Korean sword practice entails the study and use of one or more of five sword architectures including the single-handed sabre (K. To), the single-handed sword (K. Geom), the two-handed saber (K. Ssangsoodo) and two pole arms; the Spear Sword (K. Hyup Do) and the Glaive (K. Wol Do).1 Any of these weapons can be studied following one of two disciplines. The study of Korean sword as a weapons system is commonly called Geom Beop (lit: "sword methods") while the use of sword study as a form of personal development or sport is commonly called Geom Do (검도, 劍道) (lit. Way of the Sword). In either case, additional equipment and practices have been added to further the study and safety of the subject. These include but are not limited to body armor (K. Ho-gu), bamboo (K. Juk-To) and wooden (K. Mok-Geom) swords and a range of materials for piercing or cutting.
The Early Villages Period, also known as the "Chulman" (lit. combware) Period is radiocarbon dated to approximately 6000 - 2000 BCE. Its beginning coincides with the appearance of pottery and its end is marked by the appearance of megaliths. Excavations of these sites has produced a range of artifacts including comb-marked pottery, cord or net weights, pinched clay figurines and cutting/scraping tools. Site location, the range of hooks and weights as well as debris supports the conclusion that early Korean settlements focused on fishing and foraging. Spear points and other indications of a hunting or martial society are absent in this Neolithic setting.2 The Bronze Age for Korea (2000-1000 BCE) is likely related to the developments in China, especially Northern China as the rise of the Shang Dynasty (1766-1040 BCE) is associated with bronze work of a high order and quantity (as excavation of the Lushang mining ruins in Hubei Province attest). Bronze smelting may have occurred in Korea as early as 900 BCE as suggested by a clay mold found at Yanggulli though research in North Korea stipulates a date as early as the Second Millennium BCE. Korean sword history can be dated to bronze ritual bells, mirrors and swords found Taegongni, in South Korea and dated to 610 BCE. Far more prevalent in dolmen excavations are arrowheads, spear points and stone knives and daggers whose brittle nature suggests that these items were iconic rather than utilitarian and may have been used in shamanistic or political rites or as badges of rank.3 The great numbers of bronze spear blades unearthed in tombs, suggest that the spear, not the sword, was the primary weapon in battle. This is supported by physical evidence that blades represented as "swords" lack a tang sufficient to wield them from one end, but significant enough for the item to be bound to the end of a shaft.
At this time land warfare consisted most often of spears and bowmen on foot, and mounted archers on horseback using a two-handed bow. Indeed, the sword itself may have developed from the habit of keeping a spare spear point in ones’ belt. Bronze items of this period identified as "swords" range in length from 20 cm to 40 cm (about 8" to 16") tending not to meet the conventional length ascribed to a sword. The arrival of iron and iron technology is still hotly discussed, but is generally conceded to have arrived about 400 BCE, co-incidental with the Chinese Warring States period (475 - 221 BCE). Tomb excavations support a conclusion that initially iron was a material substitute in producing the same items (ie. knives, mirrors, horse trappings) which were formerly made of bronze. Iron swords found at this time were associated with status burials which detracts from a view that swords were in general use by a large percentage of warriors.
However, in 109 BCE the Han Emperor, Wu-Ti overwhelmed Gojoseon by both land and sea and established four bases or "commanderies" in the region, exposing the subjugated peoples to additional Military technology. An examination of the hundreds of 3rd Century BC military (Terracotta Army) figures associated with the burial of Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang reveals that bronze swords of that time were 74% copper and 22% tin with additional metals including a chromium plating producing a weapon equaling the hardness of iron.4 Such metallurgy would have been cost prohibitive to any but an elite few. However, with the introduction of iron, a durable sidearm for individual warriors might have been possible at far less expense.
