The following text outlines Hapkido West’s philosophical approach to teaching, training, and skills development. Its purpose is to give prospective students a clear understanding of our educational philosophy, so they can make informed choices and more fully benefit from our programs.
Fundamental Beliefs
Traditional martial arts training is far more than a physical practice involving the refinement of combative skills. It also emphasizes the harmonization of body, mind, and spirit; the perfection of human character; the cultivation of social responsibility; and the appropriate use of force. Put another way, Hapkido training is a way of life (do), one which embraces intense mental and physical training focusing on the growth and harmonization of one’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual centers. Such harmony is ultimately expressed as an intuitive response to life, unfettered by excessive deliberations and self-doubt—the proper action is instantly perceived and acted upon. This means one will do the right thing at the right time without hesitation, in all aspects of life. For example: avoiding a deadly blow; timing a self-defense response; expressing gratitude; coming to the aid of another; offering assistance; or rectifying one’s mistakes. In our society, such an individual is often characterized as a person of integrity, or one who possesses inner strength, courage, nobility of character, and a strong altruistic sense of purpose. In combat, such qualities are manifest as reflex actions that are perfectly timed and morally appropriate to the situation.
Martial Techniques
We believe that it is important to have a clear grasp of the fundamental principles that govern a specific technique’s execution—why it works and why it fails—and to deeply ingrain techniques into one’s body through constant repetition and varied training that involves both prearranged drills and free improvisation. It is not important to memorize and demonstrate techniques in a particular order, or in a rigidly defined manner. Such a time-consuming, artificial approach to training is appropriate for demonstration-oriented martial artists, but unfortunately does not lead to fluid improvisation in combat, the ability to innovate, or a deep understanding of specific techniques or the art of Hapkido as a whole. Hapkido is a living, evolving martial art. Therefore, the material in our curriculum and the manner in which techniques are executed will tend to change over time. Techniques will also need to be performed differently based on a person’s physique, natural abilities, and limitations. Please recognize that within the Hapkido community as a whole, specific promotion requirements and techniques vary widely. Today, many schools are reducing the number of required skills to accommodate students with limited time to train, or students who cross-train in several martial arts. The material in our curriculum, and the course of study it reflects, is not suitable for an abbreviated training regime. In such circumstances, it is not possible to master these techniques or the art of Hapkido as a whole.
Required Proficiency
A technique is considered to be sufficiently mastered when the practitioner understands its basic principles; can explain and teach the technique to others; can apply it fluently in a variety of circumstances against various opponents and types of attack, using different footwork or entries; and possesses the ability to modify grips and orthodox procedures as required by circumstances. Recognize that mastery of any martial technique is a lifetime endeavor. Therefore, one does not truly master the skills required for a specific color-belt or black-belt rank at the time of promotion, but rather demonstrates these techniques with a level of skill commensurate with their rank and experience. Naturally, one’s proficiency at a given rank is a temporary marker that will evolve as the practitioner continues to train.
Previous text copyright 2000–2007 by Marc Tedeschi. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission.
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