Everything is Water

The three principles of Hapkido are:

  1. Circular Motion
  2. Harmony (or Non-Resistance)
  3. Water

Early in my Hapkido training, Dr. Mani Mina (4th Dan) told us that, really, to him, all three principles are simply different aspects of Water. He used this interpretation as a unifying concept to show how the principles were inter-related and each played off the other to produce effective, flowing Hapkido.

Ever the sort to attempt to process my world visually, I began to form symbols in my mind to represent each principle as an avatar of Water.  Hence the sketches above.

Flow, or Water Principle

The first symbol represents the flowing nature of water, its continuity, and steady progression.

Circular Motion

The center symbol is the one for the circular aspect of water. Water moves in flowing curves and waves. Never sharp stops and starts, never at right angles. It moves in powerful arcs, it surrounds, it swirls in tiny eddies and terrific maelstroms.


I initially learned this principle as Non-Resistance, but have since heard it called Harmony. Both work.  The former seems to be a more specific interpretation, one directly addressing reactions to adversity. The latter, Harmony, seems to be a more broad way to think about the same thing, and is not reactionary.  One practicing Harmony can initiate harmonious movements. All of that considered, water flows around mighty mountains, slipping by, seeking vulnerabilities. Water deflects, comes in, goes out, erodes, receives, and returns.

From an artistic/composition/unity perspective, I wanted to touch on the other principles as well to show how they all intertwine. So while each is a depiction of water, they’re each contained in a circle. I also spent a lot of time drawing and redrawing the lines so that they seemed to fit easily and naturally inside the circle to try and achieve some kind of harmony.


Living a Water Life

Whenever I hit a snag in some Hapkido technique I think on these symbols and the concepts they represent. Water is something we all seem to innately understand. Its qualities are so ubiquitous that in trying to mimic what we’ve always known we can access Water’s power.  If I find myself pushing, instead I slip around. If a straight line isn’t working, I remind myself of the power of a continuous curve. If angles are jagged, I search for steady flow.


A few martial artists have requested permission, which I have happily granted, to use this art as tattoos. I can’t say how honored I am that my piece resonated so personally to other martial arts that they’d want it on their bodies for life.  That’s the most fulfilling thing about making art: seeing how others interpret and connect with what I’ve made.

Note: Please do not use this art for any purpose without my express permission.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *