Hapkido for the Real World

Realistic Hapkido

I practice a style of Hapkido that I have modified tremendously. While the core joint locks and throws of Hapkido are devastatingly effective, traditional teaching of this art has an over-reliance on wrist grab techniques, too many unconventional kicks, and a plethora of techniques that are overly complex or unrealistic. Whenever I search Youtube for Hapkido videos, much of what I find is embarrassingly bad, sloppy, executed at unrealistic ranges, or just more wrist grab defenses.

In PATH aka Hammerhead Hapkido we have a few wrist grab defenses, but our focus is the application of joint locks and throws in close-quarters dynamic situations, whether from grabs, punches, or other strikes. Consider a situation where punches are coming in fast and furious. How do you protect yourself and still find an opportunity to apply a lock or break? What if you’ve already been hit? How do you recover and win the fight? What if your technique fails in the middle? How do you flow into something else?

We use a consistent entry system (derived from Silat) against punches. We always either strike first or break the attacker’s balance, or both. Only then do we seek the lock or throw of opportunity. And we practice plenty of what-ifs.

Also vital is the question of power generation. In PATH or HH we emphasize that all martial arts techniques should be powered by body rotation, body weight or footwork. Never by upper body strength.


The Hapkido I learned had fifty kicks. I have reduced that to precisely ten (not counting knee strikes):

  1. Shin kick
  2. Front snap kick
  3. Front thrust kick
  4. Side thrust kick (low only)
  5. Roundhouse kick
  6. Back kick
  7. Turning back kick
  8. Spin kick
  9. Shovel or scoop kick
  10. Circular inner-heel kick

We also use stomps when the opponent is on the ground, typically targeting the ankle, knee, upper arm or chin. After years of consideration I eliminated the axe kick and crescent kick. They do have some valid uses, but the axe kick can hyperextend your knee, and the crescent kick is too easily countered.

Other Styles:

I didn’t mean to imply that all of Hapkido is bankrupt. There are many highly skilled Hapkido practitioners out there. Who hasn’t seen this video and wished he could move like that? Even though the techniques are mostly wrist grab defenses, the master’s movements are so fast and fluid, it’s like watching a tiger take down its prey. Of course the receiver is phenomenal too.

Some of the best Hapkido I’ve seen online comes from Jin Jung Kwan style.

Keep Evolving:

Hapkido is powerful and comprehensive. Another thing I love about it is that it’s scalable: you can use it to control someone, pin him, or walk him out of a building without injuring him. Or you can use it to destroy someone. It’s a beautiful art, but it needs to keep on evolving. That evolution comes from us, you and me, as we continue to analyze our practice and strive to make it better.

Wael Abdelgawad, Founder
Hammerhead Hapkido / PATH


  1. I am highly interested in improving my skills physically, mentality and emotionaly. I would love to have an opportunity to train with you guys. Shane

Leave a Reply