ll have several thousand training choices before we are done. The idea is to show the world our vision of what training martial arts is all about.
Sometimes people ask me if I’m worried that other martial artists will take our “secrets” and call them their own. First, there are no secrets. I once read that to make an apple pie from scratch, you would first have to reinvent the universe.
Addy and I have unique and highly functional training methods that are fun, challenging, practical and thus valuable. We are opening up our art and training methods to the world. We have already made several DVDs with Unique Publications and Paladin Press. Offering downloads is not intended to replace or dismiss our Unique or Paladin DVDs. On the contrary; we believe all our projects, books, articles, DVDs, seminars, camps and now online training are part of an integral tapestry of our life’s work.
Our DVDs are comprehensive presentations of specific arts and training methods. Someone interested in defensive knife training in particular would be advised to purchase the “A Cut Above” DVD from Unique Publications. If someone was interested in Sinawali (double-stick drills) I would suggest getting our “Secrets of Sinawali” from Paladin Press. What is useful about our online training is that once you sign up, you can have both knife and stick training available to you as well as hundreds of other training tips and drills. It just depends on your interest and, of course, your depth of knowledge.
We encourage beginners to high-level black belts to reference our material somewhat as an e-University. Everyone has something to gain. We will also address questions by choosing the most interesting or relevant ones, and creating downloads to represent our answers. We will demonstrate the why’s of our answers in this format. We believe we can show and share the depth of our skills and knowledge. So every week, ask us the tough questions. We’ll pick the best ones and address it right on our site. Addy and I are excited about this aspect of our online training. Come visit us at www.kifightingconcepts.com.
“Making the Chi Sau Connection Part 1”
By Joseph Simonet
Pg 30-34, 67-68
Sensitivity in chi sau is all about sensing your opponent’s intent through physical feedback and pressure. PART 1
Chi sau is a dynamic, energy-based training exercise that teaches its practitioners the critical elements of structure and sensitivity in close-range fighting. After more than 30 years of training in many systems of martial arts, chi sau continues to be one of the most important training methods in my curriculum. How-ever, writing a meaningful article about chi sau, unlike teaching it first-hand, presents two major challenges.
First, how do I compress 20 years of chi sau training into a few thousands words? The best way for you to understand my teaching is for you t understand me. In short, I write the way I teach, I teach the way I train, I train the way I fight, and I fight to win. With that in mind, this two-part article will focus on the functional structure provided by chi sau training with the goal of practical application in a fight.
The second challenge is making my instruction relevant to everyone reading this. Whether you have been training in the martial arts for 30 years or 30 days, your personal skills and abilities hopefully will be enhanced by what is offered here. And so I have decided to focus on some of the misunderstood aspects of chi sau training and two specialized exercises that form both excellent precursors to chi sau training and useful supplemental exercises for experienced sticky hands practitioners.
Chi sau, or “sticky hands,” is a highly developed training method that is integral to the study of wing chun gung-fu. It is designed to teach practitioners how to quickly and efficiently pierce an opponent’s defenses - and maintain their own - while fighting at contact distance. Although it is often described as a “sensitivity” exercise, this term can be misleading. If your concept of sensitivity is petting a puppy or taking an anger management class, you’re missing the point. Sensitivity in chi sau is all about sensing your opponent’s intent through physical feedback and pressure - Feeling what he is trying to do before you see it.
To achieve this type of feedback, you must make contact. Therefore, the first step in understanding chi sau is under standing the commitment to contact-range fighting. When boxers close the gap and their arms are entangled in a clinch, the referee separates the fighters to allow the fight to continue. Real fights don’t have the luxury, so chi sau practitioners learn to use contact-distance clashes and entangled arms as the foundation of much of their fighting skill. In fact, this type of engagement is precisely the situation in which a well schooled student of chi sau will have a clear tactical advantage and power superiority over fighters from other systems.
The 4 Ranges of Combat
Generally speaking, there are four ranges of unarmed combat - kicking, punching, trapping, and grappling. Chi sau deals exclusively with trapping rang, which can be simplistically defined as the distance at which elbows strikes are most valuable and effective. A more colorful definition of trapping range would be the distance at which knees, elbows, and attitude wreak havoc - the true “in your face” range of close combat. At this range, visual perception - the ability to determine an attacker’s intent by sight - is not fast enough to fight effectively. You are literally so close that your opponent can hit you before you can react.
