Haidong Gumdo

Haidong Gumdo Manual

Index of Links:

Breathing Exercise
The Sword

The Meaning of  “Haidong Gumdo”

World Haidong Gumdo Federation  It appears that there has been an attempt to trace the lineage of the Haidong Gumdo back to the Kokuryo Kingdom, specifically mentioning King Kwang Kaeto (371- 384 AD). Other figures, one named General YuYu and another, a monk referred to as the Sulbong Sunim, are mentioned as playing significant roles in the original organization of this lineage of training. It is important to note that the name of Haidong Gumdo is a modern device. You will not find it referenced to a martial art or system of training with this name in any history book. Though in one sense it means: Korean Swordsmanship.

Korea was once thought of as the land of the East Sea and Haidong Gumdo, it is thought, derives its name from Haidong Seongguk Balhae, a name for Balhae, an ancient kingdom in the region of what is today northeastern Korea, northern China, and eastern Siberia. The characters‟ for Hai and Dong carry several meanings. The general meanings are the Sea and the East. Haidong refers to Korea and along the southern tip of Korea. It has other shades of meaning, however, which are lost in translation. Dong means east. It can also refer to the rays of sunlight at dawn. Hai means sea. It also refers to the energy of the sun. Gum refers to swords-specifically long bladed ones. Do has a wide variety of meanings but they tend to revolve around the principle of the “way of life”. Do in this context includes concepts such as areas of study, principle of behavior or paths of self–improvement, but it is not limited to these meanings. It is perhaps best to keep multiple meanings in mind and not allow the experience of the art to be shaped by just one facet. The name HDGD was designed to reflect the tradition of swordsmanship in Korea. It was also coined to bring to mind the image of the sun‟s first rays glinting from an upraised sword. The character of a people and how they train is more resistant to change and this is part of what the choice of name is trying to relate about Korean swordsmanship. As swords have evolved over the centuries so too must the methods of employing them. HDGD is striving to preserve the intangible of Korean Swordsmanship. The art employs one class of weapon and a practical body of techniques to provide students with a path to self-improvement and discovery.


HDGD is related to but different from Taehan Gumdo, which is based more on the Japanese style of sword techniques more commonly known as Kendo. Unlike Taehan Gumdo, HDGD does not use armor and does not usually have sparring. HDGD focuses instead on precision cutting, sword routines and difficult forms done in various stances and with many swords techniques. In 1789, King Jeongjo, ruler of the Yi dynasty, ordered General Yi Deok Mu to compile an official textbook on all martial art forms then present in Korea to preserve them for future generations. The result, the Mu-Ye-Do-Bo-Tong-Ji, is the only surviving classical text on the Korean arts of war. Mu-Ye-Yi-Sip-Sa-Ban, literally translated as 24 Technique Martial Art, is made up of the 24 arts of theMu-Ye-Do-Bo-Tong-Ji. Based on the earliest known Korean martial arts treatise, the Mu-Ye-Je-Bo written in 1599, and the Mu-Ye-Do-Bo-Tong-Ji clearly shows the influence of the neighboring Japanese and Chinese armies. The text Moo Yeh Do Bok Tong Gi, “The Comprehensive Illustrated Manual of the Martial Arts” is the primary remaining document from which modern Korean martial art sword practitioners turn to search out their foundational history.

And although recent translations of the Mu Yei Tobo Tongji into English provide some insight in the study of Korean martial art history, it is still difficult following the Japanese occupation of Korea (1592) to find confirming studies/texts, however, here are several (web-based) version of HDGD history with a common theme.

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 (or Kokuryo) 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 until, in the 1970’s, they reached a spiritual wanderer named Jang Baek-San.

Jan Baek-San, living on Kwanak Mountain, found an eager and talented student in Grandmaster Jeong-Ho Kim. He taught Grandmaster Jeong-Ho Kim Haidong Gumdo. Grandmaster Jeong-Ho Kim is the President of The World Haidong Gumdo Federation, in Korea, an organization that is spreading the art of Haidong Gumdo all over the world. There are well over 1,000 schools in more than 30 other countries (2005).


Another version:

Haidong Gumdo is the art of the Samurang, who were a group of elite warriors in the kingdom of Goguryeo, originating around 300 AD. They were created by General Yu Yu and trained in martial arts, with a heavy emphasis on swordsmanship and the concepts of patriotism, filial piety and respecting the elderly. In the centuries to come, they grew to become an enormously powerful military force, and also served as military advisors when Goguryeo was at its peak. Their era ended around 670 AD, when political changes stripped them of governmental support. Some of them are said to have withdrawn to further their US-Haidong-Gumdostudies at a dojang in the vicinity of the Sam Ji Lake in the Baekdu Mountains, where a master named Sul Bong continued to educate them in the martial arts.

Samurang was a title given only to the best of his pupils and the World Haidong Gumdo Federation thus uses the title in its grading system. Samurang is also the name given to the dojang in each country where the highest ranked master is teaching the martial art (this is usually the first dojang to be established). The modern and global development of Haidong Gumdo started when Master Kim Jeong Ho received teaching from Master Jang Back San at Chun-in temple in the Kwan-Ak Mountains in 1961. Haidong Gumdomay 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 Japanese ideal of “one strike, one kill” is prevalent in Japanese kendo (kumdo), even today. The Korean technique primarily focuses on one-versus-many, or battlefield combat. The essence of Haidong Gumdo is in shimgum. 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.

Yet another version:

You will notice some similarities to the formation of Tang Soo Do with this one.

 In the fourth century of the Common Era a new system of metallurgy was introduced to the Korea Peninsula from China. This introduction gave birth to a new and superior weaponry. At this juncture of history, Korea was divided into three warring kingdoms: Koguryo, Silla, and Paekche. Due to this fact, beginning in the fifth century C.E., formalized groups of warriors came into existence on the Korean Peninsula. These warriors embraced Buddhism and devoted themselves to the cultivation of moral values, based in Confucian ideology. These warriors took martial warfare to a new and much more refined level of understanding than had been previously embraced. Among these armies were the Kyong Dang of Koguryo and, most notably, the Hwa Rang of Silla.

The Hwa Rang were formed during the reign of King Chin Heung. They were an elite, warrior corps, made up of young noblemen. These warriors trained their bodies and minds in all forms of martial understanding. The Hwa Rang, through refined military strategy, defeated their neighboring armies and unified the three Korean kingdoms. Throughout history, Korea has looked to the Hwa Rang for inspiration for the martial art tradition.

Note: the above versions are referenced from a number of web sites and from different schools, which have been practicing/teaching HDGD in the USA and Canada. You will notice an inconsistency in the spelling of various places, names, and Korean sword terminology due to the Romanizing of the underlying language(s). For example the kingdom of Kokuryo, or Koguryo or Goguryo.

Breathing Exercise

DaJung : (Breathing in through the nose and exhaling through nose) From a KiMaSeh stance; start by breathing with arms,(wide cicles) two times, and then say aloud, Chun (sky), Gi (Land), In (human), Tul,(together), Moo (nothing), Guk (self-defeating), finishing with hands held in front above head. Then practice breathing from sitting position.

The Sword

When you start HDGD you will be given a wooden sword, Mok Gum, a basic practicing weapon made of varnished, hard wood, (oak, maple). The sword is slightly “curved”, with a thicker rounded front and tapered toward the back and it closely resembles a real metal Mok Gumsword. Approx. 40 inches and 600 grams in weight. There is no scabbard nor hand guard. Besides learning basic techniques, to include cuts (Begi), drawing (Paldo) and sheathing (Chakkom), it is also used to extinguish candles (Ch’otbul Kkûgi). The number of candles (usually 1-6) and the number of attempts at extinguishing them will depend on the order of rank.

In addition to the wooden sword (Mok Gum), and at a time determined by your instructor, you will begin to use a metal sword. They can vary from a light hollow metal bladed sword, to ones made of aluminum (Ka Gum) that are sharp at the tip and with a thin, though blunt blade (not a sharpened edge) and can be used for the cutting of paper or clay. Some of these swords make a whistling sound to help train the user in the proper technique during cutting drills. Additionally they may come with a wooden or plastic scabbard (Gum Jeep). Care should be exercised during forward rolls (Nak bop) in higher forms, as the scabbard can break easily if not properly “tucked” in front.

Juk doBesides the metal sword(s) there is a bamboo (Chukdo) or (Juk do) sword, strips of bamboo bound with a leather handle and leather tip, with a rubber or plastic hand guard and a yellow string running the length of the sword to denote the back of the sword. It is used in light sparring drills.

Jin Gum

The “real” sword Jin Gum is used as one approaches the rank of black belt in the cutting of Taenamu begi (bamboo), Sinmunji begi (news paper), Kagmok charugi (board) as well as wet grass mats, Jeepdan begi.