May 23, 2024



My Korean Experience by GM Paul C. Holley

My Korean Experience by GM Paul C. Holley
I began my martial arts journey on March 15th, 1967, and continued to train and achieved my 1st degree Black Belt in 1973.

I continued training in Chinese Gung Fu and American Korean Karate throughout my youth. After High School, I decided to express my patriotism through service to our country as a member of the US Army and enlisted in 1976 as our country celebrated it’s bicentennial.

I continued to train solo and even with some of my fellow soldiers from other martial arts styles.
I was fortunate enough to see the movie Born Losers which featured a character named Billy Jack. This was my first experience with seeing the dynamic Korean self-defense are of Hapkido. I fell in love with the art at first sight. I began to consume any information that I could find on Hapkido including books and movies.

I was lucky enough to meet and train with a few fellow soldiers who had trained in Taekwondo and Hapkido while stationed in Korea. This early taste of the art was enough to get me to volunteer for a one-year tour in Korea. I was able to get assigned to Camp Stanley in South Korea in the early 1980’s. At the base gym I enrolled in Hapkido classes with Sabumnim Kim. Our class also got the opportunity to train with two of his friends who were Hapkido Instructors and Black Berets of the Republic of Korea Special Forces. (Names Not Permitted) Training with the Korean Instructors was exciting and at a level of intensity that few would be able to handle. Training with them inspired me to want to become a Hapkido Instructor as well and looked for every opportunity to train for that goal.

We trained in powerful Dan Jun Breathing exercise to begin class and then would focus on escapes, strikes, kicks, joint locks, joint and bone breaks, throws, pressure points, chokes and strangles. The training was vigorous, and we would sometimes go for a three-mile run around base whether it was hot, cold, raining or snowing. I will tell you that the winters in South Korea are brutal.

While living in Korea I developed a taste for many of the different Korean cuisines. While off duty I would hang out with my friends at local nightclubs, go shopping and visit local cultural and historical sights.
I was fortunate enough to hang out with my cousin, SSG Joe Lord while in South Korea. We had planned on going back to South Korea as civilians by 2025. I will cherish those memories with him as we sadly lost him this year.

May God Bless His Soul. Training in Hapkido with the two Black Berets was way different from what the other instructors showed us. It was very combat oriented, fast, and brutal relying on the principle of economy of motion where there isn’t a single wasted move. There were many ways of attacking and they had me doing destructive low kicks as neural stun techniques and lots of elbow strikes in close range. I was very tired after an intense training session with those two. The way they taught me Hapkido was and is completely different from any way I have seen or trained in Hapkido previously. It was principle-based training where we focused on why something works instead of just rehearsing specific techniques.
Training in Korea was a great experience and I hope some of my grandchildren will be fortunate enough to one day train there! I recommend the Korea training Experience to anyone training in the Korean Martial Arts.

About the author: Paul C. Holley is a multi-art Grandmasters and the Vice Director for the State of New York for the USA Hapkido Union and owner of Family Martial Arts Club in Panama, New York. Phone: (716)-487-7296

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