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Here are a selection of articles on Hapkido, most of which have been published in various martial arts magazines.



Hapkido's Fighting Fans

By Sam Plumb


  The fan has been used throughout the history of the human race and can been found in almost every nation in the world.  In Korea, the fan first became popular as a weapon during the Three Kingdoms period (18 B.C. – A.D. 918).  The Fan, or Bu Chae in Korean, was a daily necessity in the hot Korean summers.  Since then, the use of the fan has gradually broadened.  It is still used to keep cool but is also used the arts, such as dance and drama.

   The Korean fan, or Bu Chae, shows Korea’s place in Asian history.  Chinese culture was taken to Korea initially by Korean merchants.  Koreans adopted and adapted this culture for well over two thousand years.  When the Japanese  travelled to Korea in the late 19th century, this one-way cultural exchange came to a halt.

   The fan was a favourite weapon of the nobility in the Korean royal courts where bladed weapons were forbidden.  The wielder would hide the fan folded up in his or her sleeve.  If threatened, the defender would whip out the fan and jab it at the opponent.  Because the fan was used in the royal courts it was tailored to fit its upper-class surroundings.  Consequently, this deadly weapon was quite delicate and innocent looking; it was made from the finest silk with rich embroidery or brightly printed, with exotic feathers added to the tip of each rib.  Understandably, these fans were very expensive to produce so the Bu Chae, as a weapon, was confined to the upper class or wealthy.

   Traditionally, the frame of the Korean fan is made from a wood known as Pak Dahl, which grows only in the Kyung Bok province of Korea.  This construction of Pak Dahl made the fan not only strong but also lightweight and easy to carry.  These days a cheaper substitute for Pak Dahl is used as fans are now mainly used in traditional Korean dance.

    Bu Chae Sul or Fan Techniques play an important part in the curriculum of the Korean martial art of Hapkido.  Hapkido is well known for turning everyday objects, like a pair of chopsticks, a walking stick or a belt, into deadly weapons.  The Bu Chae was both practical and convenient to use as a weapon.  Compared to the sword, the fan is small and light.   The entire area of the fan is utilized for self defence.  The parts used are the open fan, the tips of the ribs, the butt or tip of the closed fan and the side of the ribs of the closed fan.  Fan techniques can be both offensive and defensive.  Hapkido skills using the fan consist of many opening and closing techniques.  When folded, the fan looks like a stick and serves as a stick to strike, block and attack pressure points.  When open, the fan can be raked across the opponent’s face; it can be used to distract and disorientate the attacker and also employed to sweep, slap and intercept an attack.

   Although the fan was an aesthetically pleasing and decorative item, it was also a deadly weapon in the correct hands.  A strike from the traditional Pak Dahl ribbed fan could smash bones.  A slicing cut from the Bu Chae could find veins and arteries with ease.

  The Bu Chae was a deadly weapon as it was but some practitioner’s  customised their fan by inserting small blades into the tips of the fan’s ribs and these were hidden by the brightly coloured feathers.  These blades were most effective when the fan was snapped open to rake across the opponent’s face, throat or arms.

    Some fans were customised into close-quarter projectile weapons by hiding small throwing blades in the folds of the closed fan.  When the fan was flicked open and outwards, the blades would fly through the air in an increasing circle.  These blades were very often dipped in poison.

    When it is opened the fan makes a forceful and resonant sound.  This opening sound can be used to startle an opponent or to distract him while setting up the next attack.

   As with all Hapkido techniques, Bu Chae Sul can be categorized as both “hard” and “soft”.  The softer type of fan technique resembles the fluid motions of Tai Chi.  In contrast, the harder form of fan techniques are executed with explosive, swift and vigorous motions.

  The open fan can take several forms such as front , back and side open fan which are commonly used as attacking techniques.  When opening the fan, Ki, or internal energy can be channelled from the wielder’s body into the weapon creating a more powerful technique.  The open fan can be thrust or whipped across the attacker’s face to distract or disorientate him and set him up for a counter strike.

    When using the closed fan to strike pressure points, the student has to strike with extreme accuracy.  To accurately locate the pressure points, the student has to study the meridian charts, know each vital point by heart and understand the damage a strike to each one causes.  The surface area of an acupressure point is very small, about three millimetres at the most, so accuracy is imperative, particularly when trying to hit a fast-moving target.

  For hundreds of years the fan was used by royal bodyguards, many of whom were women.  Only women were allowed into the private rooms of the ladies of nobility.

   After the Japanese occupation of Korea in 1909, the royal court was closed down and the military and royal bodyguards disbanded.  The Japanese outlawed all traditional Korean weapons and indigenous martial arts and unfortunately, the Bu Chae was lost to most Koreans.  It was practiced in secret by dedicated martial artists, but remained largely lost until the mid-twentieth century.

    The Bu Chae is a very traditional Korean weapon and its techniques of self defence are uniquely Korean.  Unfortunately, the fan is not found in most modern Korean martial arts practiced today with Hapkido being one of the few exceptions.



Kwan Jyel Sul

Joint Manipulation Techniques


As with most Korean martial arts, Hapkido is well known for its powerful kicking and striking techniques.  However, there is a “softer” side to Hapkido which includes the skills of joint manipulation known as Kwan Jyel Sul in Korean.  These techniques are utilized when something less than obliteration of your opponent is called for.


  Kwan Jyel Sul play an important part in the development of effective self defence techniques.  They also help in understanding the different parts of the body and their functions.  Joints which have little movement, like those in the jaw and skull, are vulnerable to hard strikes.  Joints which have a lot of movement, such as those in the arm and leg, are susceptible to joint manipulation and locking techniques.


  The joints of the body allow us to perform movements that we take for granted, be it simply walking, writing or more pleasurable tasks like drinking a beer.  Anyone who has broken a leg, or even a finger, will tell you how much movement is restricted with the joints strapped or in a cast.


  Some may say “What is the point of Kwan Jyel Sul, when a good kick or punch can end the confrontation?”  It may not always be warranted to knock your opponent’s teeth down his throat.  It may be necessary only to restrain him, perhaps while the police arrive.  In fact, Kwan Jyel Sul are ideal for police work because they allow an aggressor to be subdued with the minimum amount of force.  If someone merely grabs your clothing or wrist, for example, it would not be right to punch him in the face.  By applying Kwan Jyel Sul one can break a hold and, if necessary, immobilise the opponent and make him “behave himself”.  All this can be done without excessive force.


  When the joints move freely and comfortably it is a sign of good health.  If these joints become stiff it is a sign of age and often they become arthritic.  Practice of Kwan Jyel Sul will make joints stay supple and help to resist disease.


  There are many ways in which the joints may be used in self defence techniques.  If a joint is placed at a certain angle it may be broken with the pressure of only one finger.  A joint lock can be applied to make an opponent release his grip or as a starting point for a throw.  Kwan Jyel Sul are also ideal for disarming an opponent with a weapon.


  However, when practising joint manipulations, great care should be taken, as joints can easily be damaged.  Techniques should be practised slowly and only under the supervision of a qualified instructor.  It takes a great amount of study in order to be able to apply Kwan Jyel Sul quickly, effectively and with control.


  The beginning student of Hapkido is introduced to Kwan Jyel Sul by learning various releases and holds.  They are practised in the form of an attacker grabbing a part of the body such as the wrist or clothing.  The student gains a working knowledge of the wrist, elbow and shoulder joints and the applied use of pressure points.


  The first rule in Hapkido joint techniques is that when the defender’s wrist is grabbed he opens his fingers as wide as possible.  This extends the muscles in the wrist and forearm and also allows the persons Ki (internal energy) to flow to the hand.  The allows the grip to be broken with little or no effort.


  As the student progresses he will use Kwan Jyel Sul as a starting point for a throw.  Some throws involve the possible breaking of a joint.  These however, are only practised under strict supervision.


  Pressure point attacks are used in conjunction with Kwan Jyel Sul.  A pressure point attack can help to control and position the opponent’s body so that an immobilisation, a lock or a throw can be applied.  By quickly changing angles, the experienced Hapkido student can move from one joint to another.


  Just as kicks and strikes are an important part of Hapkido, so are Kwan Jyel Sul skills.  These techniques are overlooked in many martial arts and often misunderstood by students and instructors alike.  Kwan Jyel Sul are an integral part of Hapkido and are taught right from white belt.


