Sabaki Talk Styles - Hapkido

A brief history of Hapkido as compiled by Bruce Simms

"...Hapkido ("Way of Coordinated Power") identifies a Korean method of combat utilizing hand strikes, kicks, joint-locks, throws, restraints and chokes. In its most specific use the term Hapkido identifies that art transmitted to Han Jae Ji by Yong Sul Choi between 1953 and 1957.

In a broader sense, though, the term Hapkido has also come to identify Korean martial arts which incorporate both strikes and grappling according to the three guiding principles of Hapkido, and derive from, or are heavily influenced by, the Japanese martial art Daito-ryu aiki-jujitsu. Into this category fall a wide range of organizations (kwans) including, but not limited to, Mu Sul Kwan, Yon Mu Kwan, Hapki Yu Sool, and Jung Ki Kwan. There are also various federations and associations the most notable of which are the World Kido Federation, the International Hapkido Federation and the Korean Hapkido Association.

In its widest usage Hapkido also identifies organizations and arts which seek a greater representation of the Korean Martial tradition. These organizations' heritage may derive in some part from either the teachings of Yong Sul Choi, or his students. However, the way the body is used in these arts may, as much, reflect the strong Chinese and Buddhist heritage of the Korean culture. This category includes the arts of Kuk Sool Won, HanMuDo, Hwarangdo, Han Pul, Mu Yei 24 Ban, as well as the martial training practices of the Sun Monasteries.

The modern art we know as Hapkido is the product of more than 2000 years of martial tradition which can be subdivided into 5 major cultural infusions and many lesser cultural influences. The first of these are the ancient tribal techniques (Sado Mu Sool) which are thought to have incorporated combat techniques best accomplished from horseback and would have included archery, lance, stone sword and knife as well as the brand of wrestling common to across most of central Asia. Practiced by the migrating tribes of the steppes of northeastern Asia, these martial skills formed the foundation for Korean martial tradition.  The Second and Third Infusions to Hapkido were the introduction of Buddhist and Confucian belief systems to Korean culture as well as the attendant martial and administrative traditions from  China during the 4th and 5th century.

The introduction of Buddhist beliefs is reflected in the establishment of various codes  which were established to guide the warriors' efforts in meeting his responsibilities to his community and country. Buddhist tradition pressed an accomplished warrior to submit to a code based on patriotism (Ch'ung), filial piety, (Hyo), fraternity (Shin) Justice (Yong) and Benevolence (Im). In this way the role of Buddhist thought for the Korean warrior was not unlike that of the Christian church in Western Europe with the development of Chivalry. From a fighting sense the addition of a code to the warrior's training helped to dissuade the warrior from misusing his skill by abusing members of his family and community.

The Confucian system, for its part, advocated a reverence for governmental authority and supported this through a hierarchy of levels, examinations, and offices. Such a strict hierarchical system readily lent itself to affirming the rigid class system comprised of the aristocracy, bureaucracy, farmers and slaves as well as the supremacy of the king. In a manner of speaking, then, if Buddhism indicated to the warrior what he was not to do and whom he was not to act against, Confucianism indicated the proper focus for the warriors' skills in terms of government and superior authority.  In addition to their respective religious and administrative influences, Buddhism and Confucianism were also avenues for the introduction of many
cultural and martial traditions from the Chinese culture. Among these contributions are varieties of weapons and martial skills, strategies, tactics and order of battle, history, science, medicine and literature.
These twin forces guided and supported Korean martial tradition but also contributed to it's decline as well. As much as we might think well of the influence of the Buddhist faith, its power and influence in the Korean government soon was seen as a threat to the kings'  ruling authority. The decline of the influence of Buddhism left an opportunity for Confucianism to make its influence felt.

With steady support from various factions throughout the Yi dynasty (1390 to 1910) military tradition in Korean was seen as little more than a necessary evil which was continually minimized at every turn. Even those occasions which required a military defense such as the Japanese Invasion of 1592 by Toyotomi was not enough to stop the decline. The occupation by the Japanese in 1910 finally brought the Yi dynasty to an end. Initially more bureaucratic, the Japanese occupation experienced steadily growing resistance by the Korean people until harsh repressive measures were instituted in the 1930-s by the Japanese that outlawed nearly the whole of Korean culture and demanded the adoption of Japanese cultural counterparts.