However, by making contact with him and “feeling” his intent, you can determine it instantly. This “fighting by Braille” approach will allow you to dominate and destroy most average opponents at close range. It is also the one element that is most often missing from the skill sets of most beginning and advanced martial artists of other styles.
Structurally, there are three fundamental arm positions in chi sau: bong sau (wing hand), taun sau (palm up), and fook sau (bridging hand). These are demonstrated in photos 1-3. The unique and often misunderstood aspect of these three positions is their ability to function in multiple ways. They can be used in singular actions as blocks, attachments, and a means of deflecting incoming attacks. At a more advanced level, they can also be utilized in conjunction with other simultaneous actions and as reactive mechanisms. For example, in photos 4 and 5 the taun sau is used in conjunction with a left straight punch to effectively block and counter strike the attacker’s left hook. When considered alone, the specific qualities of the taun sau as a block are clearly seen. When considered with the straight punch, its function as part of simultaneous, coordinated actions is also clear.
Pulling the Trigger
A higher-level application of the taun sau allows it to function as a reactive mechanism or “trigger.” In chi sau training, the taun sau is used as an attachment to “stick” to a partner’s opposite hand, as shown in photo 6. The remaining photos of this sequence demonstrate single sticking hands, or doan chi, as well as the deflecting and triggering qualities of the taun sau. The person on the left (“A”) is attached with a fook sau to the person on the right (“B”), who is in a taun sau position (Photo 6). When “A” throws a left straight punch, “B” senses the incoming attack and maintains adhesion with the attacker’s wrist (Photo 7). This deflects the punch outward and opens “A’s” centerline for an immediate palm heel strike with the same hand (Photo 8). Note that during the palm strike, “B” maintains contact with “A’s” left arm so he can continue to detect, deflect, and counter-attack based on feel and sensitivity.
Even with the benefit of competent firsthand instruction, learning chi sau can be a trying experience. To become an accomplished sticky hands player, you will ultimately have to endure months of frustration, pain, exhausted, aching shoulders, and getting slapped around by more experienced practitioners. However, to make this process less arduous and speed your progress, I have developed a series of training drills as a precursor to actual sticky hands practice. Performed properly, these drills will prepare you physically for chi sau training and also give you a means of solo practice that you can continue to use when training with out a partner.
The Inner Tube Drill
This is a unique and extremely valuable training method, which teaches proper sticking alignment and structure to develop a “feel” for sticking. More importantly, it develops the strength and endurance necessary for quality sticking skill.
The inner tube drill is illustrated in photos 9-12. To perform this drill, the person on the left (“A”) places his right foot forward with 60 percent of his weight on the lead foot. His arms are held palm up with the elbows bent and the inner edges of the arms touching from the elbows the edges of the hands. Both elbows are approximately one-fist distance out from the center of the body. This is the double taun sau. The forward weight distribution and lean creates an aggressive body structure and forward “load.” This posture is also the foundation for straight punching with closing footwork.
The person on the right (“B”) in photo 9 assumes the same body position and the same forward load, however, his hands are placed in a double fook sau position - loosely curled with the insides of his wrists contacting the outside of “A’s” wrists.
From the double taun sau position “A” folds his hands together to a palm-to-palm position while applying smooth forward energy against “B’s” resistance (photo 10). Continuing to roll his hands, “A” goes from palm down to palm out, until the backs of his hands touch and his elbows rise slightly (photo 11). This is the double bong sau position. “A” then reverses this process to return to the starting position (photo 12) “A” repeats this action - double taun sau to double bong sau - over and over against the constant pressure of “B’s” resistance.
Not the “B’s” double fook sau is the connecting bridge between the two partners. As “A” rolls from taun sau to bong sau and provides forward pressure, “B” maintains contact and “rides” the movement and pressure of “A’s” double bong sau.
If you do not have training partner, you can practice this motion with its namesake - and inner tube. Purchase an inner tube from any local bike shop. The size of the tube you choose will depend upon you physique and strength. You may have to try several different sizes before you find one that is just right.
The solo inner tube drill is demonstrated in photos 13-16. Place the inner tube over your body so it is wrapped around your upper back. Hold the front of the tube with your thumbs with your arms in the double taun sau position. Now perform the drill as you would with a partner, using the elasticity of the tube to provide resistance (photos 14-16).
