By the time you’ve reached black belt in Hapkido, you’ve accumulated hundreds of Hapkido techniques: from the basic punch to the more complex self-defence skills and the multitude of variations.  In this three part article I’d like to talk about why understanding a variety of techniques is a good thing (part one), how more techniques can hinder your development (part two), and ultimately why focusing on more or less skills actually misses the point (part three).

So why are more skills a good thing…?

Sometimes students have problems with techniques, or claim that ‘this one just doesn’t work when I do it on John’.    They look to me for the answer, some sort of response that will miraculously solve their dilemma.  Often it’s quite straight forward, a foot has been placed wrong, a technique has been remembered incorrectly, a partner who knows what is going to happen next is purposefully stopping the skill, or simply more practice is needed.  But there is the occasion when a brick wall is hit and things aren’t happening at all.  I don’t want to lie; there are definitely limits to the usefulness of some skills.  Some physical attributes like speed, flexibility, strength, hand/wrist size, height and weight make some skills easier for some people.  But does that mean that overall Hapkido doesn’t work?

One of the reasons we have a multitude of skills is that every skill won’t work in every situation and for every person.  Being tall for example gives me an advantage when I perform Yellow wrist skill number 4, but as my height also means I have a higher centre of gravity it is a distinct disadvantage when performing YewSool skills, unless I have enough flexibility and gluteal muscle strength to get low.  Yew Sool might not be the easiest skills for me, but by learning them and getting a degree of proficiency in them I have also learned about balance, the importance of getting low and many other equally significant insights.  By drilling the skills, particularly the ones I struggle with I’m challenging myself, pushing myself to the limits of my abilities… and as such those limits keep edging back.

When we train with different opponents and with different skills over a long time, we also gain sensitivity to our opponent.  What I mean is, even if your opponent is a complete stranger, you develop an awareness of what skill you can make work on what person and naturally you adapt.  The more skilled we are, the more we are able to instinctively know what to do.  Having a large arsenal at your disposal means if needed, you can choose the right skill for the right situation.

So learning lots of techniques is a good thing.  It gives us an understanding of our body and the bodies we are working with, and ultimately it provides us with choice.

Next month, in part two, I’ll talk about why lots of skills can be also be a bad thing.

Skills, skills, and more skills (part one)