View Full Version : Aikido v.s. Hapkido

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05-01-2006, 07:41 PM

My friend was interested in starting a martial arts, and he can't decide between Hapkido and Aikido.

I was wondering, what is the difference between Hapkido and Aikido? (Besides that one is Korean and one is Japanese)

05-01-2006, 08:21 PM
Hapkido has a lot of the joint locks and take downs, but also has a lot of the kicks and strikes found in arts like Tae kwon Do. I had a couple of chances to train with a hapkido master and his son at a couple of their seminars, and was very impressed. It isn't as "gentle" as aikido. The stuff we were learning was to do the most damage to your attacker as possible.

05-01-2006, 10:13 PM
Fomr what little I know about aikido, and even littler (a new word!) about hapkido, in aikido, since it is defensive, one wouldn't learn how to kick somebody (unless that kick is used as a distraction, which seems rather unlikely) as one would in hapkido.

In addition, in aikido when delivering the defenses you stay on the ground, while in hapkido there are jump kicks.

Putting these two points together, I'd conclude that there are some philosophical differences between the two arts.

Yann Golanski
05-02-2006, 02:16 AM
How about going to both for a couple of classes and deciding what the instructor is like and how the students are like and maybe *shocker* finding out which one of the two your friend likes best.... Isn't that kind of obvious?....


05-02-2006, 03:34 AM
I have a number of years of training in both arts. At the very basic level there is a lot of differences. The most obvious one is that HKD has all the striking capabilities as well as the joint locks and throws from Aikido. There is also a lot more and varied weapons work as well: staff, spear, sword, chain whip, cane, knife and more. Depending on your school, there will probably also be a lot of emphasis on ground work as well.

However, beyond the basic differences, there isn't that much between the two arts. They both come from the same root martial art in Daito Ryu, so you would expect that there are many similarities. All the throws and joint locks are the same. The basic principles of circular motion and efficiency, as well as entering, combat ranges (ma'ai in Aikido terminology) are all the same between the two arts. Once you get to the higher levels (3rd dan and above) there should be very little difference between the two beyond the weapons and striking. The Hap is the Korean translation of Ai, so as you can see, the two art names translate to the same meaning - harmonious/universal energy way. That should say something about how closely related they are.

As for the "hardness" of the art, that's very much driven by the school. Just as there are hard schools of Aikido and soft schools, there are the same in HKD. However, I would say that you're more likely to find schools on the harder end of the scale in HKD than Aikido. The two arts are very complimentary.

The one thing that I will caution your friend on is to check deeply into the credentials of the Hapkido school. Many schools are Tae Kwon Do plus a few joint locks thrown in in order to ride the HKD wave. Check for the lineage back to a student of Yung Sool Choi, the founder of the art (Contemporary of O'Sensei). If they don't have this, be really careful as it is likely to be a TKD-plus school.

The only other thing to comment on is the formalism. Most Aikido schools are very formal during class time. Most TKD schools are not (relatively speaking). This reflects a lot of the cultural differences between the countries they came from. Expect HKD schools to be a lot more chatty and have interactions between students far more than you'll find in Aikido schools.

Richard Langridge
05-02-2006, 03:45 AM
Hmm, Hapkido actually sounds quite interesting...

Dirk Hanss
05-02-2006, 09:04 AM
I just searched for the history of both, as a colleague of mine studies HKD.
The similiarities are astonishing:
As said before, both derive from Daito Ryu, as both founders trained under Sokaku Takeda, while I have not found witness, that both founders have met.
Both arts have been trained in their country's police and secret services in not their best times, aikido in WW II, HKD in the later years of South Korean dictatorship (I think it was by the founders direct follower as the art's head master).
O Sensei left Tokyo and retired to Iwama, the HKD master had to leave South Korea and went to the United States. For both arts these events were point of changes, when the arts grew much softer than they used to be before.

I might have messed up a little bit, but that was what I recognised.

From what I have seen, HKD seems to require much more athletic and artistic fitness from their students.

Another interesting aspect: The punches and (high) kicks were introduced to HapKiDo, when Tae Kwon Do became popular and Hap Ki Do had to prove to be a Korean Art rather than Japanese, which might be understandable after WW II and years of Japanese occupation.


05-02-2006, 10:42 AM
Thank you everyone for your replies. Now I understand that there is not much difference between techniques. But, does anyone know if there is a difference between the beliefs/principles/spiritual part between them?

Thanks again for your help. :ai: :ki: :do:

05-02-2006, 09:48 PM
There isn't much difference in the principles of the two arts. In HKD, the 3 core principles are:

Circular Motion (fairly obvious, same as Aikido)
Efficiency (maximum result for minimum effort)
Water (strong and unyeilding, yet capable of conforming to the true shape of the container without loosing its true esscence)

These pretty much mirror the same in Aikido, though expressed in different terms (eg diamond, water, willow, ki). Both focus a lot on internal energy development: you'll see the same sorts of exercises such as unbendable arm et al. The one small difference that I tend to see is that HKD puts a lot of focus on what is called hara breathing in Aikido and developing that right from the start: It is fairly usual for a lesson to start or finish with 5 minutes of breathing exercises.

On the spiritual level, I think you'll find far more religous overtones in Aikido than you will in HKD. I think you'll find this derives from the differences in how the founders viewed the world. O'Sensei wanted to unite the world and had very strong religious influence in his personal life. Choi was very practical and most of his early students had already studied other striking arts or Judo and it was being used for real martial purposes (body guards for the Korean politicians, special forces etc). As a result there's far less of the "lofty goals" that you normally see associated with Aikido. Most of the training and written words about HKD tend to be about the techniques, and not where to go in life.

