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Haedong Kumdo, also spelled Haidong Gumdo, is a name coined around 1982 and used for several Korean martial arts organizations that use swords. Spelling varies between certain organizations. Most notable are Haidong Gumdo by the original organization (Daehan Haidong Gumdo Federation) under Kim Jeong-Ho, and Haedong Kumdo by the largest offshoot (Hanguk Haedong Gumdo Federation) under Na Han-Il.
Haidong Gumdo was founded by members who seceded from the Korea Kumdo Association (KKA) . Haidong Gumdo is significantly modified in style from standard kumdo, emphasizing what they consider a native Korean “battlefield” style of combat over the one-on-one dueling style found in standard or Daehan Kumdo. As such, it is unrelated to modern, standard kumdo, although it also claims to be kumdo. By contrast, the KKA promotes Daehan Kumdo (????), with rules virtually identical to kendo, with noted changes to reflect Korean cultural influences and methodology.
Haedong Gumdo derives its name from Haedong Seongguk Balhae (??????), a name for Balhae, a medieval kingdom in the region of northeastern Korea, and southern Manchuria.
Practitioners of Haidong Gumdo engage in the practice of basic techniques (kibon), forms (geompeob or pumsae), step sparring (yaksuk daeryun), sparring (hada), energy building exercises (qi gong) and cutting practice (begi).
Basic practice is done with the mokgum (wooden sword).
Sparring practice begins with the bamboo sword (chukdo), advances to mokgum, and depending on the school, may advance to weighted training weapons with protective padding or armor. Forms within Haidong Gumdo were derived from the mechanics of gicheon (a Korean form of martial arts similar to Tai Chi Chuan), and various sword patterns found within the Muyedobotongji ( Comprehensive Illustrated Manual of Martial Arts). Baldo and chakgeom forms (drawing and sheathing the sword) were also developed.
While traditional Korean sword forms are contained in the Bonguk Geombeop (Korean sword method), other geombeop are taught within Haidong Gumdo curricula, including:
Haidong Gumdo may 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 merits and limitations of each of the philosophies may be debated endlessly. Probably the best way to characterize the main difference between Japanese Kendo and the Korean Haidong Gumdo styles is through training philosophy:
The essence of Haidong Gumdo is in shimgum, a concept similar to the that of the Spanish duende, as coined by the Spanish poet, García Lorca. 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.
A series of legal actions between the two primary Haidong Gumdo organizations has revealed and documented the history of this martial art. These organizations claim that Haidong Gumdo is rooted in the martial traditions of the Samurang, a group of elite warriors originally trained by a master named Seolbong in the ancient Goguryeo Kingdom. However, written documentation verifying the existence of this class of warriors does not exist. There is not any information on what happened to the Samurang or their sword methods after the fall of Goguryeo either.
The World Haidong Gumdo Federation claims that Kim Jeong-Ho, president of the Daehan Haidong Gumdo Federation, learned Haidong Gumdo from a master called Jangbaeksan (meaning Mount Baekdu) at Kwanak Mountain. The trials concluded that Haidong Gumdo was created by Kim Jeong-Ho and Na Hanil, both of whom had studied the Korean sword arts of Gicheonmun (under Bak Daeyang) and Simgeomdo (under Kim Changsik), and that the story of Jangbaeksan was a metaphor for this. The pair worked together under the name of the more widely known of their two arts, Simgeomdo. Around 1984 they began teaching their martial art under the name Haidong Gumdo. Haidong Gumdo remained a relatively minor art until 1989 when Na Hanil played the leading character in a Korean TV drama. This helped to promote Haidong Gumdo considerably, but the rapid growth of the organization led to internal strife.