Why Learn Martial Arts

August 7, 2013

By Dr. Ronald Stone

As both a father whose daughter grew up in the martial arts and an instructor with black belt rank in three different styles I feel somewhat qualified to comment on some of the observations I have made in over 40 years in and out of training.  I have visited numerous schools throughout the years and couldn’t help but notice that the more prestigious ones shared similar traits. Please note that I said “prestigious” not big or fancy, because while I truly believe quality and education should be rewarded economically, profit and prestige are not necessarily the same thing.  One only has to remember the first Karate Kid movie. I ask you, would you rather study with a humble but qualified Mr. Miyagi at the beach or with the financially successful owner of the Cobra Kai school with all his colorful mats, punching pads and large number of delinquent students? I thought so.  So what is it that all these schools I would have liked to study at have in common?

Dr. Ron Stone

Hapkido Master Dr. Ronald Stone

Forty years ago when I first went looking for a martial arts instructor I was more interested in the qualifications and knowledge of the instructor than the color of his floor mats but then I was a relative exception to the rule.  Most parents today don’t really do much research and confuse “showy” with knowledgeable or worse yet fun with education and preparation. Having a lot of kids laughing and running around may impress a certain number of uneducated parents but my experience is that they end up leaving all too soon due to a lack of support or long term interest. A wise man once said that you only have one chance to make a good first impression and that is certainly true in the martial arts.

You can be a great instructor but to teach you must first attract, sign up, and maintain students. I believe that parents or prospective students shouldn’t feel uncomfortable or out of place upon first entering a dojang.

Regardless of how humble or large the school is, an effort should be made to welcome strangers and make them feel at home. Questions should be answered and a place made available where they can watch.  Some sort of literature should be immediately handed to them in order to overcome any time constraints or in case they don’t know what questions to answer.  I am also a believer in using posted legitimate credentials as a subtle marketing device. Diplomas, trophies and other awards should be obvious but not blatant.  By this I mean they should be something the parent or student realizes but not one that is rubbed in their face (so to speak). I distinctly remember entering a dojang some years back and before anyone said hello or even inquired as to my previous experience they started bragging about all their trophies and the school’s success at tournaments. It was clearly a “my style is better than your style” situation and since humility is supposed to be part of the arts I left disgusted with their boastful attitude.

At the time I was more interested in self-defense than sport competition and consequently they were never given the chance to explain their capabilites in that type of instruction because they had jumped to the conclusion that I was ignorant of the martial arts. Listen to what the customer is interested in before beginning any sales approach.  Fulfill their needs not your own ego’s.

Cleanliness and first impressions are very important.  I’m not talking about fancy, just clean and orderly.  Many parents are also interested in the discipline aspect of the arts, and if they aren’t they should be.  In several of the schools I’ve attended a certain period of time before class even started was devoted to having students sweep the mats or vacuum and cleaning around the dojang.  It was explained to the parents from the outset that this wasn’t to replace a cleaning crew on the cheap but rather to teach students to take pride in their school and to teach them responsibility.

Class schedules were strictly enforced and parents were made to understand the importance of not interrupting by tardiness or by uninvited participation. While no one understands the difficulty of risking angering a potential paying customer, for every parent who leaves because his child’s arrival twenty minutes late meant he wasn’t allowed on the mat, others will leave if they perceive a lack of proper decorum and object to the interference or interruption of the class they are paying good money for.  The concept of respect for oneself and one’s classmates must be a hallmark of any martial arts school and this concept must be explained though the parents so they can help promote the concept. To avoid such embarrassments a large sign can be posted with a list of 5 or six major class rules (arrive on time, uniforms must be worn, they must be clean, etc.)

There seems to be a tendency to modernize the martial arts with name changes like “Modern this” or “Combat that” but truthfully I believe the core student population prefers stability and evidence of martial art longevity and traditional success.  Uniforms and required routines like bowing in, facing the flag, addressing the instructors properly etc. help set the stage for that impression.  Another more “modernized” school I visited in Miami in the 90’s was a classic example of how to turn away a serious martial artist.  I was looking for a school to train my 5 year old daughter so naturally I chose the closest one in the style I desired. What I didn’t know however was that this particular school was one of a franchise chain. The school was situated in an upscale neighborhood and in a rather pricey mall.  With all the signage and location I expected to find a successful martial arts school.  It may have done well financially but when I entered I immediately noticed the number of parents and students walking around the mats with shoes still on. The noise was deafening and not from Ki-ahps but rather from parents talking and kids running around unsupervised.  One young student ran up to me with a uniform emblazoned with so many patches he looked like a Nascar driver. On his belt were several stars and stripes. When I asked about the stars he informed me they were not from success in the art but rather because he had finished his homework or because he got a good grade in school on a report. In spite of the current politically correct mentality of child rearing I personally do not believe giving awards for merely showing up is in the long run a good idea. If everyone in class recieves a promotion simply for showing up then where is the pride in accomplishment? What does an “A” in school mean if everyone gets one.

Most of us remember the boring teacher in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (Bueller, Bueller, anyone?) and trust me that attitude will lose students faster Bruce Lees one inch punch.  The instructor must convey a sense of enthusiasm and vary the class routine.  While repetition is essential to proper martial arts training it can still be achieved with moving drills and games that emphasize proper technique while still make the time go quickly.  Such things as coordination exercises (crossing lines back and forth at a jump, maze drills, dodge ball, column moving drills etc) make the children feel like they are at play while still instructing them and helping increase strength and reflexes.

