Kumdo – Unleashing the Warrior Within

Few martial arts still seek to preserve the warrior’s spirit. It seems only natural since many of the techniques taught are seemingly useless in a street fight, and now emphasis has been placed on scoring points rather than attaining true mastery. However, some are still drawn to the ideals and spirituality that martial arts such as kumdo (검도) and kendo instill in its practicioners.

Kumdo (검도) is a martial art that is derived from the Japanese martial art of kendo (剣道). Both have the same meaning in their respective languages: “way of the sword”. Despite the distinction between kumdo and kendo, the differences between them are relatively minor and the two martial arts are actually quite similar. In fact, the Korean Kumdo Association, the governing body of kumdo in Korea, is a recognized by the International Kendo Federation as an affiliate. Furthermore, Korea is the only other country besides Japan to have won the World Kendo Championship in the Men’s team division.


The standard uniform of Kumdo, known as dobok (도복), consists of a practice jacket called the otdori (옷도리) and the wide pleated pants called paji (바지). It is interesting to note that the pants are modeled after the Japanese hakama, with the key difference being that the paji does not use a koshiita, a back board, in its design. Kumdo uses a bamboo sword, known as a jukto in Korean. Protective equipment (호구) is also worn as seen in the picture below: the helmet (호면), gauntlets (호완), chest protector (갑), and the waist protector (갑상)

Paji practice jacket Kumdo Armor

How a Match is Played

A match takes place a 10×10 meter court, with competitors meeting at the center to begin the match. Most matches are played as best of three, although some matches are played with only one point winning. There are 4 zones that a swordsman can strike in order to obtain a point: the head (모리), wrist (손목), body (허리), and throat (). Striking the proper zone isn’t enough however. A swordsman must display gigeomche (기검체) if he or she wishes to be given a point. Gigeomche is the idea that an ideal strike shows that the spirit, sword, and body are all one in the moment of the strike. This is demonstrated by shouting the correct target area being struck, as well as the blade and a stomp reaching its target at the same time. 3 judges proctoring match will decide if the swordsman properly displays gigeomche.

Duel 1 Strike

Kumdo in Hanyang

If you’re interested in learning more about this martial art, you’re in luck because Hanyang University has a club that’s open to all Hanyang students of any experience level. They also welcome any practitioners of Japanese kendo. You can find their clubroom on the 5th floor of the Hanyang Plaza building, and their practice floor is on the 6th floor. The club practices from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM Monday-Friday. Generally, the first hour and a half of practice is devoted to beginners and the next part of practice is for those who practice in hogu (호구), but beginners are welcome to observe.

Beginner 2 Beginner 1 Advanced

When first starting kumdo, be sure to wear comfortable loose fitting clothes, as you will be doing a lot of movement during practice. It generally takes a beginner about 3 months before they are given permission to wear armor, but this largely depends on your effort to improve your skills.

The people in this club have been very kind, and are always willing to talk to me! It was amazing how easy it was for me to connect to the club members just because we share interest in the same martial art! These people do more than practice. After many practices, they like to go out and share drinks as friends. For me, joining this club isn’t only an opportunity to improve my skills in kendo, but it’s also an opportunity for me to meet local Koreans and learn about many aspects of Korean life!


Article by Eli from the U.S.A.


  1. […] with the rules of an actual match in kendo, I wrote a more in depth article about it previously (https://myhubs.org/2016/04/04/kumdo-unleashing-the-warrior-within/). Here’s a basic overview: two swordsmen face each other in a 10×10 meter court. Regulation […]

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