Serious practitioners of chi sau must develop their deltoids, triceps, and lattisimus dorsi to become proficient at sticking. My students perform 500 repetitions of this drill at least three times per week. After three months of this training, they typically will develop the specific strength and form to progress to chi sau training.
Bong Sau Drill
The bong sau drill is another excellent exercise that develops the skills and strength to be proficient at sticking. The body structure, forward load pressure, and arm positions are identical to the inner tube drill; however, in this drill, the practitioner learns to move his arms independently rather than in tandem.
In the bong sau drill, the partner in the double fook sau position is the proactive player. This drill illustrated in photos 17-21. From the same double taun sau/double fook sau starting position, the person on the left (“A”) throws a right straight punch at the chin of the partner on the right (“B”). As “B” senses “A’s” punch, he rolls his left arm into a bong sau position, maintaining contact with “A’s” arm and deflecting the punch upward (Photo 19). “A” then throws a left straight punch. “B” senses her punch and responds with a right bong sau (photo 21).
Continue this pattern, alternating left and right sides for many hundreds of repetitions. As you progress, you can also mix and match right and left punches and vary the speed and energy of your strikes to challenge your partner. Performed properly, this exercise can become quite lively and serve as preparation for actual chi sau training.
These drills are an excellent way to develop the proper structure and specific skill and strength necessary to practice chi sau. By first learning and practicing these, you can avoid many of the common mistakes made in chi sau practice and will achieve proficiency much more quickly. Even experienced chi sau players will find these drills a useful supplement to their current training, as well as a means of practicing their skills when a training partner is not available.
(In part 2 of this article, the author discusses how to expand the skills developed with these drills into actual chi sau practice with a partner.)
“The Future of Dummy Training”
By Joseph Simonet
Pg 30-35, 66-67
Put 13 dummies together and what do you get? The training system of the future.
The mook jong, or wooden dummy, is among the unique and effective training devices developed for the martial artist. Unlike simple punching bags and makiwara that only allow the practice of offensive striking techniques, the mook jong provides a platform for training both offensive and defensive movements. With a bit of imagination, it also helps the practitioner chain numerous techniques together, accurately simulating the dynamics of a real fight-an even that rarely resembles a one-sided offensive combination on a heavy bag.
Although the mook jong is probably the most advanced method of solo training possible in the martial arts, learning its proper use is best accomplished through hands-on instruction with a qualified teacher. To do this effectively, both the instructor and the student should be able to perform the movements on the dummy simultaneously. In this way, the student can accurately mimic the instructor’s technique in real time.
With two or possibly three dummies mounted side by side, an instructor can effectively teach up to two students at a time. Beyond that, however, the traditional wall-mounted dummy configuration makes real-time mirroring of an instructor’s movements-the most efficient learning method-impractical and ineffective.
In the KI Fighting Concepts curriculum, we focus heavily on mook jong training because we are confident that it is the most advanced and productive method of solo practice. Although the roots of our dummy draining lie in wing chun gung-fu (one of our core systems), through extensive experimentation and development we have adapted the techniques of our other core systems-kenpo, eskrima, pentjak silat, and taijiquan-to the dummy as well. The resulting training method is called “The Art and Science of Mook Jong.” Like the KI Fighting Concepts curriculum, this method is an eclectic, combat-orientated synthesis that blends and cross-references movement at the conceptual level, while maintaining respect for the core classical styles. The “science” of our wooden dummy training identifies the common elements and physical structures of the arts and refines them through repetitive contact training. Based on this foundation, students learn to connect and integrate movement in a non-linear progression. This personalized and, ultimately, spontaneous expression of their martial skill becomes the “art” of the method.
Despite the many advantages offered by our mook jong curriculum, for the reasons noted earlier, we sill couldn’t teach it effectively to large numbers of students. Therefore, we applied the same spirit of innovative traditionalism that characterizes our dummy curriculum to the design of the dummy-learning environment itself. The result is The Octagon.
What It Is
The Octagon is a 25-foot-wide octagonal platform that is home to an array of 13 wooden dummies. The base of the Octagon is a four-inch-thick concrete pad reinforced with #9 bar screen. This pad, which required eight yards of concrete, was poured over a two-inch bed of 5/8-inch gravel to keep moisture from leeching out of the concrete and ensure that the base would be impervious to the extreme weather changes at its location in Lake Chelan, Wash. After the concrete was poured, it was carefully surfaced to create a 1-1/2-inch drainage slope from the center to the outside edges of the platform. It was then coated with a pecan-colored powder and stamped with a late stamp for texture and aesthetic appeal. All edges of the platform were reinforced with 22-1/2-degree steel braces to guarantee the proper angles at the corners of the Octagon and further strengthen the platform.
