The word Hapkido consists of three words from the Korean language.

The first word, Hap (합) means to combine, coordinate, or make one. This combining or harmonizing is part of what makes Hapkido such a versatile and effective martial art. Hap refers to the ability to harmonize with an opponent's energy, momentum, weight, speed, strength, and angle of attack. Through effective timing, rhythm, body mechanics and movement students learn to overcome a larger, stronger, or even faster opponent.

The second term, Ki (기) identifies the power that pervades the universe, and has been defined as mind, spirit, heart, or breath depending upon the context in which it is used. Ki is a form of vital energy, representing the life force and a source of internal strength. Ki development through the unification of mind, body, and breath is an essential element of Hapkido.

The third word, Do (도) means the way or the path. This term implies a journey or the pursuit of a particular lifestyle, philosophy, or discipline. Such a journey requires dedication to finding harmony and peace among one's fellow man and with the very forces and rhythms of the universe.

Jang Mu Won Hapkido has three major principles which serve as the foundation of the art and which are manifested in defensive techniques: the Water principle, the Circle principle, and the harmony (or Ki) principle. As a student progresses in the study and application of the art he or she realizes that these principles are relevant to life outside of the studio environment. Each principle can be recognized in the physical movements of Hapkido techniques as well in the philosophical aspects of the art.

Water Principle

water principle Water has been used as a metaphor for the expression of philosophical and martial art concepts for many years. Water is a seemingly simple element, yet it is one of the key building blocks of life itself. A deeper examination of its properties reveals its unique ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Unobstructed, water flows in a continuous and steady stream – as should the energy of the martial artist. When a rock is placed in its path, the water adjusts its course to flow around, over, or under the obstacle. In a similar fashion, a Hapkido practitioner does not seek to force his attack or defense against the power and momentum of the aggressor. Rather, he or she "fluidly" adjusts their own position and adapts to the attacker's movement and rhythm. While adjusting to the speed or angle of an assault, the primary objective is to harmonize with the aggressor's movements, using the opponent's energy to counterattack. With minimal additional effort the defender is able to re-direct the attacker's power against them. Hapkido instruction emphasizes the ability to adapt and respond to any given situation. Moreover, when technique flows effortlessly through the practitioner, this is an indication that he has taken Hapkido and made it his own.

The water principle is an essential philosophical concept within Hapkido. Water accepts a foreign object even as it sacrifices a portion of its own space. Similarly, a student of Hapkido learns to share his or her time and energy with others in and outside of the studio. One's own ability and character development are enhanced by supporting others and contributing to their progress and well-being. The martial artist carries a deep obligation to the society in which he lives, to protect and defend those in need.

Circle Principle

circle principle With the circle, as with water, we see a form that is inherent in nature and that manifests itself in myriad ways within the world around us. The idea of circular motion is also central to the execution of technique in Hapkido. In many styles of martial arts, the direction of movement, and thereby energy, is linear. While this type of movement is not to be underestimated, other styles of martial arts such as Tai Chi Chuan, Ba Gua Zhang, and numerous other "soft" or "internal" styles, utilize primarily circular movements as a means of defense. In Hapkido, sweeps, throws, and joint-locks generally involve either a full or semi-circular motion in their execution.

The circular motion may be slow or rapid, graceful or powerful. This motion, when properly executed, can generate momentum forceful enough to subdue any opponent. Combining an attacker's power with one's own in a circular motion results in highly effective defensive maneuvers. The three basic steps in completing a technique while applying the Circle principle are redirection, absorption, and joining.

Redirection: While a defender might instinctively block an opponent's punch, this reaction alone is ineffective. By quickly maneuvering into a more favorable position one can deflect the oncoming blow, instantly redirecting the opponent's energy. Redirecting this power by a simple side step and parry motion allows a defender to reposition him or herself for a counterattack.

Absorption: Once more favorably positioned the defender is prepared to absorb the energy of the opponent through an effective counter maneuver. Combing the power of the attacker with the energy generated by his or her own circular motion, the defender is able to complete the second step of the techniques, absorption.

Joining: Once the defender has successfully redirected and absorbed the force of the aggressor, he or she may initiate a twist, throw, or joint-lock technique to neutralize the opponent. The synthesis of these maneuvers completes the physical concept of the circle principal. Diligent training will reveal to the Hapkido practitioner the relevance of the circular motion to not only martial arts, but moreover to life outside of the studio. Diligent training will reveal to the Hapkido practitioner the relevance of the circular motion to not only martial arts, but moreover to life outside of the studio.

Harmony Principle

harmony principle The Harmony principle is arguably the most important of the three foundational concepts in Hapkido. This principle not only incorporates the Circle and Water principles, but adds other significant dimensions to these basic ideas. The Harmony principle is manifested in three main areas spanning from the practice of martial arts to the precepts of life.

The Harmony principle is first visible in the proper execution of circular and water type of movements. Effective Hapkido technique requires a practitioner to blend the circle and water motions, resulting in a fluid and effortless maneuver. The Harmony principle is most effectively understood through the repetition of technique Harmony Principle.

When one is in harmony with technique and the environment, his or her movements are fluid, continuous, and instinctive. Every action is purposeful, executed intuitively and with ease. This second manifestation of the harmony principle requires the practitioner to clear his or her mind of all distractions, achieving a state of focus and complete awareness.

The highest level to attain within Hapkido involves a complete synthesis of the Water, Circle, and Harmony principles. Once successfully achieved, this third stage of the Harmony principle will reveal not only the power of alertness but the importance of universal consciousness. This stage of the Harmony principle allows the student of Hapkido to transcend the physical realm of martial arts to a state of mental peace, tranquility, and self-awareness. Within a confrontation, an aggressor will be neutralized not only by the brunt of force but by the concentrated energy exuded by an aware Hapkido practitioner. The Harmony principle represents a way of being and, moreover, a way of life.