Korean swordsmanship during the Sam Kuk Si Dae (Three Kingdoms of Korea) period (37 BCE - 668 AD) underwent three marked advances in the Korean sword. First, swords from the Three Kingdoms period remained straight and usually with a single sharp edge, but were twice the length of earlier Korean swords. Historically, the method associated with such sword design is that of piercing rather than striking from horseback. A second advancement was the distinct characteristic of this period - the Iron Ring pommel - which reduced the potential for having the sword torn from one's grasp as well as providing a point from which the pommel of the sword could be tethered to the mounted warrior. Both of these modifications are consistent with the considerable evidence of fortifications in this period wherein piercing and thrusting take precedence over slashing and cleaving. A third advancement of the Three Kingdoms period was the development of a structured approach to sword methods. While no first-hand accounts exist, the Samkuk Sagi (lit. "History of the Three Kingdoms") by Kim Bu-sik in 1145 and the Samkuk Yusa (lit. "Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms") both report that militant attitudes between and among the three major states of the Three Kingdoms Period resulted in each nation developing an institution for training its warriors in Military Science, including Sword methods. Excavations both in Korea and the western coastal dolmens of Japan reveal that the Korean straight sword remained dominant well into the 8th and 9th Century. In approximately the 10th Century, Japanese metallurgy surpassed its Korean origins and produced a curved single-edged saber which survived the rigors of combat better than its straight predecessor. These items were often imported both to Korea and China, resulting in a decline in native metallurgy. In terms of training, an organized approach to Korean sword was documented in the Army Account of Military Arts and Science (Hanzi: 武備志; Pinyin: Wǔ Bèi Zhì), a Ming dynasty strategy book written in 1629 by Mao Yuanyi. In his work Mao identifies Korean fencing (朝鮮勢法; Cháoxiǎn shìfǎ) as a series of sword methods originating from the area of Korea. These methods are identified only as "Native Sword Methods" (K. Bon Kuk Geom Beop - 본국검법). Mao reports that these methods had been brought to China during a time when Chinese sword work had declined and were ascribed to about the 9th Century by Mao, or about that time nearing the end of the Unified Silla Period (668 CE – 935 CE). These methods remain the single cogent system of Korean sword-work known.
Military Science and prowess continued to be highly prized in Korea and probably reached its zenith during the Military period (1170 - 1231) of the Korean "House Armies" in which Korean clans, most notably the Ch'oe, sought to wrest and maintain control of the country by fielding armies larger, better equipped and better trained than that of the central government itself. Household retainers (Mun Gaek) served their lords and were often organized into elite corps such as the Ma-Byolch-O (lit: "Elite Horse") and the Sam-Byolch-O (lit:"Three Elite Patrols"). Dominance by these well-trained and well-disciplined forces would end only with their defeat by Mongol Forces in 1273. Following the decline of the Mongols Yuan Dynasty (1231 - 1351) the Korean administration attempted to re-establish a sound Military system but was hampered by three major influences. The first was the existence of the new Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) in China which had driven back the Mongols to the steppes of northern Asia but was suspicious of what may have been collusion by the Korean administration during the Mongol Occupation. A second influence was the growing frequency of incursions by coastal raiders Wakou which had become increasingly intrusive on the Korean homeland. A third influence was the growing impact of Neo-Confucian thought which prized intellectual activities and passivity while discounting Military Science and prowess and had become a defining force in Korean government and culture. As a result both Korean weaponry and Korean Military Science declined as the country entered into the Joseon Dynasty.