Most traditional mook jongs use a wooden framework to provide the combination of support and shock absorption necessary for a good “live” dummy. To provide this same feel, yet allow for simpler construction and an unobstructed view, we developed a different mounting method. After determining the proper locations of the 12 other dummies, we used a roto hammer to drill a pattern of holes into the concrete to accept threaded inserts. We then used lag screws to attach three steel right-angle brackets to the base of each dummy. A thick rubber pad was placed over each set of mounting holes in the concrete, each dummy was carefully aligned, and then 5/8-inch steel bolts were screwed through the brackets and pads into the threaded inserts in the concrete. By carefully adjusting the tension of the bolts against the compression of the rubber pads, we tuned each dummy to have just the right about of “give” to move and react like a traditional frame-mounted mook jong.
The center dummy of the array was mounted differently. Instead of a static mount, we attached it to a pivoting steel sleeve that was inset into the concrete platform. This arrangement allows the center dummy to pivot 360 degrees, yet be locked down in any position. In this way, I can quickly and easily reposition the dummy to provide different views to the students working the outer dummies.
The first real test of the effectiveness of the Octagon came during my Wind and Rock training camp last July. I took 24 of the 60-plus participants in the camp and paired them on the 12 outer dummies. I then proceeded to teach a variety of dummy movements, drills, and combinations just as I do during private lessons. After one partner of each pair had an opportunity to both follow along with me and practice the movements individually, we repeated the process for the other partner. Throughout the process, I adjusted the position of the center dummy to provide a variety of viewing angles for all the students.
The results were phenomenal. I not only could effectively teach dummy technique to a large number of students in a single session, the group learning dynamic provided by the Octagon reinforced the training material and reduced the performance anxiety that students typically feel when working the dummy alone. Rather than feeling like they were in the spotlight, they felt the support and camaraderie of a group training session. The net result was that they learned faster and had better retention of the information than students who performed one-on-one. This method also validated wooden dummy training for many of the participants and motivated them to incorporate it into the practice of their core styles.
The Octagon also offers a number of other significant advantages. To accommodate students of different heights, the outer dummies of the Octagon were made different sizes. Initially, students are positioned at a dummy that is comparable to their own height and reach to make learning the movements easier. However, once they become proficient at using the dummy, we move them to a different dummy that is larger or smaller. This forces them to adapt their motions to an “opponent” who is taller or shorter than they are. Rather than forcing a technique to work the same way, they learn to modify their movements on the fly to achieve the desired result. For example, an elbow strike to the head of a shorter dummy might only reach the torso of a taller one. A downward check and strike might, therefore, be replaced by an upward check and strike to compensate for the difference in height.
Initially, students are given time to sort out the necessary changes in their technique. Once they have learned to adapt to both taller and shorter dummies, they proceed to a form of “round robin” training unique to the Octagon. Like a game of musical chairs, the students must quickly move from one dummy to the next to perform either a drill, a portion of a form, or an entire form. By varying the movement pattern through the dummies, they have to spontaneously adapt to the different heights as they move. For a real challenge, I have them begin a form, like our “slam set,” on one dummy. On my command, they stop where they are in the form, move to another dummy, and resume the form. This process is repeated until the form is complete. This type of marathon training is one of the most challenging forms of dummy practice and is the final stage of testing in our mook jong curriculum.
Unlike the traditional wooden wall mount, the mounting system used for the dummies in the Octagon allows a 360-degree range of movement around each dummy. Students can practice a broader range of footwork and angling and can even move behind the dummies to practice chokes and rear takedowns.
The array of dummies in the Octagon is also an excellent resource for multiple-attacker training. Advanced students who are already comfortable dealing with a single opponent are first introduced to the basic concepts of fighting multiple attackers. Once they understand the concepts of “stacking” attackers, the use of human shields and obstacles, and the use of hit-and-run tactics, they learn to apply them with power in the Octagon. By varying the student’s starting position and orientation, we can simulate countless realistic attack scenarios.
