Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Hapkido: Learning the traditions, philosophies and techniques

A recent trip to hapkido ended with an excellent conversation between myself, the master and my girlfriend. It was held in mostly Korean with her translating between the two of us. It was nice to talk to my master in a relaxed atmosphere and express my regret that due to my recent foot troubles I couldn't train as hard as I wanted to. He seemed to understand and also lamented that although he could train me the techniques and movements of hapkido and try to get me fitter, he couldn't properly explain the philosophies that he feels are just as important. He speaks good English and we rarely have communication problems, but his command of the language is not enough to express everything he knows in the detailed manner that it would need explaining in. Despite this I immensely enjoy every hapkido session I go to and would recommended learning this to pretty much everyone.

A few days later my girlfriend had a chance conversation at work with a co-worker. He had ordered a stack of books from Amazon including one about hapkido. My girlfriend explained the recent conversation that we had had with the master and totally out of the blue, her co-worker said I could have the book, and for free. What an incredibly kind gestures from this stranger. I am still surprised that he has done this and would like to thank him personally if I have the chance. A few days later Boo young would bring the book to my apartment. What I was expecting was a decent paperback of maybe two or three hundred pages with some nice photographs in the middle. What I got was so much more.

This book is huge, massive. By far the biggest book I have owned, and I try to read as much as I can. To read this book will take months and months, but if I will ever have to time to read it then it's now here in Korea. Let's get into some details. The book has over one thousand pages and nine thousand photographs. It weighs in at a hefty four kilograms. It's not a book you can take on the train or the bus, it's a sit down and read seriously kind of book. Essentially a wonderful in depth study guide.

Onto the book itself. Hapkido: Traditions, Philosophy, Technique is by Marc Tedeschi. Lets start at the beginning. It covers the origins and history of martial arts in Asia. It goes into great depths to to try to explain its philosophies and answers several common questions you might already have about it whilst also covering some preconceptions. If you thought the hapkido section on Wikipedia was detailed, then think again. It barely touches the surface. Also in this book are several entertaining interviews with Grandmasters including those who have abandoned hapkido to branch off into other martial arts. Then it moves onto the anatomy of the body with it's pressure points and how to attack them. At this point in the book I felt like I was reading a medical text book, such was the level of detail involved. And then onto to the meat on the bone, the part where the author writes about and displays most of the nine thousand pictures - the art of self defence and attacking principles of hapkido. Kicking, punching, weapon attacks, joint locks etc, etc.

To call this detailed does not do the book justice. If I could only master a few of the moves mentioned then I would be very happy. I have to say that it is somewhat reassuring to read and see some of the moves and techniques that I train in this book. I feel like I am doing even more things right but it is clear that what I know is only the very tip or a very large iceberg. I hope to take this book to work some time soon to show a few of my co-workers that also study hapkido, but at a different dojang. Perhaps they can share in my enjoyment of this wonderful gift too.

If you are looking to take up hapkido or already study it then perhaps this is the book for you. One thing against it is the price. right now Amazon.co.uk lists it at a hefty £59, but remember you're getting over one thousand pages of an incredibly detailed book. A kind of hapkido bible. One things for sure, it will be coming home with me on my trip back home to the UK. A wonderful reminder of the time I have spent in Korea. I just wonder whether or not I have a bookshelf strong enough to hold it.

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