May 29, 2024

Ten Pillars of Knife Defense: Disarming and Deflecting with JaeMuKwan Hapkido by KJN Jae Jeannotte

Ten Pillars of Knife Defense: Disarming and Deflecting with JaeMuKwan Hapkido by KJN Jae Jeannotte

Hapkido, the Korean art of self-defense, emphasizes joint locks, throws, and flowing techniques to subdue attackers. While unarmed defense is a core tenet, the art acknowledges the reality of weaponized threats. Here, I will delve into ten crucial principles that I have learned through decades of study to guide Hapkido practitioners in defending against knife attacks.

1. Maintain Distance and Awareness: The priority is avoiding a close-quarter confrontation. Situational awareness is paramount. Develop a habit of scanning your surroundings, identifying potential threats, and maintaining a safe distance. If a knife attack seems imminent, create space by using footwork, stepping back, or maneuvering sideways.

2. Bridge the Gap with Controlled Movement: Sometimes, creating distance isn’t an option. In such situations, controlled movement becomes crucial. Utilize footwork patterns like evasive stepping (hwacha seon) or circular footwork (hwandoeop) to get into a better position to defend or disarm. Remember, erratic movements can leave you vulnerable; controlled footwork allows for calculated responses.

3. The Importance of Deflection: Directly blocking a knife is risky. Hapkido emphasizes deflection, using your forearms or controlled limb movements to redirect the blade away from vital areas. Techniques like songeut (palm strike) or pyojok (knife edge block) can be employed to deflect the attacker’s strike, creating an opening for further action.

4. Disarm When Possible, But Don’t Fixate: While disarming can neutralize the threat, it’s not always the primary goal. If an opportunity arises to disarm safely, techniques like tan bong sul (single arm disarm) or jok bal dang gi (staff disarm) can be used. However, fixating on disarming can leave you open to further attacks. Prioritize your safety and choose the most appropriate response based on the situation.

5. Utilize Joint Locks for Control: Hapkido’s joint locks are powerful tools for controlling an attacker. Techniques like momjil geumgo (wrist lock) or bapgul maegeri (shoulder lock) can be applied after a successful deflection or disarm, effectively immobilizing the attacker. However, remember to prioritize safety and ensure proper technique to avoid injuring yourself or the attacker.

6. Throws for Effective Neutralization: Hapkido throws, executed with proper timing and technique, can quickly neutralize a knife-wielding attacker. Techniques like kwanseop suro (shoulder throw) or momjil dwitgi (wrist throw) can be employed to take the attacker off balance and gain control. However, throws should only be attempted when the opportunity arises, and you are confident in your execution.

7. Improvised Weapons for Defense: In a real-world scenario, you might not have access to traditional Hapkido weapons. However, everyday objects like a belt, jacket, or even a chair can be used for improvised defense. Techniques like yop gi rulgo (belt wrap) or jakchim geoseum (jacket grab) can be adapted to create a barrier or deflect the attacker’s weapon.

8. Multiple Attackers: Maintain Situational Awareness: Knife attacks can sometimes involve multiple assailants. Here, maintaining situational awareness becomes even more critical. Utilize evasive maneuvers and footwork patterns to avoid being surrounded. Focus on controlling the immediate threat while remaining alert to potential attacks from other directions.

9. Importance of Practice and Training: Defending against a knife is a complex skill. Effective defense relies on muscle memory and practiced technique. Regularly train knife defense drills with a qualified Hapkido instructor who can ensure safety and provide proper guidance.

10. Develop a Mindset for Self-Preservation: Hapkido training goes beyond physical techniques. Cultivate a self-preservation mindset. Assess the situation, prioritize your safety, and choose the most appropriate response. Remember, self-defense isn’t about fighting back; it’s about protecting yourself and escaping harm.

Beyond the Ten Principles

These ten principles form a foundation for JaeMuKwan Hapkido knife defense. However, it’s crucial to remember that Hapkido techniques are adaptable and should be tailored to the specific situation.


Knife attacks are dangerous situations. Hapkido training equips you with the skills and mindset to respond effectively, but it’s never a guarantee. Always prioritize de-escalation when possible and avoid confrontation if a safe escape route exists.

The Road to Proficiency

Mastering Hapkido knife defense requires dedication, discipline, and consistent training under a qualified instructor. These principles serve as a roadmap, guiding you on your journey to develop the skills and confidence to defend yourself in a knife attack scenario. Remember, the goal is to stay safe and emerge from the situation unharmed.

About the author: KJN Jae Jeannotte is a lifelong martial artist who has served as an officer in some capacity in several of the top Hapkido organizations in the world. He is the Founder of JaeMuKwan Hapkido which is recognized by several of the leading Korean organizations. KJN Jeannotte is also the Vice President of the USA Hapkido Union and President of the Board of Advisors. For information of Private Lessons, Advanced Training or to host KJN Jae for a seminar you can reach him on Facebook at

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