Hapkido and Aikido both originated from the same martial art – Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu. Despite sharing the same root fightling style they have evolved into radically different combat systems. Curious to know what these differences are, I took the time to study and research the topic to understand hapkido vs aikido: what are the key differences.
History of Aikido
Aikido was founded by Morihei Ueshiba (December 14, 1883 – April 26, 1969) in Japan. In his youth, he had studied a number of martial arts but had spent considerable time under the highly skilled martial artist, Takeda Sōkaku, following one particular style called Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu.
Ueshiba moved to Tokyo in 1926 and established what would become the Aikikai Hombu Dojo where he taught hundreds of students.
In the earlier years of his teaching, from the 1920s to the mid-1930s, Ueshiba taught Takeda’s Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu system.
As we shall see, Ueshiba was profoundly influenced by a number of spiritual experiences which had an impact on his martial art teachings. His techniques became softer and more gentle. In the early years there were strikes to vital points and a greater use of weapons; these were dropped from the syllabus. In 1942, the martial art that Ueshiba developed finally came to be known as Aikido.
Aikido was first taken outside of Japan in 1951 by Minoru Mochizuki with a visit to France where he introduced Aikido techniques to Judo students. In 1953 another Japanese practitioner took the martial art to the United States.The United Kingdom followed in 1955, Italy in 1964, and Germany and Australia in 1965. It has since spread around the world and continues to be a very popular martial art.
History of Hapkido
Hapkido also descends from Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu, like Aikido. A Korean by the name of Choi Yong-Sool is credited with establishing the new art when he returned from Korea after World War II having spent 30 years living in Japan. Whilst in Japan, Choi Yong-Sool trained under Takeda Sōkaku, like Morihei Ueshiba.
Back in Korea, Choi Yong-Sool managed to fend off an attach by a group of men in the yard of the Seo Brewery Company. The owner’s son, Seo Bok-Seob, saw this take place and was highly impressed with his martial arts style and invited Choi Yong-Sool to set up a dojang (dojo) at the brewery. Seo became a Hapkido student along with other factory workers.
Ji Han-Jae was one of Choi Yong-Sool’s earliest students and was instrumental in increasing the martial arts popularity. He established the Korea Hapkido Association in 1965. From this point, Hapkido increased in worldwide popularity.
Fighting Style of Hapkido and Aikido
In the earlier years of his Aikido teaching, from the 1920s to the mid-1930s, Ueshiba taught Takeda’s Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu system. Ueshiba was profoundly influenced by a number of spiritual experiences which had an impact on his martial art teachings. His techniques became softer and more gentle. In the early years there were strikes to vital points and a greater use of weapons; these were dropped from the syllabus. In 1942, the martial art that Ueshiba developed finally came to be known as Aikido.
Aikido focusses on throwing techniques and joint manipulation and includes the following attacking movements:
- Knife Hand strikes
- Punches to the head and torso
- Wrist grabs
- Shoulder grabs
- Chest grabs
One of Aikido’s core concepts is the timing of defensive techniques to either blend or to neutralize an attack’s effectiveness and to use the force of the attacker’s movement against him.
If you watch two practitioners (Uke and Tori) in action, then their movements very much flow together. Uke will apply the technique against Tori, who will initiate a counter attack.
One of the most noticeable aspects of this martial art, is that Tori will frequently step into the attack before turning and redirecting the force of the movement. In this respect, it can be considered a “soft” martial art – brute force is never met with brute force. Rather the attacker’s energy and momentum is redirected and is used to initiate a counter attack.
Like Ueshiba, Choi Yong-Sool began teaching Takeda’s Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu system with it throws and joint locks.
Following World War II, there was a resurgence of Korean nationalism. In an effort to make the martial art less rooted in the Japanese martial art, Ji Han-Jae incorporated elements of Taekkyeon, a traditional Korean martial art. Incidently, this Korean martial art also heavily influenced Taekwondo.
Taekkyeon is well known for it’s high, jumping kicks and punches. The result was a martial art that had both throwing techniques as well as wide repertoire of punching and kicking techniques.
This blend of different martial arts is perhaps one reason why the style was called Hapkido, which means ‘The Path of combined power’.
Hapkido techniques still retain thier focus on circular movement patterns that are common in the jujutsu style originally taught by Takeda. Other martial arts such as Wing Chun also incorporate circular movements into their movements. Rather than resisting attacks with brute force, the Hapkido practitioner will seek to yield to the attack and redirect its energy, perhaps to pull the opponent off balance in order to execute a throw.
Hapkido training does not involve a huge amount of ground fighting and grappling techniques other than escapes and techniques to get back to a standing, fighting position.
In terms of whether the fighting technique of Hapkido sits in the “soft” or “hard” camp of martial arts, it’s probably fair to say that it sits somewhere in the middle. It’s not as “soft” as Aikido but it still emphasised the use of circular, flowing movements rather than the use of brute force.
Both Aikido and Hapkido stem from the same Japanese martial art of Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu. Each martial art has diverged down different avenues: Aikido has emphasized the softer and more gentle techniques and many of the more damaging strikes have been dropped from its syllabus; Hapkido has retained the throws and joint locks of its parent style and has added the punching and kicking techniques of Taekkyeon.
Philosophy of Aikido and Hapkido
Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, was greatly influenced by the Ōmoto-kyō religion (a neo-Shinto movement), particularly its philosophy of extending love and compassion especially to those who seek to harm others.
Ueshiba also had a number of spiritual experiences which profoundly influenced his martial art practices. After his third, he stated:
“The Way of the Warrior has been misunderstood. It is not a means to kill and destroy others. Those who seek to compete and better one another are making a terrible mistake. To smash, injure, or destroy is the worst thing a human being can do. The real Way of a Warrior is to prevent such slaughter – it is the Art of Peace, the power of love”.
Indeed, in Aikido, the ultimate aim is that not only is the defender unharmed, but so is the attacker.
The name Aikido translates to mean “Way of one with the Universe” or “Way of love”.
Hapkido is more self defense orientated incorporating self defense techniques against a weapon. Most Hapkido schools teach weapons training including knife disarms, stick defenses (Jung Bong), sword and long staff techniques and nunchaku. Some even teach gun defense methods. Hapkido has even formed the basis of military and law enforcement combat curriculums.
With its punches, kicks and joint locks, there’s not the same compassionate consideration for the well being of the attacker as in Aikido. If anything, it’s focussed on dispatching an attacker as quickly as possible.
Aikido is a spiritual martial art that encourages the development of compassion in the practitioner. As a fighting art it has perhaps evolved far from its fighting roots with the more lethal techniques being abandoned as the art developed. Hapkido on the other hand, is still very much focussed on self defense and has retained its weapons training and has expanded its syllabus to incorporate punching and kicking techniques.
Summary: Hapkido vs Aikido
Hapkido and Aikido both originated from the same martial art – Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu. Each has evolved different avenues: Aikido has become softer removing the more lethal techniques from it s the more damaging strikes have been dropped from its syllabus; Hapkido has retained the throws and joint locks of its parent style and has added the punching and kicking techniques of Taekkyeon.
Aikido is a spiritual martial art that encourages the development of love and compassion. As a fighting art it has perhaps evolved far from its fighting roots with the more lethal techniques being dropped from its syllabus. Hapkido retains its self defense focus and retains its weapons training and incorporate punching and kicking techniques.