So what swords did the Koreans develop and use?

Discussion in 'Korean Swords and Sword Arts' started by PhotonGuy, Jul 15, 2014.

  1. PhotonGuy

    PhotonGuy Senior Master

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    I know the Chinese had the broadsword and the longsword and the butterfly swords in which usually two would be used at a time. The Japanese have the famous samurai swords. Now, what kinds of swords did the Koreans build and use?
     
  2. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    The Koreans manufactured both straight and curved swords, two handed and one handed.

    I'm going to preface the rest by saying that Korea is much more notable for archery and unarmed kicking arts than it is for swordsmanship or swords.

    From everything that I've read, the preferred weapon of Korean soldiers was called a hwando or a yedo. The sword, according to the Muyedobotongji, was designed for single handed use, possessing roughly a foot long and having a blade that measured from 24" to around three feet. The yedo form shown in the manual has both one and two handed usage.

    Though Korea had swords of similar shape and size to a katana, their construction methods differed; they were forged differently and did not have a hamon like the Japanese swords did.

    Also, their swords were worn hanging from the belt (like a cavalry sabre), which makes their drawing very different from that of a katana worn through the obi.

    The Muyedobotongji contains instruction for swords of varying length and shape, for use of two swords of equal length simultaneously, and for the use of a sword and shield. A careful examination of the text shows that many, if not all of the styles, are derived from Chinese and Japanese swordsmanship; Korea was very much in the sphere of influence of China, thus the Chinese methods. And the Japanese sword methods were trained in order to fight the Japanese, and also because due to proximity, the Japanese sword was introduced to Korea.

    There is in fact a specific section in the book on the use of the Japanese sword (Wae Geom). The first sword form listed, Ssang Soo Do Bo, is said to have come from the Chinese, who recorded facing the Japanese who used this type of long sword and style.

    Below is an excerpt from the Muyedobotongji about the long sword.

    "This weapon was introduced by the Japanese when they invaded China. When the Japanese soldiers danced with the sword, the glittering light overwhelmed our soldiers. with one stroke, they jumped more than one foot forward, cutting our soldiers swords in half. they were able to accomplish this because their swords were sharper and they used both hands to create more power. It appears that they are the only soldiers who use that weapon, thus making it defenseless. the gunmen use it as well: at long distances they used guns and at close range they used swords."

    The rest of the swords described in the book were shorter in length.
    This page is from the Macao Museum of Art, and has details about and pictures of Korean swords from various periods. KOREAN SECTION SWORDS LIST

    Hope that helps!
     
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  3. Transk53

    Transk53 The Dark Often Prevails

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    Okay a another epic PG thread :D
     
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  4. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

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    Does one 'build' a sword?
     
  5. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    In the same way as you'd "build" anything else, yes.

    There is the manufacture of the constituent parts (blade, guard, grip, pommel, sheath, and a variety of fasteners and fittings), and the assembly of those parts (some of which, like the grip and the sheath, may have constituent parts of their own), into a final product.
     
  6. Transk53

    Transk53 The Dark Often Prevails

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    I would like to apologise to the community, this did not turn out to be a epic thread :D
     
  7. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    Give it time. Sometimes these things are slow to get off the ground. :)
     
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  8. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

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    I'd say though you'd build a house but craft a sword, that implies that the making of such an object requires a lot of skill and art which is why we have Guilds for such things. We also call people who make swords either smiths or cutlers which again implies great knowledge and skill.
     
  9. jezr74

    jezr74 Master of Arts

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    Good question. I did look through the posts here and was more around the forms rather than "authentic" Korean swords or smithing. And have wondered myself what swords are unique to Korea.

    From the list provided by Daniel, maybe the Hwando was more unique to Korea itself? While it still looks to have heavy Japanese influence, but I didn't cross reference dates etc. to draw that conclusion.
     
  10. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Daniel's given quite a thorough answer, although I'd like to add (and maybe question) a bit or two… but before that, a few points in the OP.

    The Chinese people had many different forms of swords over their history… weapons such as the baat cham dao (Wing Chun Butterfly Knives) are really just used in that system, with a few stories about their origins (such as being based on a form of cleaver found in Chinese kitchens…), then you have broad categories, such as jian (double edged straight swords) and dao (which are largely broad bladed, single edged sabres), both of which have many, many variations… and that's without even getting into concepts such as pole arms… then there's the rare form of Chinese text using a very long form of a Japanese sword… for the record…

    As far as the Japanese having "the famous samurai swords", well, kinda but no. Really, by definition, a "samurai sword" is just a sword used by a samurai… and, while there was certainly quite a consistent theme throughout Japan's history, the variation was again quite large… covering tachi, nodachi, odachi, kodachi, chokken, katana, wakizashi, aikuchi, kaiken, yoroi doshi, nagamaki, naginata, o-wakizashi, uchigatana… then there would be specialist "one-off" items, such as the famous kogarasu-maru tachi… when you look at all of that, it becomes rather apparent that the over-simplification of "the famous samurai sword" is largely inaccurate.

