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Haidong Gumdo Association

About Haidong Gumdo


Haidong Gumdo is a martial art that originates from an ancient Korean country called Koguryo (B.C.37~A.D.668) . The arts that became Haidong Gumdo were founded by Master Sul Bong who established a dojang by Sam Ji Lake in the Baekdoo Mountains and taught his students a sword based martial art based on the ideas of patriotism, filial piety, respecting the elderly and executing righteousness. Among them, the outstanding ones were reportedly called "Samurang" and they were always at the front line of the battle against injustice.

The ideology of the Samurang was:

  • Jun (Respect)
  • Sa (Master)
  • Chung (Importance)
  • Do (The right way)
  • Chung (Love for our country)
  • Whoo (Reverence for ones good and right things)

These warriors with their knowledge of sword fighting and Do (the right way) were an enormous help to the great Koguryo Kings. The Samurangs became generals and helped defend against the aggressive neighboring countries and contributed a great deal to Koguryo's stability and security. Koguryo's Samurang system was introduced long before the knighthood of Paekche and the Hwarangdo of Shilla (who are often credited as originators of Taekkyon of the Taekwondo system) and was used to train up many talented warriors.

The success of the Koguryo warriors they led were without precedent in Korean history. Through their leadership, an ancient Chinese country Su with two million invaders was defeated which had never been done before. Through these warriors the people of Koguryo enjoyed over 700 years of security and were the dominate country in the far east. The combative spirit of the Samurang which kept the peace and justice also left behind a valuable spiritual and pride to their descendants.

The history of the Samurang is very interesting, highly debated, and not well known. According to author Joshua Marino, their way became the foundation for Japanese Samurai after the Chinese invasion of Koguryo. The leading Samurang generals fled to Japan in 668AD after the Chinese invasion and the defeat of the Koguryo armies. They spoke Chinese and Japanese and became hermit monks to escape the Chinese ethnic cleansing that began. They continued their way of life, and over a period of 500 years, their descendants created the Japanese Samurai class.  For more information, we recommend reading the excellent book, Kwanjangnim Original Haidong Gumdo by Mr. Marino. 

The Samurang who did not go to Japan left society and started to live hidden away in mountains to escape their extermination. Although the Chinese occupiers worked hard to obliterate all written references to the traditional Korean martial arts, these warriors practiced in secret and preserved their history handed down verbally from master to student. After Hideyoshi’s invasion of Korea in 1592, Japanese Kendo took root in Korea. That and the Japanese invasion of Korea in the early part of the 20th century helped to almost obliterate traditional Korean martial arts. But due to a new campaign to bring back traditional Korean martial arts, nowadays many traditional Korean martial arts are laying roots again in Korea.

The arts that became Haidong Gumdo were instructed by Grand Master Jang Baek San about 40 years ago in an outskirt mountain to the current World Haidong Gumdo Federation president Kim Jeong Ho. Master Kim had received his initial training in Kumdo, or Korean Kendo (the Japanese sword art) but Master Kim had felt that the art was too Japanese, and focused on one on one sparring.  He sought out training in the hidden Korean sword arts to help bring them to light much like had occurred with Taekwondo empty hand techniques.

To address the shortfalls with Kumdo, Master Kim created Haidong Gumdo to be based on techniques for war and one warrior against many others. Kendo/Kumdo techniques are based on 1 on 1 combat. There are a multitude of historical Korean sword arts that Master Kim trained in, including Sang So Do (two handed sword training) and others. These arts can all be found in the Muye Dobo Tongi, a manual of traditional Korean martial arts authored in 1798 by General Yi Duk Moo to preserve Korean Martial Arts history. Other historical Korean sword arts include: Ye Do (short sword), Je Dok Gum (Admirals Sword), Ssang Gum (two swords), etc. Haidong Gumdo added these arts to it's curriculum by creating a series of 10 -15 forms based on each of them. These have become the official forms (Gum Bup) of Haidong Gumdo. Practitioners of Haidong Gumdo therefore learn the Ssang So Gum Bup, Ye Do Gum Bup, Shimsang Gum Bup, Bonkuk Gum Bup, Jang Baek Gum Bup, Haidong Gum Bup, and others.