I am firmly convinced that the success of a child martial artist is due in large part to the “soccer mom” attitude of the parents.  To succeed in the martial arts someone has to take the child to class two to three times a week for years and put up with temper tantrums, pleas to quit and do other things, financial hardship etc.  Therefore it is essential to educate the parents as well and to allow them to participate in some fashion.  Whether it be in hosting a birthday party, or helping organize a demonstration at a school or church.  Whenever possible I like to have a couple of willing parents hold the kicking pads so I can do maze or speed drills.

It gives them a feeling of sharing the experience with their children and occasionally some of the parents end up taking lessons as well. A decent dojang should pay attention to detail.  Having a place to put one’s shoes lends an impression of orderliness. The same is true of the locker room. Trust me, trying to change clothes in a bathroom so small there is no room to place to turn around or to hang one’s things is annoying.

Pads should be but away in an orderly manner, not left lying around.  There is nothing wrong with not having the most expensive pads or kicking dummies (remember Mr. Miyagi’s “paint the fence or “wax on wax off?”) but what you do have should appear well maintained.  Some of the best and most entertaining drills I remember were trying to kick a simple tennis ball suspended from a string or trying to block or kick a series of rubber balls thrown at the student.(Dodge Ball.)  At the end of class however they should be collected and put in a bin or drawer.

I remember a rather small two story dojang taught by a Taekwondo master.  The upstairs mat area was not big enough to both hold class and at the same time allow parents to watch.  The master cleverly solved the problem by installing a camera upstairs and video screen downstairs so the parents could watch and comment without disrupting the class. A coke machine for the parents even helped a little with the school’s finances.

Finally the better dojangs are those who have instructors trained in a certified curriculum, not in a monkey see monkey do approach to the martial arts.

These types of schools often confuse endless exercises with martial arts instruction or disguise their lack of knowledge with a narcissistic attitude.  Exercise is important but not to the extent that you lose students who don’t yet have the conditioning necessary or worse yet spend so much time with push-ups they never learn to defend themselves from a trained attacker.

Martial arts exercise is supposed to limber the student for class to avoid injury and to build the stamina and flexibility necessary to learn the necessary techniques.  In the end however it is the technique one is supposed to learn not the exercise.  The end goal having a superior self-defense capability not merely a superior physique.

So in the end there is no magic to what is mentioned above.  Most partents teach it to their children early on.  Respect, integrity, humility, cleanliness, promptness and education.  Trust me, the discerning parent looks for the same philosophy when selecting a school for their kids. I know I did. As a martial arts instructor and student I try to implement all of the above tips into our Hapkido school in Ocoee, Florida.

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Hapkido Self-Defense Strategies and Philosophy in the Martial Arts

March 16, 2012

Over the years (42) I have visited many martial arts schools and have trained in several different styles such as Taekwondo and Hapkido.  Recently I became interested in the philosophical approach to self-defense.  This means to meet an attack with the appropriate level of response to protect one’s self.

Hapkid self defense

Richard Hackworth practicing Hapkido with the Korean Presidential Body Guards and Korea SWAT.

The most common principle taught at most martial arts schools concerns how to react to an attack with a decisive counter reaction.  The problem is that not all attacks require devastating counter attacks to be effective self-defense.

Consider for example the case of a child in school who takes a swing at a classmate who happens to be one of your students. I’m sure any student who has been in class for more than a week has learned how to block and counter a punch.  Perhaps they have been taught a throwing technique which while defensive in nature, can still be deadly when someone is thrown to the concrete floor.

The Hapkido philosophy I am referring to is that of distraction, control and simple immobilization rather than counter attacking with a devastating or finishing technique.  In other words there will be occasions in life where non-lethal force will be necessary for self-defense.

If you are a martial artist it will be hard to defend in court why you chose to react to an unarmed purse snatcher with a fatal hand strike to the throat or a permanently paralyzing roundhouse kick to the lumbar spine.  Try talking your way out of court when your red belt son responds to a simple push by breaking the bullies fingers and then leg sweeping him to the cement floor resulting in a fractured skull.

Many instructors fail to realize that not all self-defense situations are “Mortal Combat” and fail to provide their students with non-lethal alternatives to self-defense.  Much of this is because most schools don’t have a real curriculum or qualified instructor but more on that in another article. When considering non-lethal or even non crippling self-defense techniques the first aspect is that of distraction. In Hapkido, and most other martial arts, you learn that the Ki-ahp yell is valuable for increasing Ki and the power of a technique.  It can also serve as a distraction to an attacker.  When an attacker is confronted with a loud yell directed back at him even the slightest flinch or blink can give the defender a momentary edge.  A Ki-ahp can cause an attacker to hesitative or to take a back step, allowing the defender to change positions.  This will set up the control part of the combination, or the neural-stun.

At our self-defense school in Clermont, Ocoee, Winter Garden and Orlando, Florida we teach that a Hapkido neural–stun is a technique directed to a pain or Ki point causing a momentary surge of pain that disrupts the mind.  Anyone who has ever banged a shin while walking somewhere will testify to the incredible pain that takes over all thought processes.  Any thought of doing anything other than yelling, bending over and grabbing the shin immediately disappears.  At this precise moment of pain one is particularly vulnerable.  When taught correctly the neural stun can be performed in such a manner as to create the appearance that the attacker stumbled into the attack.  In other words you can create the impression the defense was accidental rather than intentional. (i.e.: “He ran right into me, tripped and must have stubbed his shin on my foot.” Or “I had my hands up and he swung right into me.  My thumb must have jabbed his shoulder.”)

