When in Doubt, Train.

By Sifu Joseph Simonet
April 11, 2016

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.