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The Crucial Role of Grappling in Jeet Kune Do: Dispelling Myths and Embracing Legacy

In the intricate tapestry of Jeet Kune Do (JKD), grappling emerges as a cornerstone, intricately woven into the legacy by key figures such as Larry Hartsell, Richard Bustillo, and Dan Inosanto. This narrative seeks to debunk misconceptions surrounding JKD's relationship with grappling, shedding light on the rich history and undeniable significance of grappling within the JKD framework.


Bruce Lee's journey in martial arts witnessed a profound transformation in the mid-1960s, transitioning from Jun Fan Gung Fu to the birth of JKD. Grappling, a fundamental aspect, found its roots in the foundational training during 1966-67. Training sessions in Seattle, Oakland, and LA involved collaborations with top judoka and grapplers of the time, including Nishoka Hayward, Wally Jay, and Gene LeBell.


Solidifying the legitimacy of JKD's grappling roots, documents reveal a Jun Fan Trapping to Grappling progression, as detailed in the Tao of JKD, John Little's JKD book, Larry Hartsell and Tim Tackett's JKD Entering to Trapping to Grappling, and Chris Kent's JKD encyclopedic book. A comprehensive list of 33 grappling techniques reflects the depth of Bruce Lee's grappling training.


Contrary to a narrow view of JKD as only counter-grappling, the historical evidence supports the assertion that grappling is inherently JKD. It encompasses both offensive and defensive aspects, forming a substantial part of the training for advanced students, instructors, and assistant instructors since the late 1960s.


Bruce Lee's early teaching years in Seattle and Oakland. Emphasizing grappling during these years is more accurately labeled as Jun Fan Gung Fu, with the full integration into JKD post-1966/67.


The observation of varying emphasis on grappling in different schools and eras is acknowledged. During the Jun Fan Gung Fu era, grappling might not have been as prominently featured in public curricula, potentially reflecting the era's focus. However, it is imperative not to confuse this with a lack of grappling in the broader JKD context.


The voices of key JKD figures, Larry Hartsell, Richard Bustillo, and Dan Inosanto, provide invaluable insights into the Trapping to Grappling curriculum taught as far back as 1966-67. Their collective testimony reinforces the authenticity and importance of grappling in JKD.


A firm rejection of the misleading narrative that grappling isn't JKD or that only counter-grappling defines JKD is necessary. The evidence presented by credible sources emphasizes the undeniable integration of grappling into JKD's fabric.


In conclusion, grappling stands as an essential and authentic component of Jeet Kune Do, grounded in historical evidence and the experiences of key practitioners. Dispelling the myths surrounding JKD's relationship with grappling is imperative to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of the multifaceted martial art that Bruce Lee envisioned. Let us embrace the rich legacy of JKD, acknowledging grappling as a vital thread in its martial philosophy.

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