    Yep, depending on period and usage… and outside influence.

    Very, very true. In fact, a number of contemporary military texts from China note that the Koreans possessed no skill or use of the sword or spear… instead basing their battle tactics almost entirely on the use of archery from cover. I'm a little less convinced of some of the unarmed methods, but it's certainly true that the Korean people have a cultural preference for kicking methods… that's shown in their traditional games, and dance forms.

    As mentioned, sword usage in Korea was minimalist, to say the least. The biggest usage seems to have been associated with Imperial and Palace guards, rather than anyone related to battlefield combat… which makes perfect sense, considering the short range of the swords in question.

    This has gone back and forth a bit… there is some evidence to suggest that metal craft and forging methods originally were brought from Korea to Japan… but the methods that went into the forging of Japanese metal craft and weapons were very developed beyond those, after centuries (at least) of separation. By the time that Japanese swords were being forged, and brought to Korea (in a less-than-friendly fashion…), the smelting methods of Korea were notably lesser… hence the swords attempting some imitation, but not having a number of the key properties of the Japanese blades.

    … but rather like drawing a tachi in a number of ways…

    Yep.

    Cool.

    Also cool.

    Some interesting pieces there… the dates seem a bit out (most likely a typo… the Joseon period in particular…).

    Yeah… personally, I'd doubt it.
     
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  11. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    I was mainly thinking of that specifically with regards to unarmed styles that are associated with Korea, allowing that pretty much every culture strikes with the hands and wrestles.

    And the dates in that list are definitely typos; nines and threes transposed in several instances.
     
  12. Transk53

    Transk53 The Dark Often Prevails

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    Could you link some of this for me, would like to understand a little better :)
     
  13. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    Inasmuch as a short curved sword is specific to any culture; superficial appearances aside, the methods of constructing the katana (which people mean most of the time when they refer to a Samurai sword), were very different from the construction of Korean swords, both in the way the blades were made and in the choice of materials for and construction of grips.

    Also, Korean culture did not elevate the sword and swordsmanship to the same stature that Japanese culture did; the fascination with a Korean equivalent to the Samurai is a recent phenomenon (connected to rebuilding national pride after a brutal occupation), with absolutely no historicity to it whatsoever. In fact, the Muyedobotongji, which was written quite a while before Japan's occupation of Korea, cites the origins of the sword systems as being from China (or Japan by way of China).

    Haedong Gumdo, Hankumdo, Koryo Gumdo, and Shimgumdo are all modern inventions, and while they may have value and be worthwhile to practice, their historicity does not extend to any point earlier than WW2, and that's being generous. In fact, whole fabrications are contained in the histories of some of these arts (the existence of the Samurang, case in point).
     
  14. Daniel Sullivan

    Daniel Sullivan Grandmaster

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    Well, this is the one that I posted earlier: KOREAN SECTION SWORDS LIST

    This is another site: Swords Of Korea

    Korea also has a sword dance called Geommu.

    Geommu - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    Taekkyeon is probably the only pre-occupation kicking art that has survived in any form: Taekkyeon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. There was also ssireum (wrestling): Ssireum - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and unarmed fighting techniques are detailed in the Muyedobotongji (Kwon beop).

    Taekwondo is a postwar art, as is Hapkido, which according to its founder, imported it from Japan after training under Takeda in Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu. While that claim is questioned, it definitely removes any notion that Hapkido was an indigenous Korean art.

    As for what the Muyedobotongji is, it is a Korean military manual that was compiled in the late eighteenth century, itself a revision of an earlier work, namely the Muye Shinbo, which was a renamed revision of an even earlier work, the Muye Jebo. This book was the name under which the Kihyo Shinsu, a Chinese manual that included details of Japanese fighting methods, was published in Korea. Muyedobotongji - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Muyedobotongji is, to my knowledge, the only available historical source of pre-occupation Korean martial training, be it swordsmanship or anything else. It contains nothing of the Hwarang or any information on fighting methods of the three kingdoms period, which is ironically what arts like Haedong Gumdo try to connect themselves to.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 24, 2014
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  15. Transk53

    Transk53 The Dark Often Prevails

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    Cool. Thank you.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 24, 2014

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