Actual WMAC Student
Originally Posted by MannyFromNYC
Firstly let me say that unlike many of the people who have posted their views on the World Martial Arts Center and its legitimacy, I have actually trained there. I came to the school with a healthy degree of skepticism and a good amount of experience and perspective through which to evaluate the school. I am a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and studied for eight years at a highly respected school that routinely swept national level competitions (several guys I trained with represented various countries in the olympics). I got tired of the sports aspect though and wanted to learn more practical martial arts, as well as weapon techniques. I ended up selecting Hapkido because I felt it would expand on my existing TKD skill set (the striking/stances in Hapkido are basically old school TKD, with some notable modifications). It has far exceeding my expectations and I look back on myself thinking I was a martial arts badass as a black belt in TKD and I smile.
I have studied at WMAC for several years. I was originally attracted to the school because of the skill level of the more senior students (high red belts and black belts). They were and are some of the best martial artists I've ever trained with.
I want to respond to several comments that I think have some legitimacy:
- The no touch knockout on the video - I agree with every serious person on this forum, that 'no touch' or 'ki' knockouts are not possible and are absurd. IN THE ENTIRE TIME I'VE TRAINED I'VE NEVER SEEN OR HEARD ANYONE EVEN TALKING ABOUT THIS TECHNIQUE. I don't know why its on the video, but I can assure you the actual techniques are very sound, I've used them (well, a few of them) effectively in actual situations. There is some emphasis on developing your Ki, especially at higher levels, but what that means is the ability to develop the indominitable spirit and continue where others would give up (i.e. hold a horse stance for a hour+). It isn't about super strength, it is about focus, and having the spiritual/mental strength to overcome.
- The techniques in the video don't look like Hapkido - Frankly I agree, I've never seen anyone doing half the techniques on the video and they don't look like what we learn. What we actually practice is similar to other Hapkido videos I've seen on youtube and matches the technqiues shown in reputable texts like "Hapkido" by Marc Tedeschi.
- Some of the students have a McDojo feel about them - There are definitely two schools, but I think this is true of most school. A lot of the junior students are not skilled and basically will pass any test they show up for. That changes really fast when you hit blue belt and a lot of people either get stuck at that rank or quit. By the time you are a high red belt, you better be training 4 days a week or more, and take every test very seriously. I've seen many people fail. I took my high red belt tests as seriously as I took my previous black belt test and they were more challenging. There is only a black belt test every few years, and it is by invitation of the master only. This school certainly doesn't mint black belts. Amongst the requirements for black belt are 100 hours of teaching experience (which means actually teaching 100 classes), so do the math, it takes a lot of time and commitment.
- Its very expensive - Its $140 a month, but its a nice, large facility in the middle of Manhattan and in Brooklyn and you can take as many classes as you want. I train probably 10 hours a week on average, so for me its actually pretty cheap on a per hour basis.
Finally, the comments that have NO legitimacy:
- Questioning Master Herbert's legitimacy - The school is covered in pictures and certificates authenticating Master Herbert's qualifications. He is a 7th Dan in Kumite Ryu Jujitsu (Soke Lil' Jon Davis' style), he is 6th Dan in Han Su Hapkido and a black belt in TKD (not sure what Dan). I've been to seminars with him and Soke Lil' Jon...pretty sure that qualification is legit. Regardless of belts, certificates and pictures (which unfortunately have become easily faked these days, when everyone has their own style and is a 10th Dan), just look at the guy! The video doesn't come close to doing justice to his skill level. In fact, prior to training with him I would watch martial arts combat in movies like the Bourne movies and laugh at the absurdity of 1 guy quickly taking out 6 armed guys. Now, not only do I believe that level of skill is achieveable, I've witnessed a whole level beyond. The guy is unreal and is a fantastic teacher and mentor.
If you are a serious martial artist in NYC, I highly recommend that you stop by and check it out. If you are really an experienced martial artist you should be able to tell pretty quickly whether it is legit or not. Just like any school though, judge it based on the final product (high red belts and black belts), not the raw materials.
I am also a student at David Herbert's World Martial Arts Center. I must disagree with Hwarang29.
I normally don't post on message boards, but I'm upset enough about Herbert a.k.a. "Sabumnim" that I am doing this anyway.
