Combat Hapkido

Discussion in 'Hapkido' started by hardball, Mar 14, 2013.

  1. hardball

    hardball Valued Member

    Is Grandmaster John Pellgrini legit? Is he a real grandmaster?
  2. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    That seems like a bit of a loaded question and I am not sure what kind of answer you are looking for (forgive me, but this can be quite a fiery conversation starter). I will try to provide an answer (and you can do a search of "Combat Hapkido" topics in this forum for a great range of good, bad, and ugly conversations regarding 'Combat Hapkido').

    Now, with that said, keep in mind that my answers are biased as I am a Combat Hapkido instructor (4th dan) and I have spent a lot of time at seminars with GM P as a student and sometimes as a throwing dummy. I have a background (2nd dan) in Traditional Hapkido as well.

    Long story short, GM John Pellegrini was mainly a TKD instructor (with some background over the years in Judo, Aikido, JKD). He became concerned over what seemed to be a lack of high quality self defense in Taekwondo programs (his TKD Times article in March 1990 caused a lot of controversy when he articulated this view). In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he looked to improve the self defense offerings for TKD students and began looking deeper into Hapkido.

    Eventually he took what he was seeing in Hapkido and built a program focused it on 'practical' self defense. In essence, he pared down some of the acrobatic breakfalls and fancy kicks that are seen in some modern HKD programs and then added in cross training from other arts, including JKD (trapping), FMA (stick and knife), ground grappling (BJJ). As he built up the art, he went to 'experts' in different areas and adapted concepts and techniques to round out his program. This program, based on a Hapkido operating system and techniques, with its added in bits, he called "Combat Hapkido", mainly to recognize the roots (Hapkido) and differentiate it from other HKD programs (as well as note its 'self defense' focus). This, of course, has created even more controversy.

    Regardless it has grown into a big system, with lots of affiliates, seminars, DVD resources, and so on. It has associations with a lot of good instructors from other systems too (cross training is highly encouraged). It has brought in a lot of publicity for Hapkido and has led to a lot of off-shoots. The core Combat Hapkido system itself has been revised and restructured for use in military combatives and (law enforcement) defensive tactics.

    Now, back to your question - is he a 'legit' grandmaster? I would say "yes". He is a talented instructor and has guided (or helped guide) quite a few Combat Hapkido students to black belt and to "master".

    He studied Hapkido under GM Mike Wollmershauser and then GM Myung Kwan-shik. After earning his 5th or 6th dan, he became a student of GM Seo In-sun and has been promoted by the Hanminjok Hapkido Association to 7th, 8th, and 9th dan. He was promoted to 9th dan Grandmaster by GM Seo In-sun in Busan.

    So, in my opinion, "yes" he is. Some people will disagree and they might cite the creation of his program and the modification of other modern HKD systems into his own Combat Hapkido system and other will disparage his rapid rise through the ranks. As a student and instructor, his abilities, background, and accomplishments rate the title of "Grandmaster".
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2013
  3. Dwi Chugi

    Dwi Chugi Valued Member

    What is a "Grandmaster"? Or even a "Master"? I have always had issue with titles. I rank 5th Dan in Taekwondo and 4th Dan in Hapkido and though I feel I have mastered some of the art, I do not feel I am a "master". Some of my students call me Master Creech and that was started by one of my training partners when I got my 4th Dan in 1998 and my students ran with it. I always introduce myself as Shelby to new students and parents because the term master seems so impersonal.

    The whole Dan ranking and titles are all made up and to my opinion to feed egos.

    I think a more appropriate question is, "Is Combat Hapkido a good self defense system?" or "Is Pellegrini a good teacher?" And those questions should be addressed if you are interested in trying Hapkido.

    Pellegrini is not my master and I only met him once. He was a nice enough guy.
  4. Dave76

    Dave76 Valued Member

    In one interview I read with Mr. Pelligrini he openly stated he did not invent a new art but heavily modified an old one to make it much more useful. It seems to me this is pretty much what the founder of nearly every other MA style out there has done, be it last year or three hundred years ago. So as the "founder" of a new "style" the term grandmaster as it is used by other MA seems appropriate and legitimat.
  5. hardball

    hardball Valued Member

    Man that was quite a response. I enjoyed reading it.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2013
  6. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Whew - my pleasure! :D
  7. marinevet63031

    marinevet63031 Hapkido/Koryo Gumdo/TKD

    Ok, I look at these loaded questions as this: Did person receive rank through a credible source? If the answer is yes then that is what they are. If in Sun Seo's rank Jung isn't credible for one then it isn't credible for anyone.
    I mean I am not in the system or care to be but man. This kind of subject to me is like, "I hate gangster rap" from a parent and they go on a campaign. But all they have to do is keep it outta their house and car.
  8. iron_ox

    iron_ox Jungki Kwan Midwest

    That is a good question, and at least for Hapkido seems to be fully in the eye of the beholder as opposed to a universal standard. When any "head" of an organization can be only a beginner rank, first, second or third dan, but still issue 9th dan certificates, it is truly up to the individual if those credentials have any merit.

    But Good observation.
  9. jitz

    jitz New Member

    The only issue I see with the above statements is that NO BODY including the founder of "Hapkido" himself, ever received rank from a credible source. The founder of this system had no records of ever being a student of Daito-Ryu or any form of Aiki-Jitsu, Jujitsu, or Koryu for that matter. No photo's of him with Takeda. None of the Daito-Ryu students that were around claiming to know him. He is not in the Menkyo record books at the Daito-Ryu Humbo Dojo and he never produced his Menkyo license to prove he was a teacher, yet he claims that he was the only one that Takeda passed all his knowledge too.