Japanese nationals were brought to Korea to dominate the agricultural and industrial base of that country and bringing with them such martial art traditions as Judo, jujitsu, Karate, Aikido, Kendo and Kyudo. Korean nationals were relocated to Japan to service the needs of the Japanese industry, farming and domestic service. The Fourth infusion to the Korean martial tradition is best represented in the personal experiences of Yong Sul Choi whose teachings subsequently set the foundation for much of modern
Hapkido. At the age of 8, Choi was reportedly taken to Japan from Korea, later abandoned and subsequently taken into the household of Sokaku Takeda, teacher of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujitsu. Choi states that he remained in Takedas' employ for some thirty years, before being repatriated to Korea at the end
of the Second World War. To date, no documentation has been found to support Choi's statements regarding either his residence with the Takeda family, or his instruction in the art of Daito-ryu. However, it remains that Choi along with a very limited number of other Korean nationals such as Mok Jang In,
and General Hong Hi Choi returned to Korea to add the martial skills they had experienced in Japan to those arts of the Korean culture as had survived, or had been introduced from Japan by the occupation.

In 1948 Choi began teaching his art, yu sool, to Bok-sub Suh a Yudo black belt and president of a brewery. The name "yu sool" itself suggests that the arts' techniques included joint locks and throws. However, following an incident in 1954 in which Choi's student Suh used a sidekick in an altercation, the name was changed to "yu kwon sool", indicating that the art utilized kicks and punches as well. As a student Han Jae Ji had begun to train with Choi in 1953. Working with the head instructor of the school,
Woo-woong Kim, Ji had begun to organize the kicking repertoire that would be identified with yu kwon sool. This introduction of various kicking techniques by Won-woong Kim and Han Jae Ji to the yu sool curriculum constitutes the Fifth and latest infusion of techniques. As with the martial sport of TaeKwonDo, the source for this kicking material was the historic national past-time of taek kyon and su bahk both kicking arts of long standing in the Korean culture.

On beginning his own school in 1957 as a 3rd degree Black Belt, Ji is attributed with changing the name of the art to its present form, "hapki do" from "hapki yu sool." In this way, Ji is thought to have emphasized Hapkido as a "do" or "way of living" rather than merely a collection of techniques ("sool"). In this way, whatever principals may be examined on a physical plane such as motion, balance, leverage, timing and focus may also be regarded on an intellectual, emotional and spiritual plane as well. The
result is that the art of Hapkido is as much a method of character development as a martial endeavor.
Many Hapkido practitioners can trace their instruction back to Ji,or to Yong Sul Choi through Ji. Among the most notable personalities who have trained with Choi directly, or with Choi through Ji are Joo Bang Lee (HwaRangDo), Jae-nam Myung  (International Hapkido Federation), Kwang Sik Myung (World
Hapkido Federation), and Bong Soo Han (International Hapkido Federation).

The members and cadre that descend from these lines support to Ji's reputation as the "father of modern Hapkido." There are also large networks of contemporaries to Ji who have sought to introduce innovation to the Hapkido teaching each in their own way. These include In Hyuk Suh (Kuk Sool Won), Kwan-wha Won (Moo Sool Kwan) and Hyun Su Lim (Jung Ki Kwan). In examining Daito-ryu, Hapkido and Aikido, another Daito ryu derivation, it is not surprising that one is able identify a number of similarities. All
three arts support practice in both unarmed techniques as well as the use of weapons. Though curriculums vary from organization to organization, all three arts hold to the position that techniques remain biomechanically the same whether a weapon is incorporated into the movements or not.
The weapons themselves continue to reflect a certain consistency in biomechanics, despite cultural variations. The Japanese iron fan or iron truncheon (jutte) is represented in Korean by the short stick, or dan bong. The Korean cane  approximates the Japanese jo, or stick.. Sword, knife and staff techniques are often comparable in either Japanese or Korean culture though the Korean biomechanics more often bespeak their Chinese influences in circular rather than linear motion. To a lesser degree Hapkido
practitioners continue to incorporate rope or belt techniques as well as the larger Chinese fans on occasion

A second connection among Daito-ryu aiki-jujitsu, Hapkido and Aikido are their operation under of the same three principles whether on the physical, intellectual, emotional or spiritual plane. These are the Water Principle, Point and Circle Principle and Economy of Energy Principle. The Water Principle bespeaks adaptation to circumstances and a readiness to adjust an action or response with ease. Sometimes characterized as "tenacity" or "relentless" for the penetrating qualities of the liquid, the
Water Principle is better represented by the manner in which water adapts to the shape of the container that holds it. In this way the Hapkido practitioner accepts whatever is given them to work with and makes the most of it.

The Point and Circle Principle acknowledges that "all things are a cycle" and as such can be much easier to understand in cause and effect. A punch, thrown, does not remain extended, but is "recycled" to become perhaps a block, another strike or a grab. The same can be said for a kick, or a throw, perhaps walking, eating-in fact any activity. Actions occur and are recycled to become other actions as thoughts recycle to become other thoughts. In combat application, the interception and management of an
attack is open to a greater number of options along the track of an arc rather than a straight line. An appreciation of the cyclical nature of events also allows for anticipation according to a variety of options and an execution of a particular option in a tangential rather than confrontive manner.

