Non Resistance to Force – how smart skills beat size and raw strength

hapkido throw

I am a fit, healthy man – 184 cm (about 6’1”) tall and weighing 85 kg (187 lbs). My wife is significantly smaller, lighter and physically weaker, at 167 cm and about 57 kg. Yet, as noted before on this blog, there is no way I can overpower her, no matter how hard I try, because of her expertise in the martial art of hapkido. One of the main reasons this is possible, is the principle of non resistance to force – a fundamental concept in hapkido. 

Curious as I am, I’ve listened to my wife explaining how this non resistance principle works and I’ve also searched more information about it online, to better understand how it works. I find it very interesting! So in the post, I’ll try to explain the basics of it and how it can be so powerful and effective as a principle of self defense!

Behaving like water
In hapkido theory, the principle of non resistance is often compared to water, as a metaphor. Water is a simple substance, yet it is one of the key building blocks of all life on this planet. As a liquid, water has the ability to flow continuously in a steady stream and to adapt to changing circumstances it encounters. Ideally this is how the energy of a hapkido practitioner should work to! For example, if a big heavy rock is placed in its path, water adjusts its course to flow around, over, or under the obstacle. Similarly, the hapkido practitioner doesn’t try to force her defense against the power and momentum of the aggressor. Instead, she “fluidly” adjusts her own position and adapts to the attacker’s moves and momentum. While maintaining balance and adjusting to the speed or angle of an assault, the primary objective is to harmonize with the aggressor’s movements, using his own energy to counterattack. Thus, adding very little additional effort, the defending hapkido practitioner is able to re-direct the attacker’s power against him. This causes the attacker to lose his balance. Studying hapkido revolves a lot about the ability to adapt and respond to any given situation. With enough practice (and I would assume talent) the techniques will flow naturally, instinctively and effortlessly through the practitioner.

Water wave

Use the attacker’s own momentum and force
In other words, the principle of non-resistance, is very much about remaining calm and relaxed in the face of a physical attack and not directly opposing the attacker’s strength. As a practical example, if an attacker grabs the hapkido practitioner and pushes her in order to force her down on the ground, rather than resist and push back, the hapkido practitioner would avoid a direct confrontation by moving in the same direction as the push and utilising the opponent’s forward momentum to throw him.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall
Similarly if an attacker tries to hit the hapkido practitioner with a punch or knife stab, she would redirect the attacker’s force and thus adding the attacker’s own momentum and energy to her own. Once she has redirected the attack, the hapkido practitioner can execute any of a huge variety of techniques to incapacitate the attacker. If these principle and associated techniques are mastered and executed to perfection (which I understand is very much easier said than done) it then follows that the bigger the attacker is and the more energy he has, the better it is for the hapkido practitioner! Given the huge difference in skills and experience between me and my wife, this is exactly what happens when I face her. The harder I try to overpower her, the easier it becomes for her to defeat me!


skilled girl kick

Yes I know, this gif doesn’t really have much of anything to do with this particular post, other than being really cool and kick-ass lol.

10 thoughts on “Non Resistance to Force – how smart skills beat size and raw strength

  1. Sara

    I loved reading this!
    It’s so empowering! And it makes me want to start doing martial arts! Your wife sounds amazing by tge way!

    Best part of all: “The harder I try to overpower her, the easier it becomes for her to defeat me”. Forgive me but that made me smile. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. No one of consequence (@Nooneofconseq11)

    I was thinking about this the other day and decided to google the subject and found this blog.

    So this happened to me when I met the woman who eventually became my wife. She wasn’t even an expert, but had taken karate for awhile ten years earlier. It seemed to have had a judo- like component as I found out. We both liked the fact that I was much bigger than her (85 kg vs 50) and we would tease each other about our size difference in different contexts. Eventually I teased her about her karate, saying I was too big for her tricks to work. She laughed and we had a quick match. No punching or actual attempts to hurt each other. I think in a real fight we would have both been hurt, but she would probably have won because she was so much faster. I might or might not have landed a punch. If I had, then yes, we would both have been hurt. But I definitely would have take kicks to various places and elbows too. And if I had tried to grab her, that would have been my quick downfall.

    Anyway, of course we weren’t going to risk injury, so she had me grab her in a bear hug. She was out of my grasp in three seconds. I tried to grab her and a few seconds later I was immobilized. She let me up- I still thought it was a fluke. She let me try to grab her for a few more minutes and she easily eluded me, pretending to kick or elbow me and I couldn’t have stopped any of them. She brought me down a couple of times. I finally realized she was too fast for me and my huge size and strength advantage didn’t mean a thing. Towards the end we were both laughing at how easily she was handling me.

    That said, I am not very athletic. I stay in shape, but have never been good at sports. So I wouldn’t want to give people the impression that a small woman can easily overpower a much larger man with a year of karate. It depends on the two people. In our case, she is a natural athlete, much better than me at any sport that isn’t about pure strength and I am a bit of a klutz. I think the result would have different if I had fast reflexes. So don’t be overconfident. You can’t tell how fast or slow or skilled or unskilled anyone is going to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mywifeisablackbelt Post author

      Thanks for your comment! 🙂
      And yes, that sounds about right. I can recognise a lot of what you say from my own life and relationship with my wife.
      I am quite athletic (though by no means a huge guy), but with my wife’s martial arts expertise it sounds like she has more or less the same level of advantage over me as your wife has over you. And yes, just like with you guys it took a “real life demo” from her for me to really understand that my size and strength advantage doesn’t really mean a thing against her.


  3. Pingback: Reader question: “Do you feel like less of a man?” | My Wife is a Black belt

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