Hapkido: Distract, Disable, and Destroy

by Floyd Burk

Combat Hapkido’s Low-Line Kicking Guarantees Supremacy on the Street!

hap1“The biggest advantage attackers have over their victims is the element of surprise,” claims Combat Hapkido master John Pellegrini. “Attackers expect their targets to freeze up, allowing them to gain immediate psychological and physical superiority.”

Those are sobering words, to be sure, but if nothing else, they should inspire you to do everything in your power to bolster your defenses and incorporate the element of surprise into your planned responses to attack.

One of the best ways to do that is to arm yourself with Combat Hapkido’s low-line kicking methods, which mesh with any number of joint locks and follow-up strikes for a cool combination of controlled fury.

Punch Defense
Against a punch: John Pellegrini (left) assumes the Combat Hapkido awareness position in front of his assailant (1). When the man punches, Pellegrini evades the blow and traps the arm (2), then slams a roundhouse kick into his leg (3). He grasps the attacker’s arm (4) and executes a spinning takedown (5). Once he hits the ground, Pellegrini immobilizes him with his knees (6) and effects a wrist lock (7).

Wrist Grab Defense
Against a grab: When the attacker (left) grasps John Pellegrini’s wrist (1), he responds with a snap kick to the groin (2). He then executes a two-handed wrist-flex (3) and an elbow smash to the face (4). To finish, he leverages him to the ground (5) and hyperextends his arm (6).

Choke Defense
Against a choke: The opponent reaches for John Pellegrini’s neck, but Pellegrini intercepts the hand and keeps it away from his airway (1). He then drives an angled kick into the closest leg (2), entangles the choking arm (3) and shoots a tiger-mouth strike into the throat (4). Pellegrini follows up with an elbow strike to the solar plexus (5) and a takedown, after which he executes an arm lock and a choke (6).

Armed Attacker
Against a club: John Pellegrini faces an armed attacker (1). The man swings his weapon, and Pellegrini evades the blow while he deflects and traps the assailant’s arm (2). He then twists the limb (3) and sends a front kick into the man’s torso (4). While the aggressor is stunned, Pellegrini applies pressure against the wrist (5) and completes the disarm (6).
Pellegrini advocates employing low-line kicks as a first line of defense to surprise your opponent, then distract and disable him, thus making it easier for you to destroy him with a follow-up. Such kicks are just one of the components that distinguish Combat Hapkido from other Korean fighting systems. In lieu of the customary jumping and spinning techniques, you need to focus on kicks that lash out at waist level or lower, he says.

Low-line kicks are ideal for street fighting, mostly because it’s fairly easy to avoid telegraphing your intentions when doing them. Other key advantages include the ability to generate maximum power, the maintenance of better balance (because your center of gravity stays lower), the ability to ruin your opponent’s mobility (by hammering his leg muscles) and the option of attacking his groin and certain parts of his legs to shock his nervous system and buckle his body.

When combined with Combat Hapkido’s awareness position, which the art uses instead of traditional stances, the aforementioned advantages can give you the upper hand and make it easier for you to execute a finishing throw, joint lock or hand strike, Pellegrini says.

An ego-pumped punk says he’s going to pound you into the ground. He lunges at you with a head punch— then finds himself flat on his back with one of your knees on his head and the other against his spine. To top it off, his arm feels as though it’s twisted like a pretzel.

The Combat Hapkido solution begins with you facing your attacker with your left foot forward and your forearms vertical at chest level. Your hands are open and ready for action.

As he closes the gap and initiates the right-hand strike, step forward and to the outside with your left leg. Simultaneously use your right hand to parry his punch, then grab his wrist. The path is now open to disable him with a roundhouse kick to his right leg.

Next, use your left hand to seize the elbow of the arm you just grabbed. Lift the limb, then circle it downward while you pivot counterclockwise.

That will cause him to fall on his left side. Once he does, drop your left knee onto the side of his head and dig your other knee into his lower back while maintaining control of his arm. Complete the immobilization by cranking his wrist. Increase the pressure as needed.

“Martial artists train with other martial artists who are constantly being polite to one another, bowing, helping each other up and that kind of thing,” Pellegrini says. “While this can be a lot of fun, it’s more likely that a lunatic lacking in morals is going to be who you’re defending against. Consequently, you need to do role-playing where you and various partners take turns assuming the role of the lunatic.

Be creative but stay realistic. That way you’ll be mentally prepared for this type of attack, and surprise and fear won’t beat you.”

A hooligan threatens you, then grabs your arm in an effort to shock you into giving in to his demands. Your foot lashes out in a flash, leaving him with a ruptured groin and, after you fling him to the pavement, a bad case of road rash.

Begin in an awareness position that has your right foot forward. For the drill, your attacker assumes a left-side forward stance before grabbing your right wrist with his right hand. Direct a front snap kick into his groin. The force of the blow will cause him to double over.

You now have the opening you need to reverse his grip and put him into a two-handed wrist-flex (one hand holds his wrist and the other bends his fingers forward). Pull him toward you and lift your right elbow to smash him in the nose. Increase the tension of the wrist-flex and pivot about 20 degrees counterclockwise to throw him to the ground. Drop your left knee onto the side of his head and reposition your hands for a standing armbar that uses your upper leg as a fulcrum. He’ll be as helpless as a baby.

Wise words from Pellegrini: “Whether you are a strong young person or a cagey 60-year-old, don’t overestimate or underestimate your opponent.

By hitting vulnerable targets and vital areas, you can do much damage to an unsuspecting combatant. Even if your physical gifts are limited, you should come out on top.”

Things are getting ugly fast. Joe Schmo reaches for your throat with the ultimate goal of relieving you of your life, but your quick-kick counterattack and whirling takedown leave him writhing in pain and begging for mercy.

Your self-defense training should prepare you to act instinctively whenever an opponent goes for your neck.

That’s why the Combat Hapkido response to the scenario described above involves immediately grabbing the attacking hand with your right hand.

Yank it down just enough to clear your windpipe, then slam an angled kick into the quadriceps of his lead leg.

Wrap your left arm around his trapped limb so you can free your right hand, which is used to launch a tiger-mouth strike at his throat. Your same-side elbow then smashes into his solar plexus.

Continue your defense with a counterclockwise spinning takedown that lands him flat on his back. Maintain your hold on his Adam’s apple. Finish him with a knee to the neck and an elbow/shoulder dislocation.

“The logical thing to do is protect your windpipe,” Pellegrini advises.

“Most other courses of action can leave you incapacitated. Since you never know what’s coming, it’s best to use what warriors call mushin, or the ‘mind of no mind.’ Don’t form in your mind [an image of] what’s going to happen. Instead, keep it clear so you can react and adapt without hesitation.”

An enraged gangbanger is intent on cracking your skull with a club. You react instantaneously, making quick work of him with a wrist torque and a boot to the gut. In seconds, he’s reduced to a quivering pile of jelly.

Assume the awareness position in front of your partner. When he swings his training weapon at your head, deflect it as you lean slightly to your left.

Use your right hand to seize the hand he’s using to hold the club, then twist it and the weapon in a semicircle until he can no longer control it. Follow up with a low-line kick to the body, which stuns him long enough for you to slap on a short-duration wrist lock and effect a disarm.

Technical tips: “When defending against a weapon at close quarters, remember that different ones require different disarming techniques.

For bladed weapons, never grab the blade. Grab the hand holding the weapon, then take care of the opponent and the weapon. For gun disarms, seize the gun before executing the takedown or takeaway.

There’s more leeway when it comes to impact weapons, but I prefer to evade and get inside its trajectory, then clamp onto the limb holding the weapon. Then I take it away.”

With down-to-earth techniques such as the four described here, it’s no wonder Combat Hapkido and its creator are enjoying unrivaled success in the martial arts community.

Pellegrini reports rising sales of his videos and DVDs, as well as a one year backlog in seminar and training camp appearances. Membership in his organization, the International Combat Hapkido Federation, has climbed to 250 schools located in more than 20 countries.

The reason for that success can be traced directly back to Pellegrini’s efforts to distill his knowledge of the traditional arts down to its most functional essence, then pass it on to any martial artist who shows an interest. The formula certainly seems to be working.

This artical originally appeared in Black Belt Magazine