Walkabout: Jeff Walker November 17th, 2015

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Hapkido: the way of harmonized energy

Inside the mystique of that Bayview martial arts academy

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For me, The Toronto Hapkido Academy (THA) on Bayview Avenue has always had a mystique to it. We had all heard of karate, judo, kung fu and a number of other martial arts. But hapkido — what was this strange bird?

Well, it is rather an exotic breed of martial arts, a post-World War II phenomenon. Essentially, it’s a form of Japanese jiu-jitsu that morphed into a Korean mixed martial art that draws upon several traditions of more ancient lineage.

So, it’s a concept-based martial art; it isn’t the embodiment of a single historical tradition. Instead it fuses what hapkido’s grandmasters have discerned as the most essential of several forerunners. There is throwing, from judo; punches, from karate; kicking, from taekwondo; ground-grappling, from jiu-jitsu; joint manipulation, from aikido, and so forth.

“Hap” means to harmonize. “Ki” means energy. And “Do” means “the way of.” Thus Hapkido: the way of harmonized energy.

The three principles of hapkido are: non-resistance (using the attacker’s momentum against him), the circle principle (countering a linear attack with a circular defence) and the water principle (deflecting blows and enveloping the attacker as flowing water around a rock).

It began like a film script. Hapkido originator Choi Yong-Sool one day in 1948 found himself in the midst of a brouhaha with fellow employees in the yard of the Seo Brewery Company in Korea. The boss’s son witnessed Yong-Sool fend off the whole lot, quite an impressive feat. Soon Yong-Sool was persuaded to start up classes on site. And the rest was hapkido history, including two legendary grandmasters with the inconceivably advanced 10th Dan Black Belt.

Several hapkido schools dot Toronto, but Master Dayo Odesanya’s school on Bayview is the only one with ties to the governing body in Korea. Every few years, the fouth-degree black belt — who at one time worked as a stunt man for films shooting in Toronto — travels to Korea for additional training, or hosts an even more advanced black belt instructor from Korea making the rounds of affiliated hapkido schools in North America.

Master Dayo happily informed me that not only are many women and girls drawn to his school, they are currently in the majority. (I say, come on guys, there are already way more female than male medical-school grads. Let’s not get left behind in the martial arts.) About half the school’s members are adults, and half are teens or kids. Master Dayo relates that currently about 150 families have a family member or two or three enrolled. Having recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, the THA appears rock-solid to me as a Leaside institution.

The school has a very sophisticated website describing its myriad programs, including kickboxing and Muay Thai. THA’s focus is on personal development (physical and mental) in the context of self defence.

The location is the second floor on the east side of Bayview just north of Fleming Crescent, across the street from Originals and BMO.