(warning: there is an error later in the article. it comes right after the Grandmaster's email.)
I have decided to write about my experiences in a sub-par Martial Arts studio named “American Hapkido Karate”. Before going off into detail, I will apologize for any possible grammatical mistakes that I may do in this article. If I do mess up and a certain sentence becomes unreadable because of it, just ask me what I meant and I will explain it to you.
My journey to this martial arts studio is probably the same story as everyone else who gets tricked into joining a McDojo. I was looking for a martial art that would teach me self-defense so I can be able to walk on t3h str33t. I started searching on the internet and I found a martial art named Hapkido. By what I read and what everyone was telling me, Hapkido would be the ultimate martial art to learn. I want to say at this point before I go into the rest of article that this is NOT an attack on Hapkido. I was shown video clips that people sent me of an attacker grabbing someone by the chest just to being thrown to the ground and be incapacitated. I saw a plethora of other videos that followed suit in that and I was more than impressed. I was ready to learn Hapkido. Now, to find a place that teaches it.....
At this point I was pumped. I picked up my phone book and turned it to the Martial Arts section. I looked at all the listings until I spotted the largest advertisement on the whole entire page. It was advertising a place named “American Hapkido Karate”. Anyone please correct me if I am wrong, but by further researching I have figured out that Hapkido and Karate are two different martial arts. Of course, at the time I did not know this and if I did I would have surely avoided the place. The ad (which I have saved as an image file and I will later dissect it later in this post) had some interesting facts that they didn't lie about. They claimed to be the largest Martial Arts center in all of the San Fernando Valley, and by what I know they are. They probably did have thousands of students (not many who stayed probably lol) because they have been open for a long ass time. They listed a bucket full of martial arts that they “taught” (we will later learn why I have that word in quotes) which all but excited me. Oh yeah, the experience that Grandmaster Sayed Qubadi had was more than enough to pull me into their studio. 35 years of experience? Holy moley that's a lot! Grand champion? I don't know what that is, but it sounds great!
All of this was sounding amazing to me. After reading the advertisement I picked up the telephone and called to ask about the prices. From my earlier Tae Kwon Do experience, I knew that most MA studios in my area cost anywhere from about $60 - $120 per month. When I called the studio to ask, the answer I received astonished me. They said (and weren't lying) that per month for adults it costs only $40. “$40! Wow!” I screamed at the top of my lungs into the phone. Everything else just got better by the moment. The place was located only 15 minutes from my house.
The day after I made the call, I decided to come and check the place out myself. My first thoughts were “man, this place is HUGE!”. They had TWO professional sized boxing rings, a whole entire room of punching bags, lots of mat space, and a full sized gym. Whatever you wanted to work out there was machines for it all in the gym. I know this will sound like a weird way to describe a place that teaches martial arts but it was electrifying. I talked to Grandmaster Sayed Qubadi general questions about the place and received some of the answers I wanted. He either answered straight forward or gave some vague response which at the time I blamed that it may be because of his poor English (I believe he and I am basically sure that he is an Iranian immigrant). I kinda feel bad for chastising his place because he is a very nice guy who you can get along with really nice. I went into his office and about 15 minutes later (most of the time it was just general conversation) I became a member of American Hapkido Karate.
The first couple weeks I thought this place was the greatest thing in the world. Completely free gym which you could use at anytime you wanted during their business hours, the gym equipment, and the overall politeness of everyone at the place. All the Hapkido instructors were very nice and loved to teach. I learned basic white belt stuff, kicking, proper falling techniques and so forth. In about one month I became an orange belt. I was very pleased by the way my progress was going and I felt more than happy to go every night of the week.
After that the slow, downward spiral of how much I trusted that place started to begin. We learned things that I expected to learn like wrist grabs, lapel holds, blocks, and katas. I knew that I was going to learn katas, but I was disappointed that it was the main focus in all of the class. My one instructor (whose words persuaded me to leave the place) said that Master Sayed's awards come almost entirely from kata tournaments. I know that I wasn't tricked at all, but I assumed and I am sure many others have that his awards were a lot more diverse than katas. I know many people like doing katas, but I viewed them generally as a waste of time from doing hours and hours of forms in Tae Kwon Do which didn't help me in anyway.
The next event that made me more skeptical of the place was when a BJJ blue belt came in for the free 2 week trial. He was very open-minded and was probably as excited as I was when he learned about this place. He didn't seem very enthusiastic about the Hapkido class to tell the truth. He said he was interested in learning the submission grappling class after the Hapkido class. I never took the sub wrestling class but the BJJ blue belt never returned to the place after two days of going there.
Oh, it continues. I know this sounds rather comical but I do not lie for one second. One day when I entered the studio, the master bombarded me with his claims of a “fantastic deal”. I really didn't know what he was talking about but I seriously heard him say “fantastic deal” maybe about 9 times when he was talking to me. I asked him what the fantastic deal was, and he was more than happy to show me. This is all true. He walks into a room where all the merchandise is with one of his brothers, they come out and roll a gigantic Persian rug onto the mat. I told him that it was a very nice rug (and it was). When the rug was rolled on the floor he kept asking me if I wanted to buy it and started striking deals with me even though I barely said anything to him. I told him I would think about it and I needed to get approval from my girlfriend (which I didn't have at the time) to see if she would accept it. Yeah, it was a lie, but for some reason I didn't feel bad saying it to him. I found his sales pitch to be completely off guard and rude. I wasn't angry with him, I just annoyed a little.