I've been there for about 8 months now. I've noticed many problems:
1. The "tests" are done like mass weddings. Herbert has about 20 or more students testing at the same time. Most of them can barely do the techniques and he still passes them. To top it off, each test costs $60. There are 13 different belt colors. See the scam?
2. He sells DVDs with martial arts techniques and tells students that they "have" to buy them. Correct me if I'm wrong, but am I not paying the monthly fee to be taught these techniques in person?
3. After a class, he told students to buy the DVD and said, "Please buy the DVDs. Don't make me have to get a day job." Even if this was a joke, it was not the least bit funny.
4. I also have to disagree with the last poster's remark on red belts. I once saw a red belt throw a kick like a crippled dog. I once saw a black belt throw a kick that looked like a floppy nothing. During knife defense practice, I once "stabbed" a black belt three times in the stomach. Imagine if it had been a real knife and a real fight.
5. Herbert has made many racial remarks about Korean and Asian people in general. I heard him say it in person. I don't care that he's a black guy, he has no right to say that kind of ****, especially when there were Asian people present. He's a disgrace to the Asian martial art he practices and should be ashamed.
Again, I don't normally post messages to strangers, but I think it's important that people know about this. The only reason I continue to train here is because I cannot find a dojo that is cheaper and that teaches defense against weapons. If anyone can help me out, PLEASE let me know of a better school.
No offense, but you don't really know what you're talking about.
Originally Posted by GodAlmighty
Each test is different, some are very long and rigorous, and some he just wants to get a sense of how students are doing. There are always adjustments made after a test that most students are not aware of. Be less concerned about who is passing and why and more concerned about your own skill level and you will go much further.
Regarding cost, it's a business and part of the business model of most schools, and WMAC is much cheaper than most. I know many people here don't believe much in rank or belt testing, but it serves a purpose.
Think of these as study guides or supplements. Being taught the techniques in person is of course valuable, but most people won't trail for 4+ hours a day. How else can you watch someone do the technique over and over for hours if you want. If you don't want them don't buy them, but don't resent the school for selling something that is valuable to most of the students.
Originally Posted by GodAlmighty
Judging who you consider to be the least skilled people is a fun exercise at any school. Why not work with the people you feel are the best kickers in the school?
Originally Posted by GodAlmighty
This is why you practice and drill. It's unrealistic to think that you can block every attack. Everyone has different timing and body language. If you're getting stabbed then you're learning.
Originally Posted by GodAlmighty
I don't believe you for a second. I have to assume you're either unbelievably mistaken or you're just interested in badmouthing the school.
Originally Posted by GodAlmighty
Throughout this diatribe you complain about everything you can think of, yet you still stay because you can't find a better school. That's interesting. A poisonous attitude will bring the whole dojang down, and I'm sure you are no pleasure to have in class. You really should consider leaving or changing your approach about training there. Maybe even talk to the master or an instructor that you respect (if there are any) instead of an anonymous board.
Originally Posted by GodAlmighty
I'm bumping this topic in interest of anyone else who has anything to say about WMAC and Master Herbert. I'm going to be studying around Union Square and would like a place where I can train in between/after classes. The fact that it has open hours is awesome.
i apologize in advance for the length of this post. i tried to be as thorough and detailed as possible (giving specific examples). as always, ymmv.
I had been training at david herbert's world martial arts center for more than 4 years, but recently left the school due to many the reasons previously discussed in this thread. i have very mixed feelings about the school, but will say upfront that my feelings are in no way intended to undermine the commitment that some students have to herbert and his school. i've found the school to be deeply, terminally dysfunctional in many ways, but that doesn't discount the fact that i have received some very beneficial and legitimate training. as with most things in life, it's not black and white. everything is a pretty dingy shade of grey.
i came to the school having absolutely no experience in martial arts, and really had no idea what to expect. i had no idea what hapkido was, or what made it different from karate or judo or tai chi. i was interested primarily in movement and cardiovascular conditioning (i was insufferably bored with the gym), and secondarily interested in defense. i'd always heard that martial arts conditioning was ferociously intense, and this was a big part of my intrigue. my first impressions were ambivalent: i detected an incredibly strong cult-like feeling (many students in the school jokingly refer to this as 'drinking the kool-aid'), and some of the higher belts were cold, pedantic and took themselves WAY too seriously. on the other hand, there were an equal number of higher belts who were very warm, encouraging and approachable, and the workouts were FOR REAL (and i came to the school with an intensely athletic background). i signed a contract and trained primarily with those instructors i most admired and respected.
