My name is Wael and I’m the founder of Hammerhead Hapkido. I have black belts in Hammerhead Hapkido, Kokodo Jujutsu and Shorin-Ryu Kempo.
In addition I have been studying Silat for many years, and Pekiti-Tirsia Kali since 2012. My past experience includes Shotokan Karate, Hwarangdo, and brief dabbles with Jeet Kune Do and Aikido.
I’m a writer and web developer, and a single parent raising a daughter. I consider martial arts to be a lifelong journey. I never stop learning. I enjoy teaching as well. It’s gratifying to see a student develop confidence and skill. I’ve had a few students who have used the skills I taught them to defend themselves. That’s very rewarding.
I was born in Sacramento, California and grew up in Davis and Los Angeles. I began Shotokan Karate at the age of 14 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where my parents were working at the time. I used to literally hike across a few kilometers of open desert to attend classes at the university student gym. I know that sounds like a tall tale, but it’s true.
I also began boxing at that time and used to carry two pairs of gloves with me at all times in the hopes of convincing anyone I encountered to go a round with me. That may not have been very nice on my part, in retrospect.
I continued learning Karate in Fresno, California under the highly skilled instructors Stuart Quan and Greg Dow. Simultaneously I began studying HwaRangDo at the old location on Shields Avenue. Classes were rigorous and I often left with my arms and legs trembling from exhaustion.
I took a break from martial arts instruction in my 20’s, and instead practiced on my own and lifted weights. I returned to martial arts in my 30’s with Hapkido, studying with Erik Medeiros who was (and is) a student of Marc Tedeschi, author of the authoritative book on Hapkido, simply titled, Hapkido. I also attended San Francisco’s Korean Martial Arts Center on the weekends, learning from Grandmasters Jung, Forrest and Goldstein. On some weekends I traveled to Campbell, California to train under Master Kim of Eagle Talon Hapkido. Weekdays I met a Kali instructor at a park in Alameda and began my study of Filipino stick techniques.
I moved to Panama in 2005 and continued my study of Hapkido under Master Ramon Navarro. I also began learning Silat from an American who lived in a coastal town. We met for four-hour sessions every Saturday, in which I taught him and his son Hapkido and he taught me Silat. From that time on I have never ceased my study of Silat, whether through seminars, videos or training with my practice partners.
I returned to the USA in late 2008 and began teaching Hapkido formally at that time. At the same time I began studying Japanese Jujitsu and Okinawan Karate under Senseis Dave and James Olson, and eventually earned black belts in both arts. I continue to study those arts.
My study of Silat deepened and began to influence my Hapkido strongly. In recent years I’ve had the honor of attending seminars with Silat greats such as Maul Mornie and Dan Inosanto. I also resumed training in Kali under Philip Hartshorne, a student of Tim Waide, and continue to do so.
In addition I studied both Jeet Kune Do and Aikido for about six months. I found both arts interesting, but there was too much on my plate and I couldn’t keep up the scheduling demands of so many arts. I still hope to return to those two arts in time.
In 2013 I began the process of consolidating my Silat knowledge into Hapkido in order to produce a more effective and realistic style of Hapkido. From that, Hammerhead Hapkido was born.
I don’t believe in “fighting”, for two reasons:
1. There’s always a chance you could lose, and if that happens you could be badly hurt, paralyzed or killed.
2. There’s enough suffering in the world already, without us bringing more pain into it.
I teach my students to attempt to resolve conflicts non-violently. There is no such thing as fighting for honor. Honor is something we carry within. It is based on our character, and how we treat others. Honor is found in sacrificing for our families, working hard, being honest, and treating people with compassion.
If someone verbally insults you, ignore it and walk away. If an idiot cuts you off in traffic, laugh it off. If someone challenges you to a fight, walk away. A person who behaves belligerently may be insecure, or may be suffering internally in ways we cannot see. We don’t need to add to that person’s pain by hurting them.
If someone is being physically aggressive with you – pushing or finger poking, for example – but it does not rise to the level of assault, and you don’t feel that an attack is imminent, walk away. Forget how it looks to others. The most important thing is that you return home safely to your family.
To me, this is non-violence.
What is an attack is imminent or occurring? What if the other person is a predator looking to rob, rape or kill?
That is when we move into action, holding nothing back, and using all our tools to defeat the attacker. We use dirty tricks, improvised weapons, and whatever we need to survive.
In class, our techniques are predicated on continuing until the attacker is incapacitated.
We train against all types of weapons, and against single and multiple attackers. We are always looking for ways to make our techniques more effective, because even though combat is a last resort, when it happens we want to win. If only one person can walk away, we want to make sure it’s us.
Hapki! (harmonious energy)
Wael Abdelgawad, Founder
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