Another unique advantage of the Octagon platform is that its outdoor location leaves it completely exposed to the elements. This allows students to train in all the weather conditions possible in central Washington, from intense heat to bitter cold. When the snow falls, we do not shovel the Octagon platform clean. Instead, we use the snow and ice that accumulates on the platform as a training tool to teach students how to move, maintain balance, and generate power in realistic environmental conditions. Since many real street attacks occur at night, we do much of our practice on the Octagon during the hours of darkness. This teaches us to rely on touch rather than sight and to apply our sensitivity skills to realistic fighting situations.
Since a number of my private students are law enforcement officers and security professionals, I have also adapted the Octagon to their training needs. But using soft-air pistols that replicate their duty firearms, they can practice integrating empty-hand defensive tactics with close-quarters shooting skills. For example, an officer may engage one or two dummies with empty-hand strikes to buy enough time and distance to draw his weapon. He can then fire at the dummies, which simulate attackers at different rangers and angles more realistically than a traditional shooting range. By attaching wooden panels to the dummies or removing the arms from the dummies themselves, the officers can also incorporate the use of barricades and cover.
For most dedicated martial artists, dummy training represents a significant step in their training evolution that allows them to creatively explore both their offensive and defensive technique through dynamic solo training. Similarly, the Octagon represents a quantum leap in dummy training methodology, enabling a single instructor to not only teach a large group of students, but to lead them in real time through progressive dummy drills and forms. It also opens the door to the creative use the multiple dummies and the realistic environmental training that is impossible with traditional mook jong configurations. Most importantly, it is another manifestation of the KI Fighting Concepts motto, “Where innovation transcends tradition.”
“Where are the Women of Wing Chun”
By Joseph Simonet
Although sad to be created by a woman, the art of wing chun has become almost the exclusive domain of mail practitioners.
Wing chun gung-fu is named for Yim Wing Chun, a woman who lived in Yunnan province, China about 400 years ago. According to the history of the style, Yim Wing Chun was engaged to marry a man named Leung Bok Cho. Although Wing Chun was spoken for, a local gang leader took a liking to her and demanded that she break off the relationship with her fiancé and marry him instead. He backed up his demand with threats of violence against her and her family.
Ng Mui, a Buddhist nun who had escaped the destruction of the original Shaolin Temple in Honan, heard of Wing Chun’s plight and offered to help. She suggested that the family send a letter to Wing Chun’s fiancé in Fukien province asking him to break off the engagement. While the family and the gang leader waited for word to come back from the fiancé, Ng Mui began training Wing Chun in Shaolin gung-fu, modifying its methods to suit the needs of a woman and to develop real fighting skill in the shortest possible time.
After a year of training, the response from Wing Chun’s fiancé arrived. But before Wing Chun consented to marry the gang leader, she made a final request. She explained that she had trained in gung-fu and could only marry a man who could defeat her in personal combat. The gang leader eagerly accepted the challenge, only to be soundly defeated by Wing Chun and her devastating new fighting method.
Having won her freedom from the gang leader, Wing Chun continued to study with Ng Mui and codified her teachings into a system of technique that ultimately bore her name. She then married Leung Bok Cho and taught the system to him.
Curiously, the passing of wing chun gung-fu from its founder to her husband not only established wing chun as a true martial tradition, it also marked the end of its brief history as a female-dominated style. From that point-and to the present day-wing chun has become more closely associated with male practitioners than its female founders. However, to truly understand the genius of this amazing art, as well as its potential as a modern self-defense system, we should take a hard look at its roots as a fighting art designed by and for females.
Although I am a firm believer in women’s rights, when it comes to physical competition, men have significant advantages over women. Some women’s rights advocates may take exception to this statement, but the fact that most amateur and professional sports in the world today mandate separate competition for men and women strongly supports this assertion. More importantly, if you actually ask most women self-defense students, they will readily admit that they do not consider themselves physical equals to men in a fight. With this in mind, the primary fighting concept of wing chun becomes extremely clear: To win against a larger, stronger opponent, you must fight smarter, not harder. Let’s take a look at how wing chun accomplishes this.
Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of wing chun is its approach to timing. Most traditional martial arts operate on two-step timing-when the opponent attacks, you block, and then you counter. Conversely, wing chun uses the concept of simultaneous block and attack to literally beat an opponent to the punch. As an opponent strikes, the wing chun practitioner typically deflects the attack with one arm while simultaneously striking with the opposite hand. Since the opponent is focused primarily on attacking and is usually anticipating a two-step counter (if any), he is typically totally unprepared to deal with the immediate counterstrike.
