Philosophy of Hapkido

An underlying philosophy of Hapkido is represented by the symbol of Um and Yang  (pronounced Yin and Yang in Chinese). The outer circle represents the entire universe. Um and Yang represent opposites in the universe that together form a balanced whole.

For example, negative and positive, good and evil, night and day, female and male, weak and strong, passive and active, etc.. The smaller circle inside signifies that the universe cannot be precisely divided and all opposites contain elements of each other.

Notice also how smoothly the two opposites flow into each other. In this way, your defense should flow smoothly, countering hard with soft. When your opponent pushes, don’t push back, instead pull, thus achieving harmony with your opponent’s force. This attitude should be carried through to every facet of your life in an attempt to achieve harmony with the world around you.

Hapkido is the art of conquering your opponent through the combined use of your mind and body. There are three basic principles underlying the techniques of Hapkido:

  1. Principle of harmony
  2. Principle of circular movement
  3. Principle of water flow

A Hapkido technique should combine all three of these principles, it is in this manner that Hapkido is co-ordinated. These basic principles are beyond the realm of a complete description with words. You will come to understand them and perceive their meaning through the continued study of Hapkido.

Principle of Harmony

This is the principle where you harmonise with the opponent’s intention, thereby leading them to defeat. It is where one unites with the body and mind of the opponent. In order to create harmony, your own mind must be clear and calm and hold no fear or confusion.

When your opponent pulls, do not resist, rather utilise their force to defeat them. When your opponent pushes, pull, again utilising their own force. This is the beginning of the creation of harmony. Your opponent will find it difficult to harm you when you completely agree with their motion.

The ultimate goal of Hapkido is not to kill, but rather to conquer your opponent’s intention through harmony. You can achieve harmony only when your own mind controls every aspect of your body.

The secret of harmony lies in the unity of the mind, body and technique, the mind being the most important of the three.

Principle of Circular Movement

This is the principle where you lead the opponent’s force into a circle. Never receive your opponent’s force directly. If you meet the opponent’s force head-on, you will need more force to contain it.

However, if you lead your opponent’s force into a circle to the left or to the right, (where they have less strength) you will need only a little force to disrupt the attack and the opponent’s balance.

Also circular techniques make it easy to gather momentum for executing techniques in a smooth, natural and free-flowing manner. One can very easily go from one circular movement to another thus redirecting your force or your opponent’s force.

Principle of Water Flow

The water principle deals with the utilisation of strength and application or focus of energy. Hapkido considers that a person’s energy flows like water, that it can be concentrated in one point of the body.

For instance, if you concentrate all of your strength into your arm, the power flows towards your fingertips and the entire arm is like a hose with a tremendous flow of water through it. This can be compared to the flow of water in a river. When the water runs into an open lake its strength is dissipated. When it divides or branches out, the original force is weakened in each branch. The strength of the river is at its peak when the river is running through a narrow gorge.

Therefore, if you divide your strength between both arms then the strength of each individual arm is weakened. By concentrating on one arm only, your strength is maximised.

This principle is seen with a man cutting timber in a mountain forest. He begins by delivering his strength to the handle of the axe. Then all of his strength flows to the tip of the blade the instance it strikes the wood.

As the flowing stream penetrated and surrounds its obstacles, so you should flow in and through the opponent. As the dripping water eventually penetrates even the hardest rock, so does continuous practice eventually lead the student to perfection and harmony of mind and body.

Nothing is more yielding then water, and yet nothing can withstand its power. Thus when you are attacked in a hard manner, yield and flow with your opponent’s force and then return their own force with your own force added to it. The result is a concentrated flow of energy capable of achieving tremendous power.

Hapkido should flow – it should never stop or give the opponent a chance to regain their balance.

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