Once the attacker has been temporarily stunned the defender can either escape or to subdue by means of a Hapkido joint lock, arm, leg or knee bar, or simple choke.  Of course when attacked you can always argue self-defense but self-defense instructors should remember that in the confusion of an attack things are not always so obvious to witnesses. Causing a bruised shin or a sore pressure point is much more defensible than breaking an arm, cracking a rib or worse yet hospitalizing an opponent with a concussion. The court system is full of attackers who turned the legal tables on their victims either by pretending that they were in fact the victims or by arguing excessive force was inflicted upon them.

Every day people are faced with situations where non-lethal self-defense force is preferable such as disputes with neighbors, arguments at work, having to deal with an unarmed alcoholic just to name a few.  In these situations it is wise not only to study the verbal skills of conflict avoidance but to study the techniques to distract, control and immobilize, rather than the more lethal martial arts moves.

Winter Garden self defense school

Dr. Ron Stone with daughter Andrea.

By: Dr. Ronald W. Stone

American Dragon Martial Arts Hapkido Instructor in Ocoee, Florida

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Why Adults Over Fifty Should Learn Hapkido

December 11, 2011

5 Reasons Adults Over 50 Should Learn Hapkido Self Defense

Dr. Ronald W. Stone
American Dragon Martial Arts Academies
Winter Garden, Florida

Dr. Ron Stone

Hapkido Master Ronald Stone

This month I celebrate my 57th birthday and my 39th year in the martial arts. I assume this qualifies me to discuss the benefits of Hapkido adult self defense for adults my age.  Like many of my generation I am constantly amazed at the difference between the things my mind and heart are willing to do and the sad ability of my body to perform them.  With the passing of time I become more and more convinced of the old adage that a man is merely a boy grown into a bigger body.  The fellow who said “the mind is willing but the body’s unable” wasn’t kidding.

After I turned 45 years of age I began to notice aches and pains that I had never experienced before.  I can still remember the first time I jumped down off a ladder and felt a strange sensation through my knees.  When I was a youngster I didn’t even think about having knees.  They were merely areas where my leg bent.  Now with the passing of time they are a constant source of discomfort and a reminder the truth behind the aging process. Like many “baby boomers” I lived high and ate well.  Perhaps too well.  By 1996 I had been diagnosed with Type Two Diabetes.  I was never sick a day in my life until then and now not a day passes that I don’t have some physical malady.  Fortunately with modern medicine my diabetes improved and is relatively under control.  Truthfully though, the single most important recommendation ever given me regarding control of my disease was to reenter the martial arts and to get back into shape.  Although I started my studies in 1970 I had stopped training for a few years during which time I gained 95 pounds and grew apathetic.

Apparently I was not alone.  Any statistical analysis of those in the population of men over 50 years of age will surely include a dramatic increase in obesity, heart disease and arthritis.  Not all of this can be attributed merely to junk  food.  With modern transportation and an increasing dependence on television and the internet for entertainment, physical activity has decreased to an alarming degree.

 

womens self defense winter garden

Hapkido Arm Bar Self Defense

Returning to the study of Hapkido adult self defense has to no small degree been part of my salvation, and I am not referring simply to the benefits of exercise or to the control of Diabetes.
To understand all the benefits of Hapkido study for those over fifty years of age it is perhaps wise to review some of the needs of those in this age bracket.  Oten with age comes decreased physical fitness leading to:
1.  Cardiovascular weakness
2.  Obesity
3.  Decreased flexibility and ultimately arthritic changes
4.  Increased stress and loss of mental acuity
5.  Victimology. In other words the impression exists that the older you appear and the more out of shape you are the more likely you will be target for attack by felons.

Financial and work-related responsibilities unique to those in this age bracket often interfere with family life and social interaction.  Very few men over fifty don’t wish that they had more time to spend with their children or in the case of  the typical working housewife could spend more time with husband and friends outside the house.

Hapkido is more than merely a set of self defense techniques.  It is a complete martial art grounded in time tested and proven methods for improving both mental, spiritual and physical fitness.

Dan Jun breathing and meditation usually proceed the typical Hapkido self defense class.  The benefits of such mental and breathing exercises are legendary.  Stress is reduced, blood pressure is lowered and concentration is enhanced.  The body is hyper oxygenated leading to pain control, improved circulation, and a sense of well being.  Abdominal and spinal muscle tone is improved, leading to an improvement in posture.   This in turn creates a sense of self worth and better confidence, so often lacking in the elderly.

Hapkido training will by its very nature improve the cardiovascular status of any of its practitioners.  Hapkido offers both aerobic, isometric and isotonic exercises.
Arterial sclerosis, hypertension, excessive cholesterol in the blood, and weakening of the cardiac musculature are conditions that will all be improved by the exercises that are practiced in Hapkido training.  With proper training there will be a lowering of blood pressure, an increase in cardiac output and improved oxygen interchange, and a conversion of fat tissue to muscle, all benefits for those over 50.

Proper stance and good posture are basic components of Hapkido.  This means that in order to correctly perform Hapkido techniques the lower legs, knees and spine must improve. Obviously the stronger one’s support structure becomes, the stronger the tendon’s and ligaments that support the joints are, the less the effects of arthritis or degenerative joint disease will be noticed.

With increased Hapkido adult self defense training, posture and lung capacity, the body’s flexibility will be improved.   When the  stretching exercises that are practiced at the beginning and end of class are coupled with the basic movements associated with Hapkido throws, strikes and kicks the muscular skeletal system will be strengthened.  It has been repeatedly demonstrated that such exercises will slow the natural process of osteoporosis or the deterioration of skeletal bone that often occurs with the aging process.

It goes without saying that almost exercise regime will benefit those who are overweight.  Such regimes must however be balanced and appropriate.  (i.e. a beginner to weight training should not try to lift too much too quick or do so from a weak stance or injuries will result).  The exercises, stances and technique movements in Hapkido training are all based on tried and true methodologies, such as the water principle.  Students are encouraged to learn at a brisk pace, but are not forced to overdo, to stress themselves unnaturally, or to attempt techniques before learning and understanding the fundamentals. Weight loss will occur as it should, in a healthy and gradual manner.

As body weight returns to normalcy, as lung capacity and tissue oxygenation improve and as pain and stiffness decrease the mind will improve.  From a scientific standpoint view, beneficial hormones called endorphins are released with exercise.  From a spiritual point of view Hapkido practitioners will learn to harness Ki energy in a positive manner.  Meditation will improve well being and the mind will be better able to focus.  Eventually self confidence and well being will result.

Anyone who is working for a living will admit the irony  that adults eventually work to provide for our families but at the very same time that work often keeps us apart from the ones we love.  My daughter and I have been practicing the martial arts for many years and it has brought us that much closer.  Often those in the family who don’t themselves practice the art will share in the successes of those who do.  This feeling of closeness seems to become more and more important and the years progress.

The exists a certain camaraderie among Hapkido practitioners, a willingness to help each other learn and a closeness and pride that creates a bond among classmates.  They share each others triumphs as well as setbacks.  This is especially true of the bond between instructor and student.   Often the friendships that develop during martial arts training will last a lifetime.

Finally one of the sad facts of life is that while the world is filled with wonderful, kind and caring individuals, it is also home to evil doers  One pronounced characteristic of felons is that for the most part they lack the courage to attack people who are their physical equals.  The older one is the more prone he or she is to be the victim of attack by those seeking an easy victory.  Hapkido effectively teaches those of all ages to protect themselves.  Since it is based on the water principle and combines both hard and soft techniques it is ideal for those over 50 regardless of their physical status.  The concept of redirecting the attackers force and applying ki energy instead of brute strength is very attractive to those whose physical abilities have diminished with age.  Even those forced to walk with support will be delighted to master the art of the Hakido cane, which offers some of the most effective self defense techniques in the martial arts world.

Just as it is for the young, Hapkido Adult Self Defense class is a logical and advantageous choice for those who are approaching their golden years.


5 Reasons Adults Over 50 Should Learn Hapkido

January 12, 2010

5 Reasons Adults Over 50 Should Learn Hapkido

Dr. Ronald W. Stone

American Dragon Martial Arts Academy

Clermont, Florida

This month I celebrate my 57th birthday and my 39th year in the martial arts. I assume this qualifies me to discuss the benefits of Hapkido for adults my age.  Like many of my generation I am constantly amazed at the difference between the things my mind and heart are willing to do and the sad ability of my body to perform them.  With the passing of time I become more and more convinced of the old adage that a man is merely a boy grown into a bigger body.  The fellow who said “the mind is willing but the body’s unable” wasn’t kidding.

After I turned 45 years of age I began to notice aches and pains that I had never experienced before.  I can still remember the first time I jumped down off a ladder and felt a strange sensation through my knees.  When I was a youngster I didn’t even think about having knees.  They were merely areas where my leg bent.  Now with the passing of time they are a constant source of discomfort and a reminder the truth behind the aging process. Like many “baby boomers” I lived high and ate well.  Perhaps too well.  By 1996 I had been diagnosed with Type Two Diabetes.  I was never sick a day in my life until then and now not a day passes that I don’t have some physical malady.  Fortunately with modern medicine my diabetes improved and is relatively under control.  Truthfully though, the single most important recommendation ever given me regarding control of my disease was to reenter the martial arts and to get back into shape.  Although I started my studies in 1970 I had stopped training for a few years during which time I gained 95 pounds and grew apathetic.

Apparently I was not alone.  Any statistical analyis of those in the population of men over 50 years of age will surely include a dramatic increase in obesity, heart disease and arthritis.  Not all of this can be attributed merely to junk  food.  With modern transportation and an increasing dependence on television and the internet for entertainment, physical activity has decreased to an alarming degree.

Returning to the study of Hapkido has to no small degree been part of my salvation, and I am not referring simply to the benefits of exercise or to the control of Diabetes. 

To understand all the benefits of Hapkido study for those over fifty years of age it is perhaps wise to review some of the needs of those in this age bracket.  Oten with age comes decreased physical fitness leading to:

1.  Cardiovascular weakness

2.  Obesity

3.  Decreased flexibility and ultimately arthritic changes

4.  Increased stress and loss of mental acuity

            5.  Victimology. In orther words the impression exists that the older you appear and the more out of shape you are the more likely you will be target for attack by felons.

        Financial and work-related responsibilities unique to those in this age bracket ofen interfer with family life and social interaction.  Very few men over fifty don’t wish that they had more time to spend with their children or in the case of  the typical working housewife could spend more time with husband and friends outside the house. 

            Hapkido is more than merely a set of self defense techniques.  It is a complete martial art grounded in time tested and proven methods for improving both mental, spiritual and physical fitness.

            Dan Jun breathing and meditation usually procede the typical Hapkido class.  The benefits of such mental and breathing exercises are legendary.  Stress is reduced, blood pressure is lowered and conentration is enhanced.  The body is hypoeroxygenated leading to pain control, improved circulation, and a sense of well being.  Abdominal and spinal muscule tone is improved, leading to an improvement in posture.   This in turn creates a sense of self worth and better confidense, so often lacking in the elderly.

            Hapkido training will by its very nature improve the cardiovascular status of any of its practitioners.  Hapkido offfers both aerobic, isometirc and isotonic exercises.
Ateriosclerosis, hypertension, excessive cholesterol in the blood, and weakening of the cardiac musculature are conditions that will all be improved by the exercises that are practiced in Hapkido trainng.  With proper training there will be a lowering of blood pressure, an increase in cardiac output and improved oxygen interchange, and a conversion of fat tissue to muscle, all benefits for those over 50.

            Proper stance and good posture are basic components of Hapkido.  This means that in order to correctly perform Hapkido techniques the lower legs, knees and spine must improve. Obviously the stronger one’s support sturcture becomes, the stronger the tendon’s and ligaments that support the joints are, the less the effects of arthritis or degenerative joint disease will be noticed.

            With increased Hapkido training, posture and lung capacity, the body’s flexibility will be improved.   When the  stretching exercises that are practiced at the beginning and end of class are coupled with the basic movements associated with Hapkido throws, strikes and kicks the muscular skeletal system will be strengthened.  It has been repeatedly demonstrated that such exercises will slow the natural process of osteoporosis or the deterioration of skeletal bone that often occurs with the aging process.

            It goes without saying that almost exercise regime will benefit those who are overweight.  Such regimes must however be balanced and appropriate.  (i.e. a beginner to weight training should not try to lift too much too quick or do so from a weak stance or injuries wil result).  The exercises, stances and technique movements in Hapkido training are all based on tried and true methodologies, such as the water principle.  Students are encouraged to learn at a brisk pace, but are not forced to overdo, to stress themselves unnaturally, or to attempt techniques before learning and understanding the fundamentals. Weight loss will occur as it should, in a healthy and gradual manner. 

            As body weight returns to normalcy, as lung capacity and tissue oxygenation improve and as pain and stiffness decrease the mind will improve.  From a scientific standpoint view, beneficial hormones called endorphins are released with exercise.  From a spiritual point of view Hapkido practitioners will learn to harness Ki energy in a positive manner.  Meditation will improve well being and the mind will be better able to focus.  Eventually self confidence and well being will result.

            Anyone who is working for a living will admit the irony  that adults eventually work to provide for our families but at the very same time that work often keeps us apart from the ones we love.  My daughter and I have been practicing the artial arts for many years and it has brought us tha much closer.  Often those in the family who don’t themselves practice the art will share in the successes of those who do.  This feeling of closeness seems to become more and more important and the years progress.

The exists a certain comraderie among Hapkido practitioners, a willingness to help each other learn and a closeness and pride that creates a bond among classmates.  They share each others triumphs as well as setbacks.  This is especially true of the bond between instructor and student.   Often the friendships that develop during martial arts training will last a lifetime.

Finally one of the sad facts of life is that while the world is filled with wonderful, kind and caring individuals, it is also home to evil doers  One pronounced characteristic of felons is that for the most part they lack the courage to attack people who are their physical equals.  The older one is the more prone he or she is to be the victim of attack by those seeking an easy victory.  Hapkido effectively teaches those of all ages to protect themselves.  Since it is based on the water principle and combines both hard and soft techniques it is ideal for those over 50 regardless of their physical status.  The concept of redirecting the attackers force and applying ki energy instead of brute strength is very attractive to those whose physical abilities have diminished with age.  Even those forced to walk with support will be delighted to master the art of the Hakido cane, which offers some of the most effective self defense techniques in the martial arts world.

Just as it is for the young, Hapkido is a logical and advantagous choice for those who are approaching their golden years. 

www.americandragononline.com   www.worldmartialartsmagazine.com  www.haemukwan.com


Why Women Should Learn Hapkido

January 12, 2010

At least 7 Reasons Women Should Learn Hapkido  

 

Dr. Ronald W. Stone

American Dragon Martial Arts Academy

Clermont, Florida

 

In this day and age making a distinction of the benefit of martial arts training between men and women is becoming less pertinent.  More simply put, as the role of women in the job force increases and with today’s recognition that women are capable of more tasks than previously were allowed in a male dominated society, the more similar will be the benefits that training in Hapkido offer both males and females.

Traditionally one of the first benefits discussed whenever the subject of women in the martial arts comes up is the self defence aspect.  The “women are the weaker sex” argument is always mentioned as a reason for them to consider training in the martial arts.  While it is true that they are typically smaler and less muscular than their male counterparts, modern scientific studies have concluded that in most instances women are capable of more endurance and have a more resilient cardiovascular system than men. 

With modern weight training techniques women can actually train to be more fit.  While statistics as a class indicate they will never equal men in raw strength they often will surpass men in size to abilty percentages.

What doesn’t change however is the basic core hormonanal differences that put women at risk to aggression.  By this I mean that the testosterone driven male will always desire to overpower or dominate his female counterpart. Usually ths is harmless and is either buried subconsciously or manefests romantically which most women can more than adequately handle verbally or with body language.  In a small percentage of males however the sex drive or the desire to physically dominate and control the oposite sex is overwhelming and can result in cases of sexual aggression or domestic abuse. 

Any woman can fall victim to these sorts of predators and things like age or physical appearance are sometimes not factors the predator concerns himself with.  Being old, very young or atypical in appearance does not automatically elimnate a female from the threat of a predator or stalker.

The beauty of Hapkido is that it combines three fundamental principles, the water principle, the circular principle and the sum principle into a martial art that is ideal for female learners.  Since it is both a hard and a soft art it utilizes the concept of not meeting force with resistence but rather being fluid when necessary, hard whenever possible and learning to use the opponents force against himself while concentrating one’s own Ki energy in a focused manner against specific Ki and pressure points, against weak joint angles and using leverage against the opponent.

Instead of meeting hard force with hard force which will always give the advantage to the taller, more muscular oponent, Hapkido teaches its students to avoid, absorb, redirect, and trap the opponents atacks. It demonstrates the areas of the body that are vulnerable regardless of muscular strength and teaches Ki energy techniques to overcome an adversary.  Obviously this is an ideal form of defense for a women to learn (or a man for that matter).

       Women are faced with a myriad of stresses such as the difficulties that arise with raising a family, running a household, working for a living, and simply trying to survive in today’s difficult economy.  Central to Hapkido practice is the concept of Dan Jun breathing, meditation, stretching, and development of self awarness and self control.  All of these techniques have been shown to increase mental awareness by increasing oxygenation to the brain as well as the rest of the body and causing the release endorphins which decrease mental stress. Learning to focus on the physical aspects of Hapkido training and to concentrate on something other than the everyday worries caused by problems outside the dojang will also help relieve stress.  Similarly the social interaction with other students in the class can in effect create a sort of group therapy.  One should never underestimate the mental benefit derived from meeting and interating with new friends.  Often the relationship between friends as well as the bond that develops between instructor and student can be the best form of therapy for life’s worries. 

Needless to say as one becomes more proficient and succeeds from belt level to belt level, the constant positive reinforcement that occurs along with the satisfaction of accomplishing a difficult task will clearly help with self confidence.  This is yet another benefit for many women who often go for long periods of time feeling unappreciated or unrecognized.  This is especially true of the full time housewife who has little time to herself outdise the house, or whose husband is so preoccupied at work that he doesn’t demonstrate as much appreciation as he should.

Today’s western woman also faces nutritional difficulties that were unknown fifty years ago.  The increase in precooked, proccessed, or “junk food” when coupled with the increase in technology has created an environment where less physical activity occurs in daily life (i.e. driving instead of walking) and where faster but less healthy nutritional choices are made. TV dinners started the craze and now we have a serious nutritional problem in our country with extreme consequences in our female population.  Obesity has become a western epidemic and more and more women are having cardiac problems than ever before.  Furthermore, improper nutrition has led to an increase in osteoporosis with the resulting decrease in flexibilty, posture and overall bone strength.

Hapkido study, Dan Jun breathing and the exercises that accompany them will help a woman’s cardiovascular function. Hapkido includes a variety of aerobic and muscular strength exerciss.  Proper stretching and stance development will help with flexibility and posture and the overall training regime helps improve overall muscular tone.      It should be stressed here that simple dieting or fasting without a proper exercise and weight training regime to accompany it can have detrimental effects.  It has been shown for example that constant fasting without proper supervision will actually pull proteins from the heart muscle and weaken the cardiovascular system. Too rapid weight loss can actually lead to an increase probability of cardiac arrest or thromboembolism.  Hapkido study provides a balance of exercise, lung and mental conditioning that are ideal to accompany a wise dietary program.

Whether a woman seeks to improve her figure through weight control, to improve her physical condition, whether she seeks self confidence or worries about self defense, or even if she merely seeks to “get out of the house” for recreation and companionship, Hapkido is an excellent choice.

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Benefits of Hapkido Ki Breathing

December 1, 2009

The Benefits of Hapkido Ki Breathing

By: Dr. Ronald W. Stone, Hapkido Instructor, American Dragon Martial Arts Academies Clermont, Florida. Certified Hapkido Black Belt with the Korean Hapkido Federation

The most widely practiced controlled breathing exercise in Hapkido is identified as “DAN JUN Breathing.”  This strengthens the thoracic musculature, the diaphragm and oxygenates the body in an effort to build a strong union between mind, spirit, and the body’s muscular skill and availability

The Dan Jun is believed by Hapkido practitioners to be the center of energy (KI) in the human body. Dan means red or fire and Jun means field, so Dan Jun can be interpreted as meaning the active source of power in the body. As the center of energy, it is the key to human vitality and strength.

Dan Jun is interpreted by some Hapkido masters as meaning the active source of power in the body. As the center of energy, it is the key to human vitality and strength.  The Dan Jun is believed to be the center of energy (KI) in the human body and is located about three inches below the navel. Through repetitive and continual Dan Jun exercises, each individual will eventually determine the location of their own personal Ki energy center.

            Physiologically the type of breathing performed during Hapkido Dan Jun exercises is described as Thoraco-abdominal breathing.  During this type of inhalation and exhalation air is consciously drawn into the lower lungs by the strong use of the abdominal musculature rather than the normal and automatic shallow pattern which primarily passes air into the upper lungs.

