During the Silla Dynasty in ancient Korea (618 - 935 AD) the martial arts expanded rapidly. The Kingdom of Silla was one of the three kingdoms in Korea and was notable for the military prowess of its young warrior class, the Hwa Rang. The five basic principles we use in Haedong Kumdo are derived from the principles of these elite warriors.
Haidong Kumdo (sometimes spelled Haedong Gumdo or Haidong Gumdo) is a traditional Korean sword martial art with a history extending as far back as the ancient Goguryo Kingdom of Korea in AD 331. 
At the beginning of the Yi Dynasty (1392-1910), a National Martial Arts Manual ‘Moo Ye Dobo Tonji’ was published.

Geographically, Korea is located in an enviable position, a peninsular nation with ample access to the ocean, as well as being a close neighbor to both China and Japan. Because of its location, nearby countries in ancient times often sought to occupy Korea to gain control of its superior geographical attributes.  Korea also frequently struggled with civil war, as opposing dynasties within the country vied with each other for power. As a result, Korean warriors of old often found themselves fighting off foreign invaders and warriors from rival Korean dynasties.

The prevalent state of warfare in Korea gave these Korean warriors the opportunity to practice their sword techniques and find out which techniques neutralized their enemies most efficiently and effectively.  One group of warriors ‘Samurang’ who lived in the Koguryo kingdom nearly 2,000 years ago, became particularly skilled at swordsmanship.  Their training hall was located on Mt. Baekdu (which rests on the North Korea-China border) and they were led by a master swordsman named Sul Bong, who had great spirituality.  Sul Bong not only taught his students the deadliest sword techniques, but also told them to live their lives according to the ideals of Choong (loyalty), Hyo (filial piety), Ye(propriety), Eui (justice), Shin (trust), Ji (knowledge), Duk (generosity) and Che (sound body). 

The Samurang spread the vision of living each day with righteousness and justice, and under the command of General Uel Ji Moon Duk, fended off 2 million soldiers during the invasion of the Sui Dynasty.  They also defeated 600,000 Tang soldiers at the Ahn Shi battle under the command of General Yang Man Choon.  Through the centuries, the sword techniques that the Samurang perfected were passed down from warrior to warrior.

During the occupation of Korea by Japan (1907 - 1945) the practice of native martial arts was prohibited and the Japanese forces destroyed virtually all records of the actual techniques of the ancient Korean martial Arts. This prohibition forced many Korean Sword Masters to emigrate, or to practice secretly. 

There are only two remaining documents on ancient Korean Martial Arts techniques: the ‘Moo Ye Jee Bo’ and the ‘Moo Ye Dobo Tonji’. These documents which provide insight into Korea;s martial history are the only remaining documentation allowing modern practitioners to trace the history of the Korean sword arts.

In modern times, this ancient martial arts educational system which was written for military use forms the foundation for our modern practice adapted for the general public.

Written by Conrad Howard — November 21, 2012

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