as my tenure in the school progressed, my initial impressions were continuously affirmed but not resolved, meaning the bad stuff became more intensely real, but so did the good stuff. there's some kooky group-think going on in that school. the kool-aid factor is kinda intense, and i learned quickly that several of the schools founders/mentors and higher ranks were involved in Landmark(.com), a sort of pyramid-scheme, self-help, culty "change your life and realize all your dreams in just 5 days by following our patented system" educational product (one of them tried to recruit me). sometimes it comes off as merely affirmational in terms of it's effect on the training atmosphere. and then other times it's damn right creepy. there are a lot of woo-woo warrior-battlefield metaphors tossed around as motivational tools. i find them trite, simplistic, and ultimately uninspiring but to each their own. on the flip side, i made tremendous gains in my strength, endurance, flexibility, and coordination in a relatively short period of time. this training, combined with my emphatic respect for kyosanim (highest ranking student in the school), helped temper my disappointment and disillusionment in the testing/promotion scene (everybody passes, everybody gets all As, hooray for everyone! now hurry up and pay for your next test!). during my first 2 years i would have agreed with what hwarang29 said in that this was only true of lower ranks. there were some pretty questionable promotions going on, but the higher ranks did seem to have it together. however, i no longer feel that red belt (the last color grade before black) represents the level at which you need to get your **** together. but i'll get to that in a minute.
one of the other things that almost immediately became clear to me was that the school had changed significantly over the previous few years. in watching some of the class videos from years prior, and in witnessing the training mentality, conditioning, and skill of many of the current black belts and black belt candidates, it was pretty clear that the school used to be a lot more "badass" (for lack of a better word). forms and techniques that folks were learning as white belts were now being taught only 4-5 belts later. the curriculum was being chopped up and more belt levels were being created. my impression was that the curriculum was being dumbed down, and made more palatable for a broader range of potential students. no black belt has ever confirmed that this was indeed the rationale (the pat explanation was always a tight-lipped "sabumnim is making improvements to the curriculum." end of explanation). black belts have, however, confirmed that the school was indeed a different animal even 2-3 years before i joined. overall, i felt disappointed by these developments, but simply continued to focus on my own progression and tried not to think about the training i *could* have had if only i'd joined sooner. it was hard tho -- the bond and repore that these black belts had with eachother and with herbert was deep, enduring, and enviable. having since experienced that kind of training (albeit under a different master -- i trained in 2 different arts concurrently for a bit) i know that this is the kind of bond and loyalty that is forged in training that pushes all your most sensitive buttons (emotionally, physically, and spiritually). its forged in pain and sweat. that kind of bond is created with a mentor that can push you so hard you face all your demons, and you come out of it a master of them. while i believe it does exist in him (or at least used to), i have never experienced this mentoring ability in herbert. which leads me to ...
