September 4, 2022

Taekwondo vs Hapkido: Differences & Effectiveness

Are you planning to learn a new form of martial arts and are confused between Taekwondo or Hapkido? Before choosing anyone, it is imperative to have knowledge about the different aspects of both the forms before making a decision. 

Hapkido is a hybrid of Korean martial art and employs long as well as short-range fighting. The techniques used are very proactive. Techniques such as kicks, jumps, punches, strikes, joint locks, grappling, etc. are used, and so are some weapons. Taekwondo is a structured martial art which utilizes linear, choppy, and sometimes firm technique. Kicking is the primary fighting form where arms are used as a backup. This form lays a lot of emphasis on striking the abdomen, collarbone, and head of the opponent.

Now that you know a brief difference between the two let’s get to the talking points like techniques, styles, variations that will definitely help you choose better.

Tracing the History

Both the martial arts, Taekwondo and Hapkido are Korean. Hapkido can be divided into ‘Hap’ (co-ordinate), ‘ki’ (power/technique) while ‘do’ (a way). Taekwondo is made of “Tae,” (to kick), “Kwon,” (to punch or destroy using the hands), and “Do” (a way)

Young woman practicing tae kwon do


The traces of actual birth of Hapkido are more theories and guesses than facts. However, the emergence of modern-day Hapkido may be ascribed to the efforts of some Korean martial arts enthusiasts in the post-Japanese colonial-era – Choi Yong-Sool being the most prominent one.

The martial art form was developed in a Koguryo kingdom with the purpose to treat the mind and body. The roots of Taekwondo started to take shape in three kingdoms, namely Koguryo (37 BC-668 AD), Pakje (18 BC-600 AD), and Silla (57 BC- 936 AD) which Korea was split into. Taekwondo goes back to 50 BC and originated in Korea about 2300 years ago.


Initially, Choi, the founder, taught the art to his students. With the progression of time, the art expanded upon the nature of the offence and spread across the Korean peninsula at a broader and more incredible pace. During this time Hapkido went through numerous changes and evolved into the art we know today.

At the same time, The Taekwondo started when the masters came together and decided to merge their different styles; introducing a uniform way of teaching after the occupation of Korea by Japan ended.


Taekwondo has a very straightforward philosophy with the aim of its practitioners to lead a peaceful life. It also teaches students on how one should conduct themselves by thinking right, feeling right, viewing right, performing and behaving right, speaking straight, and the most important – by contributing directly.

Hapkido believes in the idea of physical and mental fitness and well-being. The idea is that Hapkido training means a lot in terms of confidence, spiritual growth and excellence in character. It follows a strict physical training regime. The moral values include the aims to be modest and practice perseverance and self-control. Hwa (harmony), Won (circle principle) and Yu (water principle) are three principles of Hapkido.


Hapkido includes weapon training along with close-range fighting. It employs the use of weapons such as swords, sticks, staffs, canes, ropes and so on. On the other hand, Taekwondo uses a more linear approach with most emphasis on the kicks. It does not use any weapons.

Having said that, let’s look at the differences between the two:


Hapkido took techniques and principles of other martial arts to form it hence becoming a hybrid. Since it is a hybrid martial art, there are many bifurcations or divisions of Hapkido – Combat, Jin Jung Quan, Shinsei, and Sin Moo Hapkido. 

The curriculums of all these are very different. But the core founding principle of Hapkido remains the same in every case.

The top associations and federations striving to honour the integrity of Hapkido comprise of:

  1. Korean Hapkido Federation
  2. Global Hapkido Association
  3. World Kido Federation

Taekwondo fighters practice multiple jumping kicks, sidekicks, spinning kicks, front kicks, and roundhouse. The techniques of Taekwondo relies significantly on speed and precision. It is imperative to deliver all punches and kicks with high speed with force. 

Some of the commonly known associations and federations of Taekwondo are listed below:

  1. World Taekwondo Federation: Kukki style:  Focus is more on various types of powerful kicks – jumping and spinning kicks and less on punches.
  2. International Taekwondo Federation: Focus is considerably more on punching and less emphasis on kicking.
  3. American Taekwondo Association: Songahm-style: Focus is substantially more on the use of the legs. At some instances, it also includes the use of weapons such as bow staff (long stick) or nunchucks.


