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BIKINI   Aug/Sept. 1994

Glenn Danzig, And Other Martial Arts Stories
By Emmett Bloche

   Once a week, Glenn Danzig goes over to Jerry ...'s place in
Marine Del Rey to learn more Jeet Kune Do. Jerry's place is sort
of the condominium equivalent of a yacht club - lots of lawns and
cement walk ways and trees overhanging little gazebos in which
they practice.
   Danzig drives up in the afternoon in a black Porsche 944 and
takes one of the last parking spots available to anyone else who
might want to visit the complex that afternoon. It's always
reported that Danzig is short, but in fact, as he stands up out
of the car, he doesn't look that way at all. That's because his
upper body is so built. Also, his jaw is very wide. He has an
exaggerated comic book masculinity. Only, when you stand up next
to him, you do kind of realize he's not that tall.
   Danzig walks into Jerry's apartment - a shady and cool space
with streamlined furniture. He's very friendly. He chats and sits
down on the couch and says "yes" to a glass of ice water.
   Jerry is one of the only living masters of Jeet Kune Do - the
martial art that Bruce Lee invented. It's a martial art based on
Wing Chun (Intercepting Fist), invented by a Shaolin nun in China
300 years ago. Evidently, the nun killed a lot of men twice her
size. "Wing Chun counteracts a lot of the other arts," Jerry
tells me as we sit on the couch. "It's based on simplicity and
economy. Simplicity is what works."
   Jerry is thin and quiet with a sharp, grey beard. His long
term girlfriend ... - a deluxe woman of the martial arts herself
- says she was first attracted to him because of the way he moves
- something that martial arts gives you after years of practice.
That was 13 years ago. Jerry has only five students because of
time constraints - always choreographing fight scenes for the
movies. For example, he taught Jason Scott Lee how to fight for
"Dragon," the movie about Bruce Lee's life.
   "The way that Bruce Lee explained it to me was ...," Jerry
starts. We're still sitting on the couch. Danzig is listening
intently too. "...'We attack these people on their preparations
to attack us, on their intention. We intercept the motion. So
we're not going to sit back and wait for you to try to trade
punches. We're going to be elusive and then take you apart.'"
   While Danzig is warming up out on the deck, I ask Jerry if
Jeet Kune Do has changed Danzig.
   "He used to come in sort of defensively about everything,"
Jerry says. "He wouldn't say much. Now he's much more open."
   Danzig comes in. "Hey, how has all this changed you," Jerry
says, very jocose. But Danzig, who laughs a lot I've noticed
takes the question very seriously. He says that the fighting
lessons he's taken from Jerry actually have a much bigger
   "My whole life has always been a mental a physical thing.
Jerry just helped me get more focused, definitely changed my
life," Danzig leans in to tell me. "I was always into being
focused on what I was doing, but now it's even more focused. Some
of the stuff Jerry's taught me about the shortest distance to a
target, making sure there's nothing in your way, it carries over
to your outlook on life, music, everything."
   The way Jerry and Glenn talk about martial arts sounds like a
metaphor for what a psychologist would tell you to do with your
   "The thing that I learned with him a long time ago," Danzig
tells me, "is that if you put a hand out to block something, he
takes that hand. He grabs that hand and pulls you. It woke me
   "But now things are different." I say.
   "Well, now I see things that I didn't use to see," Danzig
says. "If I don't let him take my energy, he can't. If you don't
let somebody take something from you, they can't take it."
   Outside on the deck, Danzig and Jerry start warming up with a
punching ball. The ball is suspended in mid-air, fastened so
tight with bungees that when you punch it, it comes flying back
like a rocket. Danzig takes his leather coat off and punches the
ball and swiftly moves out of the way.
   "As fast as you hit it, that's as fast as it's going to come
back," he says. "It's very unpredictable." He takes another swipe
and dodges.
   "You could apply that rule to life." I say.