During the Joseon Dynasty, (1392-1897) Yangban, Joseon-era noblemen who were often the only males eligible for government positions through the Chinese-based examination systems, generally preferred to apply for the civil service as opposed to the military. Steeped in Neo-Confucian thought, Civil service was regarded by Korean society as more prestigious and a better guarantor of wealth and honor compared to positions in the military's officer corps. Further, wisdom of the times indicated that in matters of leading men to accomplish a goal, the refined sensibilities of scholars trumped that of military minds even in matters of Military Science. Sword methods of this period reflected the attitudes and stations of their practitioners. Generally, scholars and bureaucrats carried a straight, two-edged sword (K. Geom) closely resembling the Chinese Jian. As long and pointed items were considered "aggressive" by Confucian standards, these items commonly were short, single-handed items with rather blunted tips. Often heavily decorated, these items tended to be more symbolic, but could be pressed into service for self-defense. Instruction in their use often fell to Chinese tutors or experienced Military personnel retained by the wealthy for this purpose rather than through structured approaches. Among the Military, curved, single-handed sabers (K. To) were the preferred side-arm for soldiers. Since the majority of the Korean Military were conscripts, pressed into service twice a year and routinely shuffled from one post to another, sword practice was haphazard at best and minimized to prevent training a populace in weaponry with which they might turn on their local officials. Emphasis in Military training of the times tended to focus on horsemanship and archery as well as tactics necessary for controlling internal disturbances. As time passed, the quality of Korean sword-work degraded, and Korean became increasing dependence on Korea's neighbor, Ming China for national security. In 1592, the Japanese Shogun, Toyotomi Hideyoshi invaded Korea with the intent to use the Korean peninsula as a staging area and pathway to invading Ming China. The resulting conflict - Imjin Warum (1592-1598)Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598) - immediately revealed the degraded state of Korean Military Science. The Japanese had adopted the first firearms—arquebus—as well as two-handed sabers whose weight, length and methods put the Korean swords at a clear disadvantage. Japanese successes were finally stopped by the interdiction of the Ming Army across the Korean northern border as well as by the sacrifices of the Korean citizenry who fought the Japanese as guerilla forces called Ubiyong (lit."righteous armies"). 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, YU Song-Nyong, sought to reorganize the Korean army into a highly structured and versatile organization. His guide for this effort was the Jin Xiao Shin Shu or “Manual of New Military Tactics” written by General Qi Jiguang (1527-1588) and published in 1567. General Qi, himself, had been tasked with restructuring the Chinese army to deal with marauders - Wokou - in coastal areas of South China and with great success. Key to the training methods of this manual was the heavy emphasis on each individual performing their responsibilities as a working part of a group. In this way, methods of sword-work, were taught as practices executed in conjunction with the use of other weapons, rather than as individual efforts. Where Japanese soldiers were rewarded for individual acts of valor, Korean soldiers were trained to work as teams and swordsmanship became one of a number of team skills. Following the end of hostilities in 1598, the Korean government sought to record all material that they had found useful, rather than adopt the manual of General Qi in its entirety. As a result the Muyejebo (“Martial Arts Illustrations”) was published in 1610. Ordered by King Sunjo (1567-1608), the work was compiled by one of the king’s military officers, Han Kyo, and consisted of a number fighting systems including the kon bang (long stick), dung pae (shield), nang sun (multi-tipped spear), jang chang (long spear), dang pa (triple-tip spear) and the ssang soo do (two-handed saber)among others. The results of these efforts is evident in the writings of Hendrick Hamel (1667) who observed that "The horsemen always wear a suit of armor and helmet. They carry a sword, a bow and arrows and a kind of flail with sharp points. The soldiers wear suits of armor and helmets, have muskets, swords and short pikes and carry 50 shots...Each city appoints a number of monks from the monasteries in its surroundings to maintain the fortresses and strongholds in the mountains. In times of great need these monks are used as soldiers. They are armed with sword, bow and arrows." 5 Korean sword-work had plainly fallen to being only one of a much great number of options for the Korean warrior.