Two other important characteristics of wing chun are its emphasis on centerline orientation and its commitment to fighting at close range. When combined with the concept of simultaneous block and attack, these tactics help the wing chun practitioner operate comfortably in the exact spot where most people are the least comfortable: right inside the body’s traditional defensive perimeter.
If you watch two people squaring off, you’ll notice they instinctively position themselves about two arm’s-lengths apart. From this comfortable distance, they close to a sing-arm’s length to actually deliver blows. Wing chun strives to eliminate this comfort factor by closing the distance and orienting on the opponent’s centerline. When an opponent strikes, rather than backing up, he holds his ground and pivots in place. This dissolves the power of the opponent’s strike, helps him “flank” the opponent’s centerline, and creates a force/counterforce dynamic that generates incredible striking power at close range. Collectively, this “in-your-face” fighting strategy helps wing chun players control distance and forces their opponents to fight on their terms.
One critically important aspect of wing chun that offers a tremendous advantage against larger opponents is its focus on superior anatomical structure. Rather than fighting muscle against, wing chun relies on techniques that place the skeletal structure of the body in the strongest possible alignment. For example, to properly perform wing chun’s bong sao (wing block), the hand is rotated inward until the little finger edge faces straight up. The elbow is raised until it is level with the shoulder and the hand is dropped slightly to angle the forearm both downward and inward. In this position, the bones of the forearm cross, bracing both the elbow and shoulder joints to create an extremely strong wedge-like structure. Once this alignment is achieved, the power of the body can be transmitted effectively to the arm through a quick, explosive rotation of the hips. When these elements are used in concert, the result is an incredibly powerful structure built upon skeletal alignment rather than muscular strength.
Sensing An Opening
Also setting wing chun apart from other arts is its emphasis on developing and using sensitivity ina fight. Through exercises such as chi sao and wing chun’s many trapping techniques, practitioners learn to “feel” an opponent’s intent before they see it. Once contact is made, the wing chun stylist uses hi/her arms like antennae, sensing an opponent’s movements through instantaneous physical perception. This is much faster and more efficient than visual perception and, once again, helps the wing chun player stay a step ahead.
These elements can be used individually to give a fighter an advantage in a fight. However, if we combine them into a synergistic system, the result is an extraordinary fighting science that is structurally and tactically superior to many conventional fighting arts. Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun created an art that allowed a woman with fewer physical attributes to easily defeat a larger and stronger man.
Since wing chun was developed by women and primarily for women, why has its lineage become so male-dominated? The answer is simple. Men also recognize a good then when they see it. And since men also fear attacks by larger, stronger opponents, wing chun has great relevance to their self-defense needs as well.
Functional For Women
Although there are far fewer female wing chun practitioners today than males, traditional wing chun remains a practical and effective women’s self-defense system. However, in the original spirit of the art-to establish a system that uses structural superiority to overcome greater size and strength-I have modified wing chun’s traditional form to make it even more functional and adaptable to women’s needs. The result is “Extreme Wing Chun.”
The fundamental difference between traditional wing chun technique and that of “Extreme Wing Chun” is the use of the wu (guarding hand) as an active support for both offensive and defensive movements. I borrowed this concept from the serah style of Indonesian pencak silat (as well as some movements of tai chi) to further enhance wing chun’s superior structure and give the practitioner an even better chance of “evening the odds” against a physically superior attacker.
For example, let’s contrast a traditional wing chun tan sao (palm-up block) with the “Exteme Wing Chun” version. Normally, the tan sao relies on the structure of one arm to block while the other hand either guards or strikes. Against a right hook, the wing chun player might pivot left to block with a tan sao while simultaneously striking with a right straight punch.
The “Extreme Wing Chun” tan sao takes this concept a step further. By bracing the wrist of the blocking hand with the palm of the opposite hand, the strength of the basic tan sao structure is easily doubled and allows even women of very slight stature to effectively block full-power hooks thrown by much larger and stronger male opponents. At first glace, you might think this tactic sacrifices the ability to simultaneously attack and defend. However, rather than striking with the right fist to the head or body, the strike is actually delivered with the right elbow to the nerve cluster in the shoulder. This simple technique not only stops an attacker’s punch cold, it combines the offensive and defensive function of the tan sao into a single integrated movement that can almost effortlessly destroy the attacker’s arm and his will to fight.
