Questions on Hapkido

This past week, I had the pleasure and privilege of speaking with a class at Wentworth Institute of Technology.  As usual, I asked for questions before hand, so I could respond thoughtfully.  A couple students discovered my Hapkido background and wanted to know more.  Here are their questions and my answers.

Has Hapkido strengthened you mentally? If so, how?

Hapkido has taught me to be flexible, to think carefully about the ground I need to hold, the ground I want to hold, and the ground I happen to hold. It takes courage and persistence to ask those kinds of questions when you’re talking about fundamental ways of looking at the world. Surprisingly often I find that I’m not that attached to a particular idea someone else finds difficult.  It may be possible to yield it and still achieve my own goals.  This has helped me stay focused on the things that are important.

For example, I have discovered that I’m not attached to the historical factual truth of figures like Abraham and Moses. Nor am I invested in their being solely fictional. I am content when others take either position because my own care is what I learn from the personalities and relationships. For the record, I am invested in Jesus’ historicity as Christianity draws heavily on his concrete, particular, and historical incarnation.  I am also invested, though more weakly, in the non-historicity of Adam and Eve as the  progenitors of all humans; this would entail some problematic genetics.

Hapkido has also given me the self confidence to wait and see whether real conflict exists before trying to “solve” disagreements. Frequently we rush to ‘fix’ conflicts and disagreements before understanding the real shape of them. This can make matters worse, either by creating new opportunities for conflict or by papering over genuine gaps between people.

The three Principles of Hapkido apply to intellectual and emotional conflicts as well as physical:

Efficiency: Take care to do as much work with as little effort as possible. The application of unnecessary force leads to unnecessary and often undesirable consequences.

Circular Motion: Avoid direct confrontations. See where you can move with someone else, where you can agree, before trying to redirect.  Make use of extra energy and bring it into line with your own objectives.

Water: Flow like water, advancing where possible, yielding where necessary. As I mentioned above, only hold on to what you need to also have a clear direction.

Coming from a background in both science and religion, you must face some major conflicts in your research and possibly also from other scientists or priests.  How do you use the techniques you’ve learned through martial arts to help find a reasonable way to resolve your problems?

As I mentioned above, I start by being curious. I try to understand what people really care about and identify areas where we can move forward together.

I also allow inconsistent arguments and incompatible interests free rein in others, so that they knock themselves down. For instance, I prefer to give skeptics an opportunity to present a coherent picture of reality before giving them mine. They usually discover how hard it is and end up more open to hearing my own attempts at coherence.

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