During the reign of King Youngjo (1724-1776) the Mu Ye Jebo was revised and supplemented with 12 additional fighting methods by Prince Sado who originated the term Sip Pal Ki (“Eighteen Fighting Methods”), a shortened form of Bonjo Muye Sip Pal Ban ("18 Martial Arts Classes of the Yi Dynasty"). This revised publication was titled the Muye Shinbo (“Martial Arts New Illustrations”) and published in 1759. The role of the sword in Military applications was broadly expanded and enhanced. Where formerly only the two-handed saber was identified, this work included the Yedo (Short Sword), Bon Kuk Geom (Native Sword), Ssang Geom (Twin Swords) and four variants of Japanese Sword use among others. In 1790, King Cheongjo (1776-1800)had the Muye Shinbo revised by Park Je-ga and Lee Duk-moo. Supplemented with 6 additional fighting skills, these "new" methods were little more than the dismounted methods such as spear, sword and flail which had been modified for execution from horseback. This revised publication is titled the Muyedobotongji (“Comprehensive Illustrated Manual of Martial Arts”) and was published in 1795. Of special note is the introduction of "Complete Illustrations" by the authors, included to address a variety of shortcomings noted in the introduction to the work. These diagrams, found at the end of chapters, structured training into a succession of techniques and have often inspired the execution of the material in each chapter as a single form (K. Hyung) rather than a series of techniques.6
In 1873, the Japanese government began to discuss the policy of "Subdue Korea" as a way of targeting areas on the Asian mainland in the same way that European nations had established trading areas ("legations") for themselves. Changes in attitudes and motives in Japan had resulted in the abandonment of the warrior ("Samurai") class and the adoption of Western models of Military Science. As a result, in the Toyama district of Tokyo, the Rikugun Toyama Gakko, or Toyama Military Academy, was established to train the officers and non-commissioned officers of Japan's modern, western-style army. The students would study tactics drawn from French and later Prussian models, marksmanship, calisthenics, French and Prussian swordsmanship using the European saber, military music, and other normal military subjects. Moreover, research and experiments were conducted with fire teams who performed tests with machine guns.
In May, 1881, King Kojong hired Japanese Lt. Horimoto Reizo to train the Pyolgigm, or "Special Skills Force" to march and shoot in European fashion. And in 1883, Japan accepted 40 Korean candidates for enrollment in various Japanese schools of commerce and technology. Half of this number were also enrolled in the Toyama Military Academy to be trained as officers for duty in the future Korean army. Distracted by events in other parts of the World, Western influences on the development of Korean Military Science lost out to Japanese designs. In this way, developments in Japan regarding sword practice had immediate impact on Korean sword practices. As Japan had adopted German and French sabre material for their Police forces, these practices were implemented with the Korean Police following the Kabo Reforms of 1894. Korean police cadets at the Kyongmuchong or Police Academy were required to learn Kyok Geom (J.Gekki kenaka kenjutsu) or "combat swordsmanship" as one of its training subjects. Similarly, in April, 1895 the Dai Nippon Butokukai, or (All Japan Martial Virtue Society) was established for the preservation of such arts as Archery, Ju-jutsu and Ken-jutsu. The Choson-bu or "Korean Branch" would follow in 1906 and would later introduce Kendo to the Koreans as well.
Japanese found the use of European single-handed sabers inadequate against Japans' larger Russian adversaries in the Russo-Japanese War (1905-5) and in 1933 re-instituted the two-handed saber as the official Japanese sidearm for officers and non-commissioned officers. Koreans associated with the Japanese such as Korean Police and Military Officers-in-training did likewise. With the occupation of Korea by Japan in 1910, Japanese sword practices increasingly supplanted Korean sword work in the urban areas. This was enhanced by the acceptance of Kendo in the Korean educational system in 1931 as well as a series of high-profile competitions between Korean and Japanese players during the 1930s and 1940s.
