Sports & Fitness

Hapkido: Excellent Self-Defense Training AND Great For Fitness

By Yanyi Ma

This martial art trend is easy to learn and you don’t have to be a musclehead


With summer upon us, and school out of our heads, it’s time to get active and in shape! Amidst the growing popularity of yoga, Pilates and kickboxing, fitness enthusiasts are looking to a new form of workout that transforms spiritual energy into kick-butt actions. A lesser-known martial art called Hapkido uses circular, flowing motions rather than straight-angled moves. It’s easy to get into its spirit of fun and empowerment.

Prior to steadily becoming a North American fitness trend, Hapkido was one of the most popular martial arts in Korea. It started in the 1940s and is actually about defense, not offense (the most popular actor known for training in Hapkido—among other martial arts—is Jackie Chan). The principles of Hapkido involve circular energy, flow, and balance. It is all about using the opponent’s power against him- or herself. Its gentle and graceful style and movements are based on being in harmony with the circular motions of nature. This makes Hapkido unique among martial arts, because it emphasizes flowing techniques rather than force. Because of this, it is easy to learn, and great for anyone looking for a good workout and self-defense skills without needing to earn a black belt. It also uses a variety of arm and leg joint locks, throws, kicks, hits, and weapon-based and nerve pressure techniques.

Hapkido is a growing martial arts form that teaches self-defense and builds self-esteem, discipline, and self-respect, making you happier, healthier, safer, and smarter.

Editor’s Note: One of the most famous and charismatic figures alive today in Hapkido is Master Hwang In-shik. He has trained many but none more famous than Jackie Chan while he worked in the Hong Kong martial arts movie scene in the 1970s. From there he moved to Toronto and opened his own Hapkido school, and taught the founder of Faze and her teenage niece! Interested? Check out Eagle Hapkido.

hapkido, martial arts training

What is it about martial arts?

The majority of modern martial arts originated in Asia (some more well-known martial arts include Judo, Karate, and Kung Fu), but other popular martial arts include Brazil’s Capoeira and American Boxing. Martial arts have gained popularity with classic action films featuring Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li. More recently we are seeing female martial artists, such as Uma Thurman, Ziyi Zhang (Memoirs of a Geisha, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Garner (as Sydney Fox in Alias), and Zoe Bell (Grindhouse).

Martial arts classes are offered at most fitness club and community centres. Part of their appeal is their multipurpose training: self-defense, self-esteem, self-respect, and better self-image. They are a great workout because they are strenuous but do not require much physical strength. Also, martial arts are a way of pumping up your adrenaline, and exerting the pent-up energy accumulated over the school year. And did you know that working out produces hormones called endorphins that make people healthier and happier? Experts have also concluded that teens should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day. Taking up martial arts is a much more interesting and exciting way to burn calories and get in shape than running for an hour on a treadmill (if you can manage even that). Not to mention that exercising in general helps people age better and live longer.


More Fun Workout Ideas

Work up a sweat with moves that you can use at parties.
Try this mixture of breakdancing and martial arts and learn Halle Berry’s secret for squeezing into that Catwoman outfit.
Use a fitness sword to shape the upper and lower body while building strength (think Uma Thurman in the Kill Bill movie series).
Tai Chi
Develop an awareness of balance and relaxation. Strengthen muscles like you do in yoga, minus the flexibility.
Hula-Hoop Pilates
Old school hula-hoops are back. This hybrid incorporates Pilates with core routines using hoops, fitness balls, bands, and foam tubing.

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One thought on “Hapkido: Excellent Self-Defense Training AND Great For Fitness

  1. You may like aikido.It sonuds like you’re not willing to get into a fight, but would rather avoid one and that you’re interested in the more spiritual aspects.Aikido generally offers this. It focuses on deflecting and defending against attack, as opposed to fighting . (Defending yourself and fighting are two different things, despite what many people think). It does offer a range of effective techniques. One drawback is that the techniques take a long time to learn to do effectively. An arm-lock is not like a punch. You can learn to punch in a day (not master it, but learn it) and it will do something to a potential opponent. It takes a lot longer to learn to do a wrist-lock properly. There are lots of technical details. But if you’re willing to stick it out, the benefits are definitely there.And it also sonuds like you’re interested in the spiritual component. It’s very much present in Aikido. Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido was an accomplished martial artist himself. But he came up with this art after a series of spiritual revelations convinced him he had it all wrong all along; that he sought to overcome opponents in the past, when the art should not have been about dominating others, but about overcoming one’s weaknesses. He dubbed aikido a path of improvement for human beings and thought that his new art could help bring peace to the world through the path of non-contention.