The Kumdo

The Kumdo | What is Kumdo | History of Kumdo | Kumdo Explanations | Kumdo Today | Black Ships of Kendo

Kumdo is a modern martial art of fencing, the Korean equivalent of Japanese kendo. It is also romanized as kumdo, gumdo, or geomdo. The name means “the way of the sword,” and is a cognate with the Japanese term.

Kumdo means “the way of the sword.” The present form of using “juk do”(4 split bamboo sword) and the “ho goo”(the head and body gear) began around 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.”

In other martial arts the strength always has an advantage. If one is fit and strong, such a person can win over most opponents(of course giving consideration to certain level off expertise and experience).

During a fight, although one is hit, he/she can come back win the battle. Not so for Kumdo. In Kumdo, one does not get a second chance. If you receive a blow, the battle is over.

Under this circumstance one’s attitude and spiritual understanding of oneself is most crucial. The statement of “never underestimate your opponent” cannot be more true for Kum Do than anything else.

Without the proper attitude and reverence to the art form, one opening for the opponent is all it takes to lose. Although combination of strength and speed plays a crucial role, one cannot master the art of Kum Do without the pure and unadulterated state of mind and soul.

The spiritual maturity, inner strength, calmness of the soul, and pure heart combined with strength and speed–that is the “essence” of Kum Do. A duality of one’s identity that unites into one. The rules and the equipment are almost the same as those of kendo because the two have only been allowed to diverge since 1945. Kumdo tournaments have abandoned some elements of Japanese culture, such as the squatting bow (sonkyo) performed by competing kumsa or kenshi at the beginning and end of a match. The hogu, or armor, are often simplified compared to kendo’s bogu. The scoring flags are different as well; blue and white instead of the red and white found in kendo.

While many practice with the same uniform as kendo, usually indigo-blue, kumdo practitioners have been willing to change elements of the uniform including the colour and other modifications. Many wear hakama without a koshita and use velcro instead. In particular, the Korean national team wears white keikogi or dobok with black trim and stripes on their hakama, in contrast to the all indigo-blue worn by kendo practitioners.

This style of uniform has become popular among kumdo dojang both in Korea and in countries like the United States, which have a substantial Korean population. The present form of Kumdo uses “juk do”(4 split bamboo sword) and the “ho goo”(the head and body gear). In Kumdo, if you receive a blow, the battle is over. Under this circumstance one’s attitude and spiritual understanding of oneself is most crucial. The statement of “never underestimate your opponent” cannot be more true for Kumdo than anything else.

The art of the sword in Korea evolved from a martial art heritage reaching back more than three thousand years to the time of the Bronze Age. In 1896 during the era of modernization, the art of the sword, also known as “Ghihuck-Gum,” was selected as a mandatory training requirement for the newly established 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. By the early 20th century, Kumdo training had adopted and utilized a practice weapon made of bamboo and lightweight armor that had been developed by the Japanese. This method of practice largely replaced the earlier, more dangerous, methods of training. Yet, the Kumdo popularity had been limited until early 1960 when the practice armor could be mass produced with the latest materials.

A direct translation of “Kumdo” is “the way of the sword.” The art of the sword in Korea evolved from a martial art heritage reaching back more than three thousand years to the time of the Bronze Age. Archeological records indicate that the sword and its art were a part of daily life in Korean antiquity to defend territorial hold extending from Manchuria to Korean peninsula and early settlements in the Japanese main island.

By the early 20th century, Kumdo training had adopted and utilized a practice weapon made of bamboo and lightweight armor that had been developed by the Japanese. This method of practice largely replaced the earlier, more dangerous, methods of training. Yet, the Kumdo popularity had been limited until early 1960 when the practice armor could be mass produced with the latest materials. When Kumdo equipments became easily available and affordable, the Kumdo population started to grow rapidly. Kumdo became no longer the martial art of the selected few.

Kumdo is both a physically and mentally demanding martial art. A Kumdo bout with a skilled opponent is an intense experience. For a moment, as one opponent faces another, concentration is absolute, conscious thought is suppressed, and action is instinctive. Such training develops the power of resolution and endurance under pressure which frequently affects Kumdo students’ lives beyond the confines of the training hall.