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Hapkido martial arts | History, principles & techniques

The most interesting fact about Hapkido, a form of martial arts from Korea, is that in Chinese, Hapkido is written using the same three alphabets that are used to spell Aikido. But that is where the similarities end. While Aikido is gentle form of martial arts used primarily as a self-defense technique, Hapkido is a little harder and permits attack techniques like kicking.

Hapkido is often considered to be the by-product of the dedication and effort of Choi Yong-Sul. Some experts of Hapkido would like to give the credit of the rise and spread to a small cluster of Korean Nationals, who were the most active right after the end of the Japanese colonialism in Korea.

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Core Principles of Hapkido

Hapkido can neither be classified as a soft martial arts technique, nor can it be firmly categorized with the hard martial art skills. It is actually a combination of the soft techniques adopted by the gentler form of martial arts like aikido, and the hard fighting styles of combat martial arts like taekwondo.

Hapkido is characterized more by circular movements instead linear ones. It is hybrid martial art which borders on the eclectic. Different hapkido techniques are taught in different training schools. The different techniques however follow the three binding principles:

01. Non Resistance

Non-resistance also called Hwa is the technique of remaining relaxed in the face of the force of the opponent’s brute strength.


02. Circle Principle

The Circle Principle is called Won. The primary motive of the Won is to gather enough momentum to pack a considerable amount of force into your attack. In case the opponent attacks with a linear strike, the hapkido student will block the attack and redirect the opponent’s attack technique in such a way that it adds momentum to his own attack. Once the opponent’s power has been redirected the student can choose from a wide selection of techniques to render his opponent useless. The hapkido student is encouraged to view his opponent as a body of energy instead of a human body.


03. The Water Principle

The Water Principle is also known as Yu. This principle can be best understood when directly compared with the actual form and character of water. The strength in hapkido is similar to the soft, serene strength of water. It does not depend on the physical form and can easily adapt to defend and opponent’s strike. The water principle teaches the hapkido student to embrace the free flowing form of water and keep one’s moves flexible enough to mold their tactics around the attack techniques deployed by the opponent.

Core Techniques of Hapkido

The Hapkido fighting style is pretty nonrestrictive and avoids getting too attached to any one particular fighting skill. It has a number of styles which use a mix and match of throwing techniques, joint locks, pinning techniques and striking skills. Some of the schools also teach ground fighting skills which revolve around escaping and regaining the footing and incapacitating an opponent who is down. Hapkido stays away from long wrestling styles or harsh grappling techniques.

The traditional hapkido lays extra emphasis on hand strikes and kicking techniques to tackle an opponent. The hapkido students tries tip the balance of his opponent and use this opening to exploit the weakness. Hapkido students also has to learn about the vital pressure points or hyeol which are almost the same as acupuncture points popular in Asia. The pressure points are exploited to render an opponent unconscious, or to induce pain to create a weak moment in the fight.

Popular Kicking Techniques in Hapkido

Hapkido has adopted asome of the kicks from taekwondo and tweaked some others to create a unique kicking technique. Like the rest of hapkido, the kicking techniques also follow the circular principle. Hapkido also employs a series of low kicks and hooking and sweeping techniques. The low sweeping or spinning heel kick is a trademark of the traditional hapkido kicking style.

Some of the popular kicking techniques in hapkido are:

- Low spinning or sweeping heel kick

- High kicks

- Blade kicks

- Jumping Kicks

- Double Kicks

- Kicking Legs

Hand Strikes

Hapkido teaches it students the technique of punches and elbow strikes. The live hand is a traditional move of hapkido. The move concentrates the energy to the back of the hand and uses the momentum of this energy to level internal and external strikes. The hapkido hand strikes are primarily used to poke holes in the defense of the opponent before throwing him or pinning him to the ground.

Hand strikes in hapkido permits the use of fingernails to claw at the opponent’s eyes and throat and to also cause considerable damage to the opponent’s genitals. However, modern day competitions disallow the use of fingernails.

The training of the hand strikes begins with the learning of blocking techniques and counter attacks more popularly known as makko chigi.

Manipulation of Joint Techniques in Hapkido

Joint techniques in Hapkido are similar to those in Aikido, except that the circles drawn are smaller in size. This technique includes the manipulation of both large and small joints to win over the opponent.

The hapkido student learns to apply force in the direction which is the same as the natural movement of the joint and then forces the joint to overextend in a position which opposes its natural direction. These techniques are designed to inflict pain and force the opponent into submission. 

Two of the primary joint lock techniques are:

- Wrist locks 

- Elbow locks

Throwing Techniques

Throwing techniques are usually used to unbalance the opponent. Usually throwing techniques involve the locking of joints, but some throwing techniques do not depend on assistance of joint locks to create the unbalance.

A lot of throwing techniques of Hapkido are inspired by Judo. These include:

- Different kinds of throws

- A wide selection of choke techniques

- Joint locks

- Hold downs

Weapons of Hapkido

Some of the weapons used in the training of hapkido are:

- The knife which is also known as Hangul

- A round baton called the Jung Bong

- A cane also known as ji-panh-ee

- Rope

- Sword

- Long Staff

Hapkido is a unique martial arts technique which teaches the student to use the force of the strikes delivered by an opponent and redirect it back towards him. Training in Hapkido helps the students overcome their fears, regain their strength and improve their focus. Years of training in Hapkido creates the perfect environment for a happier, healthier lifestyle. 

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