The supported movements of “Extreme Wing Chun” help martial artists further enhance the already-superior anatomical structures of traditional wing chun by adding the power of both arms to the technique without sacrificing the other advantages of the system. This approach works with all of wing chun’s core techniques, including the bong sao, tan sao, pak sao (slapping block), lop sao (pulling hand) and straight punch. Best of all, it continues the tradition of the art’s founder-developing and refining an art that offers the superior structure, timing, and training methods necessary to fight and win against larger and stronger opponents.
Like all martial arts, Yim Wing Chun’s fighting system transcended the traditional arts of her time to achieve specific self-defense needs. Although the result was another worthy martial tradition, her greats contribution was, in fact, her spirit of innovation and analysis. And that spirit is her true legacy-one that lives on in all women martial artists today and through the continues evolution of the arts such as “Extreme Wing Chun.”
Joseph Simonet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org His videos are available at kifightingconcepts.com
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
“Simonet, Hernandez Make Up DVD Debut in Blade Style!”
Inside Kung-Fu columnists Joseph Simonet and Addy Hernandez make their Unique Publications DVD debuts in stunningly deadly fashion with three offerings sure to improve your skill with the blade.
Hernandez’ first-ever DVD, called “A Cut Above,” show-cases her amazing speed and power with the knife. Simonet, one of the world’s foremost authorities on bladework, produces what many are calling his finest and most-advanced work to date: “Down and Dirty Streetfighting: Vol. 1 – Take-down Counters; and Vol. 2 – From Empty Hand to Blade.” All techniques and drills are derived from essential elements of the “KI Fighting Concepts” knifefighting system created by Simonet and Hernandez.
Each DVD retails for $29.95 each and can be purchased at www.up-publications.com or (866) 834-1249.
A CUT ABOVE
In “A Cut Above,” Hernandez displays a combination of elegance and grace with brutal finality with a blade. In step-by-step, easy-to-follow instruction, she begins by demonstrating one simple defensive blade technique for any attack. Hernandez teaches you how to combine superior footwork with hand and body positioning to immediately disable an attacker upon contact, and keep him at bay.
She then guides you through her no-nonsense brutal and deadly offensive knife skills. She demonstrates and teaches a variety of rarely seen techniques that will take any attack to its finality.
Hernandez changes directions and guides you through a step-by-step knife juru and/or knife manipulation drill. Finally, she’ll finish with a flow drill that will enhance your dexterity with a blade.
JOSEPH SIMONET’S DOWN AND DIRTY STREETFIGHTING—VOL. 1
World-renowned author Joseph Simonet unveils his explosive insight on superior fighting attributes. See what thousands of martial artists worldwide have already experienced. Simonet’s dynamic attitude and hard-core streetfighting skills have elevated the martial arts combat field.
He begins by showing commonly known drills and techniques derived from wing chun, the Filipino arts and silat, then transforms them for a more hardcore street self-defense application. These techniques follow his formula of C.A.P.A. (Conceptual Analysis and Practical Application). Simonet then demonstrates never-before-seen techniques to stop any “takedown” in its tracks.
Finally, Simonet reveals the pentjak silat footwork and key aspects that have been shrouded in secrecy and politics for decades. Simonet describes in keen detail the 30-degree angle footwork that will completely transform the way you look at the own footwork in your combat art.
JOSEPH SIMONET’S DOWN AND DIRTY STREETFIGHTING—VOL. 2
FROM EMPTY HAND TO BLADE
Joseph Simonet continues his theme with explosive superior fighting attributes. First Simonet explores the “seamless transitional integration” between empty hand to blade. Simonet will show you in step-by-step fashion how explosive attacks can be translated into deadly knife techniques utilizing his “concussive aggression.”
Simonet guides you through detailed instruction on “closing the gap” between you and your attacker with superior footwork and trapping drill. Simonet then describes in detail a new fighting range he calls “body sticking” by showing you aspects of two-person full-contact stand-up drills, derived from his highly acclaimed system, “The Art and Science of Mook Jong – Slam Set.” Simonet teaches essential fight-stopping elements so you can reflexively respond with effectiveness in any defensive situation.