The following is an entertaining recollection from Len Salazar, describing his experience and perspective working out at Jesse Glover's Seattle school. Len was not a student and did not know what to expect.
My day with Jesse Glover:
Bruce Lee’s first student in the U.S.A
By Len Salazar
(For those of you that are more interested in the curriculum that Mr. Glover used, just scroll down to the curriculum section below. For the others, prepare some popcorn, sit back and experience "my day with Jesse Glover, Bruce Lee’s first student in the U.S.A."
I’ve lightened it up a bit, sharing my personal thoughts, insights, and odd sense of humor. In sharing this experience I mean no disrespect to Mr. Glover or his students. I consider my visit THE major highlight in my martial arts search.).
In late June, I sent out a request on the internet to see if I could dig up Jesse Glover’s phone number because I would be visiting Seattle Washington and wanted to train with him. My personal interest was learning the straight blast that was reported to be Bruce Lee’s favorite technique when fighting. On Monday July 8, I received Mr. Glover’s phone number from one of Tim Mousel’s JKD discussion group members, Don Draper a.k.a. Felonius Thunk. It was perfect timing because I was to leave early Tuesday morning. I called Mr. Glover around 1 p.m. and introduced myself. I explained that I would be visiting Seattle and wondered if he would see me for a possible private lesson. He didn’t give a commitment, but told me to call him when I got to Seattle. I was left a little dumbfounded due to the lack of conversation that I expected to have. I arrived in Seattle Tuesday p.m. and called him. Once again he wasn’t very conversive, but told me that his school meets on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. He told me to call him the day I wanted to come down because his school is hard to find and would have to meet me to walk me there. The conversation ended. Once again I was a little disappointed because of the lack of information. On Wednesday I called a third time and asked if I could come down tonight. He said yes and I asked where his school was and how much it would cost me. He asked how long I would be in Seattle and when I told him one week, he said don’t worry about money just come on down and train. In other words FREE! He told me to meet him on the corner of 1st and Main in front of the Elliott Book Store at 5 mins to 6 p.m. ! After we hung up, it dawned on me: What does Jesse look like? I’ve seen pictures of him when he was younger, new he is a black man, but that was it! When I asked my Seattle co-workers how long it would take to get to 1st and Main from Kent, they immediately said "oh boy, plan on allot of traffic". Of course I had to hear of every road improvement that Seattle is conducting. How much it costs, how many people voted against it, what Bill Gates thought of it and a bunch more of boring Seattle "stuff". I did learned something about Seattle people: they "think" they have a traffic problem. When they said "lots of traffic" I envisioned the usual California traffic of 5 mph stop and go, so I gave myself plenty of time to get there. I didn’t want to stand up Jesse because of a traffic jam. Seattle traffic at 3:00 p.m. travels at 40-45 mph down the freeway. Hardly a problem when your used to taking an hour to go 12 miles! I got there about 1 1/2 hours early! Since I was early, I ate a snack at a cafe under the book store. For the food connoisseurs reading this, I had spinach quiche and a root beer. Hold the real men jokes! By the time I went up stairs, it was raining lightly. I was very aware that I was the only person standing in the rain, in cut off sweat pants, knee pads, ankle braces, elbow pads, and a head band. To top it off, I was staring at every black man that came near me. If it was later in the evening, I would have probably been mistaken as a male prostitute, a horrible thought! Yuck! Why did I think that! Anyway, I was hoping that Jesse would know who I was by just looking at my clothes. Didn’t happen. Across the street I notice a man looking at me. Thinking he might be Jesse, I crossed and ask if he was waiting for someone. The man said no and moved on. I felt like a fool.
After a couple more false starts and dirty looks, I noticed a man standing on the corner where I was suppose to be, by this time I was wandering around trying to make myself noticeable. At first I didn’t think it could be him because he didn’t look like a martial artist. No aura of chi, no pure white gi, no gym bag, nothing indicating that he was Bruce Lee’s first student. Just a big jacket, Levi’s, and regular shoes. In desperation, I whistled and he turned. He raised his head acknowledging my call and I crossed. I introduced myself and he said he was Jesse Glover. I found him! Stage one complete.
He said "follow me", I did. It was obviously a test to see if I was a true martial artist willing to follow his every command, even unto death. I bowed and followed like a puppy dog being taken to his first Frisbee toss. I tried to make conversation, but once again, no reply. We turned left, or South for you geologist types, on 1st street and started across a parking lot. The buildings in downtown Seattle are very old and narrow. We were heading towards an alley. While in the alley, we avoided numerous pot holes, trash cans, and typical junk found abandoned in most alleys throughout the world. Was that a dead body? No, just someone sleeping under a cardboard box.
