KumDo Sword  Weapons Classes 



SabumNim A. Davis - Over 23 Years MA Experience

Korean KumDo Sword

Kumdo is a modern Korean martial art originating from Japanese Kendo. Though romanized in a number ways when written Kǒmdo or Gumdo the meaning remains "the way of the sword" and is cognate with the Japanese term. As a martial art, Kumdo has become accepted in Korean culture and society since its introduction from Japan to the degree that the term "Kumdo" has, in recent history, become a generic label for other Korean martial arts based upon swordsmanship. As a result, caution should be exercised to avoid confusion among practices espousing martial (ie, Hankumdo) rather than sporting and competitive goals. Although related to Japanese Kendo, minor differences exist in Korean Kumdo due to appropriation and acculturation. Such differences include, but are not limited to, the use of native terminology, the use of blue flags rather than red flags for the referees and minor modifications to the uniform.


In April, 1895 the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai (DNBK) was established in Kyoto, Japan for the preservation of older Martial activities such as sword, archery and unarmed combat. Swordsmen in Japan had established schools of kenjutsu (lit: "sword techniques") over centuries of military heritage and this material formed the basis for the DNBK swordwork. In particular was the use of bamboo practice swords (shinai) and armor (bōgu) to sword training attributed to Naganuma Shirōzaemon Kunisato during the Shotoku Era (1711–1715). In 1896, the DNBK expanded to Korea as the Dai Nippon Butokukai - Choson-bu (Korean Branch) under Nakamura, Tokichi. Japanese Swordmanship Kenjutsu, like Judo, was adapted to the Japanese educational system in 1911 at the prodding of Naito Takaharu and Isogai Hajime, both of the DNBK, since the use of a pliant bamboo sword and padded armour allowed competitors to strike each other with sword techniques in greater safety. The DNBK changed the name of this sporting form of swordsmanship, first called gekiken, (Kyūjitai: 擊劍; Shinjitai: 撃剣, "hitting sword") to Kendo in 1920. Korea, then subject to Japanese policy and administration (Korea under Japanese rule), also adopted these practices but often using Korean rather than Japanese terminology. Made a required course in Korean schools in 1939, Kendo continued to be taught until 1945. After WWII, Gumdo and Kendo diverged to form separate but nearly identical practices.

The following is a historical time-line of Kumdo development.

1895: In April, 1895 the Dai Nippon Butokukai, or “All Japan Martial Virtue Society” had been established in Kyoto by civilian enthusiasts of various traditional Japanese arts such as Archery, Ju-jutsu and Ken-jutsu.

1895: As many as 40 Japanese advisors are brought into Korea, several of which are placed with the national police administration. As part of the restructuring of the national Korean police indicated in the Kabo Reforms of 1894, cadets at the Kyongmuchong or Police Academy are required to learn "kyok gom" (J. "gekki ken") or "combat swordsmanship" as one of its training subjects.

1896: The Dai Nippon Butokukai (DNBK), Choson-bu (Korean Branch) under Nakamura, Tokichi, is established.

1904: Training in Japanese military sword (K. "kyok gom") is included in the curriculum of the Yonsong Army Academy.

1906: Gekiken introduced into Korean school curriculum[citation needed]

1908: a tournament held between the Korean police and their Japanese counterparts. Gekiken was also included in the first official national physical education program for the general public.[citation needed]

1919: According to Japanese records, the term Kendo is coined in Japan on August 1, 1919.[citation needed]

1927: Kumdo becomes an official curricular subject in junior high schools.[citation needed.

1935: Kumdo included in the 16th National Joseon Sports Festival.

1947: Korean kumdo began to restructure itself with the holding of the Seoul Police Kumdo Tournament.

1948: Approximately 100 highly ranked kumdo instructors gathered in Changdeokgung Palace and formed the predecessor to the Korean Kumdo Association.

1950: The 1st National Police Kumdo Tournament was held.

1952: A committee was created to oversee the formation of the KKA.

1953: The KKA was inaugurated and became affiliated with the Korean Amateur Sports Association.

The 1st National Individual Kumdo Championships were held (Same year that the All Japan Kendo Federation was formed)

1956: Kumdo was once more included as an official event of the National Sports Festival after a break of 20 years.

1959: Kumdo became popular with the President’s Cup Grade Tournament, and the National Student Championships

1964: The Student Kumdo Federation became affiliated with the KKA.

