Basic Breakout Techniques of Hap Ki Do
As a martial art, Hap Ki Do
encourages an all inclusive perspective as to what might
be appropriate for acceptance into its system. As sister
art to Tae Kwon Do, Hap Ki Do shares many of the same
fundamental techniques, and, like Tae Kwon Do, approaches
the "real world" with an eye toward what is new or
different and can be purposefully included into the
fighting system. With growth and evolution, each of the
styles has developed a distinctive core or nucleus of
technique. Today, though similarities remain, Tae Kwon Do
and Hap Ki Do have grown in different directions, each
allowing for a peripheral realm of experimentation with
new concepts and applications, serving to keep the systems
vital but distinctive and improving with time.
This article will share some concepts which proponents
of Hap Ki Do feel provide a worthwhile complement to the
already formidable techniques of the sister art of Tae
Kwon Do. These are the basic breakout techniques of Hap
To some, fighting back involves strong blocks and
resistance, while to others, a practical passive
response, if one is available, is preferred. The basic
breakout techniques of Hap Ki Do will, with practice,
allow the martial artist to disengage himself or herself
from the physical grasp of virtually any opponent,
without having to rely on the "heavy artillery" for a
first response. After all, there are many degrees of
response to be considered before depending on a groin
kick to solve a problem.
The name Hap Ki Do parallels the Japanese Ai Ki Do,
though the two systems adopt differing philosophies
toward self defense. Despite the differences, the names
are both derived from the Chinese characters meaning
"together", "energy" and "path". In Hap Ki Do, they
speak of a path or martial discipline, whose ultimate
objective is to synthesize the talents of the student
with the teachings of the system into an entity able to
coordinate his or her physical, mental and spiritual
energy at will. The trained practitioner can respond
appropriately to any situation ranging from a crisis at
the office, to physical emergency.
Of course, the litmus test of any martial arts system,
especially Hap Ki Do, is its ability to accomplish what
it sets out to do. It is not the goal of Hap Ki Do for
the student to become an acrobat or an acupuncturist; to
lie unharmed on a bed of nails or to break pine boards.
Many practitioners of the style can do these things, but
ultimately, the student seeks to draw upon the diverse
resources of the system and grow to a new plateau of
physical, mental and spiritual capacity not otherwise
possible through his or her own individual endeavors.
The starting point for this journey is mastery of the
We sometimes hear of esoteric techniques passed from
antiquity for the benefit of select martial artists who,
in the execution seem almost to possess magical powers.
Whether it's the iron palm, the immovable body, fighting
blindfolded or the one inch punch, demonstrations of
these techniques never fail to evoke expressions of
wonderment from appreciative audiences. Inevitably, the
techniques represent levels of strength, perception and
power not readily available to the average person.
When I first encountered the basic breakout techniques
of Hap Ki Do, I experienced the same sense of wonderment
as when I had earlier witnessed a boulder being smashed
on the abdomen of a Kung Fu practitioner. He was lying
on a bed of nails at the time. The Hap Ki Do
demonstrator had made the statement that no one could
hold his arm so tightly he could not instantly release
himself from the grip. Needless to say, no one could.
If done properly, these
breakout techniques will work in every instance,
regardless of differential in size, weight or strength.
A most impressive demonstration is to witness a 95 pound
female frustrating the efforts of a macho 200 pounder
trying to grab and hold one of her arms.
Before introducing the
four breakout techniques, I must stress these techniques
are to be executed softly. What doesn't show in the
photos is there is no rigidity or forcefulness in the
defender's movements. If you find yourself tensing your
muscles or wanting to bully your way through the
technique, stop and recompose yourself. The techniques
will only work if executed softly. They will not
work otherwise ! Likewise, it is important in all
the techniques that undue emphasis not be placed on
speed. Each of the techniques will work perfectly, even
in slow motion. So don't rush ahead of yourself. Lastly,
the final key to making each technique work is that the
motions of the arms and legs happen at the same time. It
is this concurrent motion which ensures the
effectiveness of the technique during a crisis.
