(The interview was held for EUROPEAN HAPKIDO ALLIANCE)
Enthusiasts of Hapkido in Greece are fortunate to have the chance to learn techniques from Master Michael Paleologos. From his full-time martial arts school in Athens he kindly gave this interview and gives his opinions on the state of Hapkido in Greece today.
President of the Pan Hellenic Hapkido Organization and 7th Dan in Moo Hak Kwan, Master Michael Paleologos has spent most of his life dedicated to Hapkido. Today he appears on our page in recognition of his experience, knowledge and dedication.
Question: You have been training for over 30 years now, what inspires you to keep training?
Master Paleologos: My true and only inspiration is the genuine love for the art of Hapkido. I have also been teaching Taekwondo for 20 years but only to young children. I am the only Master in Greece that started his training in Hapkido and then in addition practiced and taught Taekwondo, it is usually the other way around. I like and respect all martial arts but Hapkido is my first and only great love and my true inspiration. I cannot imagine myself doing anything else.
Q: What is your martial arts background?
MP: My martial arts background is practicing Hapkido since 1985, Taekwondo ITF since 1996 and Taekwondo WTF since 2001.
Q: What has been the bigesst change you have witnessed in Hapkido in recent years?
MP: Concerning myself, my biggest step forward and my most important decision was to change my Hapkido path, to leave Sin Moo Hapkido and join Moo Hak Kwan and the Korea Hapkido Federation under the guidance of, not a Korean Master, but a European Master – Sam Plumb. All my previous Masters were Koreans but I trusted Master Sam’s reputation and considering that he is a student of a great Hapkido personality, Grandmaster Sung Soo Lee, I made the big step in 2016 and joined the European Hapkido Alliance under Master Sam’s guidance. I can tell you with certainty that the only thing that I regret today is that I should have taken this step earlier. However, I witness changes and steps in the wrong direction by other Masters here in Greece, particularly concerning the expansion of the art and that makes me uncomfortable sometimes.
Q: I understand your schools in Greece are expanding rapidly. To what do you credit this growth?
MP: Hapkido is expanding rapidly in Greece because it is something new and people have seen it previously only via videos and the internet. It is the perfect self defence for all ages and body types. The only negative thing is that there are many Masters with low skills and high ranks; these Masters prefer to gain ranks without deeper study of the art and this gives the wrong impression to the people who want to practice the art correctly.
Q: Do you hold special classes for your black belts?
MP: Besides the annual seminars and instructors seminars under Grandmaster Sam Plumb, I provide all my black belts with special classes in my school and by travelling the whole country. I support them as much as I can because I want to have high standards and unique skills. This demands a lot of hard work from us but it is something that we love to do. We represent Moo Hak Kwan in Greece and consider it a great responsibility.
Q: What are the benefits of being affiliated to one of your schools?
MP: At all our schools we treat our students like family. The mental benefits that someone will gain if he joins our schools are self confidence, positive feelings and a lot of good energy. The practical and physical benefits for our students are much more. Tuition by the oldest and most experienced Hapkidoists in Greece; supervision by the most recognized and respectable Hapkido Grandmaster in Europe, Sam Plumb; registration and certifications by worldwide known organizations such as the European Hapkido Alliance, International Moo Hak Kwan Hapkido, Korea Hapkido Federation and the Korea Heuk Choo Kwan Association. In our schools we teach only traditional and authentic Hapkido without sparring competitions. We have classes for all ages, both sexes and for children from 5 years old to adults until 65 years old.
Q: Do you prefer traditional martial arts or “modern”?
MP: Strictly traditional. If we try to change an oak tree into a pine tree then we will destroy it. I see every day new “Hapkido” styles coming to the surface. If we want to preserve the tree of knowledge then we must water it with our efforts and sweat. No changes. Just more study to find the weak points that every art has and improve them without deforming the art.
Q: You teach both Hapkido and Taekwondo; is Taekwondo’s philosophy different to that of Hapkido?
MP: Hapkido is a traditional martial art and Taekwondo (both styles ITF & WTF) as we know it today in Greece, is a sport. Sports have rules with judges, referees and coaches. Martial arts are something much deeper than this. They are a way of life. Sports you can only excel at when you are young and when you stop competing injuries generally start to surface. Hapkido can be practiced for a lifetime. It is a culture of healthy body and mind for your whole life.
Q: Many Hapkido instructors have introduced sparring competitions into their schools. Do you feel that Hapkido may become competition oriented like Taekwondo?
MP: Hapkido’s philosophy is to inspire you to train harder every day, to become a better person, fighting against your fears and insecurities and necessarily an opponent. Sparring competition spirit is for athletes, not for pure martial artists. Sparring competitions lead the student down the wrong paths. Martial artists learn how to win a fight without fighting. Hapkido is the most ideal and complete martial art to do this.
Q: Do you feel that we should “cross-train” or look more deeply into our own art?
MP: Cross training is not bad if someone wants to have more experiences but I believe that if he is mentally at ease with his art, he will not ask for this kind of training and will spend more time practicing and improving in his chosen style.
Q: Who are your influences and who inspires you?
MP: I am inspired mostly by the love of my art. I take the strength to work hard and continue with the principals of Hapkido from my Master, Sam Plumb. Also from my students and my Moo Hak Kwan brothers from other countries. I want to be always as ready as I can to perform anything that will be asked of me and keep their respect. The responsibilities that I carry in order to honour my teacher and make my students and fellow instructors proud are the best motivation for me.
Q: What are your future ambitions?
MP: My future plans are to train harder and make Moo Hak Kwan and the European Hapkido Alliance the most familiar Kwan and organization in Greece. My ambition is to become a better person than I am today and help as many people as I can to find their path to Hapkido as students or as instructors.
Dojang: Thank you for your words and sharing them.