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Our Instructors

Our instructors set us apart

With over 200 years combined teaching experience in the ancient martial art of Hapkido, our instructors at West’s Hapkido Academy provide a well-rounded course of instruction in traditional martial arts with a focus on improving the overall being rather than just “teaching someone how to fight.” In actuality, we teach our students how not to fight.

“We are serious about Hapkido, but not somber.”

Martial Arts Classes

Grand Master West

9th Dan – 50+ Years Teaching

Owner and Founder of West’s Hapkido Academy

Master J.R. West’s long history in the Martial Arts world began when he was introduced to Hapkido in the 1960’s during his tours in Vietnam. He trained under Baek Nam Guk and Kim Jun Soo of the Korean Tiger Division.

In 1967, he received his black Belt. Upon return to the the United States, he sought out a teacher and found one in Dr. He-Young Kimm.

For the next few decades, while under the guidance of Dr. Kimm, Master West Slowly built his own following of Hapkido students and established his very own Hapkido school on the outskirts of Jackson, MS. There, with his wife, Renee West, they grew West’s Hapkido Academy to international acclaim, gaining the acceptance of Kim Jung Soo, number 8 student of founder Chio Young Sul.

Sadly, Renee West past away in 2003. Despite the unfortunate loss in the Martial Arts world, Master West continued to move forward, still teaching and still holding seminars for his vas many students and friends from around the world.

With Over 50 years of teaching… and counting… many of his black belts assist with the daily operations of the school, but Master West is still holding the reigns of West’s Hapkido Academy, as it continues to thrive on the notion that “giving is better than receiving”

Chief Master Dexter Mangum

7th Dan


I’m Chief Master Dexter Mangum. I’m a 7th Dan Black Belt at West’s Hapkido Academy in Ridgeland, MS. I have been training at West’s Hapkido since 1987 under the instruction of GM J. R. West. I received my 1st Dan Black Belt in 1993. In 2012 I received a Master appointment by the Korea Ki Do Association. I received the rank of 7th Dan Black Belt in 2015.

Chief Master Dexter Mangum

Chief Master Watkins

Chief Master Watkins

7th Dan

26 Years Experience

My daughter was a student and got me started here at West’s HapKiDo Academy. Starting was the hardest part of this journey. Once I started the family like atmosphere with the other students has kept me here. There is always someone willing to help you and encourage you. From that first night they stressed to me I only need to keep coming to the next class and all would be well. It has been over 26 years now and I now have an extended family that covers much of the United States.

My daughter and I now have a special HapKiDo bond, that we both treasure. My physical conditioning is much improved. I am 69 years young and feel great. I feel confident that as I travel about in retirement that I am very capable of defending myself in any situation.

Master Williams

5th Dan

21 Years Experience

Master Williams began his Hapkido journey in 2001 at West’s Hapkido Academy. He trained under the instruction of Grand Master West for over 18 years, until he relocated and became the private student of Grand Master Kim Jung Soo in Daegu, South Korea. For over two years, Grand Master Kim graciously mentored Master Williams and profoundly contributed to his Hapkido development and understanding of Korean culture.

In the dojang, Master Williams enjoys practicing the fundamentals, flowing, and mentoring others. His passion is teaching and assisting students in finding their own unique ways to success in the dojang.

Master Alex

5th Dan

13 Years Experience

My name is Michelle Alexander. Many of the senior students know me as Alex. I have been training at West’s Hapkido Academy for 13 years come April 2020. Hapkido has become embedded in me to which It is not just something I do to fill time or simply get a good sweat, like an aerobics class. Every moment in the Dojang can and is a learning moment, if you’re open to it.

Master Alex

Experience and Leadership

Hapkido Martial Arts Black Belts

Behind the extensive knowledge of our instructors is a vast array of devoted blackbelts supporting newer student’s absorb and understand the material.