What is Haidong Gumdo?

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Haidong Gumdo (Haedong Gumdo, 海東劍道 “Korean way of the sword”) arose in April of 1983 as the Hai Dong Gumdo Association with its main office in Seocho-gu, Seoul and, in November, 1996 was incorporated as the World Hai Dong Gumdo Federation (WHDGF). In promoting his art, KIM Jeong-ho reported that in 1962 he began training with his master, a monk called Jang Paek-san, and opened the first “Way of the Eastern Sea” (“Hai Dong Kumdo”) training hall in Anyang, Kyungki province, in July of 1982. To the degree that Hae Dong Kumdo draws on material gleaned from Bon Kuk Geom Beop, it could qualify as a type of historical martial arts reconstruction. While the purist may take exception to the selection of sword architecture to execute a given method, the theatrical or gymnastic qualities of practice and the inconsistent representation of provenance for this practice, its growing popularity has made it a staple of the Korean Martial Art community.

Since 1996, branches of the WHDGDA have opened in a variety of countries including the United States, Canada, China, France, Germany, Spain, Australia, Mexico and Japan. Currently there are more than 300 dojangs and 2000 schools and companies teaching Hai Dong Gumdo in Korea. 500 dojangs have spread internationally.


The curriculum for this art reflects a broad range of influences. Generally based on the standard Japanese arts of Kenjutsu, Iaido, and Battodo, the standard item used is a Ssangsoodo (lit. “2-handed sabre”) after the fashion of the Japanese Katana. Similarly, methods and techniques reflect standard Iaido sword drawing and sheathing, most Kenjutsu techniques and similar training attire: a keikogi and a hakama, with belt color-ranks as in most other Japanese/Korean martial arts. Curriculum content also includes the practice of kinds of Breathing Discipline and material garnered from earlier Korean swordsmanship and Chinese sword traditions.

Hae Dong Kumdo extols the practice of basic techniques (Kibon), forms (Hyung, Beop, or Pumsae)), step sparring (Yakseok Daeryon or Bon), sparring (Hada), energy building exercises (Gi Cheon) and cutting practice (Begi). In this way, Haidong Gumdo is a significantly different style from Kumdo, emphasizing the nature of Korean combatives over competition as in sport applications.

Basic practice is done with the mokgum (wooden sword), while sparring practice which formerly used a bamboo sword (chukdo) now uses a plastic/rubber sword in competitions per the Haidong Gumdo Federation regulations. In addition a school may also employ the use of weighted training weapons with protective padding or armor.

Various sword patterns are derived from methods identified in Bonguk Geombeop (Korean sword method), and other sword methods have been adopted from Japanese traditions such as Toyamma Ryu and Eishin-Ryu. The following is a partial listing of the resulting practices taught within Haidong Gumdo curricula:

  • 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 strategy is generally characterized as expressing multiple strikes of the sword for each strike received. While the merits and limitations of such practice may be debated endlessly the essence of this approach might best be summed-up as follows.

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

Philosophically, 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 military science but also a martial art.

(Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haidong_Gumdo)

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