Football (soccer) was the very first sport he engaged in, but he was soon to be sent to a gymnastics club called, "La Renaissance" under the guidance of Professor Dominique Lescornez who gathered a team of youngsters to compete and to represent the city of Marcq-en-Baroeul. Salem rigorously trained as a gymnast three times a week from the age 8 to 18 years old.
In 1974, as he was still a teenager, he discovered martial arts movies and particularly 'La Fureur de Vaincre' (Fist of Fury) with Bruce Lee. Like for many other teenagers of that time, this finding has had a considerable impact in his life. In fact, the impact was so great that it became a turning point not only in his life, but also later on in his professional track.
While still very engaged in gymnastics, his interest slowly shifted toward the combat arts, which he practiced and taught himself until he moved to the United States. He was 23 years old then. Supplied with an invitation letter from the head of the Jeet Kune Do academy, he came with the firm intention of training directly under the tutelage of Sifu/Guro Dan Inosanto, the only Jeet Kune Do instructor who was certified by Bruce Lee. Salem will end up becoming the first and only Frenchman to graduate and be certified as a Full Instructor in both Jun Fan Gung Fu (Jeet Kune Do) and the Filipino martial arts (Kali-Eskrima-Silat) by the master himself.
Upon his arrival in California, he trained extensively in every systems offered at the original Kali Academy in Torrance and at the Inosanto Academy of Martial Arts in Marina Del Rey. He also took up Muay Thai instructions with both Sifu Dan Inosanto and Ajarn Chai Sirisute (President of the TBA). Shortly after, Salem was invited by the latter to pass the examination of instructorship from the Thai Boxing Association of America. In December 1985, Salem became the first Muay Thai instructor of the Inosanto International Instructors Association. He had since hold the Thai boxing pads for many future instructors and students who were taking their second round exam.The most renowned of these students was Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon Lee.
Admiring the quality of his kicking techniques, Dan Inosanto encouraged Salem to study the martial arts famous in his native country, la Savate Boxe Française, the French art of foot fighting. This certification would then allow Salem to teach it to the students at the Inosanto Academy. After studying from an old book shelved in Dan Inosanto’s library, Salem started to deeply investigate the French martial arts while teaching it for the subsequent two years. He then returned to France to request the authorization to represent Savate in the USA as a legitimate teacher. Prior to his first return to France in late June 1986, Inosanto rewarded him with his first teaching certificates in both Jun Fan Gung Fu (JKD) and Filipino martial arts. Four months later, he returned to the U.S. with the Monitor certificate and the first-degree Silver Glove diploma obtained from France’s National Technical Director, Mr. Bob Alix. In 1986, Salem finished at the top of his class by acquiring the highest grade among the 50 students who were present at the French boxing savate summer camp in Voiron. This accomplishment was achieved by being the only one without ever having had an instructor in this discipline. The following year, he obtained the prestigious diploma of Professeur of Boxe Française Savate in Los Angeles as well as the second degree Silver Glove from the President of the International Federation of B.F. Savate, Mr. Michel Roger and the members of the French Elite Team; Richard Sylla, Robert Paturel, and Pascal Mazoué. Salem also became the first and one of the few certified professors of B.F. Savate in the United States.
Armed with great experience and flawless technical skills, Salem was then contacted by Panther Videos to produce a series of videos/DVDs on Savate B.F., the very first of its kind and, to this day, the very best ever produced on the art of Savate, whose technical and pedagogical qualities has made them a worldwide success. Shortly after, Quest Ltd – a Tokyo based company – asked him to perform another series of videos for Japanese martial artists during his second trip to Japan. In France, Salem has produced the first videos on Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do, JKD Kickboxing and Filipino martial arts (Available thru Silver Glove Enterprises).