the guy is kinda FLAKY. when i first started at wmac, i went to his classes and thoroughly enjoyed them, but that didn't last long. i signed up for all his extra seminars, his assistant instructor training/try-outs, all that stuff. any time extra-challenging training opportunities were presented, i signed up. but what i began to notice were that these "training opportunities" were more or less a bunch of woo woo. i remember my first assistant instructor training. he hyped it up as a weekend of some of the most challenging and intensive training i could hope to receive. not all those who attended would make it thru the weekend. and not all of those who made it would be selected as assistant instructors. those who were selected would have access to black-belt level training to prepare us as instructors. so a bunch of us paid the fee for the seminar and showed up on a friday night. after a 20 minute warm-up of moderate intensity, we were instructed to get our notebooks and sit down. what followed were 3 hours of nonsense. basically, the dude stood up in front of us and told stories. some of them had relevance to martial arts. others felt more like taking a trip down memory lane. and all of it was interspersed with what i can only assume to be Landmark self-awareness rhetoric. "be the black belt now" "see thru your fear" "fight your inner demons and be the warrior within". that kinda stuff. and guess what the rest of the weekend was? more of the same. our final test on sunday? to work a street fair by bringing ppl in off the streets, giving them "mini tutorials" and encouraging them to sign up. i can swallow chipping in to promote the school, and i understand that maybe this sort of self awareness stuff is useful for some folks and that's cool. but a) i felt hoodwinked, and b) i did all that consciousness raising stuff in my 20s, and frankly it evolved in a much more sophisticated manner than was i was presented with that weekend. to top it all off, there was no intense selection process like we'd been promised. basically what followed was 4-6 weeks of silence and evasiveness (all cloaked in this "i'm testing you by not giving you a straight answer" bs), followed by an announcement that anybody who wanted to be an AI could buy a $20 AI belt and attend "special" AI training on tuesdays. turns out even THAT wasn't special, as any white belt could walk in that day and take the class. it was just a normal class. so basically i spent a chunk of cash on a lame self-help seminar and POINTLESS belt only to get the runaround. this is but one detailed example of a pattern of behavior i have witnessed ad infinitum in my time at the school. add to that questionable business management decisions, notoriously poor communication and passive aggressive tactics, and curriculum inconsistency. it is not at all uncommon to demonstrate a technique to 3 different 2nd degree black belts, and have them all tell you you're doing it wrong, and that their way is the way sabumnim wants it taught. if herbert has a problem with you or something is amiss he won't speak to you directly. he'll hint ominously at you during class or get one of his black belts or one of his "sabumnims special forces" ppl to talk to you (yes, i'm serious about the "sabumnims special forces" thing. it's even in the handbook. they're like his secret dojang spies/soldiers, and none of the lower ranks knows exactly who they are (tho after a while you can guess). oh, and did i mention he sleeps with his students? no no, not just one of them. MANY of them. who you sleep with is your business, but some of them seem to have an inordinate amount of sway in dojang policy and politics. which leads me to ...
oh god, the politics. they are suffocating. now, i know that ANY school is likely to have it's share of politics. this is not unique to wmac. but add the politics to the terrible communication and the lack of consistency in instruction and the landmark bs and the sexual politics ... it's sucked the joy out of training. why did i stay for so long? two reasons. 1) despite the politics and drama, there are some truly great ppl there. there's definitely a sense of community, and in a city like new york that's a hard thing to find. it's a blessing. 2) because i truly believed the training was good. which leads me to ...
i no longer trust in the quality of the training, which is why i left. i have to question the priorities of a school that promotes an able-bodied person to redbelt and then allows her to teach a weekly class when she can't throw a basic roundhouse kick without resembling a toe-less hunchback with intestinal cramping. or promote a class of students who practice technique with little to no resistance -- and consequently can't execute the technique unless you give it to them! and it's not like just one person squeaked through. increasingly, classes are being taught by the newer generation of substandard red belts. add to that, it's been well publicized that the school is having intense financial difficulties. surprise! ... the first bb test in 5 years was called. this test costs around $800 apiece by the time all is said and done. roughly 60 people were invited to test. 60!!! half the school are now black belts. many were candidates who had put in their time in under the old regime. others were more recent promotees who were genuinely talented, hard working, and worthy of promotion. but MANY ppl who had not yet been promoted to black belt candidate level were invited to "hurry up and test up" so that they could participate in the black belt test. i am hesitant to be too critical of those in this latter category, as all of them did indeed work their asses off in order to test in time. it's just that the motive for the testing and the push to include as many ppl as possible was just so transparent. on top of it all, herbert has started doing some wacky things, like renting the dojang out to other schools and health/fitness instructors in order to increase revenue. sounds legit at first, until you realize that renting space out to another school means less class and mat time for paying students -- during peak training times! so you've got wmac students all crammed on to the wood section to train while another school utilizes the mats. and we're not allowed to participate in those classes. so basically, the remaining loyal dues-paying students are getting dicked around in a desperate attempt to clot a cash bleed brought on by delusions of mcdojo-expansion grandeur and generally poor business planning. (NOTE: i could very well be wrong about the cause of the cash bleed. it's a somewhat educated guess based on what i observed over 4yrs). oy vey!
