Korean Martial Arts Resource Information

As we begin to explore different Korean martial arts resources, lets first define them, Korean Martial arts refer to any and all of the various martial arts that originated or were modified in Korea.

There have been many times during my warrior martial art journey that I have had an opportunity to train with other Korean martial artists.

During the 1980's the korean martial style of Tae kwon do began to rise in popularity, at that time I reconized some of the similarities to karate which I had trained in as a young boy. 

The first time I had intimate contact with a Korean martial arts resource was in the late 80's, when a one of my high school buddies began studying hapkido while he was attending Georgia Tech. Tae kwon do was the first Korean martial art that I studied. It was only for a short time when I attended college in Tampa, Fl. 

Many Korean martial arts are cousin to Japanese martial arts. As such it has never been difficult for me to traverse the Korean arts. In most western countries, Tae-kwon-do and Hapkido are by far the most well known Korean martial arts resources today.

Yet, there has been an ever-increasing intrest in the korean warrior arts of old and there have been many schools rising from obscurity. For instance, the Korean martial arts have seen a revival of korean sword arts and korean swordsmanship, which has helped to peak an interest in Korean knives and korean knife fighting. 

This intrest in the korean weapon arts has also prompted a small revival of korean archery, both on foot and on horse-back. The complexity of the Korean martial training arts world and its ever-increasing schools rising from obscurity make for very interesting study.

Korean Martial Arts Resource: Teaching methods

The Korean martial training arts are often taught in a similar method of Japanese martial arts. For example..

  • training barefoot
  • training with uniforms
  • classes executing techniques simultaneously
  • showing respect by bowing to founders picture

Many Korean martial arts also make use of.. 

  • Colored belts to denote rank
  • Tests and testing fees to increase in rank
  • Use of Korean titles when denoting the teacher

These titles include:

  1. Sabumnim: teacher
  2. Kwanjangnim: training hall owner/master
  3. Dojunim: keeper of the way

Korean Martial Arts Resource Tip: Many schools also make use of Korean terminology and numbers during practice.

Korean Martial Arts Resource: Examining Styles

Traditional Korean Warrior Arts

Only a few martial arts practiced in Korea today can accurately trace their lineage and be considered an unbroken, living traditional Korean martial style

Some claim that, because of neo-confucianism, disinterest in martial training and Japanese occupation of Korea, that many of Korea's traditional arts have disappeared with time, leaving behind only records, names, and sometimes bits and pieces of the old warrior arts themselves.

Korean Martial Arts Resource Fun Fact: A few arts have, however, managed to survive more-or-less complete and are still being practiced today.

  1. Taekgyeon - a martial art featuring kicks, sweeps, and strikes
  2. Ssireum - Korean wrestling, similar in some ways to Mongolian wrestling.
  3. Gongsul - Korean archery, making use of a traditional composite horn bow
  4. Sonmudo/Bulmudo - passed down by the Buddhist temples and mostly preserved until today
  5. Charyuk - a practice similar to Chinese hard Qigong, but extremely rare (possibly extinct)
  6. Subyukchigi - a kung fu-like art that has a prayer-like stance, but extremely rare (possibly extinct)

Imported Korean Martial Training Arts

Many martial arts that are currently practiced today in Korea were originally imported during the Japanese Occupation of Korea through Japanese-style schools and by Koreans who studied in mainland Japan. 

These arts were often modified in Korea, adding native techniques or forms, and have often become greatly different from the original Japanese martial arts. 

Korean Martial Arts Resource Information: Many Korean martial arts were influenced by other styles

Yudo - the Korean system of Judo, is a combination of the Japanese emphasis on technique and the European style of power fighting

Kumdo (also called Gumdo) - Imported Kendo, with an additional form, not to be confused with Haidong Gumdo which is a Korean sword fighting style. 

Kongsoodo/Tangsoodo - Imported Tang Dynasty Martial art literally meaning the Tang fighting way. Also related to Japanese Karatedo which was Japanese version of Tang Martial art.

Taekwondo - Originally imported karate as well, but many kicks were added, and other techniques and forms were changed

Moodukkwan Soobahkdo - Originally similar to imported Tang dynasty Martial art, but influenced by the Korean martial arts book Mooyedobotongji and other influences

Hapkido - Imported Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu, but many kicks, acrobatics, and traditional Korean techniques and weapons were added

Kwonbup - Imported Chinese martial arts of unknown origin, probably no longer practiced on its own

Korean Martial Arts Resource: Arts with more than one influence.

Other Korean arts have been influenced by both traditional and imported Korean martial arts, while some have also relied on the Mooyedobotongji or other old manuals to recreate lost arts, much like in European martial arts. 

There are also many Korean martial arts that are recompilation or reorganizations of techniques from traditional or imported arts.

Many of the arts here visually appear to have more of a Chinese influence than other Korean martial arts (except for Taekgyeon). Others have been influenced by boxing and other Western martial arts.

Shippalgi - Chinese-like style with many weapons

Kuk Sool Won - similar to Hapkido and Kung Fu, with a lot of weapons training

Hwa Rang Do - similar to Hapkido

Han Mu Do - similar to Hapkido

Choson Sebup - a sword style

Haedong Gumdo - similar to Kendo, w/different methods and longer swords

Gwongyukdo - Korean kickboxing

Korean Martial Arts Resource: Lost traditional Korean arts

Other arts have not survived to the present age, but survive in name through different Korean documents.

Soobak - an old word for martial arts also used in China

Yusul - an old word for certains arts that may have been the origins for Japanese jujutsu (Alternatively, this word is sometimes used to refer to Japanese jujutsu.)

Korean Martial Arts Resource: Newly formed Korean martial training arts

Aside from the newer imported martial arts there are also martial arts that have been created from these, without any discernible outside influence (at least as far as martial arts are concerned).

In a way, these can be considered a 'new' original Korean style, though their roots can be traced to foreign imports via their forefathers.

Choi Kwang-Do - Though formally created within the United States, Choi Kwang Do considers itself a Korean martial art through its founder. It also uses Korean symbols, traditions, and terms.

Other Korean Martial Arts Resources

The Learn Korean Language website teaches the history, philosophy, benefits, and language of Korean Tae Kwon Do. Without this knowledge, a true understanding of the art could not be attained.


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