HAPKIDO – The Korean Warrior Art Of Self-Defence


With a history that can be traced back over two thousand years, this is a style that still maintains a practical and focused approach to the true martial skills of close combat. Effective and practical, Hapkido has been internationally recognized as a traditional style that provides both technical superiorities as well as deep study of the oriental philosophy that can enrich the personal character. Nial Adams reports.

What is Hapkido?

There really is no short answer to this question, but I will attempt to give you a basic outline. Hapkido (pronounced Hap Kee Doe) is a collective martial art that is generally attributed to the Korean nation, as the Founder and First Grandmaster, a man called Choi, Yong Sul, was a Korean by birth although he spent the majority of his early life in Japan. He was taken to Japan, as a small boy and adopted by a Japanese family, and it was there that he first began his studies in the martial arts and ways. As a student of the Daito Ryu Akijutsu (the Long sword School of Combat) style, he was personally taught by Takeda Sogaku, one of Japan’s greatest martial arts practitioners, infamous and much-feared dullest. On his return to his native land as a grown man, Choi undertook a study of the traditional Korean styles and techniques, and in 1948 created what we today call Hapkido.

It is because of this heritage that Hapkido is undoubtedly a unique style of martial arts. Because it is not as widely known as saying Karate, Kung-Fu or Taekwondo, many people are unaware of what our style really consists of. Firstly, it is a pure system of self-defense and can never be adapted to a sporting context. Secondly, as a developing style, it still retains strong roots with the tradition of the oriental martial ways. Hapkido encompasses many principles and ideas about combat but there are three that are the most commonly talked about: the Water Principle, the Principle of Circularity, and the Principle of Non-Resistance. Crucially the element of the long sword, posture, position, and movement, is found in most, if not all techniques, armed and unarmed.

Because many people label Hapkido as Korean Aikido (sometimes as a result of the fact that the script for both is originally the same), which is totally incorrect, many focus on the soft aspect of the style. Yes, Hapkido does utilize soft or pliant techniques but with great devastation. These are manifestations of the water principle. However, these are only one-half of the whole. Because Hapkido was traditionally based on Buddhist philosophy, it includes the notion of Yin and Yang (or Um and Yang, as the Koreans know it), and so it contains an equal mixture of hard and soft techniques interwoven to produce a dynamic system of combat. The hard elements would include striking and breaking techniques. Strikes of such power that an opponent could be dispatched immediately, and breaking techniques where joints and bone are destroyed.

Hapkido is much more than just the physical technique of self-protection; it has evolved over centuries and become a vehicle for personal, mental, and even spiritual development. We use Hapkido to train our bodies, improving flexibility, mobility, stamina, and strength. By the nature of the training and the lessons we learn, also helps us to be more responsive, receptive, aware, and self-confident. So what does it actually mean? Hap translates as harmony or coordination, Ki as power, energy, or force, and Do like the way. In essence, Hapkido is a purely responsive, style countering an opponent’s attack by using their energy against them. The techniques of our system include:

  • Basic Body Position & Practical Stances
  • Simple Evasion & Deflection Skills
  • Dealing with Realistic Close Contact Situations
  • Effective Countering including Striking & Kicking
  • Control & Restraint Techniques, Joint & Arm Locks
  • Special Pressure Point Manipulations
  • Defending Against Armed & Multiple Attackers
  • Defenses from Grabs, Holds, Chokes & Hold-Downs
  • Blocking & Countering Realistic Punches & Strikes
  • Weaponry skills, both traditional and modern

A Brief History of International Hapkido –

In 1971 Fred Adams founded the Great Britain Hapkido Association, the first organization of its kind in the British Isles to promote the art of Hapkido. The Association was responsible for establishing the art and the first to bring several senior instructors from the Korean Hapkido Association Headquarters in Seoul. Gradually the popularity of Hapkido spread across the country and the efforts of Fred Adams reached Scotland and Wales. By 1981 several instructors had traveled abroad and began to teach and so International Hapkido was born. Fred Adams was also the first person to bring Hapkido to the shores of Ireland, teaching in the North and the South where it was well-received.

Today, International Hapkido continues its growth and receives interest from around the globe. We have instructors and representatives in America, Australia, Eastern Europe, including Russia and Ukraine, and throughout the UK. International Hapkido remains one of the very few organizations to promote genuine and authentic Hapkido. Unfortunately, there have been several pundits appearing on the international scene with watered-down systems they incorrectly claim to be Hapkido and degrade the art by adding non-authentic elements as well as sporting and competitive aspects. International Hapkido stands to protect the integrity of this noble martial art and ensure that it remains accessible to men and women across the world for future generations.

Written by Nial Adams, Senior National Coach, www.international-hapkido.com

t. 0845 226 6935     e. nial@international-hapkido.com

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