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Kumdo is a modern martial art of fencing,
the Korean equivalent of Japanese
Ancient Korean fencing
According to the Army Account of Military Arts and Science (Hanzi:
武備志; Pinyin: Wǔ B�i Zh�), a Ming dynasty strategy book written in
1629 by Mao Yuanyi, Korean fencing (朝鮮勢法; Ch�oxiǎn sh�fǎ) was a
martial art that had reached Korea through Chinese martial artists.
Much of this text was based on earlier works by Ming general Qi
Jiguang, who successfully adapted and emulated the use of the
Japanese katana by developing the wodao, to respond to the prevalent
threat of the Japanese wokou or pirates. Chosun Se Bup, one of the
few surviving techniques of historical Korean swordplay, is based on
However, warriors were regarded as secondary to scholars during
parts of the Goryeo Dynasty and much of the Joseon Dynasty, due to
the heavy influence of Confucianism and martial arts other than
traditional Korean archery were little practised except by members
of the military or mostly lost. Many arts died out without sucessors
to carry on its traditions as a result. Today, there are only two
remaining documents that refer to ancient Korean martial arts.
These ancient arts are not popularly considered to be ancestors of
kumdo, though some kumdo scholars, including those at the Korea
Kumdo Association, believe ancient Korean fencing as outlined in a
Silla dynasty book known as Bonguk Geombeop (本國劍法; Korean Sword
Method) was the basis of all modern two-handed sword techniques.
This belief is not commonly held outside Korea.
Kendo, then still known as gekiken,
was introduced to Korea from Japan at the end of the 19th century as
a form of police and military training. During the Japanese
occupation, its popularity in Korea spread quickly as part of
Korea's first national physical education system. Around 1920, the
name kumdo was coined as a translation of the martial arts' new name
in Japan, kendo. Up until the end of the occupation in 1945, kumdo
developed in parallel with kendo.
After the occupation ended, kumdo restructured itself, and the
Korean Kumdo Association was formed in 1947. When the Korean
National Sports Festival was reinstituted in South Korea in 1956,
Kumdo was included as an official event.