Recommended Books on Korean Sword Arts?

Bob Hubbard

MT Mentor
Founding Member
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Aug 4, 2001
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Land of the Free
I'm not currently aware of any books written specifically on the Korean arts. Can anyone share some recommendations, both on what to seek out, and what to avoid?

Thanks! :)


2nd Black Belt
May 29, 2006
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Solomons, MD, USA
1. Of course, the one 'must have' resource is the English translation of the Muye Dobo Tong Ji, available from Turtle Press in paperback or hardback. The MDTJ was a compiltaion of martial arts for military use in Korea, commissioned by King Junjo and completed around 1790. Based on two older Chinese references, with many added historical notes and references to other historical writings, the MDTJ gives a 'snapshot' of weapons, techniques, and stances for battlefield use. While it will not allow you to reconstruct a historical Korean sword art, it will show the overlap, similarities, and differences between Korean, Chinese, and Japanese swords and techniques at that time, and it will allow you to dispell many of the non-historical fantasies regarding Korean martial history.

2. The Art of Zen Sword by Kim, Chang Sik - provides more a philosophy than a history. Kim was the founder of the modern Korean sword art of shimgumdo. While in meditation during a prolonged fast as a young Buddhist monk in Korea (c.1930), Kim claims to have received 100 forms in a vision, with no prior martial arts experience. He received approval from his higher-ups to teach his art as a path to 'mind-sword enlightenment', and is still alive and teaching in a Buddhist enclave near Boston, MA, USA. Shimgumdo is important because of its impact on some of the development of Haidong Gumdo, particularly the Hankuk Federation. If you are interested, watch for used copies of this book on eBay.

3. The 'White Book' - available in Korean only, but with enough detail that a student with a modest introduction to hangul and familiarity with a few stances and techniques (and/or a friend who speaks Korean) to provide a great introduction to modern Haedong Kumdo. The 'White Book' is the official textbook of forms and techniques for the Hankuk Haedong Kumdo Federation (The second largest of the two main HDGD world federations). The Hankuk Federation has also put out a 4 - VHS video tape set that covers all the basics of the art, from basic grips, stances, techniques to forms, sparring, and cutting.

4. The rest of the references that I would suggest are all online. Do a search on this forum. (Bob, if I'm not allowed to 'name drop' other forums, please delete this next section). Then, search the history sections of Anthony Boyd's Haidong Gumdo forum (the best single web resource I've found dedicated explicitly to haidong gumdo), Kingdomfighter (a site primarily dedicated to Korean Kumdo (kendo), but with great historical discussion on Korean swords and swordsmanship), and Sword Forum International.

Bruce W. Sims

White Belt
Jun 17, 2012
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I can make some recommendations, but they would come with the disclaimer that these titles are all in Korean language.

a.) HWARANG GUMDO Published 1973; Republished 1996, 1997 through the Korea Hwarang Kumdo Central Association (ISBN 89-7336-648-3)
The first half of this manual deals with the KUMDO material common to this association. I have used my copy for several years
because the second half of the book deals with GUEM BEOP (lit: "sword method") employing a MOK GUEM to perform paired work.

b.) KIM Kwang Seok
who began studying SIB PAL KI under YUN Meong Deok in 1951, opened his
SIB PAL KI school in 1969. Between 1987 and 2002, Grandmaster Kim wrote four books on the history and techniques of traditional Korean martial arts. Though I cannot read the Chinese characters of the title, the tome itself, published in 1995 bears the ISBN 89-8038-374-6. If ever there was a candidate for an authentic "Korean Sword Bible" I think this would get me vote.

Hope these are of some help.

Best Wishes,



Master of Arts
Aug 19, 2008
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Aurora, IL
I could not find these books anywhere on the net. I will send and email to my in-laws and see if they can possibly find them in Korea. Thank you.

Steven Lee

Blue Belt
Jan 1, 2019
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I think HaiDong Gumdo is pretty much the only sword fighting sport in Korea today that teaches traditional Korean sword arts including Bongookgum. You can confirm with other Koreans. Some movie actors started that sport or something, teaching themselves with Muyedobotongji textbook.

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