upcoming events

Beginners Welcome Any Time:


Tues./Thurs. 7-8 p.m.

Fieldhouse Room S481




FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)


1. When and where do classes meet?

Classes meet at the University of Iowa Field House, Room S481. We have classes Tuesday and Thursday evenings (Beginners 7pm – 8pm; Advanced 8pm- 9:30pm). For directions or more information see Class Info.

2. How much do the classes cost?

Classes are $60/semester for UI students, $80/semester (about four months) for non-UI students. The fees can be paid at the Recreation Services office and UI students can charge the fees to their UI bill.

3. Do I need a uniform?

Yes, you will need a uniform. You can wear athletic clothes for the first few weeks, and those who decide to stay with the class will be asked to purchase a uniform from us at that point. You must be in uniform to test for the next rank. Wearing a uniform is not only important for practical reasons (we actually use the uniform to do certain techniques), it also has the psychological benefit of making you feel more like a martial artist.

If you have a uniform from another martial art, you may wear it during the first few weeks. After that, you must have a uniform similar to the ones we use in class. A white or natural cotton, heavy Judo uniform is what we use. Karate, Taekwondo, Kung Fu or other lightweight uniforms are not acceptable because we use the uniform to throw, and it will tear under such use. Uniforms with patches, large words or other insignia are not acceptable (if you have a question about whether your uniform will be OK, show it to the instructor after class).

4. How long does the class continue? Do you practice year-round?

Classes meet year-round (with the exception of a two-week break during the Winter Holiday). There are three semesters per year: Fall, Spring and Summer. Each is approximately four months long, and you may enroll in Hapkido each semester (there is a fee for each semester).

5. Do I have to be a UI student to practice Hapkido?

You do not have to be a UI student to practice Hapkido. Usually about a third of Hapkido students (and most instructors) are not UI students. These are people who live and work in the Iowa City area or students from other schools.

6. Do I have to be in good shape or have previous martial arts experience to practice Hapkido?

Previous martial arts or athletic experience is not necessary to participate in Hapkido. Most students have not practiced another martial art before. In fact, there is a wide range of fitness and athletic experience among Hapkido students – from graduate students who have never done anything remotely athletic, to former high school wrestling champions, to black belts from other martial arts. The age range is equally large – from high school juniors and seniors to professionals in their forties and fifties.

Realistically, people with athletic or martial arts backgrounds might find learning certain aspects of Hapkido slightly easier. However, everyone has his or her own strengths and weaknesses – and what may have been an advantage in one sport may not help in Hapkido. Hapkido skills are sport-specific skills, so each technique must be learned from scratch. Everyone starts at the same place and progresses together. The most important factor by far in determining who excels in Hapkido is attendance – simply showing up and working out – week after week, year after year.

7. Do you accept children in your classes?

Unfortunately, we cannot accept students younger than 16 years of age. For safety reasons, Hapkido requires a certain amount of physical control and mature exercise of judgement that cannot be relied upon in younger children. We generally recommend that children practice Taekwondo, Judo or Aikido/Shinkendo until they are old enough to try Hapkido.

8. Does Hapkido do sparring or tournaments?

Hapkido does not do any sparring or tournaments. Hapkido is a martial art practiced primarily for self-defense, not a competitive sport like Taekwondo or Judo. Most of the techniques learned in Hapkido are designed to immobilize or seriously injure an attacker. We can practice them in class safely because we use control when executing the techniques. In a competitive situation there would be no safe way to exercise control and still compete to win.

9. What belt or rank system do you use?

Hapkido uses the Korean belt system, similar to that used by many Taekwondo schools. The belt ranking, in order of lowest to highest ranks is as follows:

White Belt
Orange Belt
Green Belt
Blue Belt
Brown Belt (at this level and higher, black pants are worn)
Red Belt
Recommended Black Belt (half red, half black)
1st Degree Black Belt
2nd Degree Black Belt (2 yellow stripes on the ends of the belt)
3rd Degree Black Belt (3 yellow stripes on the ends of the belt)
4th Degree Black Belt (4 yellow stripes on the ends of the belt)
5th Degree Black Belt (5 yellow stripes on the ends of the belt)

10. How long does it take to learn Hapkido?

The answer depends on what is meant by “to learn.” During the very first weeks in Hapkido, you will learn practical ways to escape from an attacker. By the end of the first semester, you will have learned 15 different techniques (escapes, throws, joint locks and chokes). However, the longer you continue to practice, the more you will increase your odds of using the techniques effectively in a hostile situation.

A student who attends class regularly (2-3 times per week during the Fall and Spring semesters) can earn a black belt in four years. Someone who has reached the rank of black belt has certainly learned quite a bit about Hapkido. However, it has been said that once you reach the level of black belt, you are ready to really begin to learn. Black belts have been taught and have reached a certain proficiency in the basics of most of the techniques of Hapkido. That is not to say that a black belt has mastered those techniques. Deeper understanding and true mastery come only after many, many years of practice, and no one can master every technique.

11. I have seen other Hapkido schools and your style looks different. Why is that?

There have been no strong governing associations for Hapkido in the US, so there is no standard curriculum between schools. Each Korean instructor who came to the US to teach Hapkido has been free to teach any techniques he felt were appropriate. Maybe he thought that certain techniques might not be appealing to American students, so he didn’t teach those techniques. Also, every teacher naturally focuses more on the techniques they like most, spending more time on those. This results in differences in techniques taught from school to school.

One of the most common differences is in the amount of kicking done by different Hapkido schools. Ji Han Jae (one of the earliest students of the founder of Hapkido, Choi Yong Sul), started his own school of Hapkido that emphasized kicking and weapons. He greatly influenced the style of Hapkido. Many of the schools from his style emphasize kicks equally with joint locks. Some schools teach Hapkido classes so heavily weighted towards kicks that they look almost like pure Taekwondo classes.

Our style is not descended from that of Ji Han Jae. Our master instructor, Master Pak (at Iowa State University), chose to leave nearly all the kicks to his Taekwondo students. He emphasizes joint locks, throws and chokes (and a few kicks) in Hapkido.

12. I practiced Hapkido at another school. Can I keep my rank?

If you have practiced Hapkido previously at another school, we will honor the rank your school conferred upon you. You will be allowed to wear the belt you earned, if you so desire. However, you will not be allowed to test for a higher rank until you have learned all of the requirements of our club’s curriculum for that rank. Since our curriculum is likely different from that of your old school, you might need to work out with us for quite some time before advancing further. If your skills (particularly your falling skills) are so different from ours that we believe that safety is an issue, we will require that you start in the beginner class.