Finally, the one thing that really set off my low opinion of the place was again talking to one of my instructors during him teaching me. This is the same instructor who told me about the Master's plentiful awards and what they were. During him teaching me techniques, he would repeatedly tell me different ways on how to do them to make them more effective and which ones were pure garbage and a waste of time. I found myself agreeing with him a lot and doing many things he recommended to me except one thing. Near the end of the class most of the students converse with each other or the instructors. I was speaking with the instructor and told me “if you really want to learn to defend yourself you should take the grappling class after this one. Learning to grapple is much more effective than what you are learning now”. He went on and on about how it was much better and I found myself agreeing with him. Oh yeah, before anyone thinks that this instructor is some crotchety man who hates his job, I suggest you think again. He is one of the nicest people I have ever met in my whole entire life and I probably have had more laughs with him than most people that I know PERSONALLY.
When he said that, everything that I thought of martial arts was turned upside down. I became way more skeptical of martial arts and my surroundings in general. Also, everything that should have warned me early on that this place was crap started to fall beneath my eyes. Here is just a simple list of things that should have warned me to leave the place:
- The children's class often would interfere in the adult class and no one really decided to take action against it.
- Black belts weren't always available to teach the class. A lot of the students (including very underqualified students) ended up teaching the class. Hell, I taught the class a few times.
- Various instructors didn't even know how to do different techniques or forms correctly.
- There were large fees to pay to go up in belt ranks
- Sparring was not part of the Hapkido class until I was about a yellow belt (about 4 months of being a member). And the sparring isn't really sparring at all, it's point sparring.
- People were permitted not to partake in running in the beginning of class and there was no penalty for arriving late to the class.
Remember when I said I was going to talk about the yellow pages ad? Well, the time has come. Here is the advertisement that sucked me into the place.
Almost that whole entire ad is misleading. Here is a list of different things that are incorrect
Most of the classes on there which they claim to teach they don't teach at all unless you pay for a ridiculous amount of money to have a private class with Master Sayed to teach you it. The arts which they do not teach are Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Wing Chun, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, shoot fighting, street smart self defense, gymnastics, and Women's Self Defense. Of course, anything that says “self defense” could refer to the Hapkido class, which is misleading because there is nothing in the Hapkido class that deals specifically with women's self defense or street smart self defense for that matter.
They do have a cage to fight in. Although, the picture they have listed is NOT it. My guess is that they googled “fighting cage” or something similar and put the first result as the picture they have on there. The cage is very small, and when I say very small, I mean VERY SMALL. You could barely put 2 people inside it and have full length to do submission fighting or kickboxing.
Speaking of kickboxing, when I returned to the studio for 2 weeks not to long ago (during the time after I made this account to tell the truth) I gave them another chance and I would try out kickboxing. Guess what. The kickboxing class was on hiatus and there was no warning of that anywhere around the studio. I had to learn about it by asking some random person if they still taught kickboxing and they responded “oh it won't be for awhile. They are putting in new mats, so it maybe about 2 months.” I asked Master Sayed for further information and he backed up what he said but didn't give an exact time they would be finished.
I decided to research this further because I was still skeptical about what was going on with the kickboxing class. So when I went home, I propped myself onto my computer and composed an email pretending to be a future student. This is what I wrote:
Subject: Kickboxing & Muay Thai
Hello, I was wondering who teaches the kickboxing and Muay Thai classes and what their experience in the sports are. I am also wondering how the classes are like. At my old kickboxing studio it was VERY seclusive and only friends of people who took part in the class.
I was also wondering is if there is anything that occasionally interrupts the class and how often that usually happens.
Now, their response (all errors are on their part):Hello Jose
We received your email and u were asking about our training and who teaches the Kickboxing classes and Muay Thai the experience they have in the sport. The trainer is Master Sayed Qubadi and he has more then 35 years of experience. If you want more information about the calsses we offer feel free to call us at (818) 998-2441 and we could set up an appoiment with u and you could come by the studio and we could gieve you a tour. If you even want you could also try out a kickboxing class or Muay Thai. We offer kickboxing on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
We hope we here from you. Please dont hesitate to give us a call, and we will answer al your questions.
Master Sayed Qubadi and Staff
American Hapkido Karate
This is exactly what I thought was going to happen. Their kickboxing classes open up if there is fresh money to be had! After reading the place, I said to myself “fuck it” and didn't return ever again.
Oh yeah, a note on his “35 years of experience”. He will say that to you all day, but he will never tell you what his experience is. For instance, I searched on Bjj.org for his name (he teaches the submission grappling class) and I didn't see him anywhere. I am sure that he is quite underexperienced in many other arts that he teaches.
There are some good things about the place. For it being $40 a month, it is cheaper than many gyms and they have a full gym which you can come in at anytime. Also, they do have professional sized rings you can train in including the actual ring that was used in “The Contender”. Also, the only person that I know that has an MMA carear that goes there is Aaron Brink. Aaron Brink was in the one UFC where he was described that has trained “specifically to avoid submissions” just to be submitted in the first round by Andrei Arlovski. You may also know him as porn star Dick Delaware.
Oh yeah, watch the videos on there. You can see the master doing defenses against punches that stall in the air 5 inches from his face and him ripping a phone book.
If you have any other questions pertaining to this, I will be more than happy to answer.