By TANYA SMITH
This weekend, students in black and white karate duds were punching out their opponents in demonstrations at America’s first International Hapkido Training Center, which opened in Orem. Starting to take off in the U.S., Hapkido is a Korean martial arts that features powerful kicking and punching, along with manipulation of the joints.
“Hapkido is about self betterment,” said Bong Soo Han at the ceremony. Han is the highest ranking Black Belt in Hapkido in the world. Han helped introduce the use of martial arts in the movie industry, choreographing scenes for “Billy Jack” and “The Presidio”.
Kirk Koskella, president of the International Hapkido Federation, agreed with Han about the personal nature of hapkido. “As kids progress in hapkido, they don’t have to show off (their toughness),” he said. “Hapkido becomes a part of their lives. It becomes much more personal. Tournaments are not so much tournaments for the trophies, but become a test of personal progress.”
Han, who instructs the F.B.I. in martial arts techniques, seems to embody this humble perspective of hapkido accomplishment. “Hapkido is different from other sports,” the lean, quiet-spoken grand master said.
Dressed in a simple gray business suit, the grand master took a few minutes to show students helpful hints in hapkido. He advised them to be relaxed, and demonstrated deftly how to deflect blocks from opponents by simply moving quicker, but not tensing up. Unsuccessfully, Han’s black-robed opponent was punched, downed, and beat up as the graying Han skillfully deflected punches.
“It is fortunate that our students progress to the point that they don’t need to prove anything,” said Koskella. “What they begin to strive to do, above anything else, is never to disrespect themselves,” he said.
Koskella said that there are many cases where troubled youth have turned their lives around by becoming involved in hapkido, and focusing on bettering themselves. Koskella is a former member of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Advanced training Bureaus and trainer for the Anti Terrorist Tactic Team for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
The spacious 8,000 square foot training center features both hapkido and taekwondo, and will provide instruction to all age groups, law enforcement, and military personnel. The facility is located at 1655 South State Street in Orem, and can be reached by calling (801) 226-3390.