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Hapkido Energy Interception

Scott Shaw

The Korean Martial Art of Hapkido is widely known for its extensive array of opponent disengaging techniques, joint locks, and throws. Though these defensive methods have come to define this expansive system of Martial Arts, there is a much more subtle level of self defense utilized by the advanced Hapkido practitioner—known as Energy Interception.

Energy Interception
Energy Interception witnesses the Hapkido practitioner never encountering an attacking opponent head-on. Instead, the Hapkido stylists redirects the forceful energy of an attacker. Thereby, gaining victory over him by utilizing his own expended, aggressive energy.

Hapkido Verses the Hard Style Martial Arts
Though Hapkido possesses all of the dynamic offensive striking techniques commonly associated with Taekwondo—Hapkido is a soft style system of martial art. Therefore, its approach to self-defense is very different in application and execution than its hard style Korean siblings Taekwondo and Tang Soo Do.

Hard Style martial art systems teach their students to encounter an opponent’s attack head-on—with forceful blocking techniques. It has been proven time and time again in both street altercations and professional fighting bouts alike, that by meeting force with force, bone to bone, the component of your body which you are blocking with has the potential of easily becoming injured from the directed impact of your opponent’s attack. Though you may have blocked your opponent’s initial assault, you may also have injured yourself to the degree that you will not be able to successfully continue forward and win the confrontation. For this reason, Hapkido teaches to never forcefully encounter any attack.

What then should you do when encountering an aggressive opponent? The first step is to define your defensive range. From this you will know what type of defensive action is most appropriate and easily actualized.

Hapkido’s Three Concentric Circles
Hapkido’s Three Concentric Circles Principal has you visualize three circles of varying distances encompassing your body. The First or Primary Circle is approximately three feet around you, or the distance of your outstretched arms. If an opponent has launched an attack and is this close od proximity to you, immediate self-defense is necessary.

The Second Circle ranges from three to six feet around your body. At this level, your opponent needs to travel to you, to launch an effective attack. To travel this distance a certain amount of momentum is required. This momentum can be effectively used against him by deflecting his forward motion attack and using his expended energy to your own advantage.

If, due to defensive circumstances, you must travel to your opponent, crossing this Second Circle limit, you must do so in a balanced offensive posture. The Second Circle is in relatively close proximity to you. For this reason many martial artists attempt to overly stretch to this three to six foot distance. This is a mistake. You should not attempt to stretch your punching or kicking techniques, as this will leave you off balance. If these initial techniques do not make successful contact with your attacker, he can use your lack of balance to his own advantage and strike you with a powerful attack. To this end, if you realize the necessity to move into his Second Circle location, you should do so by rapidly sliding your body in towards him—guided by your lead foot. Then, immediately encounter him with an appropriate powerful strike such as a Straight Punch followed by a joint lock and throw.

The Third or Tertiary Circle extends from six to nine feet around your body. If your opponent travels this distance to attack you, his oncoming motion is very obvious and appropriate defensive action can easily be prepared for and instigated. If, on the other hand, you decide it is in your best interest to travel this distance and encounter your opponent where he is located, then you must do so in the most efficient manner possible.

The only reason to travel this distance is if your opponent possesses a weapon such as a gun and his using it is inevitable. If this is the case, then such ttechniques as a Stepping or Jumping Side Kick are most effective. This is because of the fact that these offensive techniques close the distance between yourself and your opponent quickly and you arrive in an offensive posture.

Hapkido’s Three Concentric Circles Principal does not mean that you must maintain a stagnate positioning. What it does detail, however, is that these three circles move as your body moves. They are a method to accurately gauge the distance between your opponent and yourself and tell you when a defensive tactic is most appropriate.

Range Effective Combat
By first defining your defensive distance you can then effectively enter into any confrontation prepared to successfully defend yourself in the most appropriate manner possible. This area of Hapkido ideology is known as: Range Effective Fighting. Once the range of your defensive posture is understood you then can successfully employ the next area of Hapkido’s understanding of self-defense, that of Energy Interception.

Circular Movement
Hapkido teaches that by training your body to move in natural patterns of circular motion you can effectively defeat an opponent’s attack with minimal expended energy and without the potential of unnecessarily injuring yourself—as in the case of the previously detailed forceful block. It must be initially understood that Hapkido Circular Movement teaches that you never encounter an attacker straight-on. This is because of the fact that linear defensive techniques are forceful, awkward, and often times hold you locked into a single pattern of movement. This fact can be witnessed in the case of the forceful Forearm Block against a Straight Punch. This common traditional defensive technique, among Hard Style Martial Art Systems, witnesses you entering into a Front Stance with your blocking arm powerfully traveling upwards towards where the attacker’s punch is expected to travel. If the pathway of his punch has been even slightly miscalculated or the attacker redirects his offensive assault, you will have expended excessive energy and your arm will be locked into forcefully moving in the defensive pattern you have instigated until it reaches its apex. While the aforementioned linear block is in progress, your opponent possesses the ability to strike at you with a secondary attack. If, on the other hand, you train your body to move in fluid circular motions, if your opponent redirects his attack, you can instantly adapt your defense to his movement, as you will not be locked into a formal forceful blocking pattern.