in the interests of fairness, i do feel it's necessary to end on a couple of positive notes. 1) i've visited 2 other hapkido schools, and a danzan ryu jiujitsu school, and i have to say that my training put me well ahead of students of equivalent rank (and higher) in each of these schools. i dont' know enough about them to know if they were mcdojos as well, but i have a sense that the majority of the self defense techniques i learned are indeed legit. and regardless of whether or not the techniques are legit, the training intensity definitely was. from a self defense perspective, i think there's a lot to be said for endurance and agility, ESPECIALLY if your techniques fail. 2) my enduring impression of herbert is that of a man who is for all intents and purposes a decent guy. he's a talented and bona fide martial artist, and i do believe he has good intentions. ie, i never experienced him as mean, manipulative or scheming. just inconsistent, and lacking in the mental and emotional strength he initially projects. but his personal quirks, habits, and leadership style left me cold and dry. there are many ppl in the school who would follow him into a fire pit, and most of them are of the older generation. based on the respect i have for these ppl, i have to believe there is legitimacy in their loyalty. kool-aid or not, these folks aren't lunatics. they're reasonable, rational ppl who are committed to their master. it's just that, from where i'm standing, their master and the guy who runs my former school are two very different ppl. in the end i'm guessing the guy fantasized about expanding the school into a large business and being able to retire, but it didn't pan out. and he himself seems caught and conflicted between the school he founded and the one that now exists. YMMV.
p.s. that scene in the video with the no-touch take down was a joke. the quality of the video posted on the site is crappy and you can't see it, but both the student and herbert are laughing.
Excellent post triangulated, and from it I can gather that GM Herbert is a good martial artist, but a poor business man with some personnel issues. This makes his school a 100% Mcdojo, and may have recently become bullshido; regardless of if he trained you properly in the pastm, if he is allowing people to get by with inferior skill and lack luster technique then he is doing them a great disservice. My adive is to continue looking for a better school that dosen't have "kool-aid" :ohyea7qh:and continue your training.:headbang:
David Herberts School
I trained at D Herberts school about 20 years ago . I did not learn from him as i was an a ranked martial artist before i got there , and an amateur boxer . I met Davis through his Thursday night "open fight night " which happened to produce some intense workouts , great sparring sessions .
His student were mediocre at best , as i remember taking one of my green belts with me who absolutely wiped the floors with his black belts . Davidon the other hand has some skills , and he wasnt afraid to mix it up . His Hapkido training was a joke however , having come from a desendant of Choi and training for 15 years , i can tell the difference . as someone in an earlier thread indicated GM ( late Mike Wollmenhauser ) was contacte d for advice . Mike knew shhit about Hapkido , i knew him personally fought at many of his tournaments . There are videos of him training with GM Choi , but that is the extent of what he would do , in fornt if the camera's .
David , even back then , would bop any female he could , and it became evident from who the assistant instructors were , who was giving him booty . He thought the MA was somthing magical and mystical rather for what it really was developed for , a way of defending ones self .
Originally Posted by Roscoe79
I'd like to make sure I understand you. Are you saying that Mike Wollmershauser knew **** about hapkido?
Originally Posted by Roscoe79
Originally Posted by GodAlmighty
I am also a student at WMAC, I will say that the difference of opinions prove that nobody knows so let me tell you. I was raised in boxing but really I am a street fighter. I have attacked and I have been attacked. I understand the fight scenario probably better then most black belts (unless Sabunim taught them) that dont fight in tornaments. I know what its like to be scared and still have to react. Its not hard to tell that the moves work. But people want to learn from an Asian and when its not they start off a non-believer and believe me you have to be a believer no matter what the Martial Art or who taught you. I dont know about the video your talking about but Sabunim is not a director or a movie producer so i dont know what you expect(he's not that good on the computer either). The dvds are a learning tool not to be used alone. I wont apologize for my Sabunim and his website in order for the school to stay open he has to make money, he is not in the educational system and getting sudsidized. I have never heard any racial remarks out of his mouth and I have been there 3.5 years so I dont know how somebody that was there 8 months heard all of what i heard none of. The instructor named Jean-Francois is 68 years old I pray to be able to look and move like him at that age.:Smile2: