Hankumdo

Hankumdo is a Korean sword-art where the basic techniques are based on the letters of the Korean alphabet, Hangul. The goal of hankumdo is to teach people how to defend themselves and at the same time offer them exercises to stay healthy. It also is meant to give practitioners the means to come to a deeper understanding of martial arts principles. It aims to make this easy by using the Korean writing system to systematize the techniques.

Hankumdo Is the Art of the Korean sword.  Like Hankido there are 24 techniques that correspond to the Korean Alphabet.  They are also performed as many ways as possible. Plus sword disarming i.e.; empty hand Vs the sword. The ancient way to hone mind and body. Find your path to stress relief and health in a social atmosphere where everyone knows your name.  Men & Women through the ages, the best and brightest have practiced sword to tone their bodies and sharpen their minds to discover the secrets of health, leadership, confidence, stress relief, and focus to keep spirits strong and resilient.

This art was developed by the late Myung Jae Nam, the first plans to teach his sword techniques as a separate art emerged in 1986. Hankumdo was first made public during the 3rd International H.K.D Games in 1997.

Master Myung wanted to develop a sword-art that would be truly Korean and easy to learn by everyone. For Koreans who already know the Korean writing system, the techniques are easy to remember, because the strikes follow the standard way in which you would write the characters with your pen. For foreigners it is usually their first encounter with the Korean writing system.

At first hankumdo was introduced as a part of the hankido curriculum under the name hankumdobub (hankumdo techniques), but later Myung Jae Nam decided that it was an art that could stand on its own merits.

They are advised to learn how to write Hangul before starting with the techniques. Because the Korean writing system is fairly easy to learn (within a week you know enough to be able to read the most basic syllables) foreigners can learn the basics of hankumdo usually just as easily as the Korean students. One of the goals of Myung Jae Nam was also to give foreign students a tool to learn the Korean language.

Traditional Korean swordmenship is developped senturies ago and finds its basics in the martial arts from the Hwarang from the Silla Dynasty. Hankumdo was developped by Kooksanim Myung Jae Nam and introduced to the public at the International Hapkido Games in 1997. This unique system is based upon the “Hangul” the Korean written language, that was developed by King Sejong during the Choson Dynasty (1393-1910).

In 1446 the first Korean written language was proclaimed under the original name “Hunmin Chong-um”. This means ”the correct sounds for the instruction of the people”. King Sejong created the system because its was hard for the common people to learn and understand the common chinese written language.

Meaning: The word hankumdo actually consists of three different words:

  • Han (í•œ / 韓): Korea, Korean culture and mentality.
  • Kum (ê²€ / 劍): Sword
  • Do (도 / 道): The way

So you could say that hankumdo means: The way for Korean people to learn how to handle the sword. Of course hankumdo isn’t just for Koreans; foreigners all over the world practice this martial art.

Style: A lot of modern Korean martial arts have been heavily influenced by Japanese styles in the 20th century, while the older arts were influenced strongly by the Chinese, which becomes obvious in the Muyedobotongji. Myung Jae Nam however wanted to create a true Korean sword art without any foreign influences.

Japanese sword arts developed into the art of man-to-man duelling during the peaceful Edo period and are characterized by a lot of attention to detail under the influence of Zen Buddhism. Traditional Korean arts never underwent this change and were purely taught to soldiers as a way to fight on the battlefield, although this does not mean that in Japanese arts battlefield techniques are not taught.

Battlefield fighting is usually characterized by more flowing and on-going movements. In duel-style fighting a lot of attention is given to the one-strike-one-kill principle, whereas in battlefield-style fighting the emphasis is on keeping the sword in motion and always being ready for the next strike.

To give hankumdo a true Korean edge, master Myung Jae Nam used the Korean alphabet, known as Hangul, to teach the basic strikes of the art.

Techniques: The basis for all hankumdo techniques comes from the letters of the Korean alphabet, Hangul. This alphabet consists of 24 characters, 14 consonants (자음) and 10 vowels (모음). To ‘write’ these letters with your sword in the most basic manner, you only need to know a few techniques.

  • 1. Nae Ryeo Bae Gi (내려베기) – Vertical strike
  • 2. Bi’t Kyeo Bae Gi (빗겨베기) – Diagonal strike, down.
  • 3. Ch’i Ru Gi (찌르기) – Forward stab
  • 4. Mak Gi (막기) – High block

The strikes are being taught from several positions and with several steps, called Ki Bo Haeng (기보행). The techniques have the same name as the characters followed by the word Bae Gi (베기) which means strike. So the name for the first technique is: Ki Yeok Bae Gi (기역베기), because the name for the first character (ㄱ) in the Korean alphabet is Ki Yeok (기역).

In recent years a few changes have been made to the hankumdo curriculum. In such a way that a student learns more strikes when do the hangul-techniques. In the older version the techniques were all based on the standard way the letters were written, in the newer system the IHF has made a few adaptations so that the way of striking and writing the letters does not always match.

Development: After Myung Jae Nam’s death in 1999, the development of hankumdo is overseen by the Jaenam Musul Won Foundation. Quite a few changes and additions to the hankumdo curriculum have been made by Ko Ju Sik (고주식), the new technical director of the federation, since then.