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Hapkido: Unique Self-Defense

Hapkido is one of the most popular and influential martial art forms practiced throughout global martial arts communities. The emphasis of Hapkido is on counteracting an opponent’s strikes by using their own force against them, which means that this martial art form does not utilize the aggressive blocks that are so frequently used in other martial art systems. Considered by some to be an “anti-martial art” form, Hapkido was created as a method of self-defense against attackers who were skilled at the martial arts and other forms of hand-to-hand combat. The art form has roots in Aiki-jujitsu, a very similar traditional martial art form. Hapkido differs in that students incorporate a wide variety of strikes, punches, locks, throws, and even grapples. As you can see, Hapkido truly lives up to its title of a mixed martial art. Defense strategies are of the utmost importance when it comes to this martial art system; the backbone of Hapkido includes defense concepts based on the principles of harmony, water, and the circle. The idea behind Hapkido is to give students of any age, size, or fitness level a method of self-defense skills based on a solidly structured framework of disciplines and skills so that they are prepared when a combat situation arises in real time and real space.


If you are interested in learning a very practical form of martial arts that lends itself to self-defense and well-being, then Hapkido may be the perfect martial arts system for you to pursue. Many beginners excel at this particular martial art form due to the logical nature of the sequences and the easy-to-learn beginning techniques. In fact, most beginners come away from their Hapkido lessons feeling very encouraged and empowered; many women take Hapkido lessons so that they can walk through city streets without fearing certain defeat if attacked.



Hapkido is made up of three characters. The first character, hap, refers to a coordination or unification in movement. The second character, ki, refers to the inner strength of a warrior (his or her inner spirit, power, or energy). The third character, do, can be translated to mean “way” in English. It is fairly simple to construct the philosophy of Hapkido by simply looking closely at the martial art form’s name. The literal translation of the entire phrase, “unified-power-way” is most commonly referred to as the art of coordinating energy or the art of harmony.


A note must be made here concerning the relation of Hapkido to similar Japanese martial art forms. Hapkido may be related to the Japanese art of aikido; in fact, many people think that they have a common point at some time in history. However, even with their similarities, the two martial art forms have very significant distinctions that make each of them unique. Even though they share similar characters within their names, they are comprised of very different philosophies, techniques, self-defense techniques, and lifestyles. Interestingly, the similarity between the two names has caused a great deal of confusion during the process of the international growth of Hapkido.


Two men by the name of Ji Han-Jae and Kim Moo-Hong may be among the first inventors of this beautiful martial art form. They trained with one another for a little under a year during 1961 and developed their own system of combat that utilized localized kicks. The result was a set of curricula that was adopted by the Korea Hapkido Association and grew in popularity over the next decades.


Many other influential masters added to the curriculum of Hapkido over time; the martial art form present today is a beautifully stitched together quilt of martial art technique, history, and lore.



Hapkido techniques are varied and can take years to master; however, beginners can learn a great deal about the martial art form by simply taking a look at the terms and techniques that are most commonly used by Hapkido students. Hapkido is considered a very broad and comprehensive style of combat, which means that student are not encouraged to focus on a single part of the martial art form as is common in other martial art systems. The tactics used within this martial art form include a large variety of strikes, joint locks, pins, and throws. Keep in mind that thousands of different techniques are utilized in these four tactics alone. Martial arts involve techniques that are a lot more difficult than they appear on paper; however, the effort it takes to learn the techniques involved is well worth the effort. You are sure to find that the time you spend learning martial arts is truly time well spent and the results are sure to be very satisfying.


Sool, the Korean word for “technique,” is comprised of too many aspects to list here. However, a brief explanation can be afforded to those who are truly interested in pursuing the art form of Hapkido. Appropriate techniques involve intricate groundwork and a barrage of kicks, strikes, and throws meant to disable the balance of a student’s opponent. This is often achieved by “controlling” the opponent’s head and neck region. Once you learn to disable the opponent by throwing off his or her balance, you can then learn the plethora of techniques that are most often used for the subduing of your opponent.


Interestingly, Hapkido techniques include the utilization of the opponent’s pressure points (translated in Korean as the word hyeol). You probably did not realize that martial arts and acupuncture had anything to do with each other, but you may be surprised at how related they actually are. Traditional Asian acupuncture points were often used during medical appointments as a form of healing. Certain acupuncture points, as you may know, were intended to ease pain or assist on a more rapid recovery. Hapkido techniques are instead aimed at using the pressure points as a means of causing pain or causing a more rapid loss of balance in the opponent just before a successful throw.


The kicks utilized during matches of Hapkido are similar to many of the kicks seen during Taekwondo matches; however, techniques used during Hapkido are intentionally more circular in nature. Hapkido students also use many low kicks, which are meant to “hook” or “sweep” an opponent off of his or her feet. The use of low kicks is very unique to this martial art form and is a distinctly Korean aspect of Hapkido. Whereas most martial arts focus on a rapid recovery in preparation for the next move, Hapkido students focus on a steady follow through after each kick. This is intended to provide maximum force without hesitation; students who focus on completing a kick correctly show a great deal of commitment to the kick itself instead of flinching away before the move is completed. Even though the low kick is most common among Hapkido students, many other kick variations are also utilized during matches. High kicks, leaping kicks, and blade kicks are all forms of advanced kicks that are intended to immobilize an opponent by powerfully striking one of the opponent’s pressure points. Hand-eye coordination and the disciplined control of muscle groups is an integral aspect of performing the double kicks associated with Hapkido.


Law Enforcement Use

Designed to provide a way for martial artists to “gently” subdue an enemy as quickly as possible, Hapkido as a martial art form focuses on teaching the student how to completely and efficiently control a confrontational situation with insight, precision, and intelligence rather than relying on pure strength or overwhelming force. This focus allows students to avoid hurting opponents unintentionally, because students focus their attack very precisely with intentional points of damage. Due to these reasons and many other positive ones, Hapkido is the martial art of choice among law enforcement officers, security agents, and private security individuals on a global scale. Hapkido moves can be either demobilizing or lethal depending on the severity of the situation at hand, making it the perfect martial art form for those dealing with criminal behavior.


If you are seeking a unique form of self-defense that has proven itself over a long period of time, then Hapkido is the ideal martial art system for you. The information here only barely skims the rich depth of information concerning Hapkido; however, it may act as a springboard to launch you into the world of martial arts (we hope that it does). If you are not yet convinced that Hapkido is the right kind of martial art for your personality, it may benefit you to do a little further research. Most bookstores and public libraries carry many resources about martial arts and, more specifically, resources about the techniques used in Hapkido. Take a little time to do some research about this unique self-defense martial art system. We are confident that the time and energy you spend researching and asking questions will be well worth the effort. Most students of Hapkido experience a great deal of satisfaction and an increased sense of well-being and overall health upon signing up for classes. Contact a local Hapkido school to learn more about this art form and begin your journey to a martial art lifestyle. 

Hapkido teaches that the use of weapons is not necessary, but they are integrated into the martial art form. Hapkido uses training with knives, swords, bo staff, nunchaku, and escrima