Hapkido Self-Defense Strategies and Philosophy in the Martial Arts by KJN Ronald Stone
Over the years (42) I have visited many martial arts schools and have trained in several different styles such as Taekwondo and Hapkido. Recently I became interested in the philosophical approach to self-defense. This means to meet an attack with the appropriate level of response to protect one’s self.
The most common principle taught at most martial arts schools concerns how to react to an attack with a decisive counter reaction. The problem is that not all attacks require devastating counter attacks to be effective self-defense.
Consider for example the case of a child in school who takes a swing at a classmate who happens to be one of your students. I’m sure any student who has been in class for more than a week has learned how to block and counter a punch. Perhaps they have been taught a throwing technique which while defensive in nature, can still be deadly when someone is thrown to the concrete floor.
The Hapkido philosophy I am referring to is that of distraction, control and simple immobilization rather than counter attacking with a devastating or finishing technique. In other words there will be occasions in life where non-lethal force will be necessary for self-defense.
If you are a martial artist it will be hard to defend in court why you chose to react to an unarmed purse snatcher with a fatal hand strike to the throat or a permanently paralyzing roundhouse kick to the lumbar spine. Try talking your way out of court when your red belt son responds to a simple push by breaking the bullies’ fingers and then leg sweeping him to the cement floor resulting in a fractured skull.
Many instructors fail to realize that not all self-defense situations are “Mortal Combat” and fail to provide their students with non-lethal alternatives to self-defense. Much of this is because most schools don’t have a real curriculum or qualified instructor but more on that in another article. When considering non-lethal or even non crippling self-defense techniques the first aspect is that of distraction. In Hapkido, and most other martial artists, you learn that the Ki-ahp yell is valuable for increasing Ki and the power of a technique. It can also serve as a distraction to an attacker. When an attacker is confronted with a loud yell directed back at him even the slightest flinch or blink can give the defender a momentary edge. A Ki-ahp can cause an attacker to hesitate or to take a back step, allowing the defender to change positions. This will set up the control part of the combination, or the neural stun.
A Hapkido neural–stun is a technique directed to a pain or Ki point causing a momentary surge of pain that disrupts the mind. Anyone who has ever banged a shin while walking somewhere will testify to the incredible pain that takes over all thought processes. Any thought of doing anything other than yelling, bending over and grabbing the shin immediately disappears. At this precise moment of pain, one is particularly vulnerable. When taught correctly the neural stun can be performed in such a manner as to create the appearance that the attacker stumbled into the attack. In other words, you can create the impression the defense was accidental rather than intentional. (i.e.: “He ran right into me, tripped and must have stubbed his shin on my foot.” Or “I had my hands up and he swung right into me. My thumb must have jabbed his shoulder.”)
Once the attacker has been temporarily stunned the defender can either escape or subdue by means of a Hapkido joint lock, arm, leg or knee bar, or simple choke. Of course, when attacked you can always argue self-defense but self-defense instructors should remember that in the confusion of an attack things are not always so obvious to witnesses. Causing a bruised shin or a sore pressure point is much more defensible than breaking an arm, cracking a rib or worse yet hospitalizing an opponent with a concussion. The court system is full of attackers who turned the legal tables on their victims either by pretending that they were in fact the victims or by arguing excessive force was inflicted upon them.
Every day people are faced with situations where non-lethal self-defense force is preferable such as disputes with neighbors, arguments at work, having to deal with an unarmed alcoholic just to name a few. In these situations, it is wise not only to study the verbal skills of conflict avoidance but to study the techniques to distract, control and immobilize, rather than the more lethal martial arts moves.
About the author: R.W. Stone is currently a practicing veterinarian in Central Florida. He is an avid horseman, a master ranked martial artist, a best-selling western author, and a firearms enthusiast. After joining a martial arts school in 1970 Stone started studying Yudo with a Korean grandmaster. He eventually became a member of the Judo team of the University of Illinois. It was at the University that a Korean classmate and friend introduced him to Tae Kwon do. After graduating veterinary college, he found the martial arts becoming too sports oriented and eventually after moving from Miami to Central Florida he sought out a Hapkido grandmaster. Currently Stone is ranked 8th dan in Haemukwan Hapkido, 4th dan in Daehan Yudo and a second dan in Kukki Taekwondo. He is the Hapkido instructor at the American Dragon Martial Arts Academies.
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