Practitioners of the Korean art of hapkido claim to be privileged to study a style famed for its powerful kicks, varied hand strikes, effective trapping-range techniques, and versatile joint locks and throws. Does it effectively cover all four ranges of combat?

Most martial artists now realize that all fighting takes place at specific distances, which are commonly designated as kicking, punching, trapping and grappling range. Many also have learned that proficiency in only one range does not guarantee success in a street fight because real confrontations can flow from one range to another in the blink of an eye. Therefore, students often look to other styles for supplemental skills that their primary art does not teach. For example, a boxer may decide to study savate for kicking, wing chun kung fu for trapping and judo for grappling. Yet hundreds of thousands of martial artists around the world see no need to search outside their own system for these techniques. Practitioners of the Korean art of hapkido claim to be privileged to study a style famed for its powerful kicks, varied hand strikes, effective trapping-range techniques, and versatile joint locks and throws.


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In this article, Stephen Petermann and Jeffrey D. Harris — instructors under Black Belt Hall of Fame member and Jang Mu Won Hapkido founder Chong S. Kim, an original student of Choi Yong-sool — examine the issue at hand: Does hapkido effectively cover all four ranges of combat? Kicking Range Perhaps more than any other country’s arts, those of Korea come well-equipped for fighting in kicking range. Hapkido is no exception. Yet its leg techniques differ from those of many other arts because of the tremendous power imparted by pivoting on the supporting foot and following through with full leg motion. “In hapkido, the goal is to deliver as much impact as you can,” Stephen Petermann says. “If you don’t add those last few inches with the pivot of the foot, you’re holding something back. So you pivot on all your kicks; that gives you the ability to get six inches [of reach] the person didn’t think you had and to move your energy farther toward him.” Hapkido divides kicking range according to distance, and certain kicks fit into each category. “How do you kick an opponent when you’re face to face?” Stephen Petermann asks. “Let’s say you want to get out of a situation and retreat, but you feel you need to defend yourself while you’re doing it. You can turn and do a scooping back kick or inside kick, even face to face. If you’re going to grapple with him, you might still use a heel kick to hit him on the tailbone or thigh while retreating. Just because you’re face to face doesn’t mean you have to grapple; you can still kick.” Jeffrey D. Harris identifies several ranges within the art’s concept of kicking range: very close, where knees are used; medium distance, where a front-leg front kick will work; greater distance, where you can use a rear-leg front kick; and the greatest distance, where a jumping front-leg front kick or rear-leg jump kick can be used. “We don’t just train close; we don’t just train far,” he says. “We train in all the ranges so we can defend against those ranges.” For practical self-defense, though, Jeffrey D. Harris advises beginners to stick with the basics. “The low- to middle-range kicks work best for self-defense,” he says. “The high spinning heel kicks and [similar techniques] are extremely difficult, especially in a fighting situation, but they’re not impractical because you’re also dealing with the element of surprise. Who’s going to expect you to jump into the air, do a 360-degree spinning heel kick and land it?” Three Heights “The high, middle and low kicks are very important because they give you better choices, better opportunity,” Stephen Petermann adds. “When you’re fighting a particular stylist and he defends middle or high body very well, you can kick him low. In styles where they tend to squat more and place more weight on the front leg, obviously a sweeping kick will not work. But because of that disadvantage, a high kick can be successful because he can’t get out of range quickly enough.” Low-line hapkido attacks can knock a leg out from under a person or even tear flesh and break bones, Jeffrey D. Harris claims. “We have kicks to the knee, shin, ankle and feet; sweep kicks to the back of the leg; stomping kicks; kicks in which you grate the blade of your foot down the front of your attacker’s shin and end with a stomp on his foot and a twist at the bottom for good measure,” he says. “There are also hooking kicks to the back of the leg, blade kicks to the shin and muscle-tearing kicks.” Not surprisingly, some Korean arts have been criticized for having too many specialized kicks that might never get used in real life. Outsiders are sometimes left wondering why more practical leg techniques are not emphasized. “First, younger students have to accomplish the basics — the front kick, inside kick, outside kick, side kick and roundhouse kick,” Stephen Petermann says. “If they don’t accomplish those, the rest of it is wasted. Once they have, they go on to other kicks [according] to whatever level they’re capable of. But the basics have to be good. For beginners, having a kick for every possible situation becomes overload — they don’t really need it.” Yet Stephen Petermann acknowledges the usefulness of such varied kicking practice. “How often are you going to use a jump two-man front kick?” he asks. “Probably not very often, but you need to train your body to accomplish these things so your basic kicks become even better. Certainly, we have some very esoteric kicks, such as the toe-in-the-throat kick. That’s one of my personal favorites, but would it be my first choice in a fight? Absolutely not. Is it one you’re ever going to use? Gosh, I don’t know. But it’s still a useful technique, and it improves your overall understanding of what you’re capable of.” Continued in "Hapkido: Can One Martial Art Function in All Four Ranges of Self-Defense? (Part 2)"
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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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