Energy Interception
At the basis of Hapkido’s Energy Interception is circular movement. This understanding teaches that first you remove yourself from the path of an opponent’s attack, then you deflect it, intercept it, and finally you disable your attacker from possessing the ability to attempt to injure you further. This strategy of defense is accomplished by training your body to move in a fluid circular motion, following the path of least resistance. This defensive ideology, thereby, allows you to immediately follow one defensive technique with another and another until your opponent is completely disabled. This understanding is known as Continuous Motion.

At the elementary level, Hapkido’s Energy Interception teaches you to move out of the path of an aggressive attack. Moving from the path of an attack does not witness you rapidly retreating backwards or sloppily moving to one side in a linear fashion. This type of random movement leaves you ill-equipped to immediately follow up with further effective defensive techniques which will disable your opponent. This is due to the fact that by launching your body rapidly in a linear retreat, your body’s own momentum locks you into one pattern of movement. Hapkido’s Energy Interception instead, sees you calculating the path of your opponent’s attack, and then making only the minimal movement to remove yourself from the path of that attack. With this style of movement you do not have to substantially rebalance yourself, you use little energy, and you remain in a close proximity to your opponent where necessary counter attacks can easily and effectively be instigated.

Intercepting the Straight Punch
The most elementary example of moving out of the way of an opponent’s attack can be witnessed in the circular defense against the Straight Punch. In the case of the Straight Punch, which is targeted at your head, simply by pivoting on the ball of your lead foot and circularly moving your rear leg to a forty-five degree positioning from where it previously was, your head’s positioning has shifted to the degree that the Straight Punch of your opponent will continue on its linear path and miss its target. With this you have achieved initial self defense without ever instigating a formal block.

As forceful linear attacks are often very powerful in their forward driving nature, Hapkido’s Energy Interception teaches that deflective blocking techniques should be used in accordance with your removing yourself from the path of your opponent’s attack. With this, you maintain control over the confrontation and your opponent does not possess the ability to unleash a secondary attack on you. This is due to the fact that by deflecting an attack, you can leave your arm in place, thus, holding his striking arm in check, as you instigate additional defensive techniques.

Knife Hand Deflection
The most elementary circular deflective technique is the Frontal Circular Knife Hand Deflection. This energy interception is performed by first forming your hand into a Knife Hand, bending your elbow, and locating your forearm in front of your body, parallel to the ground. To deflect the on-coming Straight Punching attack of your opponent, first pivot out of the path of his attack, (as previously described), as you do so simultaneously circularly guide your hand upwards across your body to a vertical positioning. The Straight Punch will have missed you, you will have deflected your opponent’s arm, and you will be in control of the altercation.

With these two simple pivoting and deflection techniques as a basis, you not only protect your entire upper body from attack, but you deflect the on-coming punch of your opponent with little or n(o expended energy. In addition, by deflecting the attack, as opposed to forcefully blocking it, you do not risk the possibility of injuring yourself by meeting bone to bone in a traditional powerful intercepting blocking technique.

Maintaining Control
Hapkido’s Energy Interception teaches that you must maintain control over the altercation and not allow your opponent to possess the ability to strike at you with a secondary attack once you have achieved initial self-defense. Deflecting is never enough to emerge victorious from a confrontation.

The point to launch further self-defense counter measures is the moment your opponent’s attack has been deflected. This is due to the fact that in this rapidly fleeting moment, he is most vulnerable as his balance is somewhat misaligned and his mind is recalculating what move to make next. Therefore, this is your ideal opportunity to launch a counter attack.

In the case of the previously described, Circular Deflection Defense against the Straight Punch, your next line of self defense could be as simple as immediately reaching in to your opponent’s chin with your lead deflecting hand, as your other hand rapidly moves in and takes control of the back of his head. By immediately taking a powerful front and rear hold on his head and locking his neck unnaturally away from you, he can be effortlessly directed to the ground, where additional counter attack measures can be unleashed as necessary.

The Forward Driven Attack
Many confrontations do not begin in this previously discussed First Circle distance. Often times an opponent will rush in towards you, crossing through the Third and Second Circle distances, in order to attack. In this style of forward driven attack, your opponent’s intentions will become quite evident and you can use his own forward momentum against himself. For example if an opponent rushes in at you and is either preparing to extend his arms to shove you or to punch you, your first level of defense is to Side Step his forward motion. You then immediately deflect his out stretched arm, with a Forearm Circle Deflection. Your opponent, due to his own expended energy, will continue to travel forward with his own force of motion. At this point he will be vulnerable to counter attack.

Hapkido’s Energy Interception is simple in its design and its application. It teaches that you simply encounter any attack by not encountering it at all. Instead, it is far better to step away from the path of force, deflect as necessary, and then counter attack with the most appropriate and rapid counter defensive measure so that your opponent will not possess the ability to strike at you with a secondary attack. In other words; Deflect and the Reflect.

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