BIKINI Aug/Sept. 1994 ----------------------- SNATCHING THE PEBBLE 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 meaning. "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 life. "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 up." "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 way. 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 unnecessarily." "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 with." "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 men.