The Metal Door
After walking a block down the alley, we came to an old rusted metal door on the east side of a building. Jesse said to go in. There was no sign posted, no indication that there was anything beyond the metal door. With the rain, which was coming down quite hard now, the old buildings, and disgusting alleys, I started getting a little nervous. A thought passed through my brain at light speed. He could kill me and no one would know! Unless the sleeping bum catches a glimpse of the murder. I guess I was just staring at Jesse as though I didn’t understand his command. So he moved in front of me and started pulling on the door, it took him two tries to open it. I started to twitch, wondering when the last time this door had been opened. Once again he said to go in. I peaked inside. It was a dark musty room no bigger than the closet I grew up in, oops wasn’t suppose to let that out. I looked at Jesse and said go in where? At this point the oddity of our meeting was making itself known to all my senses. I took a breath and I settled within myself that I would go into my potential coffin, but would be ready for anything. I wonder if I can take him? This all happened in a split second. It’s amazing how fast our brains can think under stress. I guess I was still staring because he said that there was a door inside. As my eyes adjusted once I was inside, I saw the door. I opened it and found myself on the top of a flight of stairs. The white chalky walls were dripping with water. Plaster had been falling off the walls for what seemed like years. It mixed with the water creating what seemed like milky tear drops. Was this an omen? Were the walls crying out to me? Stop don’t go in!..... A perfect place to hide a body, I thought. The stairs were very steep and dark. He shut the door and we started down....
As we descended, I began to hear someone skipping rope, alas, another person! The five seconds of nervous tension passed as I saw a young man warming up. I was mentally safe again. Hello’s were exchanged and I started looking around. The basement was small. The room was narrow with about 5 pillars spread throughout the room. The ground was cement and had many cracks and small potholes. Environmental training grounds! Jesse thinks of everything. I wonder how he systematically put those defects throughout the room. Or maybe they were there because of heavy use, like bodies being thrown across the room. No, don’t go there Len. The north end of the room had a mound of about 2000 books! Also, there were various martial arts magazines in boxes throughout this area dating to the early 70’s. All along the walls were funny cartoons, philosophical sayings, and pictures of Bruce Lee training with Jesse. The basement had a very "used and old" look and feel. Nothing fancy here. I soon learned that it was the basement of pain!
About 10 minutes into my stay, the students started arriving. People were stretching so I asked Jesse if I should just go with the flow, he said yes. I started some small talk with a couple of the guys (there were two females) explaining my background and that I train under a student of Dan Inosanto. The most notable issue with the students were their physical shape. They all looked very conditioned, hardly any fat, very lean. I soon learned why!
Pushups and punches
We started by doing a sensitivity drill. Though I was left alone due to an odd number of people, the drill consisted of one person doing a double bong sao to a double tan sao while the other person used only a double fook sao. This was done for about 10 min. As I was standing there, Jesse came up to me and I drilled with him. I immediately notice that he had a very light touch but, when I gave forward pressure, there was a point in which he would stop me with his own, but once again it was very light. To much forward pressure by me would result in Jesse using footwork backwards instead of placing more forward pressure against me. It felt different than what I was used to. After about 5 min of this, Jesse called out 100 pushups! The fun began. Everyone dropped and did them. After that we then got focus gloves and warmed up with 100 stationary alternating straight punches. By this time I had already started sweating so when Jesse said, 100 pushups again, I nearly died. The class had just begun and I felt my deltoids burning. A thought came to me, would I embarrass my school by not being able to handle this type of training? In some weird way am I representing all the JKDers of the world? I settled it there and then, I will finish, even if it kills me! All in all, we did 600 pushups and 1500 straight punches! That’s right, fifteen hundred! I personally didn’t do all of them, I stopped counting when my deltoids gave out after about 15 minutes of use. I’m such the wimp. The fifteen hundred straight punches were broken up between pushups and sensitivity drills. Most of the time I tried to hide in the back during the pushups. I really enjoyed the punches. Here are the various ways we did the straight punches on the focus gloves:
1. Single standing straight punch
2. Single straight punch with forward step
3. Single straight punch with forward and rearward step. Kind of like jumping forward; hit; then jump back.
4. Single straight punch with two follow up straight punches (THE STRAIGHT BLAST! Boy did I hit gold. 90% of the class was dedicated to the straight blast or punch! Bingo! Bulls Eye! Dead on! It’s like he tailored the class for me!)
