Many would argue that the Korean martial art of hapkido functions best at the closest distance of all — grappling range, where throws, chokes and joint locks become the dominant techniques. Find out what two veteran instructors think.
Many would argue that the Korean martial art of hapkido functions best at the closest distance of all — grappling range. There, throws, chokes and joint locks become the dominant techniques. With thousands of twists and throws, hapkido seems well-prepared to deal with close-up confrontations. “If you have an opportunity to block a punch or kick, or simply touch somebody, joint locks and grappling come into play,” says Stephen Petermann of Jang Mu Won Hapkido. “That and the kicking part of hapkido make a perfect balance.” “Usually, when we grab someone, we take him to the ground and finish him so he is unable to rise again,” says Jeffrey D. Harris, also an instructor in Chong S. Kim’s Jang Mu Won Hapkido. “Whether we finish with a strike or controlling technique, or throw him and let the fall finish him, we always take our opponent to the ground; he’s never left standing.” To Each His Own Not all hapkido’s myriad grappling techniques work for all people, Stephen Petermann admits, but in a fight, immediate selection of an alternate can save the day. “There are pressure points on the body that some people are not affected by at all,” he says. “One of the black belts here has none of the pressure points on his body that we would like to use, but if you grab his hair, he falls like a baby.” “For the average person, being exposed to hapkido’s [more than 3,600] techniques and picking the ones that work best with your body type is the most practical way of training,” Jeffrey D. Harris says. “But an instructor needs to know everything to keep the art going.” Hard But Effective Throwing is probably the most difficult part of hapkido’s grappling repertoire, Stephen Petermann says. “However, if you get the other person off-balance, throwing is easy. That’s why judo tournaments are sometimes very boring: Both guys know throwing and know not to let the other guy get under them. If the other person doesn’t know that, you have a better opportunity to throw. You can create that moment of imbalance, maybe by hitting him in the eyes. And anytime a person gives you a great deal of his power — really throws that John Wayne haymaker or that full-extension, face-high side kick — he’s asking you to use a throw.” “Throwing is effective because the ground does most of the work for you,” Jeffrey D. Harris says. “Gravity can work wonders. If somebody attacks you with a kick or a punch, you throw him, and he takes you to court, you didn’t physically strike him. He kicked and punched, you moved, and he fell. The ground is definitely your friend.” Ultimate Goal A big part of hapkido involves combining techniques from all four ranges in a single, flowing encounter. An advanced practitioner might throw a kick on his way in, then distract his opponent with a hand strike to the solar plexus. He might then finish with a throw and a standing armbar. “It’s part of creating a diversion,” Jeffrey D. Harris says. “Going one place to create a diversion while you go to your real target: striking the legs while you go for the eyes, striking the groin as you go for a wrist lock, or vice versa.” The entire range of hapkido’s techniques makes the art what it is, Jeffrey D. Harris says. “No one facet is dominant over another. The strikes, twists and throws make it effective. Not always will a twist work well; not always will a throw work well; not always will a strike work well. "But in any situation, one of those three will work well.” (Read Part 1 of this article to learn how hapkido functions in kicking range, Part 2 to learn how the Korean art functions in punching range and Part 3 to learn how it functions in trapping range.)