Taekwondo vs Hapkido: What's the Difference?

Adults who participate in martial arts reap whatever benefits they seek such improved health, reduced stress, and increased discipline. For them, martial arts is whatever the make of it. Children, however, reap all the rewards.

Children involved in martial arts learn more than self-defense. They learn discipline, gain self-esteem, and discover peace of mind. 

The term “martial arts” is a broad one, and many kids take Taekwondo classes. A related discipline is Hapkido. Both share the same core principles.

When comparing Taekwondo vs. Hapkido, the similarities and differences may not be clear at first. How are these disciplines alike and how do they differ? Let’s find out and see which one may be good fits for you or your kids.

Taekwondo vs. Hapkido

At their centers, both Taekwondo and Hapkido focus on the same core principles. The word “Hap” in Hapkido speaks to the unity between the body and spirit.

The concept of unity is the same in Taekwondo, where “Ki” refers to the energy that flows through the body. To continue, “Do” means a way of life. These principles are the same in both forms, not only during training but as a way of life.

Similarities Between Two Art Forms

Both art forms also focus on self-defense rather than aggression. Self-defense hinges upon peaceful order. Neither Taekwondo or Hapkido aims to harm the opponent. Rather, the focus is on promoting peace. Where there is peace, there is order.

For both arts, the goal is to teach students self-respect and a centered life balance. Each of those demands focus, patience, and practice. Mastery takes years of practice and dedication.

Differences Between Taekwondo vs. Hapkido

Taekwondo differs from Hapkido in several ways. A prominent difference is Taekwondo’s emphasis on kicks. Taekwondo students must be skilled at executing fast, powerful kicks strong enough to overpower the opponent.

On the other hand, Hapkido emphasizes joint locks and throws. Many consider it to be somewhat more violent than Taekwondo because of this.

Because martial arts is a fluid discipline, many schools blend both art forms in their teachings. Due to their similarities, the styles often overlap. Students who are studying Taekwondo often learn Hapkido techniques as well.

Hapkido, the Art of Coordinated Power

As we mentioned, the Korean term Hapkido is a combination of three words that mean “harmony or coordination,” “life force,” and “power.” Thus, Hapkido is the “art of coordinated power.”

In addition to the powerful kicks, the self-defense techniques include a system of circular motions that include punches, throwing, breaks, and choke holds as submission techniques.

The attacks center on the weakest parts of the body like nerves, arteries, joints, and other pressure points. All of these movements serve to increase the student’s flexibility, fitness, and stamina.

Street-Fighting Style

Its style is more like that of street fighting than the forms you typically see in competitive tournaments. In fact, combat Hapkido was the model taught to the Green Berets during hand-to-hand combat training in Vietnam.

Yin and Yang

Hapkido is more than mere self-defense. It is a way of life that values the sanctity of life itself. Hapkido classes are often a mix of technique, discipline, and exercise.

They also often incorporate more general teachings on life and health. Sometimes, they include spiritual music as well.

Students learn to focus on finding internal harmony. They strengthen their abilities to concentrate and relax. Essentially, they strive for the balance known as the yin and yang.

Benefits of Hapkido for Younger Students

Younger students learn all these principles during classes. They learn five elements to live by. Those elements are focus, discipline, following directions, respect, and confidence.

Learning these at a young age prepares them for current challenges as well as the ones they will face later in life. Instructors encourage their students to do their best and begin the journey of mastering the comprehensive discipline of Hapkido.

Now, let’s discuss the characteristics of Taekwondo.

Taekwondo, the Art of the Foot and Fist

The more modern art of Taekwondo breaks down to Tae Kwon Do, which translates to “The Art of the Foot and the Fist.” Tae refers to using your feet or kicking.

Kwon refers to using the hands to strike and punch. Do refers to the way of life that is Taekwondo. Taekwondo is about 75% kicking, and the rest is striking or blocking.

Attacks in all four Taekwondo disciplines involve directly striking the opponent. The four disciplines are Sparring, Forms, Breaking, and Self-Defense. International Taekwondo tournaments showcase these four disciplines. 

Training the Spirit

Taekwondo is one of the most systematic of traditional Korean martial arts. It teaches more than physical skills. It’s a discipline that aims to enhance the spirit through training the mind and body.

Taekwondo is a global sport and is part of the Olympic Games. Taekwondo stresses the right way of using the “fists and feet,” which represents all the other parts of the body.

An equally important focus is on controlling or calming fights and keeping the peace or putting “fists under control.” More literally, to “step on fists.”

Origins of Taekwondo

Taekwondo’s history begins with Korea’s history some 5000-years ago. It’s had several names. The first was Subak or Taekkyon, a Korean defense martial art.

From there, it evolved into Sunbae, a way of training the mind and body in the kingdom of Koguryo. Later, during the Shilla period, it became the heart of Hwarangdo, which aimed to produce leaders.

The Taekwondo of today shares some characteristics with martial arts from a few different countries. This is partly because it evolved alongside styles that existed in surrounding countries like China and Japan.

How Taekwondo Stands Apart

Taekwondo stands out from the other martial arts primarily due to the complex foot skills. Further, the physical movements are in sync with the mind and life itself. The discipline also involves dynamic poses that originated from this unique perspective.

When you practice Taekwondo, you make your mind peaceful. Then, you synchronize your mind with your movements. Next, you extend the harmony beyond your life and to society.

These principles of physical movements, mind training, and life are one and the same. In this sense, Taekwondo is a way of life much like other disciplines. What sets it apart is that it’s also a discipline for surviving antagonistic situations.

You must overcome an enemy who is trying to cause harm. Winning a fight is not enough because the enemy can recover and attack again (and there will be other enemies on the way).

You can never be safe unless you gain permanent peace. To accomplish this, you need unity. This is the aim of Taekwondo. It’s what sets it apart from disciplines that focus on street-fighting skills.

Benefits of Taekwondo for Younger Students

Because Taekwondo focuses less on combat skills and more on discipline and balance, Taekwondo is excellent for children. Parents choose this form of martial arts for their children for the same reasons.

Taekwondo teaches more than discipline to kids. It teaches them confidence and respect. Of course, they also benefit from the increased stamina, fitness, and flexibility they gain from practice.

Which Discipline Should You Choose?

When considering Taekwondo vs. Hapkido, it’s not a matter of which is better. It’s more of a decision based on your personal goals. Any style satisfies the need to learn self-defense and gain the confidence that comes with it.

Either discipline is appropriate for children and adult beginners as well. Taekwondo focuses more on footwork and the mind/body balance. If you want to learn more street-fighting skills, Hapkido may be the better choice for you.

Both focus on peace and harmony so that you will be satisfied in that area regardless of your choice.

If you are interested in competing, Taekwondo has more opportunities for that. Hapkido has competitions as well, but they are more specialized.

Finally, a good instructor makes all the difference. Who is teaching the class? Does the head of the dojo teach the classes himself or herself? Or does that get passed to lower-level instructors?

You may try a few classes and feel they fall short of your expectations. If that happens, consider whether it was the discipline itself, or the instruction. You may want to try another sensei before moving on to another discipline.

Is There a Taekwondo or Hapkido Near Me?

Many martial arts schools and self-defense gyms offer both Taekwondo and Hapkido classes. It doesn’t have to be “Taekwondo vs. Hapkido,” as some schools offer a fusion of both. 

Taekwondo is the more familiar term, so you’ll find plenty of local offerings. Though, an internet search for Hapkido will yield results as well.

If you are in the Chicago area, please contact us. We offer both disciplines with classes for the whole family.

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