5. The straight blast while moving forward in a circular motion around the floor. Kind of like sprinting.
6. The big punch. A very weight committed punch stepping forward with your rear foot.
I have never heard of the big punch. But I am a believer in it now. The power generated would surely knock out mostly anyone. Applying it might be tricky, I’ll have to think on this awhile. But the power was incredible. Stronger than any punch I’ve felt while holding a pad.
The more advanced students seem to be able to fire off 5 or 6 straight punches in a second! I was very impressed with the power and the speed that was behind these punches. If anyone has never been on the receiving end of a focus glove while someone did the straight blast correctly, I recommend you try it. The straight blast is now a technique I want to master!
Chi Sao sparring
The chi sao done at this school was very different than what I had previously done. The partners would "lock" into the bong/tan/fook position and give each other very hard forward pressure. They would move around in a way that reminded me of two deer’s locking horns and pushing each other. Allot of energy was being put out. As they moved around, any movement which gave up the centerline would result in a slap to the torso. No counters to strikes were done. As it was explained to me by a student, why counter or trap, just strike! When I tried it, I sucked! I was used to feeling moderate to light energy and when an opening presented itself I either would directly or indirectly strike. My training was more on the countering of strikes and trapping techniques. These guys were offering forward striking pressure constantly and if you moved wrong, the strike went in automatically. A very interesting concept that I learned to appreciate and will practice in the future. After about 20 slaps to my burning pink chest, I took a break to watch the other students and try to figure out how to participate without looking like a defuse. At that point Jesse started sparring with his students.
Jesse has quick hands! The guy who humbled me looked like a slug compared to Jesse. Any time Jesse wanted to score, he could. One time the humbler came in hard and Jesse just moved a bit and pushed him into the mound of books, mounted him and choked him out. It was awesome. Though it may not sound awesome, but the way Jesse "stuck" to the guy and deflected his energy, and stayed with him was incredible.
The nose incident
Watching Jesse sparked new interest in my participation. Though my deltoids were dead, I called out the guy who slapped the hell out of me. I kept thinking, lock horns with the deer! Before we started, the guy (Todd) told me, whenever I move make sure that your fook sao forearm stays vertically in line with the center of my chest. A tip that worked. We went at it. It was fun! I learned that my trapping counters to his slaps worked! But he got more slaps in than me. One counter that worked two times out of three was when I used my fook hand to trap Todd’s fook hand (opposite hand) which allowed for my bong hand to slide in for a strike. On the third attempt, he caught on, his bong hand did a roll back as I disengaged for the trap. His forearm shot in like a salmon jumping up a river (Seattle joke, I would normally say: like a rocket) connecting with my nose! I immediately broke off (pun intended) because the pain was awful. More tears came out of me than what Seattle can put out in a 15 minute rain. My nose started bleeding and I felt like throwing up. I also felt like I was going to black out! Todd’s forearm strike was so strong that it was hard for me to believe that he didn’t wind it up from Spokane! In actuality, combined with his forward pressure and forward footwork, the strike was perfect. Bottom line: Todd broke my nose. Thanks buddy, I always wanted a big nose! Wait a minute, it’s already big. It was actually a very good lesson. For the record, Todd felt bad, but I actually deserved it. I didn’t tell you about the headbutt I gave him earlier! My Kali training really came out when we both had locked on the centerline. I’m happy no elbows or knees came out! He may have bit my ear off! Sorry, had to throw that in.
Training with Jesse Glover was very, very, enlightening. It’s hard to appreciate what I went through by just reading my account of the session. I learned allot about myself. Some good and some bad. Experiencing another person’s perceptive of martial arts was beneficial and interesting. The basic level training techniques and drills that were performed really impressed me. Being a jack of all trades, a typical JKD criticism, has it’s draw backs. Specializing in a handful of techniques has it’s upside. I totally respect Jesse Glover’s approach to martial arts and am very impressed with his students. The lessons I learned are as follows:
1. My conditioning needs major improvements, especially my deltoids.
2. Concentrate more on direct striking in chi sao training.
3. Don’t try to master all of the techniques we learn under the current JKD umbrella. Focus on a handful and master them.
and most of all:
4. A punch to the nose is very effective
Thanks for sharing my experience with me.