Although the origins of the martial arts, in general, date back before recorded history, hapkido represents the more modern system of combat, self defense and philosophy that came into prominence in the middle of the twentieth century. Like many martial arts, hapkido borrows and blends techniques and principles from other systems to form its own identity.
Hapkido may have been founded by Korean martial artists, but it isn't a Korean martial art since it borrows so heavily from other systems of combat and philosophy. Yong Sool Choi is credited as the founder of hapkido. He trained under a Japanese martial artist for three decades before returning to his home country of Korea, where he set out to found a practical, modern system of self defense that didn't rely on ancient warfare techniques. Many masters have come and gone since Choi, adding their own techniques into a constantly evolving system.
Hapkido combines precise, devastating striking techniques with defensive joint locks, throws and sweeps to create a rounded system of self defense. Since one of the core values of hapkido is to incapacitate an opponent without causing serious injury, restraining techniques are common among hapkido practitioners. Some hapkido schools make a distinction between dynamic, showy striking techniques and self-defense oriented techniques.
Hapkido is divided into three core principles, including the water principle, circular principle and harmony -- or sum -- principle. The water principle compares hapkido stylists, both physically and spiritually, to water, since it is capable of flowing, yielding and crashing when necessary. The circular principle is applied to physical techniques, where practitioners use circular motion to absorb and redirect oncoming strikes. And the harmony principle is the philosophical tenet that urges students to combine the first two principles into a complete system of combat and philosophy.
Hapkido is often referred to as a Korean martial art because it was founded by a Korean martial artist, but it's more an amalgamation of Korean, Japanese and Chinese styles. Although hapkido shares many similarities with aikido, the two are distinct martial arts. Hapkido is generally a more aggressive style than aikido and possesses more striking techniques.
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