1970: The Student Federation separated into the Collegiate Federation and the Secondary Schools Federation. The International Kendo Federation was formed and a Korean named as Vice President.

1972: Kumdo was included in the National Youth Sports Meet.

1979: The news agency Dong a Ilbo joined forces with the KKA in sponsoring the President’s Cup National Championships.

1988: The Korean Social Kumdo Federation was formed and followed by the 1st National Social Championships.

1993: Inauguration of the SBS Royal National Championships.


As with Martial Arts practices around the World, Korean Kumdo is imbued with cultural and philosophical thought of both current society and the historic past. In this way the sport aspects of Kumdo practice seek to build strong Character in its practitioners, while good Character in turn contributes to an ardent competitive spirit while respecting tenets of courtesy, respect, sportsmanship and fair-play. Though Kumdo is of modern vintage, Kumdo schools still invoke the "O-Gae" or "Five tenets" associated with the Silla kingdom of The Three Kingdoms Period. The modern rendition of this code is as follows.

Be loyal and faithful to your country and organization.
Be faithful and respectful to your parents and elders.
Be faithful and respectful to your friends and colleagues.
Be confident and show courage when faced with injustice.
Be benevolent."

In the modern era, additional tenets have been added, often reflecting challenges common to competition. Known as "the Four Poisons of Kumdo" these include Surprise, Fear, Doubt (or Hesitation) and Confusion. Regular and ardent practice is encouraged to steadily bring these natural responses under control. Similarly, Kumdo practitioners seek to develop a state termed "emptiness (K. Pyoungsangsim) wherein natural execution of method is not impacted by circumstances or environment. Another condition, known as "Kiwi" --- the state of mental, physical and spiritual discipline--- seeks clarity and objectivity regarding the matter at hand. And Jan Sim (lit. "lingering Mind") concerns steadfastness and perseverance.


The suit of modern Kumdo armor, excepting the scarf which is worn over the scalp inside of the helmet.
Protective equipment used in Kumdo is called Hogu(호구)---bogu in Japanese--- and consists of 6 elements.

A.) Myŏn-soo-goon: cotton scarf worn under the helmet to absorb perspiration and prevent interference in the competitors' vision. It can also be called a "Dougong" but not to be mixed up with the Chinese definition.
B.) Homyeoum (호면): Helmet including a wire grill to protect the face.
C.) Kap (갑): Chest protector
D.) Kapsang (갑상): Canvas and leather skirt worn around the waist to protect the hip and groin area
E.) Howan (호환):(pair) formed mitts with cuffs used to protect the hand and wrist area.

As with any modern contact sport, the use of a mouthguard (K.'eep bohodae') is strongly encouraged.
In addition the individual will use a bamboo sword or Juk-To with which to strike or thrust at his opponent while fending off attacks.

1.) Pommel: Though identified as a part of the sword it is not accepted as a point of contact in regulation play.

2.) Ko-dûng-i: (코등이) w/ rubber retaining washer: the hilt or guard of the sword is intended to offer some protection to the hands, but is more commonly used as a point of contact in close-quarters contest.

3.) Kalnal: (칼날) --- blade of the sword is only suggested as that side of the Juk-To opposite the Duengjul (lit. "back cord")and the two-thirds portion of the Juk-To forward of the guard.

4.) Duengjul: A yellow string that stretches form the guard to the tip of the sword and signifies the spine of the sword.

5.) Joonghyuk: is the leather band marking the proximal limit of the recognized striking area of the sword.

6.) Sunnhyuk: is the leather cap representing the tip of the sword. Use of thrusts in competition is infrequent but are recognized when contact is made solely with this part of the sword.

A.) Byounghyuk: Represents the handle of the sword

B.) Tadolbu: The area between the sunnhyuk and the joonghyuk representing the first third of the sword blade. In competition, a strike is counted only when the point of contact is solely with this area of the sword.

C.) A standard Juk-To is a 120 cm (47 Inches) for all adults, with the male item weighing 500g and the female item weighing 420g. Traditionally made of 4 bamboo strips and bound with leather, advances in technology have produced items made of high-impact plastics and carbon fibers. Proportionately smaller items are available for child competitors.

Lastly a Kumdo practitioner will use a Mok Geom (lit. wooden sword). Though used historically for competition, the potential for injury including the likelihood of death has caused this item to be relegated to highly structured individual and paired form-work as a substitute for using steel swords.


Though training varies from school to school and from organization to organization some general patterns are witnessed across all Kumdo groups.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumdo