Kwon Beop

Home Boxing Canon Recombination Methods


The practice of unarmed fighting techniques is thought to go well back into the Neolithic period, some 4000 BCE and though its is reasonable to conclude that the Korean people developed systems of their own as far back as the Three Kingdoms Period (33 BCE - 660 AD). The destructive nature of the Mongol Invasion in 1235 AD has lost first-hand accounts of such training to us, but remanents of material from both the Mongolian and Chinese cultures can give us some idea of what practices might have been like. 

 In 1592, the Japanese military leader, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536 – 1598) invaded Korea with an eye towards using the Korean peninsula as an entry-way to the conquest of China and later of India. Finding the Korean forces in a poor state of preparedness, the Japanese forces were able to fight down the length of the peninsula in mere months. With the intervention of the Ming Chinese and the rise of the UBIYONG (lit: “Righteous Armies”) among the common Korean population, the Japanese invader was fought to a standstill. But the need for a rehabilitation of Korean Military forces was obvious.

In September, 1593, King Sunjo (1567-1608) established the HUNLYUN DOKAM ( Royal Military Training Agency). At the encouragement of the Ming General Liu, T’ing, the Korean Prime Minister under King Sunjo (1567-1608), one Yu Song-Nyong, sought to reorganize the Korean army into a highly structured and versatile organization. His manual for this effort was the Jin Xiao Shin Shu or “Manual of New Military Tactics” written by General QI, Ji Huang (1528-1588) and published in 1567. In his time, General Qi had faced a similar need to reconstruct the Chinese army into a force capable of dealing with the predations of the coastal pirates of Southern China, commonly known as the Wa-Ko. The manual General Qi wrote included tactics, weapons, order-of-battle, punishments, and even cooking instructions. Included in the manual was a chapter on unarmed fighting methods -- 32 in all—which the general found useful for building spirit and conditioning in his troops. The Korean likewise adopted many of these methods for use in training their own military. While never intended as a substitution for the use of one’s assigned weapon, unarmed combat methods ---commonly identified as “KWON BEOP”--- served to build spirit, condition the troops and to provide options should a person in combat find themselves without a weapon.   Though there is undoubtedly much repeat information, these ways of using the Human body in unarmed combat were identified and characterized by General QI  and reduced to 32 methods in the training manual he developed for the Ming soldiers of his time.

 The unarmed fighting methods were taken from various fighting systems of the times, and though 29 of the 32 methods are traceable back to TAIZU CHANG CHUAN (lit: "Emperor Taizu's Long Fist Boxing") most scholars agree that there was considerable overlap among fighting systems of the time. For his part the general reported he found little to recommend such training for on the battlefield as each soldier was responsible for using his assigned weapon in his individual role in the unit tactics. However, its effectiveness in conditioning the men to better use their weapons and the spirit and confidence it engendered were undeniable. 

With the advent of firearms, beginning in the 16th Century, the use of “cold weapons” such as swords, spears, halberds and flails was quickly eclipsed. However, Martial fervor was still necessary to help individuals faced with adversity to persevere. Later, the Korean population began to realize that as time progresses, and some things go out of favor, the development and promotion of martial spirit in such qualities as Valor, Courage, Tenacity and Persistence are timeless. To this end, former training manuals of the Korean Military such as the MUYE SHINBO (lit: “New Martial Arts Illustrations”; 1748), the MUYE TOBO TONG JI (lit: “Illustrated Manual of Martial Arts”; 1795) and the preservation of the SIB PAL KI (lit: “18 Methods”) of Prince Sado, though of old construction, are now reflected on with new interest and their practices a source of new inspiration.

Sources and Resources

The following materials have been of great help in conducting the research necessary for this project.

Illustrated Canon of Chen Family Taijiquan; CHEN Xin;

Ji Xiao Shin Shu ("A New Treatise on Disciplined Service"); QI Ji-guang (1528-1587); Publ. 1562

Mu Ye ToBo Tong Ji ("Comprehensive Manual of Military Practices");1795

Mu Ye ToBo Tong Ji ("Comprehensive Manual of Military Practices");2000

Mu Ye Jebo Beonyeok sojip ("Interpretations of Illustrations of Military Practices"); 1610

Tai Chi's Ancestors; WILE, Douglas;