Why you should learn Hapkido from a USA Hapkido Union Certified Instructor
Imagine the following two scenarios:
“We sentence you to thirty years in the federal penitentiary not because of your clear-cut guilt but mainly due to the fact that your defense attorney is an incompetent who never really learned correct legal procedures and has an incomplete knowledge of our laws.” “We regret to inform you that the surgery was unsuccessful and while it was a relatively simple fracture, due to the fact that the surgeon you selected had no true knowledge of anatomy, proper tissue manipulation, asepsis, or vascular handling, we must now amputate your leg.” Sounds horrific but fortunately in the United States we have safeguards to prevent this type of professional abuse. Doctors and lawyers must pass strict national and state examinations and then be certified by either the American Medical Association (AMA) or the BAR association (for lawyers). If you haven’t passed the BAR exam you don’t try cases in court. Period! Practice medicine without proper credentials and you go to jail! A fact little known to the public however is that the martial arts community if for all intents and purposes is an unregulated industry in this country. Unlike in Asia where governments certify their martial arts, anyone with money for an occupational permit and rent can start a martial arts school.
Why does this matter? The following example is not a fictitious event. This really happened.
In Florida a family placed their daughter into a martial arts school that professed to teach self defense skills to children. The instructor however was not truly certified by the country of origin for his art and unknown to the parents was not even of an age appropriate to the belt rank he claimed to possess. (In the Asia belt ranks are tied to maturity to prevent inexperienced youths from teaching). He simply had rented a locale, put up a sign and opened a school.
This child eventually achieved a rank in her school which in the orient would have assured her of being more than capable of handling most physical threats. Sadly, when faced with a rapist on the street this poorly trained and unfortunate girl was helpless. The results were horrific but predictable.
In the United States we do not even have the same requirements for a martial arts school or camp that they do for day care. Instructors are not required to possess even the most basic CPR skills. Furthermore, we do not have a government that assures credentialing are accurate. (The author knows of instructors who have self promoted themselves up in belt rank without ever qualifying for anything in the country of origin).
Why should this matter? Well, if you lived in a foreign country and wanted to learn baseball, wouldn’t you expect that when you visited here wanting to play ball you would have learned all the correct rules and been shown how the game is supposed to be played? Imagine showing up and not knowing which way to run the bases or how to bunt. Imagine your dismay at realizing you have never been shown a curve ball or even learned about one for that matter?
As for the argument that learning how they do things in the orient doesn’t matter here the answer is simple. Don’t pretend what you are teaching is an Asia art. Furthermore, the reason for the appeal to the Asian martial arts is the thousand of years of development of these arts in actual hand to hand combat. The Korean martial arts are proven effective.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying you must be Asian to learn the art or even teach it. Race is no guarantee of ability. You do however have to have studied in a school with a curriculum identical to those taught in the country of origin and with an instructor who has a true understanding of the techniques as well as the reasons behind them.
So how do we assure ourselves of this? How can the public protect itself? Well in the Korean martial arts there are strict regulatory agencies for instruction. In the self defense art of Korean Hapkido that organization is the USA Hapkido Union. It is government approved and is a subsidiary of the World Hapkido Union, the regulatory agency for Hapkido. There may be many styles and schools to teach the variations of the art of Hapkido but to be recognized and licensed as an official martial art in Korean they must be approved by the World Hapkido Union (just like the AMA or BAR) and must be a member or the World Hapkido Union. In the United States the USA Hapkido Union is the branch governing body approved by the WHU.
Logic will dictate that if the school traces its origins to an instructor in Texas, Michigan, or California instead of Korea, Japan or Okinawa there must be a reason. Do not be fooled by language on the certificate either. The author has heard of instructors passing off fireworks receipts as Shaolin diplomas or Korean Army discharge papers as proof of martial arts master status.
The best way to protect yourself from fraud and to ensure that the correct and approved curriculum is being taught is to go the official website for the USA Hapkido Union and search for approved schools there.
Ronald W. Stone, D.V.M
7th dan Grandmaster, HaeMuKwan Hapkido
American Dragon Martial Arts
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