On the "hard-soft" scale of martial arts, Hapkido stands somewhere in the middle, employing "soft" techniques similar to Aikido and "hard" techniques reminiscent of Taekwondo and Tangsoodo. Even the "hard" techniques, though, emphasize circular rather than linear movements. Hapkido is an eclectic martial art, and different Hapkido schools emphasize different techniques. However, some core techniques are found in each school (kwan), and all techniques should follow the three principles of Hapkido:

Nonresistance (Hwa)
Circular Motion (Won)
The Water Principle (Yu)

Joint Locks and Weapons

Much of Hapkido's joint control techniques are said to be derived largely from Aikijujutsu. They are taught similarly to Aikido techniques, but in general the circles are smaller and the techniques are applied in a more linear fashion. Hapkido's joint manipulation techniques attack both large joints (such as the elbow, shoulder, neck, back, knee, and hip) and small joints (such as wrists, fingers, ankles, toes, jaw).

As a hapkido student advances through the various belt levels (basically the same as other Korean arts, e.g. Taekwondo), he or she learns how to employ and defend against various weapons. The first weapon encountered is most often the knife (kal). Then, techniques and defenses against the short stick (dan bong), the walking cane (jipangee), and the rope are introduced in hapkido training. Some styles also incorporate the long staff (jang bong), middle long staff (jung bong), nunchaku (Ssang Jeol Gon) and the sword (Gum).

Throwing Techniques

In addition to throws which are achieved by unbalancing one's opponent through the twisting of their joints, hapkido also contains techniques of pure throwing which do not require the assistance of jointlocks. Some of these techniques are found within Daito-ryu but a great many of them are held in common with judo (the same Chinese characters are pronounced "yudo" in Korean).

Judo techniques were introduced in the early years of 20th century in Korea during the Japanese colonial period. Judo/yudo tactics employ extensive use of throws, various chokes, hold downs, joint locks, and other grappling techniques used to control the opponent on the ground. It is believed that these techniques were absorbed into the hapkido curriculum from judo as there were a great many judo practitioners in Korea at that time and its tactics were commonly employed in the fighting of the period.

Hand strikes

Like most martial arts, hapkido employs a great number of punches and hand strikes, as well as elbow strikes. A distinctive example of hapkido hand techniques is "live hand" strike that focuses energy to the baek hwa hyul in the hand, producing energy strikes and internal strikes. The hand strikes are often used to weaken the opponent before joint locking and throwing, and also as finishing techniques. Hand striking in hapkido (unless in competition) is not restricted to punches and open hand striking; some significance is given to striking with fingernails at the throat and eyes; pulling at the opponent's genitals is also covered in conventional training. In order to recall hand strikes more easily in an emotionally charged situation, beginning students are taught conventional, effective patterns of blocks and counterattacks called Makko Chigi, which progress to more complex techniques as the student becomes familiar with them.


Hapkido training takes place in a dojang. While training methods vary, a typical training session will contain technique practice, break falling (nakbop), sparring, meditation and exercises to develop internal energy (ki). Although hapkido is in some respects a "soft" art, training is very vigorous and demanding. The practitioner could benefit in training by being lean and muscular. However, strength is not a prerequisite of hapkido; what strength and fitness is necessary to perform the techniques develops naturally as a result of training.