Hapkido and its three principles—a martial art worth trying


The Korean martial art of Hapkido isn’t as antique as many of the martial arts that have become mainstays of the international sport such as Taekondo and Tang Soo Do from which Hapkido derives its name and some of what are know as ‘hard’ techniques like  primary attacks. Nor is it as old as Aikido and Jujitsu, from where Hapkido borrowed many of the ‘soft’ techniques, like the movements and breathing exercises that are crucial to it. At 100 years old Hapkido is something of a newcomer and greenhorn in the world of martial arts, but its popularity as increased remarkably in the past 20 years. Because of its multifaceted influences it is one of the more common martial arts for actors and other performers who wish to learn a martial art that will help them in their professional careers.

There are three fundamental principles that shape Hapkido: the water principle, nonresistance, and the circle principle. The nonresistance principle is sometimes also called the ‘path of least resistance’.

The water principle emphasises the soft techniques that are sometimes ignored in martial arts. These are not the attacks, but they are the actual movements such as the manner in which one moves one’s body. It’s referred to as the water technique because the goal is to treat the attacker like the water and to direct them around one’s body and personal space as if they behaved fluidly, like water. Thus, this aspect of Hapkido emphasises not the strength but on movements themselves.

Despite what the name of the principle suggests, it has nothing to do with non-violence or submission, but instead means that then an opponent is pulling, the Hapkido practitioner is pushing and when the opponent is pushing the Hapkido practitioner is pulling. In this way, we techniques for every possibility the idea is that the talent and well-practised Hapkido practitioner can be almost always in the one in control of the conflict, regardless of how it was instigated

Finally, is the circle principle.This could probably be described best with the word ‘efficiency’ or with by the somewhat green sounding ‘energy efficiency’. Directly related to the water principle that focuses on the flow of movement and the movements themselves, the circle principle tried to foster an environment in which momentum—energy—is not wasted. Another way of looking at this the Hapkido practitioner shouldn’t have to always go back to a starting position in order to perform the next action. Wether bending backwards to deflect a punch or after falling or being kicked to the ground, the main concept  behind the circle principle is that the talented practitioner should always be able to practise the art of Hapkido, regardless of where they may find themselves..

While Hapkido isn’t as steeped in legend and traditional as many of the better known martial arts,  that is hardly indicative of an underdeveloped martial art and as demonstrated through the three principles one can see there are many thought-through principles and even philosophies behind this fascinating martial art.