The basic techniques of Haidong Gumdo include fencing, cutting, thrusting, combat and abdominal breathing exercises and are the foundation that helped Koguryo's Samurang become Koguryos most powerful warriors in its history. Therefore, one of the main features of Haidong Gumdo is not the simplicity of Japanese Kendo nor the complexity of Chinese Kung-Fu sword arts. Rather, it takes pride in being the most realistic sword art. For ancient Koguryo to stand 700 years while China went through the Han dynasty to the Tang dynasty and the rise and fall of many countries especially those as renown as the country Dongijock, is no small accomplishment.

Almost 1300 years after the Koguryo dynasty, the majestic history of Korean sword arts through Haidong Gumdo was brought back. As students of Korean history, we have great affection for Koguryo but we have little knowledge to fill our affection. Thus, as descendants of Great Koguryo that ruled over the north for 700 years, the founders of Haidong Gumdo hope all who practice it will inherit this will of the ancient Samurang and teach the world the spirit of Koguryo through Haidong Gumdo. 

In recent days, Master Jang Baek San passed down a martial art to Mr. Jeong-Ho Kim, beginning in 1961. Mr. Kim modernized the art and established his Dojang in Ahn Yang city on July 24, 1982. On April 10th, 1984, he founded the Korean Haidong Gumdo Federation in the Seocho district of Seoul and established the World Haidong Gumdo Federation on November 25, 1996. On July 23, 2002, the first World Haidong Gumdo Championship was held in Yong Pyung stadium in Kang Won Province. Over 10,000 competitors from 14 countries participated. From July 25th to 27th in 2004, The 2004 World Haidong Gumdo Championship was also successfully held with over 10,000 competitors from 31 countries.

Currently, Haidong Gumdo is one of the world's fastest growing martial arts with a million practitioners and over 1,300 training centers in 50 countries.




All Gumdo students must wear a Dobok set during classes as it is the official uniform of World Haidong Gumdo Federation and USA Haidong Gumdo Association.

The uniform consists of a thick cotton material that folds over much like a traditional Karate uniform except it has short sleeves. The pants have wide flared legs like traditional Hakama pants. This was the design used historically by Korean and Japanese swordsman as the wide legs hid the stance of the individual making it very hard to cut to the legs. The pants also give the illusion of floating when you move, and Samarai warriors felt that this gave them some level of superiority over those who wore straight legged clothing.



As a beginner, you start with a white belt and you change your belt color along with your level untill you get a Black belt. You test for a new color belt every 2- 3 months provided you train at least twice a week. The belt progressions are White, Yellow, Orange, Green, Blue, Purple, Brown,  Red and Black. Once you get a 1st degree black belt, you don't change your belt color but you can promote to a higher degree level after your Dan (Black Belt) test.

Mok Gum (Wooden sword)

A Mok Gum is the basic tool in Gumdo practice as it is used most of the time during classes. The sword is heavy to simulate the weight of a metal sword.

Jukdo (Bamboo sword & plastic sword)

A Jukdo is used for pre-defined fighting patterns, sparring and other Gumdo exercises. Thus, unlike Japanese style Kendo, a sparring sword is optional in Haidong Gumdo in the beginning. It is not often used in the early belts (except Gyuk Gum techniques but you can still use your Mok Gum for that), but as you advance, it will be used more often. Historically, practitioners have used a Bamboo sword for a Jukdo, but now, most have been replaced with a plastic sword as seen below.

Real sword (Gin Gum)

As an adult senior belt (purple and higher) you are allowed to use a real sword. Until Blackbelt, the sword must be dull. There are many kinds of real swords like Samgak-do, Yookgak-do, and Multi-purpose swords and so on. A real sword is used for cutting practice.

Sword bag (case)

To bring swords to practice, you need a sword bag. Normally we bring wooden swords in a cotton sword bag. Many of our students choose to embroider their name on their sword bag. An actual sword case typically comes with the purchase of a real sword.

Parts of a Sword