What is Hapkido?
The origins of the Korean martial art of Hapkido are somewhat of a mystery, but can be traced back at least several hundred years, and owe a great deal to the Japanese discipline of Aiki Jujitsu; a form of self defense designed for use indoors, specifically for unarmed combatants facing an armed opponent.
Hapkido can be translated as ‘Hap,’ meaning ‘together,’ symbolizing the harmony of body, mind and spirit, ‘ki,’ meaning ‘life energy,’ and ‘do,’ meaning ‘the way of.’ A more literal translation is ‘The way of coordinated internal power.’
Although many forms of Hapkido exist throughout the world, the main emphasis is on combinations of precise strikes, kicks, defensive blocks, offensive throws, takedowns, ground fighting, pressure points and especially arm, leg and joint locks.
History of Hapkido
Choi Yong Sul is regarded as the founder of Hapkido. A Korean by birth, he was kidnapped by a Japanese merchant at the age of 8, during the period when Korea was occupied by Japan, and taken to Osaka.
He eventually escaped and spent 2 years begging on the streets of Japan before being arrested by police and taken to a Buddhist monastery, where he was harassed by the other child novitiates because of his poor Japanese and limited education.
The monks took pity on him and placed him in the care of Takeda Sokaku, the local Jujitsu master, in whose home he resided for the next 30 years. There is great debate as to whether he was treated as a family member or as a servant, but what is known is that Choi became obsessed with learning Jujitsu, and mastered its techniques.
In 1943, Choi returned to Korea and began a new life as a merchant. Legend has it that one day while standing in line at a brewery to buy grain for his pigs, he was challenged by 3 men who wanted to take his place; when he refused they attacked him, unaware of his prowess in Jujitsu, and were easily defeated.
The brewery owner, Suh Bok Sup who was himself a black belt in Judo, was so impressed with Choi’s skills that he asked him to teach him. The two men eventually established their own dojo in 1951, by which time Choi had begun to develop an entirely new discipline which incorporated both his Japanese based training and his interest in traditional Korean forms of martial arts.
By 1958, Choi had christened it Hapkido, and its popularity among Korean devotees began to soar. Although today Hapkido is taught in many forms, Choi’s original version is still widely considered to be the epitome of the discipline, and is by far the most common.
Philosophy of Hapkido
Despite its variations, there are three key tenets of Hapkido; the first tenet is known as ‘Hwa,’ or non-resistance. The idea is to meet force with agility and speed in order to defend rather than attack.
A second guiding principle is known as ‘Won,’ which is the principle of fluid or circular motion. This is achieved by allowing one motion to flow into another while never allowing oneself to become so immersed in static postures as to become vulnerable to counter attack, and gives the body the freedom to react to physical situations as they arise.
The third principle is known as ‘Yoo,’ the water principle, which attempts to channel an opponents energy and movements against them, rather than trying to match brute force with force.
By emphasizing these 3 main principles, Hapkido focuses the mind, body and spirit into a cohesive but non structured alliance of being that stresses reactive defense over aggressive attack.
Hapkido as self defense
Hapkido was developed specifically as a means of self defense, which is articulated through its tenets of non aggression; but to consider it passive would be misguided. The use of pressure points and joint locks unique to Hapkido makes it extremely effective as a means of subduing opponents, particularly in the application of force transference; or using an opponent’s strength and aggression against them.
Hapkido for Kids
Like many martial arts, the combination of mental, physical and spiritual training makes Hapkido a powerful force for instilling a respect for discipline, diligence and honor for kids of all ages, particularly in its teachings of non aggression and self reliance.
Hapkido for Adults
Whether the intent is physical fitness or self defense, Hapkido can be an excellent means of exercise and a practical form of martial arts training for the young and old alike. With its emphasis on respect for others and non violence, Hapkido perfectly represents the harmony that is achieved through the application of training, tolerance and readiness throughout one’s lifetime.
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