In TWO exclusive videos shot by Black Belt Magazine’s executive editor at Paul Vunak’s yearly “Bruce Lee Bash at the Beach” in Dana Point, CA, Vunak and Descendants of the Masters Vice President of Operations Thomas Cruse discuss the Bash at the Beach as a vehicle for training martial artists in the art of Contemporary Jeet Kune Do — and as a forum for cultivating community service via helping disabled kids learn about empowerment and self-esteem through martial arts training.
CONTEMPORARY JEET KUNE DO VIDEO
Paul Vunak and Thomas Cruse Discuss Descendants of the Masters and Contemporary Jeet Kune Do at Annual Bruce Lee Bash at the Beach Event
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MARTIAL ARTS PHILOSOPHY VIDEO
Descendants of the Masters Founder Paul Vunak's Mission: To Help Disabled Kids Through Martial Arts
"We call this our 'Bruce Lee Bash at the Beach' and this was an event that was meant to show people the metamorphosis of Bruce Lee when he first landed in America all the way up until the day he passed away," Paul Vunak explains. "My goal to Dan Inosanto, [who] was Bruce Lee's protégé, was that I would help continue the growth of Bruce Lee's art. So when Bruce Lee passed away, the next stage was called ... Jeet Kune Do Concepts, and that went on for about 10 years, 15 years. And now what we're doing is we're picking it up from there and we've called this Contemporary Jeet Kune Do.'"
When asked about what Contemporary Jeet Kune Do, in a nutshell, is, Vunak is fairly blunt in his explanation. "Contemporary Jeet Kune Do," Vunak says, "is pretty much MMA. Or I should say, 'MMA is pretty much Contemporary Jeet Kune Do."
Descendants of the Masters Vice President of Operations Thomas Cruse offers some historical perspective on Vunak's comments. "I don't think there's a person alive in the martial arts world who doesn't know about MMA," Cruse says. "And to think that Bruce was doin' that 40, 50 years ago is crazy, but that's the way it was."
"In the early '80s we had Thai boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu that we were working," Vunak adds. "If you were a fly on the wall ... you would see Thai kicks, Thai clinching, knees, punches, kicks, double-leg takedowns, ground-and-pound, triangle choke. ... It looked like an MMA match."
And while the participants at Paul Vunak's yearly Bash at the Beach event get schooled in the finer points of Contemporary Jeet Kune Do and a variety of martial arts and self-defense techniques, there's a philanthropic angle to the retreat and to the organization which plans it.
As Executive Editor Robert W. Young wrote in the January 2012 issue of Black Belt magazine, "As much as we like to think our martial arts training is all about self-defense or competition, it's also about community. We human beings need to be part of something bigger than ourselves, and it's especially gratifying when that something helps make the world a better place."
In few places can this idea be seen as in Vunak's approach to membership for Descendants of the Masters and the atmosphere at the Bruce Lee Bash at the Beach. Thomas Cruse attributes this "vibe," if you will, to the organization's founder. "I think that [feeling of community] starts with Paul," Cruse says. "He's always been more about family and togetherness and camaraderie then about sifu-student relationships and that sort of thing -- although that's part of it because we give him his props and his respect."
"Once you're a member [in my company], all the training is free," Vunak says, "once you work with a [disabled] child and plug into the system."
"The center point of everything we do is our Adapt for Life program," Cruse elaborates. "All of our instructors are required [to participate]. They can't even get a foot in the door with us unless they're willing to work with handicapped children."
Vunak elaborates on his involvement with disabled kids, explaining how it grew from his own inability to work with more than a few kids at a time and realizing he needed other instructors to help reach more kids than he was capable of helping. "I've been working with kids with various handicaps for probably 15 years," he says. "I found that the most folks I can work with myself is about 12 to 15, and I have a company of 300. So I put two and two together, and we have a win-win thing now. [When we work with the kids], there's a smile on the face, there's love, you can see the energy coming out. It's amazing."
For more information on Paul Vunak, Contemporary Jeet Kune Do, his Descendants of the Masters organization and the work they do with disabled kids, visit his website at Fighting.net.