However, in 1920, the Choson Chaeyukhoe (Choson Athletics Association) was established, and a year later, Mr. KANG Nak-won opened Choson Mudogwan, the country's first private school to teach Kumdo exclusively. Though ostensibly a venue for the practice of Korean Kendo, the school was also rumored to have been a venue for preserving traditional Korean sword work. However, in rugged rural areas practices could be preserved away from Japanese surveillance. Japanese Military sword was also reinforced by the efforts of Japanese sword master Nakamura Taisoburo who was stationed in Manchuria at this time. Drawing on the calligrapher's repeated practice of the character "Ei" with its eight basic strokes, Nakamura develops Ei-Ji Happo (literally: "8 Laws of the Character Ei ") as a drill for practicing the basic cuts and thrusts of of his sword material. This will later be formalized into "Happo-giri" (literally: "Eight Directions of Cutting") and become an integral part of his style, Nakamura-Ryu Batto-jutsu. This practice continues to be observed among a variety of Korean traditions to this day. With the end of the Second World War, Korean nationals who had fought the Japanese Kanto Army in Manchuria sought to return home. However, their indoctrination into Communist Economic and Political models made them suspect as sound allies to the United States. As a result, the United States retained large numbers of Korean individuals sympathetic to Japanese practices and traditions. Effectively, this gave activities predicated on Japanese practices a clear advantage in the reconstruction of the Korean culture. Kendo, as in the case of other Japanese elements, remained in Korean culture albeit renamed as Kumdo with little or no emphasis on its Japanese connections. Early efforts to resurrect traditional Korean practices such as Ssireum (wrestling), Taek Kyon (Martial Sport) and Geom Beop (sword method) encountered strong opposition by elements in Korean Society that felt such practices recalled anachronistic culture of pre-Occupation Korea. Changes in the political fortunes in Korea, including the easing of repressive governmental oversight has allowed for a renewed interest in practices and traditions of Koreas' Martial past, producing a number of groups who seek to showcase these activities.
Where many cultures may identify with a single particular sword shape or construction, the history of Korea, with the many influences by its neighbors, has produced a number of weapons usually related to the standing of its owner and the intended purpose. Contrary to popular belief, most Korean swords are not categorized according to size as much as the manner in which they are used. In Korean swordsmanship attacks are commonly taken on the spine or sides of the blade, allowing clemency to those attacking with bare-hands and sparing damage to the blade from attacks with weapons. In deference to Confucian philosophy, Korean sword tended to be somewhat shorter, with a blunted tip and infrequently having a groove the length of the blade. In this way the sword was made to be represented as being as singularly "unaggressive" as possible. While the excellence of Korean metallurgy is a matter of historic record going as far back as the first millennium BCE, advances in Japanese metallurgy after the 9th Century AD resulted in both Korea and China importing Japanese weapons in trade. The poorer quality of swords manufactured in Korea would continue until well into the 20th Century when efforts would begin to reclaim this skill set.
Commonly referred to as a Hwando or "military sword", this single-handed saber was the stated sidearm of the Korean soldier well into the 19th century. Sometimes referred to as a "short sword", relative to the out sized two-handed Sangsoodo, in point of fact the length of the TO - 24 to 34 inches – was comparable to that of the two-handed Japanese Katana which may have been the inspiration for the Ssangsoodo. Reports found in the "Book of Corrections", a Korean record of the Imjin Warum (1592–1598) state that Japanese swords taken in combat were readily pressed into service by simply trimming the length of the sword grip (Tsuka). Forged of carbon steel the Korean TO has a single edged, curved blade, a sword guard and a grip, typically of wood. Earlier practice saw the TO carried by the Military, suspended from a cord (Jul) and with a simple metal hanger which allowed the soldier to speedily discard his sheath. In later practice, the sword was suspended from a girdle or belt but retained a simple metal quick-release clip.7
This sword might well be known as a "scholars's sword", a "magistrates sword" and even a "monk's sword" depending on its owner. A shorter straight-blade, having both edges sharpened and with a somewhat blunted tip distinguishes this weapon from its Chinese counterpart, the Jian which has come to be identified as the weapon of choice for many modern Chinese martial arts. As a badge of status rather than a weapon, the Geom was often heavily decorated both on its sheath and grip as well as with engravings and inscriptions on its blade.7
A prodigious weapon by any measure this sword is conspicuous in its absence both before and after the late 16th and early 17th Century. Chinese literature and history both ascribe its adoption as a weapon on the Asian mainland to General QI Ji-guang (1628–1687) who is said to have taken pirate prisoners -Wokou- during his campaigns in Southern China, wrote about the sword in his manual - Lian Bing Shi Ji - and recommended its use as part of the defense along China's northern border. Since General Qi's training manual Jin Xiao Shin Shu was used in the revamping the Korean Military it followed that this weapon came highly recommended. Nor did the Koreans overlook that over sized swords had been used by Japanese soldiers during the recent conflict as well as during their own experiences with the Wakou. Intended by General Qi to be carried into combat on wagons or by individuals who drew each other's weapon, the Ssangsoodo measured an overall length of 6 feet, two feet of which were to be the grip and another 2 feet forward of the handle to be sheathed in brass or copper. Undoubtedly the length and weight of the sword, and the high level of training necessary to wield it, made the sword impractical as a common part of the Korean arsenal. It is also useful to note that the Ming Dynasty, which saw this weapon added to its own military, fell to the Manchu invaders some 50 years later.8
The Hyup Do (lit. "spear sword")is found in Book Three, Chapter seven. Though commonly taken for a polearm after the fashion of the Japanese Naginata, the text of the Muye Dobo Tong Ji relates that "the handle is about four feet....weighs about four pounds.....the illustration in this book is corrected according to the Mubiji and the Japanese Jang Do. They are the same." It is reasonable to conclude that the Hyup Do was much closer to the Japanese Nagimaki.9
"the length of the handle is six feet, four inches; the length of the blade is two feet eight inches. The weight is about three pounds, fifteen ounces". Owing to the size of the weapon, the Wol Do, like its Chinese counterpart the "Yaoyindao" was commonly decorated with a tassel or feather affixed to a prominence on the spine of the bladewhich assisted the person wielding the weapon with identifying the blades' center of mass.10
The manner of Korean sword use is a direct reflection of the evolution of circumstances, materials and tactics in use at any given time and is an extension of the worldwide discussion regarding efficacy of thrusting techniques compared to cutting techniques. Though penetrating wounds tend to have a greater lethality, this is off-set with the greater risk of losing one's weapon owing to the difficulty in withdrawing the weapon from an adversary's body. This issue is compounded when combatants are mounted and especially if the sword is tethered at the wrist. By comparison, the slashing action of the sword may inflict grievious harm including considerable blood loss, but without necessarily inflicting a lethal wound. An engagement may become protracted, requiring a variety of parries, strikes and counters. In addition, to inflict a cutting or cleaving wound may require the use of a larger, heavier weapon often wielded for an extended period of time.11 A cursory examination of Bon Kuk Geom Beop reveals that of the 26 sword methods, 5 are thrusting methods and 15 are cutting or slashing methods. In like manner Military sword work introduced to the Korean Military during the Japanese Occupation (Toyama Ryu) is also heavily skewed in favor of cutting over thrusting. Lastly, techniques associated with Korean Geom Beop reveal a ratio of roughly 12 cutting techniques to 4 thrusting techniques.
The use of the shield was not successfully integrated into the Korean Military despite its mention in a variety of Korean historical manuals. Korean sword, then, integrates a variety of parries which are intended to redirect the opponent's attack and produce an opportunity (K. Teum) for the defender to counter the attack. These parries are most often accomplished with the use of the spine of the sword or the sides of the blade rather than with the blade edge.12
The study of Korean sword is the study and practice of inter-relating the elements: Energy (K. Ki), Sword (K. Geom) and Body (K. Chae). This study is conducted in a variety of practices including exercises and drills, single person form, two-person form and validation cutting. Seen as a zero-sum circumstance, the excess of any one element can only mean a deficit concerning the other two elements. In each case, an activity is meant to instill in the swordsman a near-reflexive ability to assess a circumstance and execute the appropriate meld of these elements to produce the intended outcome. For this reason practitioners rely heavily on the use of cutting targets of various materials to demonstrate successful outcomes concerning any particular technique.13
Noticeably absent in the Korean sword methods are tactics and strategies associated with individualized engagements such as dueling as found in European and Japanese traditions. Though not unfamiliar with affairs of honor, Korean culture is dominated by Buddhist and Neo-Confucian thought, both of which proscribe the use of violence. Therefore, Korean swordwork can be said to have been shaped primarily by Military practice and utilized most often in a melee environment requiring awareness of a variety of vectors and angles apart from directly to the front.
"Native Sword Methods" (K. Bon Kuk Geom Beop - 본국검법) is first identified in Korean legends of the Kingdom of Silla, one of the domains comprising the "The Three Kingdoms" Period (37 BCE – 660 AD). The Yuji Sungnam relates a story of a seven-year-old boy from the Silla Kingdom who traveled across the Kingdom of Paekshe, demonstrating his "sword dance" (K. Gummu) and drawing large crowds. However, when finally summoned to perform his dance before the king, the boy ended his performance by plunging his sword into the king, killing him, and was, in turn, cut down by the king's retainers. In honor of the young boy's sacrifice, the Silla people created a masked sword dance resembling the boy's face. The earliest written account of these sword methods is found in the encyclopedic work Army Account of Military Arts and Science (Hanzi: 武備志; Pinyin: Wǔ Bèi Zhì), written in 1629 by Mao Yuan-I. In his work Mao, identifies Korean fencing (朝鮮勢法; Cháoxiǎn shìfǎ) as a series of sword methods originating from the area of Korea. These methods, identified only as "Native Sword Methods" (K. Bon Kuk Geom Beop - 본국검법) had, according to Mao, been brought to China during a time when Chinese sword work had declined and were ascribed to about the 9th century. A study of the bio-mechanics support the conclusion that these sword methods were intended for a single-handed sword. It is also plain from the variety of footwork that these methods are intended for one who is dismounted rather than mounted. However, with the revisions of the Muyedobotongji the authors sought to overcome perceived short-comings in earlier materials by including a "Complete Illustrations addendum to certain chapters, most notably those concerning sword-work. Meant originally as a sequential drill of sword techniques intended to catalog the contents of the chapter, these addendums have become stylized exercises for modern Martial Arts practitioners.14
Native Sword Methods identifies 26 methods for using a sword through the recombination of basic body movements, cuts and thrusts. With the repetition of some methods, the total number of executed methods in this text is 33. Consistent with Ming writing form, each method is assigned a poetic name intended to embody the nature of the sword method. The Muyedobotongji generally, and the Bon Kuk Geom Beop chapter in particular, may be cataloged as military manuals, meaning that they provide only an overview of the information necessary for personnel to perform their duties. Exact information concerning execution of any given method is not included and in practice would be relegated to the training cadre.