For Hapkido practitioners it important to understand that the process of breathing has two components, ventilation and respiration.  Ventilation is defined as the process by which air is moved through the respiratory system from the nose or mouth downwards through the trachea into the lungs.  Ventilation can be automatic, that is controlled by the body’s autonomic nervous system, or it can be slowed or accelerated by conscious intention.  The amount and rate of air flow will be determined by the size of the respiratory organs (nasal openings, throat, trachea lung capacity etc.) and the action of the respiratory musculature (intercostal muscles, diaphragm). 

            Respiration is the interchange of oxygen from the air with the tissues of the body.  It is the reason ventilation exists.  In the human body neither can exist without the other.  Air must be moved into the lungs (ventilation) but oxygen must be able to leave the air and enter the bloodstream (respiration) in order to supply cells with this basic need for energy.

            Learning Hapkido Ki breathing will enhance these basic life support mechanisms.  The better you breathe better you feel and perform.  Better oxygenation improves alertness, reduces stress and creates a sense of well being.  New studies have also demonstrated that increasing the blood’s oxygen level decreases perception of pain.

 To the contrary, improper breathing such as hyperventilating (excessively rapid and shallow breathing) or holding ones breath due to fear, anxiety or stress will lead to a buildup of toxic substances such as carbon dioxide.  This deprives both mind and body of the ability to function properly.

Just as a pearl diver learns to increase the lung’s ability in order to perform deeper and longer dives, proper Hapkido Ki breathing will train the respiratory system as well as the mind to handle situations that require more energy and more lung capacity.

It is a well recognized phenomenon that when a person is faced with a major physical threat to life or limb there is a discharge of body chemicals (adrenaline rush).  This is often described as the “fight or flight reflex.”  One side effect of this emotional shock to the system (fear factor) is a dramatic change in breathing patterns from normal to a rapid shallow pattern.  Eventually hyperventilation occurs and as previously mentioned the end result will be an abnormal and detrimental change in the acid base balance of the blood to the point where unconsciousness may even result

            Hapkido breathing not only expands lung capacity but it allows one to train the body to relax and to gain control over both emotion and body function.  Even the Dan Jun stance taken in order to practice Ki breathing has its advantages such as improved posture, better muscle tone, alignment of Ki centers and improved vascular flow from the legs.

Hapkido Ki breathing benefits are many:: improved focus, stress reduction, improved circulation, cleansing of the body, increased ki energy, improved oxygenization of blood for increased alertness.

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Hapkido Stances by Dr. R.W. Stone

December 1, 2009

HAPKIDO STANCES

Dr. Ronald W. Stone, Hapkido Instructor American Dragon Martial Arts Academies Clermont, Florida

     Like any other technique in Hapkido, the importance of stance should be studied with regard to three factors:

1.  Importance of the technique to a proper defence

2.  Importance of the technique (stance) to a  proper offense

3.  Importance of the technique to the formation of the individual, the development of Ki energy, and the martial artist’s performance

The way we communicate with others can be broken down into the following categories:

Physiology (dilated eyes, breathing patterns, perspiration etc) = about 55%

Psychology (posture, body movements, fisting, gestures, etc) = about 35%

Words +10%

This illustrates that body language is often as important as verbal communication skills.  The way a person positions himself (takes a certain stance) at any given moment is an expression of mental attitude as well as physical ability.  This is one reason why the elderly, the infirm, or the weak minded are so often singled out by social predators for attack.  The very nature of the victim portrays and projects an image of susceptibility, of weakness and of fear. 

 Most attackers are by nature cowardly and prefer to strike by surprise.  They choose to win by stealth, intimidation or overwhelming force of numbers.  If such an attacker has to choose between an old man walking down the street bent over or limping, or a self confident man who walks erect, is well balanced and exudes an aura of strength, the criminal will almost certainly attack the weaker target. 

An attacker can read non-verbal cues.  He can tell just by looking at someone and by the way they “hold themselves” whether that person is weak, frightened, confident, or alert.  Hapkido stances should allow one to look like a victor not a victim.   Predators always prefer to attack the weaker members of the herd. It is wise to remember the old axiom; “When you are strong appear weak, and when you are weak appear strong!”

This same non verbal communication effect is often noticed in martial arts tournaments at the start of a match.  When two equally matched opponents face each other, victory often goes to the one who initiates the match from a power leg forward, chin tucked aggressive stance as practiced in Hapkido.  This position will off balance the opponent who fights from a defensive stance.  The effect is not only a physical one (positional advantage and speed) but a psychological one as well.

When studying the importance of proper stance for defense in Hapkido it should be remembered that its purpose is to create a physical barrier between yourself and your potential attacker without creating a negative image that might initiate a fight.  A proper stance conveys the message that while you do not wish violence, you are clearly willing to defend yourself if you have to.  Coupled with aggressive and confident verbal skills it is often all that is necessary to fend off an attacker. 

The objective of the defensive stance in Hapkido is to protect as much of your body as possible, to prevent being thrown off balance, and to allow for an effective counterattack should the need arise.  An example of this might be:

1.     Tucking the elbows in to protect the mid section

2. Raising one’s hands to cover the face and chin,
3.   Bending the knees slightly for enhanced balance and to fend off kicks
4.  Turning the shoulder to form a tight and compact defense
5.    Tucking the chin in for protection while at the same time lowering the head slightly and narrowing the eyes in order to create an aggressive attitude.

