Brandon, Florida-based John Pellegrini is one of the world’s leading authorities on hand-to-hand combat. He recently reached a milestone by celebrating his 40th year of martial arts training. He’s built a track record teaching a wide range of people to defend themselves, including citizens with no training, experienced martial arts school owners and instructors, and police and military personnel.
Every month, John Pellegrini travels to different parts of the world to conduct self-defense classes. His schedule is booked more than a year in advance, making him one of the top five seminar instructors on the planet. He’s graced the cover of numerous martial arts publications, including Black Belt in June 2003.
The system John Pellegrini teaches uses no gimmicks, fancy kicks or jumping techniques. It doesn’t pretend to prepare students to win tournaments; it merely conveys quality combat methods that are easy to understand and implement. Anyone who takes a John Pellegrini seminar leaves satisfied, and most end up enlisting for another class when he’s in town. People who read about him in magazines are motivated to learn from him in person. The reason for their loyalty is simple: All these martial artists are confident that the tactics and strategies John Pellegrini teaches will work and that they could actually use them in an emergency.
The martial art John Pellegrini created, combat hapkido, has a worldwide reputation as a simple, effective self-defense system. It evolved over many years of research and development. John Pellegrini began training in judo in Italy in 1964, then got involved in special-forces hand-to-hand combat training and counterintelligence self-defense with NATO forces in 1968 and 1969. While living in New York City in 1973, he started karate. He went on to train in taekwondo (in which he earned a ninth-degree black belt) and hapkido and to obtain instructor-level rank in jeet kune do and aikido. He opened a martial arts academy in the mid-1980s, then founded combat hapkido in 1990. The hybrid Korean art is taught at more than 250 schools in a dozen countries. John Pellegrini’s International Combat Hapkido Federation boasts approximately 5,000 members.
In addition to his flagship organization, John Pellegrini founded the Independent Taekwondo Association, the International Police Defensive Tactics Institute, Self Defense America and the World Martial Arts Alliance. In 2003 he created Defense Arts Inc. to manage and administrate those organizations.
In April 2004 John Pellegrini, who’s also certified by the World Taekwondo Federation and Kukkiwon, made history when the World Ki-Do Federation in Pusan, South Korea, promoted him to ninth-degree black belt. He’s reportedly the first American ever to rise to such an advanced rank within the Korean organization.
In recognition of his outstanding service to the martial arts community and dedication to students of self-defense around the world, Black Belt is honored to induct John Pellegrini into its 2004 Hall of Fame as Instructor of the Year.
(This profile originally appeared in the November 2005 issue of Black Belt.)