Martial arts meets freestyle dance in Cedar Park


CEDAR PARK -- He has won numerous North American Sports Karate Association world titles, performs with the world renowned hip hop dance crews "Housin' Authority/The Architeckz, created XiaolinGruv -- a unique form of dance which fuses martial arts techniques with an eight-count; and is an engineer by day. Originally from California, Carmichael Simon opened REACH: A Dance and Martial Arts Intermix in March to offer high-end performing arts services in a disciplined, upscale and professional environment to greater Austin-area residents right in Cedar Park. Services include action stunt fighting, tricking, sport karate performance and hip-hop dance choreography.

Simon has being doing martial arts for 30 years, dancing for 10 years and been active in the entertainment business for 10 years. He first realized his passion for martial arts as a young boy and his parents supported him by entering him into competition. After initially losing at competition, his parents began investing money in coaches. His goal was to make it to a national tournament -- a goal which he met several times beginning at a young age.

Simon has been one of the leading innovators of "Jhoon Rhee's Martial Arts Ballet and has been instrumental to the American sports martial arts system. As one of the last "Living Legends" taught by Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, "he was able to apply the wisdom and define the standards to sport martial arts as he defied gravity" by innovating AcroKicking and incorporated the fusion of soft/hard style performances. He also made history by being the first to land a 720-degree hook kick and stunting combinations-tricking/acrokicking. He is a five-time International Forms Champion and three-time winner of the NASKA Triple Crown Award. He is a member of the Jhoon Rhee Institute, Metro All Stars Karate Team and Team John Paul Mitchell.

He said his signature styles have been depicted through media as he starred as "KID Carmichael" on the FOX TV show, WMAC Master, as Liu Kang on the Mortal Kombat Live Tour and as Tommy Base on The Untouchables video game series. He was the first sport martial arts athlete on an Affinity MasterCard.

As he grows older and wise, he said his goal and joy now, is to pass on his knowledge of sports martial arts onto his students. His pupils are typically between six to eleven year-olds but his classes are open to adults as well. He said XiaolinGruv has become popular choreography among leading hip hop artists such as Usher and Chris Brown. His freestyle dance merged with martial arts offers the best of several worlds, he explained.

"It combines the technical aspects and discipline of martial arts with ballet and fuses it with martial arts with an eight-count beat which we call musical forms or ‘kata,'" Simon said. "When you go to a dance school, you want to learn hip hop -- whether you're female or male. This is specifically what they want."

While REACH doesn't offer training in traditional martial arts, Simon said the school offers "basic confidence and stage performance without having to put on padding." That basic confidence allows his students to understand the philosophy of martial arts without the fighting. Once they have learned the basics, his students can then choose to pursue a career in the stunt, martial arts or dance businesses.

Students are also exposed to leading sport martial artists from across the world via the Internet. This way Simon collaborates with others from as far as California from the comfort of each respective studio which eliminates travel costs and still allows respective students to learn from leading professional via tele-presence. Instructors can even hold auditioning for their students and send it to the appropriate contact from the comfort of their laptops.

While those hoping to make a name for themselves frequently migrate to Los Angeles or New York, Simon is a strong believer in the resources currently available in the Austin area. Aspiring and already-established professionals in the entertainment business can always be found in Austin he said, which is why he does not understand why local talent feels the need to pursue their professions or training elsewhere. That was a major factor in his decision to open a studio in Cedar Park. He opted for Cedar Park instead of downtown Austin because he wanted his students to be close enough to a lively city such as Austin without all the distractions and felt Cedar Park was the ideal fit. His studio even has curtains to give his students the feel of being on stage, colorful walls to encourage passion and energy and photographs of New York, the Bay area and Los Angeles to remind his students of what they are ultimately "reaching" for (particularly those looking into the stunt business) -- which is part of the reason behind the name, REACH.

Simon teaches his students the "seven qualities of a champion" which are power, balance, quickness, endurance, flexibility, posture and timing. The qualities are important not only in class but in life, he explained. For instance, posture can be about more than just the literal meeting, it can be about having integrity in business. Another example is being flexible not just with your body but by adapting to circumstances to make sure you are not put in confrontational situations. Power is about knowledge too, he shared, while endurance is about perseverance.

Because Simon does not teach traditional martial arts, he does not offer belts when students climb up the REACH ladder, but he does offer different parts of a REACH uniform for each level passed. Once his students have risen to the top, they'll have a complete uniform which symbolizes they have reached the top.

To learn more about REACH, like it on Facebook or visit Simon can be contacted at (512) 934-3600, inquiries can be made at REACH hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.. It's located at 2100 Cypress Creek Road.