Lawrence Garcia— Descendant of the masters
Descendant of the masters
For the students of the martial art Jeet Kune Do in Los Alamos, there are no fancy uniforms or fighting hall lined with weapons and instructor certificates or strict adherence to etiquette and “proper form.” Instead, these diehard practitioners gather at High Flyers Gymnastics to learn the economic, realistic, and often-devastating fighting system founded by one of the most famous martial artists of all time, Bruce Lee.
Guiding the adrenaline-pumping workouts is Lawrence Garcia, third-generation martial arts descendent of Bruce Lee. Soft-spoken and humble, intense and knowledgeable, Lawrence has decades of martial arts experience, having earned instructor-level ranks (black belts) in various fighting systems.
On the path toward mastery
Lawrence began studying martial arts when he was nine years old. “It was around that time that I first saw Enter the Dragon,” he laughs. “And from there I fell hook, line, and sinker into everything about the martial arts. I immediately started looking for a place to train.”
For several years Lawrence practiced Tang Soo Do, a Korean style taught at the Santa Clara Indian Reservation. While at this school, he participated in various fighting tournaments, which culminated in his qualifying for the Junior Olympics.
“The tryouts for these Olympics took place in Albuquerque,” Lawrence remembers. “There were schools there from throughout the state. I won first place at the tryouts, but things fell through and I wound up not competing, even though I had qualified.”
After earning a third-degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, Lawrence earned another black belt in tae kwon do and a brown belt in Kaju kenpo karate. He has also extensively studied judo, wrestling, Derobio escrima (a Filipino martial art that encompasses sticks, bladed weapons, and empty hands), Gaidojutsu (street kickboxing and submission wrestling), American boxing, and full-contact kickboxing.
The discovery of Jeet Kune Do
Wanting to further improve his fighting abilities, Lawrence started working out at Greg Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in Albuquerque. There, he studied under various practitioners, including Joey “Smokin’ Joe” Villasenor (King of the Cage world champion and one of the head coaches at Jackson’s MMA).
“I really like the mixed martial arts because they are so well-rounded,” says Lawrence, “This type of fighting encompasses all ranges of combat, from kicking and punching to infighting and grappling to takedowns and fighting on the ground. I knew little about some of these ranges, so I made it my goal to become proficient at all of them.”
Lawrence then discovered the art of Jeet Kune Do. “Put simply, Jeet Kune Do means ‘way of the intercepting fist,’ ” says Lawrence. “Developed by Bruce Lee, this fighting philosophy incorporates the best of every martial art. As Bruce Lee said, ‘absorb what is useful, discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own.’ The idea is to present many techniques and let each martial artist create his or her own approach to effective self-defense.”
Jeet Kune Do led Lawrence to Paul Vunak. Vunak studied Jeet Kune Do under Guro Dan Inosanto, who had taught Filipino arts to Bruce Lee and in turn helped Lee develop what would become Jeet Kune Do.
“Paul and his instructors have taught more than 77 government and military agencies, including the FBI, the DEA, military agencies such as Seal Team Six, and multiple law-enforcement organizations,” says Lawrence. “These government agencies have little time to dedicate to training—we teach people to defend themselves in days instead of years.”
Lawrence has spent more than a decade studying with Vunak, who has a no-nonsense street-fighting approach when it comes to teaching Jeet Kune Do. With Vunak’s permission, Lawrence founded Progressive Fighting Systems of New Mexico, where he teaches weekly classes and private lessons for teenagers and adults of every skill level. Lawrence plays various roles, such as senior training officer, military edged-weapons instructor, southwest regional director, and information and marketing director.
Despite all these titles, Lawrence remains humble. “Through my many years of training I have developed discipline, self-control, respect, humility, and compassion—these are the cornerstones of the martial arts,” he says. “These virtues are most valuable in daily social relationships. This is very much the end goal of what I teach in Jeet Kune Do, the ability to defend ourselves not only physically but also spiritually in an unpredictable and sometimes dangerous world.”
Lawrence Garcia currently works as a safety-basis analyst in the Waste, Weapons, Accelerators, Tritium, Transportation & Science group, where he provides oversight of safety-basis policy and processes for nuclear and non-nuclear facilities.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the Employee Spotlight articles are solely those of the featured employees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Los Alamos National Laboratory.