Browse Categories

Japanese Swords

Shop By Forge

Korean Swords

Korean swords are used in a variety of martial arts. They have a very distinct look and characteristics that make them unique.


What is Hapkido?


Hapkido, sometimes written as hap ki do, is a form of Korean martial arts that combines a variety of combat styles, and is similar in some ways to the styles of karate and jujutsu. Hapkido is a full-contact martial art, and its technique classification falls into the eclectic hybrid school, meaning it utilizes a wide range of techniques, many of which are borrowed from other forms of martial arts. Hapkido makes use of throws, grapples, and joint locks, as well as strikes from the hands and feet. Some schools of hapkido also teach the use of traditional melee weaponry, such as the knife, the sword, the staff, and nunchaku.


Because hapkido encompasses such a broad range of fighting styles, it is effective at all ranges, and is designed to use the practitioner's flexibility to control an opponent's movement and fighting range. Against clinching or grappling techniques, a hapkido user can keep them at long range while launching strikes, whereas when a hapkido user fights someone who favors longer strikes, he can close in and deliver short, fast blows and grapples.


The History of Hapkido


Hapkido was created when its founder, Choi Yong-Sool came back to Korea after the Second World War. After living in Japan for over thirty years and studying daito-ryu aiki-jitsu, Yong-Sool adapted the fighting format into his own techniques and incorporated strikes and kicks from fighting schools like taekkyeon, and throws and pins of judo.


Choi's first student was Seo Bok-Seob, who had already earned a black belt (dan ranking) in judo upon beginning his studies with Yong-Sool. Bok-Seob reportedly entered Choi's tutelage after watching the hapkido master successfully defend himself against multiple opponents following an argument outside the brewery that Seo's family owned. He also employed Choi as a bodyguard to his father, who was a political figure at the time. Using Seo's family's capital, the two opened the first hapkido training school in 1959.


Hapkido's popularity today is owed in large part to a man named Ji Han-Jae. Ji exhibited a natural talent for the martial art, as well as an extreme level of physical and mental discipline. He developed his own techniques, which he contributed to the style, and gained political connections when he became employed as a combat instructor to the president's personal bodyguard force. Ji's major contributions to hapkido were several forms of kicking and punching techniques that helped the martial art diverge more from defensively-oriented throwing and grappling styles like judo into a more balanced and varied combat art.


Ji moved to Germany in 1984, and later to the United States, eventually creating Sin Moo Hapkido. The school of Sin Moo brought philosophy and healing arts into hapkido's repertoire, which are widely practiced today. Ji gained such renown for his skill and contributions to martial arts that he is featured in several martial arts films, including Game of Death, in which he fights Bruce Lee.


Hapkido's Techniques and Forms


Hapkido is often referred to as a “comprehensive” martial art style, because it incorporates pieces from almost every known fighting form and offers a great deal of flexibility and responsiveness. Practitioners of hapkido are encouraged not to over-specialize in a particular format, though each student inevitable finds a few techniques at which they naturally excel.


Footwork is extremely important to hapkido, as the techniques that can be used rely on the positioning of oneself and one's opponent, and superior footwork and movement is usually key to controlling the range of the engagement. To borrow from the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi's “The Book of Five Rings,” the area between two opponents can be referred to as the “gate.” All strikes, grapples, and other attacks must pass through the gate before they can connect – therefore, if one can control the size and nature of the gate, one controls the type of attacks that are viable in combat.


Techniques in hapkido are broken down by a few simple classifications, though each individual classification may hold many different sub-types of technique. Strikes include kicks, punches, and attacks using the elbows, knees, head, and sides of the hand. Clinching techniques include grapples, joint locks, throws, and takedowns, with both joint manipulating and non-manipulating throws being used in hapkido. Techniques from ground fighting styles are also present, but many of these are defensive and designed to help fighters avoid choke holds and pins.


Hapkido also takes advantage of pressure points, which can be used offensively as well as in healing arts such as acupuncture. In combat, pressure points can be struck to increase the amount of pain or disorientation that an attack produces, which in turn can throw an opponent off balance or open them up for a major attack. Hapkido is practiced as a self-defense technique more commonly than a combat sport, and thus incorporates hand weapons both martial and improvised.


Hapkido's Deadly Strikes


Perhaps the primary identifying factor for hapkido as a Korean martial art is the number and variety of kicks present in the fighting style. The closest style to hapkido in terms of strikes is widely considered to be taekwondo, though hapkido kicks are often centered around a circular sweeping motion. Unlike taekwondo, hapkido features a wide variety of low kicks and leg sweeps, with a famous hapkido technique being the instantly recognizable spinning heel kick. These low kicks help throw off an opponent's balance, and open them up to powerful short-range blows, grapples, and joint locks.


Hapkido's focus on kicking has also led to several unique styles of kicking attacks, such a few of the complex double and triple kick techniques. Double kicks use the hapkido fighter's good sense of balance to strike twice when an opponent is likely expecting only one attack, and if the first attack is blocked it is often enough to break the opponent's guard. A few examples of common double kick techniques are the front kick into roundhouse kick, the inside to outside crescent double kick (either or both kicks can be axe kicks as well), and the high to low spinning heel double kick.


Hand and elbow strikes are another focus of hapkido technique, and are described by a term which translates to “live hand.” Live hand strikes focus the energy of a strike into the forearm, wrist, and hand, allowing high-power punches from very short range. These strikes are useful in extremely close-quarters combat, and can be used to weaken an opponent's guard in order to set up a lock or throw, or to escape a grapple or pin during ground fighting. At longer ranges, hapkido tends to favor fast footwork and flowing kicks, as these allow for greater mobility without sacrificing reach.


Joint Locks and Throws


Because hapkido is a self-defense martial art moreso than a competitive sport, the joint locks and throws are designed to force an opponent's submission through inflicting pain and breaking joints (in the case of locks) or rapidly disarming and disabling an opponent (in the case of throws).


The joint lock techniques used in hapkido are primarily taken from Daito-ryu Aiki-jujitsu. Hapkido locks may look similar in form to aikido's, but they are often more abrupt and tighter in execution, as they are rarely employed without intent to cause harm. Joint locks in hapkido can change depending on the size of the joint they are targeting – large joints such as the elbow, shoulder, neck, or knee, force the joint to break or twist by applying pressure in the opposite direction the joint naturally moves, causing intense pain. Small joint locks seek to overextend the joint by forcing it in the direction it naturally moves, rendering the joint useless. Small joint locks target the wrist, jaw, and ankles, and can disarm an opponent when executed properly.


The throwing techniques of hapkido are similar to those found in judo, in that they use an opponent's momentum and force against him. Throws in hapkido are commonly performed as a counterattack or disarming method, though some can be used to break a grapple or escape a joint lock. Throws are broken into standing and sacrificial techniques.


Standing techniques are so named because they allow the user to maintain his balance while performing the throw, thus keeping the center of gravity low and decreasing the amount of time one is off-balance. Standing throw tend to be less forceful, but are typically sufficient to disable an opponent of average size or after a strong incoming attack (such as a hook or cross). Sacrifice throws put the user at least somewhat off-balance during execution, but allow the fighter to throw larger opponents with greater ease, or counter less risky incoming attacks (such as a jab or straight).


Hapkido students also study judo throws in part because judo is traditionally an effective counter to hapkido techniques, as hapkido's sweeping kicks and aggressive movement can render one vulnerable to leveraged momentum. By studying judo techniques, hapkido fighters learn to avoid falling prey to many of the common counter attacks.