HapKiDo : A Brief Background on the History and Philosophy

HapKiDo is a Korean martial art which emphasizes strikes, kicks, throws, pressure point attacks and joint locks for self-defense .  The art of HapKiDo uses the soft and the hard, circular and linear motion, it is internal and external . The term HapKiDo can be translated to mean" the way of coordinated energy or strength". The name defines the essence of HapKiDo . Through HapKiDo practice one learns to coordinate and harmonize his or her own mind and body. Eventually developing the ability to utilize his attackers own energy against themselves to develop effective and powerful self-defense techniques. An even deeper meaning of" coordinated energy" is to cultivate and develop ones internal energy or Ki through the practice of HapKiDo .

The Origins of HapKiDo

The origins of HapKiDo can be traced to Japan in the early 1900's. The recognized founder of HapKiDo, Master Choi, Yong-Sul was a student of Daito Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu under Grand Master Sokau Takeda . Master Choi lived in Japan working as a man servant to and student of Master Takeda for approximately thirty years (1912 -1943). During some of this time Master Morihei Ueshiba was also a student under Master Takeda. Master Ueshiba was the founder of Aikido . Most of the similar techniques and concepts in HapKiDo and Aikido have their origins in Daito Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu .
Upon returning to Korea around 1945 Master Choi began teaching a style of martial art called Yu Sul or Yu Kwon Sul. Over the period from 1945 through the 1950s many indigenous Korean techniques were introduced into the practice of HapKiDo . Two of Master Choi's early students Master Han-Jae Ji and Master Moo-Hong Kim are credited with bringing in many of the kicking techniques now taught in HapKiDo . In the early 1960s the name HapKiDo came to be used to the referrer to the art developed by Master Choi and his students.

Philosophical Principles of HapKiDo

The three basic philosophical principles of HapKiDo are : Water Theory (Yu), Circle Theory (Won) and Harmony Theory (Hwa).

Water Theory (Yu)
The concept of Yu or Water Theory can be thought of by applying the action of moving water to ones movement and intentions . Flowing water is smooth and tranquil until something impedes its flow. Water doesn't resist. It flows around the obstacle, hugging and engulfing the object. As the water flows around the object it is no longer flowing in a smooth linear flow but begins to circle. Creating a powerful eddy which can break and move things. Once the object is overcome the water returns to smooth tranquil flow, soft but powerful.

Circle Theory (Won)
Won or Circle Theory has many levels of meaning as it applies to HapKiDo. On a practical level a Hap Ki Do stylist use circular motion to generate power and redirecting energy in his techniques. On a deeper level one can use a circle to coordinate and harmonize with the energy of an attacker. Still further one can think of the cyclical patterns in life and nature, trying to harmonize with the ever changing universe around us.

Harmony Theory (Hwa)
As with the other concepts there are multiple levels of understanding of Hwa or Harmony Theory. The HapKiDo practitioner learns to harmonize his motion with those of his attackers .On a more fundamental level the practice of HapKiDo teaches one to bring the body, mind and spirit in to a harmonious balance.

Principles of Motion in HapKiDo Techniques

HapKiDo utilizes some basic principles of motion to develop the proper form and function of a technique. A well executed HapKiDo technique uses an unbalancing motion, a decreasing radius of circle motion and lowering the center of gravity of the technique while its in motion. These principles of motion combined with redirecting and blending with the attackers motion are the underlying physical and biomechanical foundation of HapKiDo techniques.

Unbalancing Motion
Most throws, locks and counterattacks in HapKiDo begin with a movement intended to unbalance the opponent by moving him off his center of gravity. Early in the practice of HapKiDo techniques students learn the unbalancing motion through breakaways from wrist grabs. In the beginning stage the student is learning the proper motion and "feeling" for moving someone off their center of gravity. In more advanced stages of practice and application the HapKiDo practitioner uses the attacking motion of his opponent for unbalancing and initiating a technique.

Decreasing Radius of Circle
A motion following a circle with a decreasing radius is used in HapKiDo techniques to increase speed and power through increasing the angular momentum of the technique . The figure tracing the path of the decreasing radius circle is mathematically described as an equiangular spiral. An example of this motion in HapKiDo can be seen in the inward spiral of a wrist throw or rotation and pivot used in the foot movement of most throwing techniques.

Lowering Center of Gravity
The basic movements of unbalancing, decreasing radius of circle, and lowering center of gravity are at times applied sequentially or simultaneously depending upon the technique and situation. The lowering of ones center of gravity is often used in the beginning and finishing of HapKiDo techniques. To initiate a proper throw one must have a position of leverage against their opponent. The training concept of" getting your belt knot below your partner's" is teaching students to lower their center of gravity to achieve a position of leverage. During the execution of a throw the center of gravity of the technique is lowered to increase power and momentum in the technique. The person executing the throw should lower their center of gravity and reach the ground a fraction of a second before the person being thrown.

Redirecting and Blending
The concepts of redirecting and blending are physical extensions of the Theories of Water, Circle and Harmony. One should never meet an attack head on but should move in angles and circles which allow them to uses the attackers own force against themselves , Through the use of proper motion and technique a HapKiDo practitioner should not have to use strength to defeat a larger stronger opponent.

“When Heaven is about to confer
A great office upon a man,
It first exercises his mind with suffering, And his sinews and bones with toil; It exposes him to poverty And confounds all his undertakings. Then it is seen if he is ready.”

“In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
AS modest stillness and humility,
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger.
Stiffen the sinews, conjure up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favored rage. ”

-Henry V
  William Shakespeare