Hapkido is a martial art that originated in Korea. "Hap" refers to the harmony of body and spirit, "Ki" is the life force and "Do" is the way of life or learning. Hapkido is not a sport like tae kwon do, but is rather a strictly a practical self-defense system that can be practiced by men, women and children.
The purpose of hapkido is to learn practical self-defense techniques and join your body and mind together as one. The physical techniques of hapkido include joint locks of the arms and legs, kicks, punches, throws and pressure point techniques. Many hapkido techniques use an attacker's momentum against him to execute the movement.
According to the World Hapkido Association, martial arts techniques that resembled modern day hapkido were brought to Korea when Buddhism was introduced to the area in 372 A.D. Hapkido rose and fell in popularity in Korea over several centuries, kingdoms and invasions, and was taught to knights and monks, who often practiced in seclusion. In 1910, the Japanese destroyed the Cho-Sun dynasty and ruled Korea until 1945. When Korea regained control, Hapkido was re-introduced by Choi Yong-Sool, considered to be the founder of modern Hapkido. Today, Hapkido is popular around the world, with schools in the United States, Canada, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Mexico and China.
Hapkido operates on the basis of three principles. First is the principle of the circle. All movements are round, and hapkido practitioners move as if they are inside a ball. All attacks are stopped and redirected at the surface of this imaginary ball. Second is the principle of the river, as the hapkido practitioner reacts to opponents like a river, adapting to the situation and unleashing his "ki" at the right moment. Third is the principle of influence, which joins together the principles of the circle and the river to achieve balance.
Hapkido operates with a belt system of ranking like most other martial arts. The colored belts are known as "kubs" and begin with a tenth kub, or white belt. Individual schools vary, but each successive belt gets darker until you reach your first Dan, or black belt. Students graduate from belt to belt by learning and demonstrating the necessary skills as set out by their school.