Hapkido - Korea: meaning "the way of coordinating energy", "the way of coordinated power" or "the way of harmony" is a discipline of coordination, a way of strengthening the mind and body, of fusing the individuals physical and mental powers so that he or she will emerge as a more fully integrated human being. It is a form of self-defense that employs joint locks, techniques of other martial arts, as well as kicks, punches, and other striking attacks. There is also the use of traditional weapons, including a sword, rope, nunchaku, cane, short stick, and staff (gun, bō) which vary in emphasis depending on the particular tradition examined.
Hapkido contains both long and close range fighting techniques, utilizing jumping kicks and percussive hand strikes at longer ranges and pressure point strikes, joint locks, or throws at closer fighting distances. Hapkido emphasizes circular motion, non-resisting movements, and control of the opponent. Practitioners seek to gain advantage through footwork and body positioning to employ leverage, avoiding the use of strength against strength.
On the "hard-soft" scale of martial arts, hapkido stands somewhere in the middle, employing "soft" techniques similar to jujutsu and aikido as well as "hard" techniques reminiscent of taekwondo and tang soo do. Even the "hard" techniques, though, emphasize circular rather than linear movements. Hapkido is an eclectic, hybrid martial art, and different hapkido schools emphasize different techniques. However, some core techniques are found in each school (kwan), and all techniques should follow the three principles of hapkido:
Nonresistance ("Hwa", Harmony)
Circle principle ("Won" or Weon, Circle)
The Water/Flexible principle ("Yu", Flow)
Hwa, or non-resistance, is simply the act of remaining relaxed and not directly opposing an opponent's strength. For example, if an opponent were to push against a hapkido student's chest, rather than resist and push back, the hapkido student would avoid a direct confrontation by moving in the same direction as the push and utilizing the opponent's forward momentum to throw him.
Won, the circular principle, is a way to gain momentum for executing the techniques in a natural and free-flowing manner. If an opponent attacks in linear motion, as in a punch or knife thrust, the hapkido student would redirect the opponent's force by leading the attack in a circular pattern, thereby adding the attacker's power to his own. Once he has redirected the power, the hapkido student can execute any of a variety of techniques to incapacitate his attacker. The hapkido practitioner learns to view an attacker as an "energy entity" rather than as a physical entity. The bigger the person is, the more energy a person has, the better it is for the hapkido student.
Yu, the water principle, can be thought of as the soft, adaptable strength of water. Hapkido is "soft" in that it does not rely on physical force alone, much like water is soft to touch. It is adaptable in that a hapkido master will attempt to deflect an opponent's strike, in a way that is similar to free-flowing water being divided around a stone only to return and envelop it.
"As the flowing stream penetrates and surrounds its obstructions and as dripping water eventually penetrates the stone, so does the hapkido strength flow in and through its opponents."
Hapkido seeks to be a fully comprehensive fighting style and as such tries to avoid narrow specialization in any particular type of technique or range of fighting. It maintains a wide range of tactics for striking, standing joint locks, throwing techniques (both pure and joint manipulating throws) and pinning techniques. Some styles also incorporate tactics for ground fighting although these tactics generally tend to be focused upon escaping and regaining footing or controlling, striking, and finishing a downed opponent, rather than lengthy wrestling or submission grappling engagements.
The Korean term for technique is sool. As terminology varies between schools, some refer to defensive maneuvers as soolgi (loosely translated as "technique-ing"), while hoshinsool (meaning "self-defense") is preferred by others.
Proper hapkido tactics include using footwork and a series of kicks and hand strikes to bridge the distance with an opponent. Then to immediately control the balance of the opponent (typically by manipulating the head and neck), for a take down or to isolate a wrist or arm and apply a joint twisting throw, depending upon the situation; Hapkido is a comprehensive system and once the opponent's balance has been taken, there are a myriad of techniques to disable and subdue the opponent.
Hapkido makes use of pressure points known in Korean as hyeol which are also used in traditional Asian medical practices such as acupuncture point. These pressure points are either struck to produce unconsciousness or manipulated to create pain allowing one to more easily upset the balance of one's opponent prior to a throw or joint manipulation.
Hapkido emphasizes self defense over sport fighting and as such employs the use of weapons, including environmental weapons of opportunity, in addition to empty hand techniques. Some schools also teach hyeong, the Korean equivalent of what is commonly known as "kata" in Japanese martial arts.
Here are a couple of YouTube videos showing a Hapkido demonstration on the left and some highlights of Hapkido sparring. Notice the similarity to TaeKwonDo sparring except Hapkido rules seem to allow sweeps and take downs.
Please refer to our references as we have used a few different sources for the basic explanation of each martial art discipline. Many of our direct links, images and text will be from the site Wikipedia which is not known for the most accurate information when it comes to doing a thesis or studying for ones P.H.D. but does have a large collection of data that is well organized. Much of the text regarding martial arts styles on Wikipedia seems to generally sum up each discipline as good as many other sources. We do not intend to re-invent the wheel, but we do want to roll you in a good direction in order to get a glimpse of each style.