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Sibpalgi (pronounced: “ship pal gee”; lit: “eighteen martial methods”) or Sibpalgi or Sipalki or Sippalki is a name shared by a collection of martial practices both in China and Korea. The name may identify a system of 18 martial practices followed in China Chinese martial arts and introduced to Korea by emigres following the Chinese Civil War. Sippalki, also identifies a system of eighteen traditional martial practices followed in Korea since 1759. These methods are classified into three categories: thrust, slice, and strike; and reflect the military tactical situation of the 18th and 19th Century as firearms surplated cold weapons. In a short range combat swords were becoming increasingly more important.

The Korean system of Sibpalgi has its roots in the Korean military manual, Muyejebo (“Martial Arts Illustrations”) which was published in 1610. Conflict with the Japanese during the Imjin War (1592 – 1598) revealed severe shortcomings in the Korean national army causing King Sunjo (1567-1608) to order reforms based on the successful training model of the Chinese General Qi Jiguang (1527 – 1587).

The Muyejebo was compiled by one of the king’s military officers, Han Gyo, and consists of 6 fighting systems. These included the Gonbang (long stick), deungpae (shield), nangseon (multi-tipped spear), jangchang (long spear), dangpa (trident) and the ssangsudo (two-handed saber). During the reign of King Youngjo (1724-1776) the Muyejebo was revised, and supplemented with 12 additional fighting methods by Prince Sado. [1]

Prince Sado also originated the term Sib Pal Gi (“Eighteen Fighting Methods”),- a shortened term from Bonjo Muye Sib Pal Ban (“18 Martial Arts Classes of the Yi Dynasty”)- to identify this collection of skills. The 12 skills that were added include the jukjangchang (long bamboo spear), gichang (flag spear), yedo (short sword), waegeom (Japanese sword), gyojeon (combat engagement with the sword), woldo (crescent sword), hyeopdo (spear sword), ssanggeom (twin swords), jedogeom (Admiral’s Sword), bonguk geom (native sword), gwonbeop (fist method), and pyeongon (flail) for a total of 18 methods. This revised publication was titled the Muyesinbo (“Martial Arts New Illustrations”) and published in 1759.

Both the Muyejebo and Muyesinbo formed the basis for the better known Muyedobotongji.[2]

A modern version of Sibpalgi was revitalized by Kim Kwang Suk (???, 1936). During the Japanese occupation of Korea, Kim spent his youth in a small Daoist community in the Korean mountains where he received his training in traditional Korean martial arts. This happened in secret, because the Japanese had outlawed the study of Korean martial arts. He also studied Eastern medicine and breathing exercises.

Between 1987 and 2002 Kim published four books about Korean martial arts.

Yoo Soo Nam(???) has introduced his family style called Ion Bi Ryu (“school of swallow’s secrets”) to the West beginning in 1970 when he migrated to Argentina, this style has 18 methods, 15 with weapons and the other 3 unarmed. The unarmed methods consists of: personal defense (Ho Sin Sul), combat one to one or one against more than one opponent (Kwon Bop) and Meditation (Shim Bop).

Sip Pal Gi was also a general term used to identify a system of Chinese martial practices followed in certain areas of Korea with large Chinese populations, such as Incheon and Seoul. In 1950’s through the 1970’s, a number of instructors left China (mostly from Shangdong province) and settled in Korea. Prior to this teachers had emigrated to Korea from China in the first half of the 20th Century and taught their arts to the local populace. These teachers included specialists in Meihua Tanglang Quan (“Plum Flower Mantis Fist” – Lin Pin Zhang), Long Fist (most likely a syncretic system of styles from Shandong province – Lee De Jiang), and Baguazhang (“Eight Trigrams Palm” – Lu Shui Tian). As was common in very traditional CMA schools at the time, some of these teachers actively “traded” students, encouraging an inclusive and synergistic worldview of CMA. A number of these students would emigrate to the United States in the 1970’s and 1980’s (e.g., Yong Moon and Byong Yil Choi in Los Angeles, CA; Chun Dae Soung in Marerro, LA; Maing Yul Jung in Houston, TX; and Park Bok Nam in Richmond, VA).

Several US military personnel learned Sip Pal Gi while stationed in Korea during this era. Some of these soldiers opened up their own schools upon returning home or encouraged their teachers to emigrate to the US. This phenomenon is similar to the presence of US schools affiliated or descended from Taiwan’s Tang Shou Tao schools of CMA, which openly trained US soldiers.

One should note that like “kung fu,” “Sip Pal Gi” when used in this context only means “Chinese Martial Arts.” There is no style, curriculum, or lineage that can be said as “definitive” in Sip Pal Gi – the term is only a catch-all to denote CMA as taught in Korea.

However, because of the collaborative nature of Sip Pal Gi instructors of that first generation, there are a number of forms and exercises that are commonly taught across almost all Sip Pal Gi (and related arts) schools: