This martial art technique rooted way back 2000 years ago at the time of the early Three Kingdoms period – Shilla, Plahae, and Koryo. In those times, sword bearing is a way of life, they follow every rules religiously and conduct their daily lives with strictly disciplined and moral manners. Through the use of sword the above dynasties have expanded their respective territories especially during the 7th to 15th century. Specifically, the Palhae Dynasty was found and ruled by the ex-Koguryo warrior class after the fall of Koguryo in 668 A.D.
After the fall of the unified three Kingdoms, the warrior class was just limited to state military who refined and developed the art under the name of “Ghihuck-Gum.” In 1896, Ghihuck-Gum was chosen to be the compulsory training requirement for the newly founded police academy. From there on, Kumdo, the modern amalgamation of “the art of the sword” and “the way of righteousness” from the Taoist philosophy, was developed to be practiced by some as a sport and by others as a means of character development or spiritual refinement (U.S. Hwa Rang Kwan, 2006).
In the 20th century, Kumdo used the bamboo sword and lightweight armor used in Japanese Kendo. The population of people studying this technique grows very fast as the availability of the practice armor and sword made Kumdo flooded the market. It made the technique more popular.
What is Kumdo
“Kumdo” means “sword way”. It is the Korean counterpart of Japanese Kendo. The current technique uses “juk do”(4 split bamboo sword) and the “ho goo”(the head and body gear), which began in 18th century.
With “juk do” and “ho goo” the art of Kum Do took a surprising turn in its style. Allowing more experimentation without injury, the style became more effective by allowing stronger and deadlier blow without a considerable and extensive swing of the sword. The present form that combines of the inner strength (much signified by a scream from within “ki”), the absolute and unbounded swing of the sword(“kum”), and use of one’s lower back and body(“chae”) was recently perfected.
This is known as “ki-kum-chae.” Thus in tournaments one does not receive a point, although striking the opponent successfully, if the blow is not accompanied by all three components of “ki-kum-chae.”(Chang, 2006)
The purpose of Kumdo can be summarized as:
Mental and Physical Discipline
Spiritual Discipline and Awakening
Improved Technique Through Practice
Discipline Based Upon the Spirit of Hwarang (Hwarang Ogae)
Kundo practioners wear the same uniform as those who practice Kendo. But there are many who are willing to use or vary the uniform including the color and accessories. In Korea, practioner wear black trim and stripes on theur hakama instead of blue and this became popular in many dojos around the world.
Like Kendo, Kundo has also 10 forms, removing sonkyo bow and using Korean names and terminologies instead. Kumdo practitioners can compete in kendo tournaments. There are a total of 400,000 practioners of Kumdo in Korea alone and is ranked as second most popular martial arts in Korea, next to Taekwondo.
Origin Of Kumdo
This technique originated in Korea but these art was admitted to be a direct interpretation of its Japanese counterpart – Kendo (“Ken” means sword and “do” means way) In fact, some of the early founders of this technique says that there is totally no difference between the two form of art. It should be understand that these similarities in technique in the two techniques can be rooted to the history of Korea.
The annihilation of Japan to all the documents and historical artifacts of Korea including all the written documents about Korean Martial Arts have made it difficult for the Korean people and martial arts practioners to trace the original techniques of the Korean sword that originated way back in 4th century. It is said to be composed of twenty-five poses and postures that would result in the immediate defeat of the opponent.
Kumdo as an Art
Just like any other martial arts techniques, Kumdo can be considered as an art because it has a very rich and deeply rooted technique that was developed because of the interesting classical traditional, religions, philosophies and meditation techniques from Korea.
A martial art like Kumdo is an art but not an art form. It is a skill acquired by experience, study and observation. Also, it is something that can be enjoy and participate of any people from all walks of life. But again, it is, first and foremost, an art of self defense. Although there are people that are motivated to study this because of the self-defense benefit of the technique but to appreciate the beauty and art that is inextricably intertwined in this (Orlando, 1997)
It is an art because it has so many different artistic aspects. Just like dances, it has timing and rhythm. It has movements that can be used in dancing. Just like in painting where artist mixed colors to produced art, it is the same thing with Kumdo, it is an infusion of classical traditional, religions, philosophies and meditation techniques.
Spiritual Aspect of Kumdo
Kumdo has three level of mastery and one of them is the spiritual alignment of a person. Under this the limitations of physical body and mind merges through meditation techniques. The mind is silenced through the refined focus and the sword is used solely as a tool to link the body and the mind with the infinite. (Shaw, 2000)
It brings peace of mind and self-confidence and a disciplined and healthy mind. Through training, a person will have an honest self-examination or spiritual awakening.
Ranking System and Ability Level
Ranking in Kumdo
Kyu from 10 to 1: jukyu, kukyu, hachikyu, nanakyu, rokyu, gokyu,yonkyu, sankyu, nikkyu, ikkyu. Dan from 1 to 9: shodan, nidan, sandan, yondan, godan, rokudan,nanadan, hachidan, kudan. Teaching certificates from lowest to highest: renshi, kyoshi, hanshi. The older schools (koryu) did not have dan ranks – they are a moderninvention. Instead, they used certificates ofmerit. There is virtually no standardization or commonality.
Two common termsare menkyo-kaiden, referring to”graduates”, and kirigami for a first rank. Many ryu consider the ranks aslevels of initiation which have noparallel to dan and kyu. Still others broke the ranks down simply as studentand teacher, of possibly various levels.
There are three levels in Kumdo
1.Physical Mastery – The students becomes expert in the physical aspect of the art. These include understanding correct sword etiquette, mastery of the stances, and proper techniques in drawing and moving with the sword.
2.Mental Mastery – The second level witnesses the Kumdo practitioner beginning to rise above the objective techniques of the sword. The Kumdo technician no longer needs to contemplate whether or not he is in the correct stance or unsheathing the sword efficiently. Through long periods of practice, all movements have become natural and there is no unnecessary thought given to them (Shaw, 2000)
3.Spiritual Alignment – in this level the practitioner learn to make his physical body and mind work as one through the use of meditation technique.
Chang, Soon (2006) What is Kumdo?. U.S Hwa Rang Kwan. Retrieved on December 17, 2006 http://www.kumdo.com.
Shaw, Scott (2000) Kumdo the Korean Art of Sword. Retrieved on December 17, 2006. http://www.scottshaw.com/kumdo.html
Orlando, Bob (1997) Martial Arts America: A Western Approach to Eastern Arts. California. Frog Ltd.
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