It has been described as a universal life-force which every living thing on earth needs to survive. Many instructors try to promote Ki (or Chi in Chinese) as a magical thing, which only advanced martial artists possess. In actual fact everyone has Ki and martial arts training merely develops the individual’s ability to increase Ki flow and concentrate this energy into specific areas when necessary.
Ki Development is an important part of training in the Korean martial art of Hapkido. Hapkido was sys-temised in the early part of the twentieth century by Grandmaster Yong Sul Choi, it was possibly Buddhism, however, that had the greatest influence on internal training in the
Korean martial arts. Buddhist monks spent many hours training to achieve states of relaxation and a calm mind through meditation. When Japan first invaded Korea in 1592, it became acceptable for monks to train in the martial arts to help repel the invaders. The monks found that if they combined their internal training with the physical aspects of combat, they became faster and stronger in battle.
Hapkido is a multi-faceted martial art, which utilises joint locks, throws, pressure points, breakfalls, kicks, hand-strikes, weapons, meditation and Ki development. Consequently, every Hapkido Master is a veteran of many years training. One of the system’s specialists in Ki development is Master Son, Yung Kul. I recently journeyed to South Korea to visit my old friend Master Son. Master Son is the headmaster of the
Su-Gi Hapkido Do-Jang in Daejeon city. This is an impressive martial arts facility that houses two fully equipped and matted floors.
Master Son, who is 47 years old, started his Hapkido training at the tender age of 12. He has visited the U.K. To teach and demonstrate his own particular brand of Hapkido and he is also a regular visitor to the U.S.A. To promote his art. Son, Yung Kul is a Master in the Heuk Choo Kwan system of Hapkido. Heuk Choo Kwan translates to the Black Eagle school and Master Son trained under its founder, Grandmaster Moon. Master Son stresses that the Hapkido student will use Ki in his martial arts training rather than physical strength.
Ki training is part of many non-martial arts disciplines such as Yoga; in Yoga Ki is referred to as Prahna. Internal training for martial artists is slightly different to that of Yoga or disciplines where Ki development is only for health purposes. Son, Yung Kul utilises relaxation, meditation and focus to help in the development of his student’s Ki. Master Son explains that by opening the fingers wide, Ki is summoned into the hand (a part of the body that needs it for self-defence). This action may look tense but is actually a relaxed motion. Tension blocks the flow of Ki throughout the body. A clenched fist, for example, is a tense motion and will not allow Ki to flow freely into the hand.
One interesting theory of Hapkido is called the Ki Finger. Whenever the Hapkido student applies a joint lock or throw, he will point his index finger in the direction he would like his Ki to flow, for example in the direction an opponent is being thrown. When the index finger is pointed to direct Ki it is known as the Ki Finger. According to Master Son this can amplify the power of a technique by more than seven times its normal strength.
The foundational principles of Hapkido internal development start with relaxed abdominal breathing techniques, which are incorporated with quiet meditation. The student will practice a series of breathing techniques, known as Dan Jun Ho Hup, to stimulate Ki flow throughout his body in which he opens his fingers as wide as possible to bring Ki into his hands. Dan Jun Ho Hup exercises are practised constantly in the student’s daily training right through to the highest black belt levels. The advanced Hapkido practitioner can actually place his Ki into any weapon he may be using; a sword or a staff for example.
Master Son has developed a series of self-defence techniques, which rely heavily on Ki power. When an oppo-nent is very strong and offers much resistance, Master Son can throw or subdue him using the gentle power of Ki. I have seen Master Son throw his opponent many feet into the air without even holding onto him. Ki development should not be limited to martial arts training. It should be used to improve health and personality both in and out of the Do-Jang. Son Yung Kul is very serious about his Hapkido and Ki training. As he says, Hapkido is my life, and if I live again I will still practice Hapkido.
Master Son will be visiting England in January 2006 to conduct Hapkido seminars and demonstrations. Please visit the European Hapkido Alliance website at