The Economy of Motion Principle encourages the practitioner to identify the most efficient, least wasteful way of accomplishing ones' goals, and admonishes the student to avoid "working harder than ones' opponent" In this way, whatever is learned is under constant pressure to be done more accurately, efficiently and effectively. In this way a Hapkido practitioner learns to "work smarter, not harder" in dealing with conflicts.

A third connection among Daito-ryu, Hapkido and Aikido is their reliance on a subtle hierarchy of sophistication which guides the practitioner to identify increasing levels of efficiency and effectiveness in their arts. For the Japanese arts the first level of expertise is identified as gentle technique (ju jitsu) which is approximated as 'soft technique" (yu sool) in the Korean tradition. Essentially an art based on strength; leverage and speed this level of expertise often includes a degree of pain compliance for the successful execution of the technique. Though the least sophisticated of the three levels, this skill level is perhaps the most widely exhibited among Hapkido practitioners and contributes to its reputation as a no-nonsense form of self-defense.

The second level of sophistication is identified in the Daito-ryu tradition as aiki-jujitsu or "hapki yu sool" in the Korean tradition. Aikido for its part speaks of "blending" with ones' partner. All three states indicate the ability to use the nature of the attackers' own physical structure against them. Disrupting the attackers' foundation, balance. direction, timing or focus allows for the defender to optimize his assets in a confrontation with an individual of greater size or ability. Well-known among Aikido and Daito-ryu practitioners, this level is less well-known in the Hapkido community with the exception perhaps of the practitioners in Korea itself. The highest level of expertise is designated "aiki-jitsu" (lit: "spirit techniques") and is the subject of much debate within both the Aikido and Daito-ryu aiki-jujitsu community. This level of training allows the practitioner to exploit the biomechanical responses of the attackers' own body against him such as "conditioned responses," and "reflexes". In such cases the defender, then, is able not only to engage the enemy, unbalance them and use their strength against them, but incorporate the volition of the partners' own action in defeating the attack as well.There are plenty of people who like to attribute this sort of technique to some sort of cosmic forces, but the fact is, it is only sound training practices done over and over again that produce this sort of "magic".

The organization of a typical Hapkido school reflects many of the accepted organizational practices common to most martial arts in both Korea and Japan. A director (kwang jang nin) attends to the managing affairs of the school while an instructor (sabunim) oversees regular instruction. Nearly all Hapkido organizations have adopted a hierarchy of ascending student (guep) ranks numbering ten through one and usually assign a belt color to indicate  rank.  Individuals committed to continued study,
following completion of the student ranks, are assigned a rank of one through seven indicating various levels of competence and designated by a black belt. Ranks eight, nine and ten are essentially administrative positions. Consistent with the use of a Confucian educational model, criteria for advancement, testing policies, certification and licensure vary greatly from organization to organization and are regularly a source of negotiation and discussion in the Hapkido community regarding significance
and relative merit.

The art itself is an extraordinary inter-relationship among kicks, strikes, throws, joint-locks, chokes and projections all of which abide by the three principles of Hapkido. Though occassionally practitioners of the art will participate in competitions, the art of Hapkido, itself is not competitive. It is easy to see that for an art whose intent is to stop the fight, asking a practitioner to participate in a competition designed to
extend a confrontation for even a few rounds does not make a lot of sense. Instead, Hapkido practitioners honor the Korean martial tradition that asks the warrior to serve his country, his family and his community by only coming out of the best part of himself to further the good of everyone.

Kim, S.H  (2000) The Comprehensive Illustrated Manual of Martial arts of Ancient Korea, Turtle Press, Hartford, Ct.

Kimm, H.Y. (1991) Hapkido, Andrew Jackson College Press, Baton Rouge, La.

Lee, J.B. (1979) The Ancient Martial Art of HwaRangDo (Vol. 1-3), Ohara Publications, Burbank, Ca.

Lee, K.B. (1984) A New History of Korea, Havaard University Pree, Cambridge, Ma.

Lee, P.H. (1993) Sources of Korean Civilization - Vol 1&2, Columbia University Press, New York

Myung, K.S. (1982) Hapkido - Ancient Art of Masters, World Hapkido Federation, Seoul, Korea

Omiya, S  (1992) The Hidden Roots of Aikido, Kodansha International Ltd, Tokyo, Japan

Suh, I.H. (1987) Kuk Sool

Yang, J.M. (1992)  Analysis of Shaolin Chin Na, YMAA Publication Center, Jamaica Plains, Ma...."

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