ICHF Seminar Review
By J. Thomas Howard
On July 10, 1998, I attended an International Combat Hapkido Federation
seminar hosted by Michael Rowe of the American Taekwondo & Hapkido
Academy. I went for a number of reasons:
- I wanted to meet Mike, who is one of the few other hapkido
instructors in Nebraska,
- Grandmaster John Pellegrini, head of the ICHF, was going to be
there leading the seminar, and after reading much about him, I also wanted
to meet him,
- I had heard much about the ICHF, some good, some bad. I wanted to
see for myself what GM Pellegrini meant when he said "Hapkido,"
- I think cross-training is a very good thing, up to a point. Many
times someone else has a slightly different take on something you already
know---and that different angle opens up a number of insights with respect
to how you can make your techniques better. Similarly, learning
completely new things is not a bad idea. So whether or not the ICHF
taught what I considered "Hapkido," I knew there would be things I
So, I and two of my students went to the seminar. It was held in Omaha,
NE, at Creighton University in one of their gyms. It started at 10AM,
had a lunch break for an hour at 12:30, and ended around 5PM. Here are my
thoughts about it...
Cons | Pros | Impressions | Overall
- First off, the mats weren't set out when we got there. While I
don't mind helping out, I believe we ended up starting a bit late because
it took awhile to collect the mats from various diverse places, and fit
them all together. Also, some were very dusty and old, and weren't swept
or cleaned before the seminar started.
- During the seminar, a volleyball camp (or something
similar) was going on next to us, and it got VERY hard to hear during the
second half of the seminar.
- I got lucky during the seminar---I happened to be paired up with a
gentleman who received his third dan from GM Pellegrini during the
seminar. As such, we probably required a bit less supervision than others
there. (Assuming if I made mistakes, he could help me out. :) However,
while GM Pellegrini had a couple of people as assistants, I recall only a
few times when someone came over to comment or criticize (noting for the
Pros side, the criticism was always constructive) so more commentary from
the instructors/assistants would perhaps have been good. I do know that
my two students (who paired off with each other for the first half of the
seminar) had some problems in the beginning, and could have used some more
supervision and help.
- GM Pellegrini was very clear about the goal of his style of martial
arts, and why he was emphasizing (and teaching) the techniques that he
chose. It was nice to run into a reasoned, straightforward explanation of
why he uses the techniques he does, and why his art changes over time.
- The explanations and demonstrations were clear, to the point, and
efficient. What was being done, why, and how were both adequately
demonstrated and explained, including GM Pellegrini turning the
demonstration angle so that the entire group could see it from several
angles---and most importantly doing it in such a way as to not waste time.
VERY smoothly done.
- The techniques shown also had an equal explanation of the
mindset behind their use, which for the cases of self-defense
(which is what GM Pellegrini is all about) can be more important than
precision in technique.
- For people coming from other martial arts background (such as my two
students, who are both black sashes in Kung Fu) any techniques that were
similar to movements from other styles were also explained in the terms
from that style. (And he did all this in a concise manner that didn't
waste anyone's time. Some amazing demonstration and explanation skills,
My impression of the ICHF was of an association that was committed to
teaching a viable form of self-defense, that would change over time to
suit the needs of the people practicing this form. Now, this does mean
that every time GM Pellegrini adds something to the style, his people have
another thing to learn---which some people will like. But it ALSO
means that the number of qualified instustructors for all parts of the
style will be small, since they all can't go back to learn the new stuff
every time something new comes out---and even if they could, it wouldn't
make them experts automatically.
GM Pellegrini impressed me greatly. His movements were sharp, precise,
and very efficient. Moreover, his demonstration skills (as I've said
before) are VERY highly developed, so learning from him is very easy. In
addition to his physical techniques, I was impressed by his vocabulary.
This probably seems strange---but here you have a man who obviously didn't
have english as his first language (judging by his accent), and yet, his
vocabulary is immense and his use of english is precise. That kind of
mind is impressive.
Overall I would consider the seminar as a definite plus. I had a good
time, got to practice some new ways of doing techniques that I already
knew, and learned more about a different association with a similar
philosophy. NOT a waste of time. :)
I found it particularly amusing that GM Pellegrini's latest add-ons were
some kung fu-style trapping and BJJ grappling. I started learning kung
fu to add to my knowledge of trapping, since I thought Hapkido was a
little weak there, and similarly, I plan in the future to add some BJJ,
since there are some things Hapkidoists can learn about ground grappling
GM Pellegrini is impressive---and fun to watch. The seminar wasn't
boring at all, and I'd certainly go to another one when he comes back to
this area. To anyone wondering about a Pellegrini seminar in your
area---go. It is indeed worthwhile.
||This is a picture of myself and GM Pellegrini
after the seminar. You'll note that while
I look tired, GM Pellegrini doesn't seem to be
having any problems whatsoever. He was also
really good-natured about the MANY people
wanting to have pictures taken with him.
Important Links From This Review:
Mike Rowe's American Taekwondo
and Hapkido Academy
Grandmaster John Pellegrini's International Combat
J. Thomas Howard's Nebraska Hapkido Association
Mail to: J. Thomas Howard
Member of the US Hapkido Association | Member of the USA Tae Kwon-Do