A concept which
resurfaces throughout the explanation of the techniques
is that of the Hap Ki Do "live hand". Explaining the
"live hand" would require an article in its own right.
However, for our purposes, it is adequate to describe it
as the position your hand takes when you hold it out and
attempt to stretch the fingers as far apart as they will
go. Philosophically, the "live hand" relates to the flow
of Ki (as in Hap Ki Do), and its use
incorporates that energy into the technique. Practically
speaking, when someone grabs you tightly at the wrist,
performing a "live hand" will expand your wrist just
enough to create a flaw or weakness in the attackerís
grab. This will be the doorway through which you will
effect your escape.
During the learning
phase, it is important to eliminate unnecessary
variables by maintaining proper distancing. Students
should position themselves approximately five feet apart
(or double arms length distance). A good way to assure
proper distancing is for the students to extend their
arms straight out frontward and stand so that their
fingertips touch. They can then bring their arms down
and get on with the practice.
Again, for purposes of
learning, the attack will be the same throughout.
Attacker will step forward with his left leg and use his
left hand to grasp defender's right arm at the wrist.
#3 & 4
#1 (Photographs #3 & 4): Defender
responds to the attack by stepping forward with his
right leg, towards attacker's right side.
Simultaneously, defender thrusts his right "live hand",
palm downward, in the same direction. The motion is
complete when opponent's grip has been completely
released. Photograph #4 shows the combined effects
of the defender's forward movement and the "live hand"
release, in breaking attacker's grip.
#5, 6 & 7
photograph #5, note the importance of "live
hand" in setting up the technique.
Photograph #6 is a closeup of the breakaway
point in Technique #2. Study the
photo, note the position of defender's "live
hand", and the position of attacker's left
hand and arm.
(Photographs #5, 6 & 7): Defender responds to
the attack by stepping straight forward and, with a
"live hand", thrusts his bent right arm upward and back.
Think of the motion as though your intention were to
execute a right upward elbow strike into opponent's
chin. As your arm is moving through its upward arc, be
sure that your "live hand" is positioned so that your
right palm is facing directly left, parallel to the
plane of movement.
#8 & 9
(Photographs #8 & 9) : This is essentially the
same technique as #2, except that the defender steps
backward with his right leg while thrusting the "live
hand" upward with the right hand. Though I prefer
stepping backward into a back stance, many practitioners
use a cat stance or even a casual stance. The importance
of technique #3 is that it introduces an entirely
different hand positioning during the release and opens
the attacker to an assortment of more distant counters.
This release is particularly appropriate for the female
#10, 11 & 12
#11 shows a closeup of the breakaway
point. Note that the little finger of
the defender's right hand is pointing
groundward. Defender has moved his
right elbow over opponent's left arm for
increased leverage. On completion (see
photograph #12), an elbow strike into the
opponent's chest or head would work nicely,
but again, the technique is at first
practiced without a counter.
(Photographs 10, 11 & 12): Defender steps
forward with his right leg and simultaneously drives his
"live handed" right arm rearwards, down and away from
the opponent. The movement ends with the arm being
thrust to the rear, with the palm of the defender's
right "live hand" facing his abdominal wall in the
process. A shorter person executing the technique
against someone with greater weight or size advantage
will find it helpful to position the right elbow inside
of the attacker's left arm. Doing so will greatly
increase the breakaway leverage of the technique. Also,
Technique #4 can be executed equally effectively with
the defender stepping backward with his left leg
(perhaps into a horse stance, depending on your
preference), as opposed to forward with the right. Try
both methods to see which you prefer.
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These techniques were
taught to me during my first formal Hap Ki Do class.
With many instructors, the practice of making them part
of the first day's instruction remains. If one were to
think of the martial arts as a living language, these
breakout techniques would represent the first attempts
at vocalization by an infant. Hidden in their simplicity
are some of the most profound lessons to be garnished
from any martial arts drill. Take them and work them.
Try them with both hands, with stances, without stances,
moving forward or backward, against attackers of
different size, blindfolded and against two-handed
grabs. With a little practice, you'll be able to free
yourself instantly from any grip, and in the process,
will have added important new dimensions to your martial
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