Taekwondo uses a crisp and linear and straight motion while practicing its movements. Hapkido, on the contrary, utilizes small and circular patterns of motion. Either is very damaging with every strike being precise and timed correctly. It can often turn out to be deadly.


Hapkido readily employs grappling techniques in order to pin the opponent to the ground. On the contrary, Taekwondo doesn’t use any such grappling techniques and targets only the upper body of the opponent.


We all know that traditional Taekwondo never uses weapons. Some modern variations of it do have the employment of a full staff at some instances.

In Hapkido, weapons are a piece of common knowledge. Hapkido practitioners have to practice on defending themselves against numerous types of a weapons attack. Therefore, Hapkido prepares for a real-life altercation, kind of situation training in defence against knives, baton, and rope, and even guns pending on the school.

Which is More Effective in a Street Fight?

When the question arises of learning and mastering a martial art form, it is important to mention that both are equally effective. It is necessary to note that every style has its own effectiveness and unique places for utilization. Of course! But how can we guess which is the right time to use it and how?. Let’s have a look.

Hapkido is more damaging when it comes to full fighting stances, motions, and attacks. As it is high on the offensive side, the harm to opponents once struck is massive. The strike leaves the opponent unfettered.

Wide range of tactics such as pining, throwing , striking and standing locks are used by Hapkido practitioners. Grappling, in this case, is on the ground. It helps in holding, pinning and finishing the opponent. The footwork of Hapkido fighters is highly impressive as well and assists in incapacitation. 

Taekwondo, on the other hand, is a sport. Some taekwondo skills can indeed be applied to a street fight. If you are caught in the chaos of a street fight the many techniques of Taekwondo – blocking, dodging and footwork comes in very handy.

However, Taekwondo lacks in grappling, and the hand is mostly used as a backup. On the other hand, Judo is an all-rounder in terms of technique and hence has the edge over Taekwondo when it comes to evading or defending in a street fight.

Which is Better for self-defence?

Taekwondo emphasizes kicks as its prominent fighting technique for self-defense. Kicks can be an advantageous technique if you train correctly in speed, headbutts and so on in a mobile stance. In the event of an attack, the multiple kicks, executed swiftly, can come in handy.

The manoeuvres focus on manipulation or redirection instead of strength by hitting the pressure points, attending joint locks, choking and freezing techniques.

Hapkido is not as well-known as Taekwondo currently. When it comes to self- defense, all of its trapping techniques which include numerous breaks and throws are very efficient.

Hapkido was created to focus more on the defense aspect . The goal is to minimize the advantage of size and strength for a person. The goal when it comes to Hapkido is to deliver with a lot of impacts.

This strategy of Hapkido, along with its framework is advantageous when warding off an adversary. The elbow and knee strikes in Hapkido can put the opponent in a tight spot. Since it teaches how to defend against a weapon, it becomes a major plus.

Which is Easier to Learn?

Well, it is a fifty-fifty situation with Taekwondo and Hapkido in this case. But Hapkido is slightly more accessible.

If we compare in terms of the years it takes for an individual to reach the black belt for Taekwondo and Hapkido, the former takes three to five years while the latter also takes roughly about three years. 

It might sound like an understatement, but it is very accurate that Hapkido was designed for self- defense in a way. Despite everything, both martial art forms require a rigorous training regime.

Which one should I choose?

Hapkido teaches you how to be comfortable in maneuvering against your opponent. You can win by leveraging your opponent’s weight and strength against them.

Taekwondo, on the other hand, takes less time and employs the use of legs to an enormous extent. Taekwondo is an aggressive sport as well, and both the sports have their fair share of weaknesses and strengths and pros and cons. It is imperative to understand all the aspects and then make a decision.

So what should you choose?

Both the art forms promote peace and detest anger and aggression. The aim is to restore unity around the globe. Ultimately, it takes time to evolve and grow.

Since the styles of both overlap a lot, a student might get confused. But the essential thing is to research and learn. Browse the internet if you have to. Visit martial art schools for both. Understand your own strengths and weaknesses.

But always listen to your heart!

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