May 23, 2024



Refining Professional Conduct in Hapkido by Grand Master Eric P. Laino

Refining Professional Conduct in Hapkido by Grand Master Eric P. Laino.   

Refining Professional Conduct in Hapkido

Great Hapkido instructors don’t simply teach techniques. They guide students on a journey of self-discovery, cultivating not just physical prowess but also discipline, respect, and a strong work ethic. When working together it is important that instructors are professional with each other. I have been in situations where I was working with someone who was not behaving professionally, and it can ruin the learning environment. Never let the emotions of pride, jealousy or envy get in the way of your work. We are often in situations working between business partners, or colleagues or even as friends where we need to work with each other for the mutually beneficial result when teaching students. Yet, even the most skilled martial artist can benefit from refining their professional conduct. Here are five ways Hapkido instructors can elevate their role as leaders and mentors:

1. Lifelong Learning: Sharpen Your Own Blade

A stagnant instructor breeds stagnant students. Dedication to continuous learning is paramount. Attend seminars by renowned Hapkido masters or cross-train in complementary disciplines like Judo or Aikido. This broadens your knowledge base, allowing you to tailor instruction to individual needs and challenges.

Seek opportunities to learn from peers. Observe other instructors, both within and outside your style. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even of those seemingly less experienced – a fresh perspective can illuminate blind spots in your own teaching. We must do so in a way that doesn’t lead to us being disrespectful amongst ourselves.

2. Clear Communication: Words Shape Understanding

Instructions in the dojang must be clear, concise, and adaptable. Avoid jargon and overly complex explanations. Break down techniques into manageable steps, demonstrating each one meticulously. Working cooperatively with each other brings about a sense of disrespect. Not being cooperative is immature and shows a lack of respect and self-discipline. Use simple, direct language that resonates with students of all learning styles.

Our teaching philosophy is Crawl, Walk, Run. Never perform a technique faster or stronger than you are capable of doing safely while working with a partner. This progression of resistance avoids the possibility of beginner students being injured by a non-compliant partner before they can understand the movement. Observe your students. Are they confused? Do blank stares greet your explanations? Adapt your approach. Utilize visual aids, provide kinesthetic cues, and encourage questions. Remember, the goal is not to impress with your knowledge, but to ensure your students grasp the essence of Hapkido.

3. Respectful Atmosphere: Cultivate the Garden

The dojang is a microcosm of society. Foster an environment of respect and inclusivity. Treat fellow instructors and all students with dignity, regardless of age, skill level, or physical ability. Create a space where mistakes are seen as opportunities for growth, not reasons for ridicule. Work as a team to avoid creating any feelings of embarrassment. This is particularly important when working on self-defense techniques to avoid not only misunderstandings but injuries as well.

Lead by example. Model the behaviors you expect from your students – humility, patience, and a willingness to help others. Recognize and celebrate individual achievements, both big and small. A supportive atmosphere fosters camaraderie and a love for Hapkido that transcends technical skill.

4. Tailored Instruction: Cater to the Individual

Students come to the dojo with diverse motivations and learning styles. A “one-size-fits-all” approach hinders progress. Take time to understand each student’s goals and physical limitations. Cater your instruction accordingly.

Offer modifications for techniques that might be difficult initially. Provide extra attention to those struggling and offer praise and encouragement to those who excel. This personalized approach fosters a sense of accomplishment and keeps students engaged in their Hapkido journey.

5. Safety First: Prioritize Well-being

Safety is paramount in the dojo. Ensure the training environment is clean, well-maintained, and free of hazards. Warm-up exercises should be thorough and appropriate for the planned activity. Techniques should be practiced with control and awareness of your partner’s well-being.

Emphasize proper falling techniques and encourage students to communicate their limits. Don’t hesitate to stop a session if you observe unsafe practices. Ultimately, a safe dojo is a place where students can learn and grow without fear of injury.

These five “folds” – lifelong learning, clear communication, respectful atmosphere, tailored instruction, and safety first – form the foundation for professional conduct in Hapkido. By embodying these principles, instructors can cultivate a dojo that empowers students, fosters a love for the art, and leaves a lasting positive impact on their lives.

Remember, the true mark of a great Hapkido instructor is not technical mastery alone, but the ability to guide students on their martial arts journey with respect, clarity, and a dedication to their well-being.

About the author: Grand Master Eric P. Laino is the Sparring Coach for the USA Hapkido Union Team and the owner of Grand Master Laino’s Hapkido Academy in Clayton, NC. He is also the Senior Grand Master and Inheritor of the Tong Hap Kwan Hapkido system founded by GM Paul C. Holley. For information of Hosting Grand Master Laino for Seminars, Private Lessons, or Advanced Training contact him at

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