Hammerhead Hapkido is realistic Hapkido, period. What I mean by that is that it’s a practical, effective martial arts style that you can truly rely on to defend yourself in a life or death situation.
Isn’t all Hapkido realistic? Well… sadly, no. Too many traditional Hapkido styles teach the following impractical techniques:
1. Defenses against wrist grabs
I must have learned 50 wrist grab defenses when I started Hapkido. Maybe more. There were multiple defenses against single grab to the same side wrist, opposite wrist grab, two hands on one, reverse grab… If any would-be mugger would have run up and grabbed my wrist, I could have beaten him ten ways to Sunday!
It’s good to know one or two wrist grab defenses, but more than that is redundant and unhelpful.
I was just watching a video of a seminar by a well known Hapkido 10th dan. His techniques were good, but it was one wrist grab defense after another. Nothing else.
Hammerhead Hapkido instead uses striking flow drills and close-quarters punches as a foundation from which to teach joint locks. It is a dynamic approach more suited to modern self-defense.
2. Defenses against telegraphed punches
You see this in Hapkido demonstrations and seminars, where punch defenses are taught against what are sometimes called one-steps. The attacker starts from several feet away, takes a full step and punches.
Again, I was watching a video by a famous Hapkido 9th dan grandmaster. Every defense was done against this sort of long-range one step, where the attacker took a big step, threw a karate-style punch from the hip, and froze in place, waiting for the grandmaster to apply his defense.
In real life attacks don’t happen this way. They occur at close range with no warning.
In Hammerhead Hapkido we practice punch defenses toe-to-toe. This is a realistic approach that forces students to use effective blocks and counters.
3. Impractical kicks
Kicks are a huge part of the traditional Hapkido curriculum. There are dozens of types of kicks (in the Sin Moo curriculum that I learned, there were 50). Some of the kicks, in my opinion, are impractical. It almost seems like the founders stood around experimenting, trying to find new and strange ways to move their legs, with no thought as to the kick’s usefulness in combat.
In Hammerhead Hapkido we stick to eight basic kicks:
- Front snap kick
- Front thrust kick
- Side kick
- Back kick
- Turning back kick
- Shin kick
- Oblique or shovel kick
- Roundhouse kick (low or high).
We occasionally practice the crescent kick, axe kick and spin kick, but for the most part we stick to the basic eight, as they are high percentage kicks that are effective at various height levels and hard to defend against.
I’ve seen this in some Hapkido classes and quite often in demos. Are we supposed to be impressed by back flips, 720 degree tornado kicks, and diving rolls over five people bent at the waist? It’s athletic but it’s not martial arts. If I wanted to see an acrobatic floor routine I’d watch gymnastics.
In Hammerhead Hapkido we only teach the principles and techniques that will save your life against a mugger, rapist, home invader, or other criminal or sociopath. If it doesn’t work in real life, we don’t teach it.
That’s why I can say with confidence that Hammerhead Hapkido is realistic Hapkido. I’m not saying it’s the only realistic Hapkido style. Just that our approach is all about genuine self-defense. No showy, useless moves. No “studio” techniques that work only on compliant partners. Nothing that requires a static wrist grab. Nothing that can’t work off a moving punch.
Do you really want to be capable of defeating an attacker? Come learn Hammerhead Hapkido.
Wael Abdelgawad, Founder