What is Hapkido?
Hapkido is a dynamic Korean martial art based on a system of self defence, through the use of joint locks, grappling and throws combined with more attacking moves (kicks, punches and other strikes).
Hapkido is practised throughout the world and is closely related to the Japanese art of Aikido.
‘Hap’ literally means harmony, unity and coordination. ‘Ki’ is energy or power and ‘Do’ means art or way, so Hapkido translates to ‘The way of coordinated power.
There are 3 theories in Hapkido:
- Yu - flowing water. Students use the power of flowing water. They don’t waste energy trying to remove obstacles (e.g. a rock on a mountain) but flow round it. Flowing water adapts to its environment and builds momentum.
- Won – circle. The use of natural flowing circular movements for swift inter-changing between techniques and blocking or stopping an opponent’s attack.
- Wha – harmony. Considered the most important element of Hapkido training. Continually practicing the techniques so they become second nature – a reflex action where instinct automatically ‘kicks in’. Harmony with your opponent is as important as finding harmony with yourself. Using an opponent’s force to block or redirect the energy in order to defend yourself effectively. It is also vital that students learn to find harmony in their environment and then blend all of these together.
Where did Hapkido originate from?
There is much discussion surrounding the exact origins of how and when Hapkido was formed due to the Korean and Japanese conflict around the time of the second World War.
What we do know is that despite the many accounts of its history, two Koreans Suh Bok Sub and Choi Yong Sul were heavily involved.
It is claimed that around 1948, Judo practioner and black belt Suh witnessed Choi successfully defending himself against a group attack. Suh was so impressed that he offered Choi, who had trained in Daitô-ryû Aiki-jûjutsu, the chance to teach him.
When Choi returned home to Korea after World War II (he had spent around 30 years living in Japan) Hapkido developed from the Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu Choi had learned previously.
The kicks and strikes from the likes of Taekkyeon and other native martial arts and the throws and ground fighting moves from Judo were also added.
The reason why Aikido and Hapkido have so many common factors is because Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba and Choi Yong Sul both learned Daitô-ryû Aiki-jûjutsu under Takeda Sokaku in Japan.
The main difference between the arts is that historically Aikido was always a defence-based system, while Hapkido does have attacking elements incorporated into it.
The promotion and resultant popularity of the art was largely down to Ji Han Jae, who was head Hapkido instructor to the presidential body guard under the then Korean President, Park Jung Hee.
As a result of the work Ji did through his many connections, the art grew and in 1965 he founded the Korea Hapkido Association. Additional Korean style punching and kicking moves were incorporated and he subsequently created his own style (Sin Moo Hapkido) after a spell in Germany and then a move to the States in 1984.
As is often the case with martial arts which have a long history associated to them, there have been a number of sub-styles of Hapkido that have developed over the years including Combat; Jin Jung Kwan; Shinshei; and Sin Moo. Whilst different, these styles all retain common elements of the Hapkido that Choi introduced.