    He claims that he traveled with his teacher, even to Hawaii and round Japan to teach, yet no proof of that. You would think a single photo would pop up of this man teaching, yet nothing.

    The whole art is based on a lie. Just saying.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2013
  10. Hannibal

    Hannibal Cry HAVOC and let slip the Dogs of War!!! Supporter

    I can call myself "Grandmaster" then?? Cool!

    My blend of Ju Jitsu is something I have refined over the past 20 years...but I still only claim 2nd Dan in it. If I had stayed on the belt mill I have calculated I would be at least 5th Dan by now....but claiming a rank because you form your own system doesn't seem quite right to me

    Actually I think I am technically a 3rd Dan since I gained ranks in other disciplines....I must check into this
  11. Dave76

    Dave76 Valued Member

    Grandmaster Tapout? :D
  12. Hannibal

    Hannibal Cry HAVOC and let slip the Dogs of War!!! Supporter

    Bad Boy if you please!
  13. Dave76

    Dave76 Valued Member

    Does that mean the uniforms in your style are studded leather? :hail:
    Are whips and paddles included in the weapons study? :evil:
  14. Hannibal

    Hannibal Cry HAVOC and let slip the Dogs of War!!! Supporter

    Only if you join my "inner circle" for a very reasonable $75 a month....
  15. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    In the case of GM Pellegrini's case, he didn't award himself rank and 'grandmaster' status (if that's how you say it). Re-read the original post - all of his ranks come from 'Hapkido' associations. He did not claim rank because he 'formed his own system'. His senior ranks, 'grandmaster' status, and kwan recognition come from the World Kido Federation/Hanminjok Hapkido Association (see

    As far as the system goes, he does not consider that he formed his own "art", merely that he is teaching and promoting his own style of that art (there is a difference). It is a separate "style" because he tweaked the focus to fit his needs (and those of his students) and has modified/added/subtracted some stuff. It's still Hapkido, just has a different focus. It is a separate "kwan" (Cheon-tu Kwan) - if you look at the various kwan of Hapkido, you will see differences (all same operating system - some differences here and there). The "kwan" distinction was recognized by The Hanminjok Hapkido Association (under GM Seo In-sun).

    If anyone has questions,I will do my best to answer them (see my background in my earlier post). Combat Hapkido often can bring out some mad-flamers so I'd like to try to keep the thread in formative and on-topic, if possible.
  16. Hannibal

    Hannibal Cry HAVOC and let slip the Dogs of War!!! Supporter

    It was more an observation to Dave's point than anything else. If he aims a grade no higher than he has elsewhere its a non issue then.
  17. Sinmoo

    Sinmoo Valued Member

    Anyone can form a style with or without what some would consider competency. My personal take on CHKD and Pelligrini may sound forward but I will also give credit when it is due as follows;

    Pelligrini is a below standard Hapkido master because I know his back ground and know many people who are 20x better who were there to see him climb the ranks for various reasons none were because he was a highly skilled practitioner of traditional Hapkido.

    With that said he started his own system and is above rank he is a founder regardless of his own skills. He has proven he has the insight and marketing skills to sell his system to many and as a supplement to kick/punch styles, etc...

    He sought people who were better then him to help him develop things like BJJ for ground, JKD for trapping, etc.... you have to at least respect the fact he realized his own weaknesses.

    Combat Hapkido in general was marketed in a sense as a better combat oriented HKD system but that is pure rhetoric with no facts to back that up, but many uninformed eat the word "Combat" up. Doing away with a few techniques that Pelligrini labeled flashy is no proof of combat competence but is their way to differentiate themselves from HKD.

    Bottom line is CHKD has many good practitioners now a days and it seems Pelligrini has been accepted by many as a legit style but in traditional HKD circles he has little to no creditability as a HKD master.

    In closing if CHKD works for you and makes you a better martial artist, helps you stay safer then you are a winner for studying it.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2013
  18. B3astfrmthe3ast

    B3astfrmthe3ast Warning:Extreme power!!

    Pelligrini is, Im sure Skilled in some aspects of HKD but i do not think that he should claim Mastership in Traditional hapkido because he is the founder of his own system. However in the combat hapkido Realm he is a Grandmaster. so as long as he doesnt claim any Grandmastership in Traditional hapkido without the correct credentials and skill then he is fine IMO cant hate him for claiming the highest title in a system he created
  19. Sinmoo

    Sinmoo Valued Member

    You are 100% correct, the problem arises as follows;

    He could have never started CHKD without first getting Master's rank in HKD then making the claim he's a master with great knowledge of the art and analyzed traditional HKD and wisely determined my new system is better suited for Combat, Self defense, etc...

    All well and good if you are really a master to begin with Vs. someone on a first or second dan level who is a great salesman with high rank.

    However, that was years ago and this is now. CHKD is practiced by many good people and has many merits.

    Enjoy the journey.
  20. B3astfrmthe3ast

    B3astfrmthe3ast Warning:Extreme power!!

    I agree...It is true that with out having mastership in HKD he could never start CHKD.....OR the horror of this could be just as you stated..He could be that 1-3 dan level in skill but a master salesman and was Patty-Caked through the ranks so he could create this system.
    i really hope not and just so there is no confusion i am in NO WAY bashing CHKD or J. Pelligrini

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