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Haidong Gumdo: Wikis


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Haidong Gumdo
Hangul 해동검도
Hanja 海東劍道
Revised Romanization Haedong Geomdo
McCune–Reischauer Haedong Kŏmdo

Haedong Kumdo, also spelled Haidong Gumdo, is a name coined around 1982 and used for several Korean martial arts organizations that use swords. Spelling varies between certain organizations. Most notable are Haidong Gumdo by the original organization (Daehan Haidong Gumdo Federation) under Kim Jeong-Ho, and Haedong Kumdo by the largest offshoot (Hanguk Haedong Gumdo Federation) under Na Han-Il.

Haidong Gumdo is significantly different style from kumdo, emphasizing a native Korean "battlefield" style of combat over the one-on-one dueling style found in standard or Daehan Kumdo. As such, it is unrelated to modern, standard kumdo. By contrast, the KKA promotes Daehan Kumdo (大韓劍道), with noted changes to reflect Korean cultural influences and methodology.

Haedong Gumdo derives its name from Haedong Seongguk Balhae (海東盛國渤海), a name for Balhae, a medieval kingdom in the region of northeastern Korea, and southern Manchuria.



Practitioners of Haidong Gumdo engage in the practice of basic techniques (kibon), forms (geompeob or pumsae), step sparring (yaksuk daeryun), sparring (hada), energy building exercises (qi gong) and cutting practice (begi).

Basic practice is done with the mokgum (wooden sword).

Sparring practice begins with the bamboo sword (chukdo) but now due to new laws passed down from the Haidong Gumdo federation a plastic/rubber sword must be used in competitions, advances to mokgum, and depending on the school, may advance to weighted training weapons with protective padding or armor. Forms within Haidong Gumdo were derived from the mechanics of gicheon (a Korean form of martial arts similar to Tai Chi Chuan), and various sword patterns found within the Muyedobotongji ( Comprehensive Illustrated Manual of Martial Arts). Baldo and chakgeom forms (drawing and sheathing the sword) were also developed.

While traditional Korean sword forms are contained in the Bonguk Geombeop (Korean sword method), other geombeop are taught within Haidong Gumdo curricula, including:

  • 쌍수검법 Ssangsu Geombeop (method of using the double handed sword)
  • 심상검법 Simsang Geombeop (method of the heart of swordsmanship)
  • 예도검법 Yedo Geombeop (method of using the short sword)
  • 제독검법 Jedok Geombeop (Admiral's sword method)
  • 장백검법 Jangbaek Geombeop (the Jangbaek method)
  • 왜검법 Wae Geombeop (Japanese method)
  • 외수검법 Wuisu Geombeop (method of using the sword with one hand)
  • 쌍검검법 Ssanggeom Geombeop (The method of using two swords)

Haidong Gumdo may be generally characterized as exchanging multiple strikes of the sword for one strike of the sword. The one strike concept characterizes the Japanese method. The merits and limitations of each of the philosophies may be debated endlessly. Probably the best way to characterize the main difference between Japanese Kendo and the Korean Haidong Gumdo styles is through training philosophy:

  • The Japanese technique primarily focuses on one-versus-one, or individual combat.
  • The Korean technique primarily focuses on one-versus-many, or battlefield combat.

The essence of Haidong Gumdo is in shimgum, a concept similar to the that of the Spanish duende, as coined by the Spanish poet, García Lorca. Shimgum is the unification of the mind, body and spirit expressing itself through the use of the sword. It implies a technical mastery of the sword, but transcends technical limitations. One can be "technically perfect" but still not achieve shimgum. One may also be technically imperfect and still achieve shimgum. Shimgum is what makes Haidong Gumdo not only a martial science but also a martial art.

Legal controversy

A series of legal actions between the two primary Haidong Gumdo organizations has revealed and documented the history of this martial art. Haidong Gumdo is rooted in the martial traditions of the Samurang, a group of elite warriors originally trained by a master named Seolbong in the ancient Goguryeo Kingdom. However, KKA argues that this information is unreliable although Haidong Gumdo practices the martial art that is genuinely from Korea instead of Japan. The Samurang story is generally considered to be highly controversial revisionist history, with no documented evidence existing before the 20th century.

Kim Jeong-Ho, president of the Daehan Haidong Gumdo Federation, learned Haidong Gumdo from a master called Jangbaeksan (meaning Mount Baekdu) at Kwanak Mountain. The trials concluded that Haidong Gumdo was created by Kim Jeong-Ho and Na Hanil, both of whom had studied the Korean sword arts of Gicheonmun (under Bak Daeyang) and Simgeomdo (under Kim Changsik), and that the story of Jangbaeksan was a metaphor for this. The pair worked together under the name of the more widely known of their two arts, Simgeomdo. Around 1984 they began teaching their martial art under the name Haidong Gumdo. Haidong Gumdo remained a relatively minor art until 1989 when Na Hanil played the leading character in a Korean TV drama. This helped to promote Haidong Gumdo considerably.

Samurang Controversy

According to the World Haidong Gumdo Federation, Samurang (士武郞) were warriors from Goguryeo who later played a role in the creation of the Japanese samurai caste. In some countries "Samurang" has been registered as a trademark by the World Haidong Gumdo Federation. It should be noted that the story of the Samurang is considered very controversial, with no documented evidence whatsoever. It is often considered revisionist history and false etymology.

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