   Jerry nods. Then he turns and whams the ball. It comes flying
back. He barely moves. The ball only clears his cheekbone by
about half an inch. "You've got to react to motion, wherever it's
coming from. The more you simplify, the more efficient you are,"
he says. "Getting the job done in less movement. Timimg and
distance. The idea is to be effective at every range."
   "What he's saying," Danzig says, "is don't really think too
much about what you're going to do. Whatever a person offers you,
you're there. You see it in your head. You're seeing it before it
even happens sometimes."
   "You know what?," Danzig says, wiping sweat off his brow.
"Since I've been training with Jerry, I really haven't had to
hurt anybody. If I know I can beat the shit out of somebody,
what's the point."
   As we're walking down one of the clean concrete paths to the
field where Jerry and Danzig are going to spar, that last comment
really sticks in my head. There are birds twittering and
everything is clean and manicured and very together. The comment
is sticking in my head because I know for me it's the opposite.
Physical confrontation totally scares me. I don't tell my
downstairs neighbors to shut-up late at night because I know
they'll fist-fight me. So instead I fasten dental floss to their
circuit switch in the laundry room and thread it out the window
and up the fire escape and pull out all their lights and then
pretend like I'm not home. As we walk, I start thinking that what
I really need is to get hit in the face.
   "A lot of people don't like to get hit, but you've got to get
hit to find out what it's like," Jerry tells me. "You never learn
to slip a punch until you've been hit with one, and then you get
a little bit quicker." I make a pact with myself to ask my friend
Steve to hit me in the nose once a day for three weeks.
   "I know what it's like to get punched," Danzig says. "In the
Thai school (his old martial arts school) - something I didn't
like about it - they would teach you to take the punch. It goes
back to stuff I learned as a kid, which was you're not supposed
to get punched. And when I started training with Jerry again it
was refreshing because he was like, 'You're not supposed to get
punched. Especially in a fight.'"
   "The first I ever got hit in the face," Jerry says, "it was
like an explosion went off in my head. All of a sudden one side
of my face went numb. And it was a shock to me. The guy could
have walked right through me. Later on you get hit and you just
go with it. Your conditioned so that it's not a shock any longer
and you're not going to be vulnerable for that period of time. If
someone throws that first punch and you're not used to it,
they've won the fight. It's over."
   Did you have to punch Glenn a lot in the beginning?," I ask.
   "Yeah, we'd make contact," Jerry says.
   "It's getting better now," Danzig says. I can fire a shot
maybe every three or four of his moves whereas before it would be
like he'd do 10 moves and I'd just be shocked."
   We arrive at an open patch of concrete alongside a canal.
There are fancy boats in the background. This is the marina. The
sky is blue. The sun is hot. Jerry puts on some mits that are
heavy and beat up as if they've been ripped right out of the side
of a buffalo. He gets into a ready position. Danzig assumes a
fighting stance. He lets go with a kick that sends Jerry
staggering back a bit. A senior citizen couple walks by on their
waterside stroll and the old male makes a friendly joke to Danzig
and Jerry just to take the weight off being maculinely shown-up
in front of his wife. Jerry and Danzig throw a few more kicks,
then warm down a little bit, shaking their shoulders to keep
loose. They'd both noticed the old man's insecurity.
   "You get a lot more comfortable, a lot more confidence, when
you know that you can take care of yourself," Jerry tells me.
"Not knowing for sure, you've always got that bravado."
   Next, we go to a little gazebo where the sun is dancing around
in specks through the dense bouganvillea plants and making us
feel like we're in a fish bowl. Against a stone wall, Jerry
unfolds a line of swords. At first the idea of swords seems a bit
impractical to me. You're not going to use them in regular
self-defense. You're just going to get off on the fantasy of
wielding a sword and flashing a weapon around. But as Jerry and
Danzig start spinning them around and going through the positions
of swordplay, I realize there's something regal about how
traditional it all is. Also, it's not impractical: Training with
swords means you can kick ass with broomsticks or a lead pipe.
