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An Introduction Into Hapkido

Hapkido is a Korean martial art first developed by  Choi Yong-Sool during the early 1900s. His six most prominent students helped to further develop and promote the art, opening schools of their own up until the 1980s.

It uses both the soft techniques of Aikido and Jujitsu as well as some of the more hard-hitting techniques of Taekwondo and Tang Soo Do.

Hapkido practices several core training techniques, these techniques are common to all of the Hapkido schools throughout the world. There are some however which have gone on and specialized in one particular type of technique.

Hapkido Training & Techniques

Hapkido poseThe techniques used in Hapkido are broken down into five separate areas. They are hand strikes, kicking techniques, throwing techniques, joint manipulation techniques and weapons training.

For a technique to be included in Hapkido it must work based off three founding principles. The first is that the technique must be one of non-resistance, the second is that it must follow the circle principle and the third is that it adheres to the water principle.

Nonresistance is the act of remaining calm and relaxed during combat and not trying to directly oppose his or hers opponent’s strength. If they push, you pull, if they pull, you push, constantly following their movement and momentum throughout the fight.

The circle principle is a way for you to gain momentum in your movements, so that techniques can be executed swiftly and cleanly. When the opponent attacks directly the Hapkido practitioner can circle the attack away, directing that force away from the body in an efficient manner.

Finally the water principle follows Hapkido’s use of soft techniques which don’t rely upon your own physical strength.

Like water, these techniques can deflect a opponents strike, allowing you to flow around the attack.

Hand-Strike Techniques

Hapkido technique

Hapkido practitioners employ a full range of hand fighting techniques. Not restricted to purely punching techniques the Hapkido practitioner is free to attack most parts of the opponent’s body including their neck, eyes and even genitals in some of the more controversial schools.

Both open hand strikes and the elbows can be used to subdue and opponent. Offensive striking combinations are taught, as are counter-attack techniques, many of which are taught to the student at the earliest opportunity.

Kicking Techniques

Like many Korean martial arts such as Taekwondo, Hapkido incorporates a number of different kicking techniques. Unlike many of its Korean counterparts however, the majority of its kicks are aimed at below the opponent’s waist, using a number of hooking and sweeping style attacks.

Hapkido practitioners are taught to put large amounts of weight behind their kicks, being less concerned with the need for having to quickly draw the leg back into a defensive posture, may be seen with many Taekwondo and Karate techniques.

Throwing Techniques

The throws in Hapkido can either be performed with or without the use of some form of joint lock. The use of a joint lock before throwing your opponent helps to (for a short moment) take your opponent off balance, leaving them much more open to attack.

Many of the throwing techniques used are common to some other traditional martial arts, a number can be found in Judo, which have been adapted slightly to fit the more self defense role which Hapkido has.

Joint Manipulation Techniques

The techniques which attack your opponent’s bodily joints form a large part of Hapkido. They can be used to attack the neck, elbow, shoulders, hips and legs. There are also techniques for attacking small joints to, such as the wrists, fingers and even jaw.

The majority of joint attacks however focus on the wrists and elbows of your opponent. Many of these techniques are thought to have derived from Aikido and Jujutsu.

Weapons Training

Hapkido sticks

As a Hapkido student progresses through the ranks he or she is able to learn weapons techniques.

Most often to begin with self defense techniques (against the knife to begin with) are taught, followed by the baton in both an offensive and defensive situation. Other weapons include the rope, the sword and nunchaku.

Defensive techniques against firearms is taught in some schools, but for practical reasons this most often takes place in military or law enforcement environments.

Hapkido Training & Equipment

Hapkido practitioners wear a uniform much like those worn in Karate and Judo. Hapkido uniforms differ slightly however, in that they have a diamond pattern sewn into the jacket. Made of cotton they need to be strong enough to hold your weight, because Hapkido uses throwing techniques.

Gloves are also worn during sparring, you need to be able to grab, so boxing gloves are unsuitable. Better yet are mixed martial arts gloves. As well as being able to grab, these are also much smaller making them suitable for grappling. Best however are Tiger Claw gloves, these like MMA gloves let you grab onto your opponent, but offer slightly more padding, and greater dexterity in the fingers.

When doing weapons training is best to wear one of the head guards which offer full face protection. Even though the training weapons are made of non-lethal materials, they are still dangerous to the areas around the face, and so full precaution should be taken.

Three Famous Hapkido Practitioners

Choi Yong-Sool Choi Yong-Sool is the recognized founder of Hapkido, there is however some debate over the linage of the skills taught to him by his older martial arts masters, which are mainly split between those of Japanese and Korean descent.

Choi Yong-Sool chose the Korean black belt in Judo Seo Bok-Seob to be his first student, later going on to teach other notable pioneers, including Chinil Chang, Chung Kee Tae and Ji Han-Jae.

Chin Il Chang As the only ever Hapkido practitioner promoted to the level of grandmaster by Choi Yong-Sool, Chang became a household name throughout Korea following his nationally televised promotion to 10th Dan in 1985.

Choi himself personally trained Chang during closed-door training sessions, choosing him to be the one to carry on the development of Hapkido in the modern era.

Patrick Smith – Patrick Smith most famous for his appearance in the first two ultimate fighting championship tournaments holds a black belt in Hapkido as well as Kenpo Karate, Taekwondo and Tang So Do.

He later also achieved his purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but is most well known for his aggressive striking techniques.

Smith throughout his career fought in over eighteen professional boxing matches, seventy kickboxing tournaments and thirty-five mixed martial arts events.

Hapkido Organizations

World Hapkido Association The World Hapkido Association is the arts international governing body. Since its inception by Grand Master Choi Yong Soo, the association now helps national organizations in over one hundred countries worldwide.

The association’s website features a list of upcoming events and also provides access to online courses. You can also pay to become a member of the association through its website, and find links to its Facebook and Google Plus accounts.

Global Hapkido Association The Global Hapkido Association consists of 23 board members including five 9th Dan practitioners including the founder himself, Hee Kwan Lee.

The association’s website contains a global list of members and information on the arts competitive forms. Group competition, self defense, open-hand, high fall, long fall, weapons forms and free sparring competitions all take place at association events around the world.

World All Hapkido Association The World All Hapkido Association is a non-governmental organization whose mission statement is to promote Hapkido throughout the world by following the traditional philosophy and techniques of the original Hapkido masters.

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