As difficult as it may be to properly relax the body into a well balanced stance during a stressful or dangerous situation it is vitally important.  This seems to be a strange recommendation for dealing with a threat response.  After all, many other martial arts teach their students to harden themselves at the first sign of trouble and to fight with as strong a body as possible.  Hapkido however is best applied with a relaxed mental attitude and with proper utilization of Ki energy, speed and flexibility.  As Grandmaster Hackworth once pointed out, no matter how strong one trains to become, and no matter how tall or hard one’s body is, there will always be someone born stronger, bigger or taller.  There will always be someone else who started training earlier, trained harder or longer.  You can’t fight genetics or the clock. 

In other words, when hard body meets hard body straight on, both suffer damage.  A proper Hapkido defensive stance should therefore allow one to both absorb the attack without suffering injury, and to rapidly counter.  A good stance allows the practitioner to rapidly shift into another stance should it become necessary without loss of time and without making oneself more vulnerable.  It is best to remember that Hapkido is at the same time both a hard and a soft martial art and is therefore not limited by mere physical strength.  If Hapkido teaches us anything it is that speed, flexibility and quick thinking will always provide the superior weapons.

There are numerous Hapkido stances from which one can either attack or defend.  All share similar characteristics.  A proper stance must allow for balance, flexibility, speed and strength of attack or counter.  The practitioner must understand the fundamentals of stance, since all other techniques flow from a proper base.  Blocks, throws, strikes and kicks all depend on the martial artist having a proper stance.  Correct body position allows practitioners to perform without fatigue, muscle cramping or loss of balance.

In a proper offense just as in defense it is important to first evade the opponent’s attack by avoiding, blocking, trapping or absorbing the blow or kick.   Once the Hapkido practitioner has elected to take the offense with an attack or a counter, the technique, whether it be kick, throw or hand strike, must deliver Ki energy, speed, accuracy, power and focus directly into the target area.  Most of the thrust of the attack will project from the legs and hips upward into the point of contact.  Simply being off balance will jeopardize the effectiveness of any of these techniques.  A proper stance in offense can provide a strong base from which to launch a powerful blow or perhaps create a springboard which will add speed and focus into a fast attack.

Learning the proper Hapkido stances will improve posture, temper our emotions and help control our thoughts.  The mind doesn’t like to stay focused on one thing for very long, particularly if that one thing is difficult, painful, or unexciting.  Stance training is an ideal way to calm and control the mind.  Just like sitting meditation or concentration exercises, stance training correctly positions and stills the body and allows for more astute observations and mental control.

In meditation one tends to sit comfortably and forget about the body. Hapkido stance training is unique in that the body, though still and unmoving, quickly begins sending messages to the brain regarding muscular exertion and pain.  With practice and patience this can eventually be overcome, thus bestowing greater confidence and self control.

Perhaps the greatest reason for stance training is to cultivate Ki or inner energy.  While holding stances in Hapkido, you don’t need to consciously think about or manipulate your Ki; the process is automatic. Some martial artists believe that you have to control and direct Ki with your mind to make it flow through the body’s many meridians, reservoirs or orbits. While such control can be practiced by high level students to “fine-tune” the Ki flow, for most people this attempt at controlling Ki is both unnecessary and potentially damaging.  More attention should be paid to correct posture, proper rooting, releasing the mind and body, and breathing naturally and correctly. If you follow these simple guidelines, an increase in energy and Ki will come naturally and in time will spread throughout your body of its own accord.       

From a purely western medical standpoint we know that the leg and thigh muscles comprise the majority of the body’s musculature and make up a greater part of the vascular supply.  An increase in utilization of these muscles will in fact burn off more fat and energy than upper body exercise training alone.  It will also improve overall circulatory function.  An example of this would be the current popularity of stair stepping machines which have been shown to have more benefits than simple flat treadmills. 

The same effects can be achieved with correct Hapkido martial arts stance training.  If one examines the horse stance for example it quickly becomes obvious that when correctly performed the back is straight, the pelvis is tilted forward, the legs move apart and the knees are bent.  This stance aligns the Ki centers of the body, improves the posture of the spine, and strengthens the leg muscles supporting the knees.

Each Hapkido stance has its own advantages and disadvantages.  Some stances are maintained by positioning the body into a low and wide base, such as the traditional low front stance.  Others are created in a base narrow flexed position, such as the Tiger stance.  Some provide strength and power from a side to side direction (such as the lower horse stance), while others offer better balance to counter a frontal attack.

Regardless of the benefits of each individual stance it must be noted no one position will offer a perfect solution for all threats or all directions.   It is for this reason that Hapkido training emphasizes the development of strength, balance and Ki energy in an individual position while at the same time teaching the student how to rapidly flow from one position to another.  Speed, inner strength, and flexibility must be the hallmarks of any stance training.  The benefits will become immediately obvious whether one speaks of defense, offense, mental or physical health.

Whenever proper stance is discussed in the martial arts a reference to the tree and its roots is inevitably mentioned, and perhaps with good reason.  Just as the roots must give solid support to the tree trunk, so must a good Hapkido stance allow for a strong base.  It is wise to remember the adage however that the tree that doesn’t bend with the wind eventually breaks.  The correct Hapkido stance must therefore not only provide strength and rooting, but also allow for flexibility.  Hapkido is both hard and soft, just as is the proper stance.

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