A Brief History of Haidong Gumdo

Haidong Gumdo is a Korean sword martial art that has its roots in the invasions of Korea by its more powerful neighbours, including China and Japan, and between the three Korean Kingdoms, Koguryo, Baekje and Silla. During the 1st century AD a group of elite swordsmen known as Samurang were instrumental in defending the Koguryo kingdom and its ruler, Kwangkaeto from invading forces. By the end of Kwangkaeto’s rule the Koguryo kingdom was the dominant force in the Korea Peninsula and had expanded its power through the central and northern Korean Peninsula and into Manchuria.

The Samurang developed a code of honour and style of swordsmanship that embodies the highest ideals of loyalty, piety and honour. The term Samurang is still used today to honour the very best Haidong Gumdo exponents.

Until the Im Jim War between Korea, Japan and China in the late 16th century, the Korean swords were straight-bladed, and well-suited to the striking and thrusting manoeuvres used by the Korean swordsmen. Following the Im Jim war the swords were made with curved blades, allowing more effective slashing movements to be added to the swordsmen’s repertoire. The curved sword is still used by modern exponents of Haidong Gumdo today.

Over the centuries following the Im Jim war the Haidong Gumdo swordsmen moved into remote communities to practise their art away from the threat of persecution by foreign invaders. Following the end of the Korean War Korea began to encourage the practise of its ancient martial arts, including haidong gumdo. During the second half of the 20th century a young Korean martial practitioner, Jeong Ho Kim, became a student of Grand Master Jang Baek San. Jeong Ho Kim proved an exceptional student and became a champion of Haidong Gumdo. He has been largely responsible for the resurgence of Haidong Gumdo in Korea and its rapid spread worldwide. He is currently the President of the World Haidong Gumdo Federation which oversees the activities of 1600 training centres in 50 countries.

The first Haidong Gumdo World Championships were held in July 2002 in Yong Pyong’s Dome stadium. World Championships have been held in Yong Pyong every two years since then with Australia represented by its first truly national team in 2010 with representatives from Queensland, New South Wales and ACT.

Master Jong Il Oh established Haidong Gumdo in Australia in 1999. The first Australian National Championships were held in Brisbane in 2005. In 2008 the ACT team participated at the national championships. In 2009 the first NSW team joined the Queensland and ACT teams at the national championships for the first time.

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