Salem Assli—internationally recognized martial arts practitioner of more than ten martial arts and an instructor best known for reviving and popularizing savate boxe francaise and la canne, the martial arts of his homeland France. He is also one of the most influential students of Guro Dan Inosanto. At the moment, Salem is working on establishing a worldwide martial arts organization, as he has been sharing his knowledge with thousands of people for more than 30 years, and the demand for his classes never seems to cease. Salem being born in a French-Belgian-Algerian family and having lived for decades in America considers himself neither French, Algerian nor American: “I am a citizen of the world,” said Assli in an interview with World of Martial Arts, “I work with students regardless of their origin, nationality, race and religion.”
His journey in martial arts started in the 1970s with Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do. In the beginning, he studied on his own by watching Bruce Lee’s tapes. He frequently went to a movie theatre to watch every movie starring Lee and tended to watch the same films up to 30 times over and over. As a gymnast in his teenage years, it was easy for him to imitate the technique, speed and footwork of Bruce Lee: “I developed a good kicking style that was self-taught. Later on, I moved to the USA at the invitation of Dan Inosanto, and he became my teacher. I thought it would never happen as I was desperately trying to become his student and in the end, I almost gave up. After that, to my surprise, I received a letter dear to my heart nearly a year later”, remembers Assli.
Salem Assli has been on a hectic and active life journey. Still, one situation he found himself in was a turning point in making him a stronger human being and changing his attitude towards people and life in general. In March 2021, he got into a severe motorcycle accident on his way to get his breakfast in Los Angeles, California.
“If I had died in this accident, I would have regretted that people would remember me simply as a martial artist.”
“I broke my own rule for the first time and got into big trouble, I took my motorcycle and rode in the rain two blocks from my home to get some breakfast. I was hit by another vehicle in the turn and the rest of it is an ‘action movie’”.
Salem was catapulted on his motorcycle over 20 feet away and once landed, he immediately lost his consciousness. His wife remembers that when she arrived at the hospital, she wasn’t sure if he was going to make it after seeing and hearing of his multiple injuries. As his right leg and foot were crushed, she could see pieces of flesh behind the engine of the motorcycle. Salem was delivered to the emergency room at L.A. Hospital with ten broken ribs, a cut tongue, a broken nose, a tooth in his lung, a bleeding kidney and a completely crushed leg bone. It was not a question if Salem would be able to walk again, but if he would lose his leg. Fortunately, doctors were able to save both his leg and his foot and he is now going through the long rehabilitation process to start walking and training again. The martial arts community was distressed at the news, but he was not alone; his students and martial artists came to his aid from different parts of the world. Surprisingly for doctors, Salem’s body has been healing very fast and in a few weeks, he was able to laugh and joke, despite being in the hospital bed.
Salem shared aspects about his worldview, which he had not shared publicly before. “This accident taught me a lot. I have changed my perspective on many things. If I had died in this accident, I would have regretted that people would remember me simply as a martial artist. This accident has changed my perspective; I don’t care anymore what people think. I am healing fast, in the first place, because of my outlook on life itself. I am a Raelian, I don’t have any fear. I was treated like an outsider in France mainly because of my beliefs but also because of people’s jealousy, but I do not care anymore,” explains Assli. In his words, he was always interested in the origin of life on our planet since his childhood. He always believed in extraterrestrials and it is a huge part of his life. “When I was about 3 years old, I was looking into the stars and I believed that there were people up there. Later on, I did my research and found out more. I am deeply interested in the history of humanity, in ancient mysteries (they are not mysteries for me anymore) and sharing the love because today this planet needs love more than anything else.”
He also discussed the role and meaning of martial arts in his life. For him, martial art is a vehicle that should be used for generating good things and not for destruction, and it should help you and others to grow—it is a vehicle to that goal, “If the only thing you do is martial arts, then you are missing the bigger part of the whole, there are so many great things about this world. I believe that human beings were created to be in harmony with nature, with the goal of being happy and to enjoy during their lifetime, all that the planet has to offer. When they derived from this simple rule, they create imbalances that sometimes can be fatal to them. Learning martial arts can help you to discover many other beautiful things inside and outside of you. I love life and that is what Jeet Kune Do is about, it is about loving and appreciating the best of everything.” He also notes that martial arts gave him the strength and ability to endure difficult situations. When he was young, he was bullied in school, before his teenage years, but he became free from fear after learning martial arts and discovering his philosophy. Salem remembers that, when he got into the accident in March, he thought he was dead. It happened fast and Salem has been fighting for survival since, as there was still a chance of death. For him, martial arts is a vehicle to realize his potential, to help people grow and give more love.
“I am happy to be alive after this accident and tell people how much I love them. Sometimes we take it for granted, live our lives every day, and sometimes forget to tell them how much you love them, and when they die, you regret that you did not tell them. You have to do it now, not tomorrow; this way, you will have no regrets.”