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Larry Hartsell Interview

"One on One" with Larry Hartsell
by Ezra Hyland

What Was It Like To Train With Bruce Lee?

I met Bruce Lee through my teacher and mentor to this day, Guru Dan Inosanto, in 1964. I was training a group of students at Ed Parker's school in Santa Monica, California. In fact we were sparring. Bruce walks in with a friend and watches the sparring session. After class, Bruce asked me to spar with him. In truth, I could not touch him. I was as if he was right there in from of me waiting to be hit, and before I knew it, I was the one being hit! After the sparring session, I asked Bruce if I could train with him. On that day he accepted me as a student. At that time Bruce was forming his own martial arts concept, Jeet Kune Do.

What were some of the things you and worked on during those early days?

We trained using Single Direct Attack (SDA), Attack By Combination (ABC), Attack By Drawing, etc. (ABD), etc. During this time Bruce was experimenting and changing his system by constantly adding and deleting. The whole concept of training in the different ranges was very important. The four ranges were what Bruce worked on and emphasized. The idea was to be able to flow from the Kicking Range, Boxing Range, Trapping Range, Grappling Range, (vise versa). Being able to flow from one to another easily.

My Personal Relationship With Bruce Lee?

Bruce was an extremely charismatic person. At times we would go to the book store together while Bruce would research for old books containing self defense written in the years of 1700-1800. Many times after training we would go out to dinner and of course our discussions consisted mostly of martial arts. Bruce would tell jokes and we would laugh, but in almost all cases the topic would relate back to martial arts.

Describe Bruce Lee as a Sifu.

...Bruce Lee believed in teaching only a few students at any time. Such a method of instruction required the teacher to maintain an alert observation of each student in order to establish the necessary student-teacher relationship. As Bruce so often observed. "A good instructor functions as a pointer of the truth, exposing the student's vulnerability, forcing him to explore himself both internally and externally, and finally integrating himself with his being."...Bruce did not have a blueprint, but rather a series of guidelines to lead one to proficiency. In using training equipment, there was a systematic approach in which one could develop speed, distance, power, timing, coordination, endurance and footwork.

What should a student focus on in preparing for combat situations?

...I have always tried to focus on the end result(s) of combat. You can start from the beginning in any situation, but it is the ending the finished product (result) that is most important. I was taught to use the knowledge that you have and do what is best and what works for you at any given time in combat situations.

What influenced you to become a grappler?

Well it's simple, it's because that is what I am best at.

You've been teaching and training over 30 years, how have you avoided burn out?

There is simply no time for burn out. I believe if a person cross trains along with a personal workout routine this will eliminate burnout. My personal workouts consist of weight training, shadow boxing, hitting the heavy bag. My personal training program is working the upper body with an aerobic workout... I continue to grow through my teaching and my students.

Do you continue to train/share with other martial artists?

I train in Lameco Eskrima with Punong Guru Edgar Sulite); since his passing I now train with Sifu David Gould)who was one of Punong Guru's top instructors; Kali and Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do Guro Dan Inosanto, with whom I have personally continued my training with for the past 30 years; Shoot Wrestling (Sensei Yorinaga Nakamura); (Sensei Erik Paulson) and boxing.

Sifu, you have it, Erik Paulson has it. There are some people that the moment they touch you, you find yourself saying "this is the way the technique is supposed to feel." How can the average martial artist reach that level?

I like to say that, "Repetition is the mother of all skills."

Photo Gallery

  • Larry Hartsell poses with his representative in Norway, Leif T. Robekk.

  • Sifu Larry and his long time student relaxing after a seminar.

  • Sifu Larry gives a demonstration with Leif T. Robekk. From a seminar in the 1990's.

Larry's Quotes

  • "I always encourage students to attend any seminars they want. When it comes to knowledge, you owe allegiance only to yourself."
  • "The Jeet Kune Do principles apply to grappling when I think of the Attack by Drawing [principle], where you deliberately see an opening for the person to come in so you can counter..."

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