- Method 1
- Jikum Dae Jukse (“Hold the Sword; Face the Thief”)
- Method 2
- Woo Nae Ryak (“Turn to the Right”)
- Method 3
- Jinjun Kyuk Jukse (“Advance Forward to Attack the Thief”)
- Method 4
- Gumkye Doklipse (“Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg”)
- Method 5
- Hoo Il Kyuk Se (Rear Single Strike)
- Method 6
- Il Jase (Thrusting Stance)
- Method 7
- Maeng Ho Unlinse (“Wild Tiger Hides in the Forest”)
- Method 8
- An Jase (“Wild Goose Character”)
- Method 9
- Jikbu Songsuse (“Jik-boo sends a scroll”)
- Method 10
- Balcho Shimase ( “Parting the Grass, Searching for the Snake”)
- Method 11
- Pyo Doo Ab Jung Se (“Press the Leopards Forehead”)
- Method 12
- Cho Chun Se (“Rising Sun”)
- Method 13
- Zwa Hyub Soo Doo (“Left Insert Animal Head”)
- Method 14
- Hyang Woo Bang Juk Se (“Face Right and Block the Thief”)
- Method 15
- Jun Ki Se (“Spread the Flag”)
- Method 16
- Jin Jun Sal Juk Se (“Advance Forward and Kill the Enemy”)
- Method 17
- Zwa Yo Kyuk Se (“Left Waist Attack”)
- Method 18
- Woo Yo Kyuk Se (“Right Waist Attack”)
- Method 19
- Hoo Il Ja Se (“Rear Single Thrust”)
- Method 20
- Jang Kyo Boon Soo Se (“Long Dragon Spouts Water”)
- Method 21
- Balk Won Chool Dong Se (“White Ape Leaves the Cave")
- Method 22
- Woo Chan Kyuk Se (" Right Needle Strike")
- Method 23
- Yong Yak Il Ja Se ( " Bravely Skip and Single Thrust")
- Method 24
- Hyang Woo Bang Juk Se (“Face Right and Block the Enemy")
- Method 25
- Hyang Jun Sal Juk Se (“Face front and kill the enemy")
- Method 26
- Shi Woo Sang Jun Se (“Rhinoceros and Ox Face in Battle ”)
To cipher the nature of each method requires an understanding and appreciation of swordwork. Therefore, the literal reading of each method is of little assistance. In the case of the first method listed above - Jikum Dae Jukse (“Hold the Sword; Face the Thief”)- it is of little help to simply assume the High Guard position as stated. In point of fact there are 8 sword positions and 4 stances from which a swordsman might mount an attack or defense including Jung Dan Se - Middle Guard Position (중 단 세); Ûm Se - High Guard Position (음 세); Sang Dan Se - Superior Guard Position Offense (상 단 세); Pal Dan Se - Superior Guard Position Defense (八相勢);Woo Dan Se - Superior Guard Position Right; Jwa Dan Se - Superior Guard Position Left; Ha Dan Se - Low Guard Position (하 단 세);Yang Se - Rear Guard Position (양 세). There are also a variety of zones and avenues of approach of which the swordsman needs to be aware. In this way, the first "method" of Native sword would be, essentially, to know how to hold the sword and understand what one is seeking to accomplish.
In like manner, the third method, Jinjun Kyuk Jukse (“Advance Forward to Attack the Thief”), identifies the single most basic sword movement, that of walking forward a given number of steps to execute a single Straight Descending Cut(“Chungmyôn Pegi”). Modern sword practices have compounded this by including all twelve cuts, and three thrusts at this point, so obviating the need for a number of the subsequent methods. Yet another example of interpreting these methods is the fourth method, Gumkye Doklipse (“Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg”) which bespeaks standing on one foot after performing a turn. One of the more sophisticated methods, both as a bio-mechanic and combat construct, this approach is requires that the swordsman appreciate the need to quickly assess and respond to a situation. Since a variety of cold weapons encountered on the ancient battlefield were pole-arms, a sword would be at a distinct disadvantage in defending, let alone in attacking. For this reason a warrior would need to know how to orient their body other than in deference to their sword. To turn to face an adversary with a pole-arm might well require the swordsman to "cover-up", withdraw his forward leg or step off in some novel fashion, such as over an obstacle, while still engaging the enemy. To study and master a constellation of these options and behaviors is what the fourth method identifies. Having mastered each sword method, sword training progresses to combining and re-combining the material of one method with that of other methods. As skill and understanding build, the individual comes to understand which combinations best serve his needs while others may be simply interesting. Combinations of material found to be particularly useful were recorded in two-person drills (K. Pal Do) or in single person Forms. Native Sword Methods, though far less known and understood than more modern sword practices, continue to be researched and practiced by small but highly dedicated groups, commonly as some portion of a larger curriculum. Other groups such as some Hapkido and Taekwondo practitioners occasionally practice Native sword as an enhancement to their standard practices.
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