The only other area that seems to be quite different is their approach to change. Aikido teachers and practitioners seem to be very focussed on the core art and trying to refine their understanding of it and the principles involved. Hapkido tends to go the other way - adapt to whatever is current and add new techniques as needed. There's a story about how the founder got started in Korea after returning from Japan where Choi had learnt the art (FWIW, the early history of just where Choi got his training is subject to quite a lot of controversy - many claim that there's no possible way that Choi learnt Daito Ryu from Takeda). The first time he was challenged in a line waiting for some rice and a he dropped the challenger quickly and effortlessly. The owner of the mill happened to witness this and invited Choi to teach him. The owner was already proficient in Judo, so Choi started adding techniques to defend against Judo attacks. Later on, the young fit guys were doing a lot of kicking from Karate and the early days of Tae Kwon Do, so kicking was added to the art. Even more recently, a lot of grappling has been added. I once read a quote that sums up HKD's approach, that I quite like - "Hapkido, the original MMA".

Dirk: The fitness/athletic ability thing is highly dependent on the school. My own school does not work on that much at all. We focus on fitting the art to the person's capabilities, whatever they are. For example, one of the two head teachers has congenital knee defects, so kicking and pivoting on the knees are torture to her, yet the other head teacher does really high jump spinning kicks in his sleep. That teacher with the bad knees had both of them replaced last week, so it's pretty likely her training will take a further change in approach in the future. However, neither is any less effective than the other in free practice.

I think that covers anything. Feel free to keep asking more questions. I'll try to answer to the best of my knowledge and without favourtism to either side (I train in both concurrently, as well as some TKD and Tai Chi as well so I have a reasonably balanced view of strengths and weakness of each).

05-02-2006, 09:54 PM
Regarding the spirtual belief difference: I trained aikido, not very seriously, during a few of my college years. I really enjoyed the training, really enjoyed getting thrown around, but was always put off by all the spritual stuff my sensi was spouting. I just didnt buy it. So much so that I called my sensi out on it one day after class, which he was really cool about. Always figured you dealt with a situation in an appropriate manner and everythig is cool. About a year ago I moved to Korea and have been training Hapkido very seriously, mostly because I didnt have to put up with all the mumbo jumbo that I couldnt swallow in aikido class (I was a philosophy major in university), partly because I dont speak much Korean, but mostly because it is just not discussed. If your friend wants all that spritual talk send him to aikido, if he doesnt want to deal with it send him to hapkido. Even though I cant train aikido here (given the Koreans understandable hatred of the Japanese) I plan to go back to an aikido school when I return Stateside. I dig on Hapkido because it is uber brutal and super aggro, I dig aikido because it is not.

05-02-2006, 10:28 PM
there isnt mutch spiritual talk in my aikido school....

Richard Langridge
05-03-2006, 02:28 AM
Personally I think I might feel guilty learning something so unashamedly brutal, but I suppose it's what you do with it that counts.

Dirk Hanss
05-03-2006, 03:18 AM
there isnt mutch spiritual talk in my aikido school....
You do not need to talk very much to teach sprituality. The most serious and probably extreme spiritual monks do not talk a word over long times and the remaining time they speak only the very needed minimum


05-03-2006, 07:25 AM
Thank you everyone for your help. Everyone's replies were very helpful. What I got from it was that Hapkido is almost exactly alike with Aikido, with the exceptions that Hapkido has the same techniques and more than Aikido and that Aikido is more spiritual than Hapkido. Am I correct? Or is the more, or less?

:ai: :ki: :do:

Ron Tisdale
05-03-2006, 12:38 PM
A couple of quick points:

There is no documentation (as someone else mentioned) that the founder of Hapkido ever studied with Takeda Sensei. Takeda Sensei kept EXTENSIVE log books of who trained with him and when. Choi (or anyone like him) is not found in those books. The stories floating around about him being a house boy for Takeda have so far proved to be completely bogus. This does not mean that Choi did not have exposure to Daito ryu from one of Takeda's students. The similarities between some versions of the arts do seem to be significant.

Aikido at least varies widely between styles and dojo. You should survey the ones in your specific area to find out what they do. I'm sure much the same can be said of hapkido. For instance, some have mentioned (positively and negatively) the "spiritual" focus. Yoshinkan Aikido (from Gozo Shioda, a long time student of the founder of aikido) is very physical, very demanding, and does not push spiritual or religious teaching at all. In fact, many of the Shinto rituals associated with training in Japan and Japanese arts have been stripped out, as Gozo Shioda was not a particularly religious man. Yoshinkan aikido is perhaps the second largest world wide affiliation of aikido schools.


Jack Simpson
05-03-2006, 02:26 PM
I would just echo a previous poster concerning looking into the lineage/credentials for the hapkido school and instructor being considered. Hapkido has splintered many times since Choi and I've seen it taught as "tae kwon do with a couple of wrist locks" to "aikido with a couple of kicks". While we may think of aikido as being politically driven at times, there seemed to have been many more splits/dilutions in hapkido.

As with any school, visit the dojang (korean in this case) and see what the classes look like, how the students are treated and the general atmosphere. As far as lineage, etc, I would check out hapkido.com (http://www.hapkido.com/) to learn more about one particular viable federation and my good friend Jere has a nice web page with lots o' hapkido/korean stuff Jere's page (http://www.hapkidoselfdefense.com/) . There are other federations, etc, this is just one that I know a little about.

Good luck with the search.

Jack :ai: