What is Hapkido?
Korean Martial Art
Hapkido is an easy-to-learn Korean martial art of self-defense suitable for all ages and abilities. Literally, the term Hapkido is derived from three Korean words:
Hap: the coordination of mind and body.
Ki: the inner energy that is created and manifested through "Hap".
Do: the self-controlled and disciplined life necessary to create "Hap" and "Ki".
Hapkido is a complete martial art teaching throws, kicks, punches, joint manipulation, pressure points, free fighting, weapons and meditation. All hapkido skills are designed to subdue an opponent without causing serious injuries.
History of Hapkido
The history of Korean martial arts began about 16 centuries ago at approximately 372 A.D. At this time it was mainly the Buddhist Monks who began developing what fighting arts there were in Korea. Nobleman and people from the elite classes would secretly practise these fighting skills, taking care to keep their skills from the lower classes.
During this time, Korea was divided into three warring kingdoms: Paekche, Koguryo and Silla. Koguryu was the largest of the kingdoms and most often the aggressor. Silla, however, possessed the most advanced culture and it's sophistication helped the small kingdom ward of it's enemies.
In the 5th century, the kingdom of Koguryo invaded both Paekche and Silla. After holding off the invaders, Silla became even more united with new efforts to improve itself. One of the most important improvements was the creation of an elite fighting group called Hwarangdo. This group comprised of specially selected noblemen who excelled intellectually as well as physically. They were taught the arts of philosophy, science, verse, as well as Ki and martial arts skills. The Hwarangdo helped Silla defeat her enemies and unite all of Korea.
As the years passed, some masters began to specialise in specific areas such as kicks or throws; they developed individual schools that would later be known as Tae Kwon Do, Korean Kendo and Yew Sool, etc. Many monks and some martial art masters however, continued to teach, improve and modernize all the fighting techniques, practising a "complete" system under the name of hoshinsul (self-defense technques).
In 1904 Japan invaded Korea. After conquering the country the Japanese required the monks to take wives and banned all martial arts. Masters of the martial arts were forced to hide in the remote monasteries and mountains in order to be able to preserve and pass on knowledge to their disciples.
The martial art ban lasted 36 years until 1945. One master who withdrew to the moutains was Choi, Young Sool. During his 36 years in the mountains he helped to develop and modernize what we now call "Hapkido". Another well known name within Hapkido history is one of Choi's disciples Ji, Han Jae. Master Ji was instrumental in reviving Hapkido in post-war Korea. He developed more kicks and techniques and helped Hapkido to flourish through the creation of a governmental organisation known as the Korean Hapkido Association.
Grand Master Gedo Chang originally learned Hapkido from his father, a Buddhist monk. He was also a contemporary of Master Ji. In his twenties Master Chang left the mountains of Chungnam province and the monastery he had grown up in. Arriving in the city he became formally recognised as a master (1964) by the newly created Korean Hapkido Association. He then opened his school in Korea and called it Wol Ge Kwan which means "The Victor's Laurel". He was the first to develop Hapkido techniques specifically for police personnel. His teaching abilities so impressed the Korean Government, that they created a special award for "Best Martial Arts Instructor", and presented it to Master Chang. In 1973, Master Chang moved to the United States of America and settled in Lombard, Illinois where he opened his first U.S. School, "Chang's Hapkido Academy". Since then he has demonstrated and taught throughout the USA and is currently President of the World Hapkido Union.
Won - Circular Motion
The circle symbolises natural and continuous movement. In relation to an attackers punch, instead of blocking it with a direct counterblock (meeting force with force), the circular principle is used to deflect or re-direct the force of the punch. Utilising a circle not only disrupts an opponent's force, but also sets the position for a counterattack. In everyday life the same principle can be applied - if someone makes negative comments then these should not be countered with negative returns but be deflected in a circular way with positive ones.
The circle can also be thought of as an invisible area around oneself - if the attackers punch does not come inside this circle there is no need to block. Circular motion is also important in relation to the education of students. Techniques need to be revisited with the added knowledge acquired from having completed the circle.
Hwa - Harmony or Non-Resistance
At one level the harmony or non-resistance that we are trying to develop is within us - linking mind and body. In simple terms, one should be making sure that the body or senses are not dictating actions. At other levels we should be trying to be in harmony with our environment and our opponent. In relation to a punch even though the force is directed straight at us, we should not oppose that force but instead go with it. In this way we harmonise with the force becoming one with it. In everyday life we should also be ensuring that there is harmony between mind and body, so that we are following the right path. Closely linked to harmony theory is the concept of "empty mind" - a mind free from impurities.
Yew - The Water Principle
Two of the characteristics of water are softness and adaptability. Softness in general is linked to life, whereas, hardness or brittleness is linked to death. Softness has the capacity to win against hardness. Hapkido is "soft" and defensive, emphasising throws, twists and pressure point techniques. As compared to some other Martial Arts that are "hard" - which rely on physical power and are offence-oriented. When training in Hapkido both the body and mind should become softer. Adaptability can be described in terms of deflecting an attacker's punch; we are like water that has been penetrated by a stone: no sooner has the stone divided the water than it flows together again to surround and envelop the stone. Adaptability, constant flow, penetration and softness apply to actions within the do-jang as well as to life in general. For example, adaptability refers to adjusting positively to changing circumstances and finding the best path.