  The defender doesn’t run the risk of self-injury when applying Kwan Jyel Sul.  A kick or a punch can hurt the defender as much as it does the attacker if delivered incorrectly.  Joint techniques require the minimum amount of movement and power to be effective.


  Hapkido has built a reputation of excellence in the areas of joint manipulation and pressure points.  For self defence they are very effective and quickly applied, and even the strongest of adversaries can be overcome.

Ki Development


By Master Sam Plumb


It’s called Chi in Chinese; in Japan and Korea it’s known as Ki – the nearest word we can get to it in English is “vigour”.  In martial arts, Ki refers to the body’s inner energy or life force.  Ki training within the martial arts can generate up to seven times the practitioner’s power into each technique.

  Ki training is not limited to the martial arts.  Yoga stresses Ki development (Prahna), and the Chinese practise Chi Gong for both martial arts and health.  Martial arts require a special kind of Ki development training that incorporates both the health benefits and improved self defence techniques.

  Ki development is strongly emphasised in Hapkido.  Hapkido techniques are based on “relaxed power”, such as that used in Tai Chi, Aikido and Hsing-I.  Relaxed power means that sheer force against force is not used.  Hapkido practitioners take control of an opponent by unbalancing him, then countering with a relaxed power strike or a joint lock or a throw to finish the confrontation.  Ki power helps the student stay relaxed and therefore deliver a more powerful blow.


  According to Grandmaster Sung Soo Lee; “In Korea, before martial arts became sports and recreational activities, serious martial artists studied Ki development alongside the physical techniques.  In modern times, Ki training seems to be overlooked in martial arts classes”.


 There are two main branches of Ki development in Hapkido.  One is meditation and the other is Dan Jun Ho Hup (abdominal breathing).  Both are essential to developing Ki.


  There are many different ways to develop more powerful Ki but all must include abdominal breathing.  Without correct breathing there can be no Ki.  Correct breathing begins with taking slow, long and relaxed breaths.  This type of breathing delivers more oxygen to all body cells. The skin will have better colour and stay younger for longer.  Ki development also aids in quicker recovery when one is sick.


  Ki increases speed and muscular force.  The martial artist who has no ki training will do well in his first round of sparring.  After this he will not have enough stamina to continue for long. With Ki development you keep your energy.


  Daily meditation is important to keep the mind and body relaxed so that Ki can flow freely through the body.  Quiet, calm breathing helps the body relax and therefore Ki flows freely.


  As Ki flows smoothly, the body will become warm.  As the Ki flows into the hands, the hands will become warm.  Relaxation is imperative because tension in the shoulders or arms prevents Ki from flowing into the hands.  All kinds of Ki training should be pleasant experiences, done without force.


  It is easier to develop Ki if you are not stressed.  Every day worries can disrupt Ki development, so try not to be upset.  Meditation is difficult at first and many novices try to stop thinking.  It is impossible to stop thinking as the mind is always active.  Just relax and practise daily.  Ki power will not develop overnight, it takes many years of practise.


  Most  people breathe high in their chests using only a third of their total lung capacity.  Breathing to the lower abdomen helps develop full lung capacity.  Deep abdominal breathing is done by pushing the abdomen outwards with each inhaling breath.  This causes the diaphragm to relax allowing air to move into the bottom of the lungs.  The abdomen is pulled in with each outward breath, forcing carbon dioxide out of the lungs.


  Dan Jun Ho Hup, or abdominal breathing exercises, are strictly for martial arts use.  Dan Jun Ho Hup brings Ki into the hands and fingers whenever needed.  These exercises are performed by spreading the fingers wide while inhaling and exhaling with deep abdominal breathing.  Not only does Dan Jun Ho Hup help internal power, it also physically strengthens the hands and fingers.  Dan Jun Ho Hup should be practised for at least five minutes every day.


  After practising Ki Development exercises for some time the results will be impressive.  Sung Soo Lee claims that students of Ki Development exercises can strike with up to seven times their normal power.  Surely this is something that any martial artist can live with.



Master Sam Plumb & Moo Hak Kwan Hapkido
Taekwondo & Korean Martial Arts magazine, December 2006
Master Sam Plumb MHK.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [3.5 MB]
Hapkido's Ground Fighting
Taekwondo & Korean Combat Arts Magazine Aug/Sept 1996 issue.
ground fighting article.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [6.4 MB]
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