It's the same motions.
   Danzig is flailing the swords around. The photographer is
snapping photos. Jerry moves in and he and Danzig twirl the
swords together. This is obviously getting to Danzig in a primal
   Seems primal, Glenn," I say.
   "This is the kind of stuff I did as a kid," he calls back over
his shoulder. "Me and my friends used to hit each other with
sticks and a lot of the movement is the same stuff. When we were
kids we picked up anything - a rock, a can, a bottle. You name
it, we used it."
   Danzig's posing swords for our photographer, so I ask Jerry
some questions about him.
   What are some of the things Glenn needs to change?"
   Jerry looks taken aback for second, as if he's unsure he wants
to betray his friends confidence.
   "Well...," he says. "The rigidity of any motion. Probably he
can hear my voice in his sleep saying 'Relax, relax.' That's the
whole trick to being able to move in and out of the range that
you want to be effective in. Glenn has a tendency ... well,
everybody gets tense. But relaxation is speed."
   "Have you said that much to Glenn?" I ask.
   "I told him the other day - There's a state of mind that's
called 'Being neither for or against.' That way we won't let
emotion come in to either slow us down or make us commit
   "And what about Glenn's fighting strong points," I say. "What
are those?" In the background, Glenn is telling the photographer
that he doesn't want to pose with gloves because never uses them.
She finally convinces him. "Just fake it," she says.
   "Glenn only has one direction and that's attack," Jerry tells
me quietly. "And that's good. Because there's one thing about him
- he's very durable, very hard to hurt, so he's going to move in
one direction. If you hit him it doesn't faze him. He just starts
coming. The attack mode for him is to get in and get it over
   "Once in Detroit, these guys couldn't get this fat guy off the
stage..." Danzig is telling me. We're back at Jerry's place
sitting on the couch. For the past half hour I've been having
flashes of an akward math lab-type guy I knew growing up who took
martial arts and once hit a guy for cutting in the lunch line to
prove to himself that he wasn't the geek that he still suspected
himself to be." ...and he was fucking all the guitars up and
everything," Danzig says, "and I gave him a sidekick to the belly
and he went down and that was it. Neat huh..."
   But Danzig is different than my memory of the lunch line. It
seems the fat guy episode was the only time he's really used Jeet
Kune Do. There's people who are in it to prove something to
themselves. You have to watch out for them. There's people who
are in it to prove something to the world and you have to watch
out for them too. But then there's people who are in it to
explore, to push limits, to learn.
   "I don't want to play around," Danzig tells me. "Basically my
friends want to play around because they want to show off. They
want it be like 'Okay, if I can punch Glenn, then I'm better than
Glenn and everyone will see I'm better than Glenn." And I don't
want to be they're tool in whatever ego thing they're in. If they
do hit me and then go 'Oh, I'm sorry,' it's not fun anymore. So
I'm going to say 'Look, I'd rather not.' and if they keep on
screwing around, I'm gonna..."
   "We're not playing," Jerry says.
   When Danzig started training with Jerry, he had to unlearn
everything he had learned in other martial arts schools. "If you
don't change, you don't make it," Jerry had told him. Those words
reverberated bigger than just martial arts. "If you don't change,
you don't make it." To Danzig, what it seemed like Jerry was
offering was the chnace to feel new again.
   "The impetus to learn a lot of this stuff usually is to put
yourself together a little better. Jerry has definitely put me
together," Danzig tells me as we walk.
   "Hey Jerry," he says over his shoulder, "tell him what that
guy said to you when you first started training me."
   "Someone told me not to train him because I'd create a
monster," Jerry says. "And I said 'He's already a monster. I'm
just making a better monster.'"

JERRY: Wing Chun is at the core of it. Wing Chun is a very
precise combat developed by a woman in China. She killed a lot of