Kum Bup

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The roots of modern Kum Bup can be documented back to the Mu Yei Tobo Tongji or "Illustrated Comprehensive Martial Arts Manual" written by Lee Do’k Mu by order of King Jeong-jo and published in 1795. Borrowing heavily from the Chinese author Mao Yuan-yi and the Ji Xiao Xin Shu or "New Text of Practical Tactics" written by Gen Qi Ji-Huang and published in 1567, the Mu Yei Tobo Tongji is the culmination of various compendiums and rewrites beginning almost 100 years earlier. The recent translation of the Mu Yei Tobo Tongji into English has provided a significant step forward in the study of Korean martial history.

Martial traditions and lineages after the fashion of the Japanese Ryu-ha system were not known in Korea prior to the Japanese Occupation beginning in 1910. Though many arts were passed informally from generation to generation within the context of community education, the Korean military was effectively the repository of martial training and education. However, internecine intrigue and Confucian philosophy interacted to reduce the Korean military to little more than a vestige of a national security force. For this reason it is very difficult to identify clearly exact influences among the Japanese, Korean and Chinese martial traditions except in the most general way. It is plain, for instance, that in studying Kumdo that one sees the five basic postures well-known to every Kendo practitioner. However, traditional Korean sword continues past these five basics to include another nineteen postures for a total of twenty-four.

Furthermore, efforts to re-establish Korean traditions, such as they were, following the Japanese Occupation have focused almost exclusively on the organization and construction of systems based on or drawing heavily from more modern martial expressions. To make matters worse, it is common for Korean nomenclature associated with traditional practices to be used to identify these new albeit imported systems. In this way, Kendo, using the same Chinese characters as Kumdo is often used inter-changeably with its Korean label, while TaeKwonDo suffers from the same confusion as a result of its strong Karate influence.

In fact, Kumdo, independent of its Kendo ties, remains an independent Korean art in most other respects. In this way it is accurate to say that while all Korean Kendo players practice Kumdo, not all Kumdo players practice Kendo. Kumdo in its newest incarnations may include Hai Dong Kumdo, Choson Sebup and Guhapdo. However, other variations of Kumdo draw from much earlier traditions and HwaRang Kumdo is such a variation.

The suffix "-do" indicates that the activity under discussion is a "way of life" rather than a "-sool" or "technique". In the case of HwaRang Kumdo, the way of using the sword as a "way of Life" is predicated on the O-gae, or "Five Tenents" adhered to by the Hwa Rang warriors of the Silla kingdom. Identified as Ch’ung, Hyo, Shin, Yong, and Im these five tenents form the foundation for the matter of character development through the study of the Korean sword.

The actual weapon of Korean sword is not one but five different architectures, of which the Ye-do, a curved, single edge, two-handed saber of the type well-known and used by various Chinese forces during the Ming and Ching dynasties is best known. Often confused with the Japanese katana, the Korean Kum is characteristically somewhat heavier, longer and with a wider blade. However, as the Korean culture never developed the sword as a badge of an organized warrior class as did the Japanese, the manufacture of swords was often a reflection of an individuals’ taste and expertise so allowing for considerable variance in construction, architecture and finishing. In addition to the Ye-do are the Ssang Soo Do (Long Sword), the Ssang Gum (Long Knives) and two polearms, the Wol-Do and the Hyup-Do.

Training in the modern era is divided into roughly two broad areas. Kumdo, as mentioned earlier usually is associated with a heavy Japanese influence and a greater focus on the simple competitive or sport applications. However, Kum Bup or "sword form" tends to focus on the development of character through the pursuit of sword skill through the practice of one and two-man hyung or forms and the perfection of sword use through cutting practice.

Although a martial art in its own right, the Korean sword, along with the Soh Bong, Dan Bong, Cane, Jang Bong and Knife also comprise the six traditional weapons of the Hapkido arts as well. In this way the philosophy of "Ki-Kum -Chae" or "Energy- Sword-Body" continues to bind together the belief that whether empty-handed or armed the techniques one learns share universal principles of Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Spiritual development.