What’s Haidong Gumdo?

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Haidong Gumdo is a Korean sword martial art derived from Kumdo. It has two main organizations and is believed to have originated from a martial art practiced by warriors known as Samurang. Haidong Gumdo has basic techniques performed with different weapons and various forms practiced, including footstep combat and cutting techniques. Martial arts have always been an important part of Korean culture, and Kumdo is a discipline of swordsmanship similar to Japanese kendo.

Haidong Gumdo is a term used to describe a couple of slightly different styles of Korean sword martial arts. Haidong Gumdo is also sometimes referred to as Haedong Kumdo and is derived from a standard Korean Kumdo fighting style. The term was coined in 1982 and has since become quite a broad fighting technique, with a couple of major organizations practicing their own styles and having their own rules for fighting.

Korea has had complex forms of martial arts for thousands of years and they have always been an important part of the culture. Up until about a century ago, most of these martial arts forms were forms of weapons, such as Haidong Gumdo, and it is only in the recent past that unarmed martial arts techniques have started to gain popularity. In modern Korea, martial arts are an important part of the culture and there has been a resurgence of styles such as Taekkyeon, Hapkido and Tang Soo Do.

Kumdo is one such style, and is a discipline of swordsmanship, similar to the Japanese form of kendo. The name, like kendo, literally means the way of the sword, and is centered around the art of the sword. Early swordwork owes much to Chinese forms, many of which were developed directly to counter the fighting style of Japanese pirates. Over time, the Korean sword arts declined in popularity, both due to a Confucian system that devalued military prowess in relation to academic prowess and the development of modern weaponry that made swords largely obsolete part.

In the late 19th century, however, kendo was brought to Korea, primarily as a way to train police forces and parts of the military. During the Japanese occupation, no traditional martial styles could be taught or practiced in Korea, so kendo and judo largely supplanted the native styles. Kendo formed the basis of Korea’s new physical education system in the early 20th century, and when the occupation ended in 1919 kumdo flourished even more.

While Haidong Gumdo undoubtedly owes a fair amount to kumdo, it is a rather distinct martial style. There are two main organizations practicing Haidong Gumdo: the Daehan Haidong Gumdo Federation, run by Kim Jeong-Ho, and the Hanguk Haedong Gumdo Federation, under Na Han-Il. It is generally argued that Haidong Gumdo has its lineage directed by a martial art practiced by warriors known as Samurang, trained by master Seolbong. While there is no historical record of this warrior group or their master, it is still strongly believed to be an origin story for the form.

Like many sword martial arts, Haidong Gumdo has a number of basic techniques, which are performed with various weapons, depending on the skill level. Beginners use a simple wooden sword, the mokgum, intermediate practitioners use a bamboo sword, the chukdo, and advanced students use weighted weapons and wear protective armor. Various forms are practised, many of them derived from gicheon, as are footstep combat, cutting techniques, and the accumulation of energy, known as qi gong.

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