As a full-time instructor in both Jeet Kune Do and Kali-Silat, and in Savate and Muay Thai, when he is not busy writing books and the scripts he is working on, he travels between the United States and the rest of the world to give workshops, classes and private lessons on the martial arts systems he learned and continues to study. They are:
- Lee Jun Fan Kick Boxing
- Jeet Kune Do (the Art and Philosophy of Bruce Lee)
- The Filipino Martial Arts (Kali - Eskrima - Silat)
- The Madjapahit Martial Arts
- Wing Chun Kung Fu
- Maphilindo Silat
- Shoot Wrestling
- Muay Thai Boxing
- Krabi Krabong (Thai swords and weapons training)
- Chinese Sword Play
- Savate Boxe Française (French Foot Fighting)
- Parisien Fighting and Savate Defense
- French Cane Fighting and Bâton of combat
- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Salem's lifelong dedication to Savate, has made him an authority in the teaching of the techniques as well as in the historical background of the traditional martial arts from France throughout extensive research in France and various countries abroad. He single-handedly brought Savate and French Boxing to the United States, but also to Japan, Canada, England, Brazil, Australia, Taiwan and many other countries.
For nearly 25 years, he has shared his knowledge and experience in JKD, Kali and Savate with countless other martial artists, teachers and students alike, by teaching both at the Inosanto Academy and on the five continents where he is building branches and has representatives in more than 25 countries.
Salem is also an active writer, and has written and continues to write articles for martial arts magazines around the world. He has recently been featured on the cover of 'Black Belt Magazine' (USA) for the second time and 'Blitz' (Australia) where, in 2015 alone, he was featured in five different issues including one with the cover. In 2017 he was again feature on the cover, this time for 'Dragon Magazine' in France.
Salem is the author of the following books:
- French Savate, Silver Glove Enterprises Publisher – reprints scheduled for 2018.
- JeetKune Do “Toutes les techniques de Bruce Lee” published in French by the Editions Chiron (2005 France).
- Currently completing three books (French and English) for an international distribution:
- Les Arts Martiaux Philippins (The Filipino Martial Arts) for SGE (To be published in the spring of 2022).
- The History, Art and Science of the French Martial Arts for SGE (USA). (To be published in the fall of 2021)
- JKD ~ Kali ~ Savate: "30 Years of Dedication" for SGE (USA). To be published in December 2022.
In April 1996, he was invited by the magazine 'Karaté', along with other martial artists such as Professor Rickson Gracie, Sensei Obata Kaiso, Cynthia Rothrock and many others to participate in the “Night of the Martial Arts” in Paris Bercy, to demonstrate publicly and for the first time ever, Jeet Kune Do and Kali in front of a live audience of 20 000 but also throughout Europe via the TV Chanel Eurosport (See video). Salem Assli has also been on several television shows and programs in France, Canada, Tahiti, Barbados, Brazil, and the U.S.
As much as he loves martial arts, Salem Assli loves life even more. Being an extremely eclectic artist, he has several areas of interest: such as the choreography of fight scenes (trained talented actor Fred Ward for his role in the movie Remo Williams "The Adventure Begins," directed by Guy Hamilton). He enjoys working with canes, knives and swords (he collects certain Filipinos and Chinese swords as well as various canes from around the world). He enjoys archery, horse back riding, car racing and motorcycles.
Action movie lover and fan of Asian cinema, he owns practically all of the Shaw Brothers martial arts DVD collection and hundreds of other Asian movies, as well as French and American action movies.
Absolutely fond of French songs which he often plays during his seminars, he knows hundreds of them and loves to sing some while playing guitar. As an unconditional and great admirer of Georges Brassens, Jean Ferrat, and Jacques Brel (French poets and singers who died way too prematurely), he often quotes them and wishes that all their songs would be translated in every languages of the world, so as to bring more love, understanding and compassion between all human beings.
Having grown up where comic books are an institution, he is also, like movie director Peter Jackson, a huge fan of Tintin (who by the way knows La Savate) and many other comic book characters mainly from the Belgium school. In Los Angeles, he owns an outstanding collection of objects and books, the majority in French language.
Last but not least, Salem Assli also possess since his childhood, a tremendous passion for archeology and the search for our origins thru ancient civilizations. He has studied and researched as an autodidact for the past 35 years. Truly passionate by the cultural history of ancient China, Sumeria and Egypt, South America and more, he often visit during his trips to those countries, sites of interests and museums, compelling evidence that the official history taught in schools and often written by conquerors and colonizers is wrong, and that the truth is more fantastic for those who do deeper research, think outside of the box and have an open mind. Salem’s extensive library on Egyptology and the history of ancient civilizations is equaled only by his martial arts library.