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Grappling is Essential to JKD: The Evolution of Grappling in JKD

Updated: Dec 25, 2023

A solid foundational understanding of Grappling is intrinsically JKD, especially from the core group in LA's Chinatown School at least specifically with Larry Hartsell (assistant instructor at times at the Chinatown school), Richard Bustillo (a senior student under Bruce Lee during his lifetime) and Dan Inosanto (Bruce's Lee's chosen instructor in his absence). There is a Jun Fan Trapping to Grappling progression from 1966-1967 and the notes on Grappling in the Tao of JKD and John Littles JKD book, of course in Larry Hartsell and Tim Tackets JKD Entering to Trapping to Grappling and the follow up Counter Grappling book and even in Chris Kent's JKD encyclopedic book. There is documentary evidence of a solid foundational grappling and counter grappling skills of 33 grappling techniques that make a solid grappling foundation. Bruce Lee grappling training is deep and in Seattle, Oakland and LA he trained with top Judoka and grapplers of his time, Nishoka Hayward, Wally Jay and Gene LeBell.

Grappling is JKD, not just counter grappling.

In the Oakland and Seattle school I've seen examples of curriculum that didn't emphasize Grappling in the public curriculum so during the Jun Fan Gung Fu era the emphasis on Grappling seemed less than would be useful in the post-UFC era. That's just an observation. I've even seen some from the Oakland era add Grappling to their personal curriculum but not as Jun Fan Gung Fu they learned at that time.

It's important to note that during Bruce Lee's teaching in Seattle and Oakland he had not yet called what he did then JKD, it was Jun Fan Gung Fu and when people teach those eras IMO it's dishonest to call those JKD it confuses people who don't understand the evolution of JKD that happened circa 1966/67. Prior to this period what was done should be called Jun Fan Gung Fu not JKD. In my opinion.

So let's be clear.

Now post 1966/67 there are elements of Jun Fan Gung Fu included in and, an essential part of JKD but there was a change in focus on sparring and pressure testing and some earlier methods were abandoned, or emphasized less.

The group classes of JKD in the Chinatown JKD school may not have been heavy on Grappling.

But a core JKD practitioners who were advanced students, instructors and assistant instructors, namely Larry Hartsell, Richard Bustillo and Dan Inosanto all testify to there being a Trapping to Grappling curriculum taught as far back as 1966-67.

I reject the notion espoused by anyone who says Grappling isn't JKD, or says that only counter Grappling is JKD. JKD Grappling is more counter grappling but there is a solid fundamental Grappling core to the students of Bruce Lee from 1966-1973 that Larry Hartsell, Richard Bustillo and Dan Inosanto, and even Tim Tackett and Chris Kent have documented.

I'm personally tired of the played out narrative that Grappling isn't JKD by some. It's not factual. There is too much legitimate evidence to the country by the sources I've cited. Let's end that nonsensical narrative.

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