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Hapkido: Can One Martial Art Function in All Four Ranges of Self-Defense? (Part 3)

Hapkido: Can One Martial Art Function in All Four Ranges of Self-Defense? (Part 3)

When you move inside kicking range and punching range, you enter trapping range. There, attacking arms get deflected and immobilized; and knees, elbows and head butts cut loose. Hapkido teaches a variety of hand techniques for trapping range, says Jeffrey D. Harris of Jang Mu Won Hapkido, the international organization founded by Black Belt Hall of Fame member Chong S. Kim. “When your opponent grabs you, you trap him with his own arms as you move in to twist and throw. We cover that extensively,” he says.

Stephen Petermann, also of Jang Mu Won Hapkido, describes the art’s simple trapping philosophy: “It’s OK to just trap his hands so he can’t smack you, but it’s better to get them out of the way so you can smack him. One of my favorite techniques is to trap the guy’s arms, then kick him in the face with an outside crescent kick.”

Against Weapons

Traditional hapkido knife defense falls into this range because the attacker’s knife-wielding arm often gets trapped before the weapon is taken away or directed back toward him. “The general way is to control the limb with the weapon using a trapping technique, joint manipulation or pressure-point strike,” Jeffrey D. Harris says.


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“As far as weapons are concerned, when you’re fighting somebody, concentrate on the thing that can do the most damage but be aware of the others,” Stephen Petermann says. “Once you get your hands on the weapon-bearing arm, you’re not going to let go of it. You’re going to damage it.”

Many martial artists criticize traditional knife defense as too unrealistic for street use. They claim trained knife fighters never attack in the simple, linear fashion often depicted in class. Yet Stephen Petermann defends hapkido’s knife-defense techniques: “If you put yourself in a situation where you face someone trained in how to use a knife, you are in the wrong situation. Defense is certainly much more difficult. But in a typical situation where the person is out of control, where he is really not a knife user but just picked up what happened to be handy, how good is he going to be with it?”

He claims hapkido techniques directed against such impromptu opponents form a good foundation for self-defense.


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Elbows and Knees

Hapkido’s trapping-range arsenal also includes numerous elbow and knee strikes. “They are some of the most deadly tools because they can be used very close,” Jeffrey D. Harris says. “If your opponent is right on top of you with his arms wrapped around you, you can still use your knees. If he picks you up, you can use your elbows.”

Even if he bear-hugs you, Jeffrey D. Harris says, you can use your elbows to wiggle free, then continuously strike with them if he’s behind you or thrust with your knees if he’s in front.

In self-defense in trapping range, head butts are much more important than most people think, Stephen Petermann says. “When you head-strike a person’s head, body or joints, try to have his energy coming directly toward you while you deliver the strike with your energy. And when you’re doing twists, a forehead becomes a worthwhile object to get the person hopping. It’s a good fulcrum.”

“One example is against the side kick,” Jeffrey D. Harris adds. “As the opponent kicks, you enter, block the kick, trap it and strike with the head to the thigh.”

(To be continued. Read Part 1 of this article to learn how hapkido functions in kicking range and Part 2 to learn how the Korean art functions in punching range.)

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