In modern society, people are burdened with too much stress from work and their daily routine. How often people are exposed to stress, however, is not important. What is essential for our health is finding a way to cope with stress. For those who have not yet found a way to relieve stress, Kumdo can be an excellent alternative.
▲ he Kumdo members strike each other with a sword. Photographed by Kim Hye Ri.
Kumdo is a modern Korean martial art that has its origin in Japanese Kendo. Although kumdo initially came into existence as a way of combat, it is considered as a sport for training the body and cultivating the mind in modern days. It is a battle between two people and a point is given to the person who successfully manages to strike an opponent’s wrist, head, waist, or neck with a bamboo sword, otherwise known as juk-to.
The act is not dangerous at all since there are protective gears designed to lessen the shock absorbed by the body: Homyeoun for head and face, kap for chest and torso, kapsang for hip and groin area, and howan for hand and wrist area. Therefore, it is unnecessary for anyone to be concerned about getting hurt by an opponent’s attack.
Korea University (KU) Kumdo club consists of KU students who are mesmerized by the charm of this very sport. Master Lee Jong Ku established the club in 1935 and, ever since, students have endlessly shown interest in kumdo. Anyone who has passed by the sports hall in the afternoon would remember being startled by the sound of the swords clashing together.
Currently, more than 20 other members learn kumdo on weekdays under the guidance of three board members. Out of these, there are around ten females, which breaks the common stereotype that kumdo is a sport for men. A training manager, Lim Hyo Jung (Graduate School of Public Administration) recalled her experience as a beginner. “Seniors encouraged me and led a path for me. I came to practice every week and before I knew it, I could perform well,” said Lim.
Students can decide how frequently they would like to come to the KU kumdo studio. Nevertheless, it is recommended for members to practice at least twice a week. Missing a few classes can lead a member to lag behind the others as it usually takes some time to acquire new skills. The practice should not be a big burden because it runs for only an hour and a half, from 7:00 P.M. to 8:30 P.M.
Members would not want to miss training especially on Fridays. Once a week, members of Geomuhae come visit the studio to offer some advice to the members. Geomuhae is a Kumdo club for KU graduates and just like the club’s long history, many are in their 50s and 70s. When time is allowed, Geomuhae members listen to any personal agonies KU Kumdo members may have and provide suggestions as the elder in life.
▲ T he members of the club are well equipped with gears that protect them from injury. Photographed by Kim Hye Ri.
Prior to and after training, the captain pounds on a drum and the members ruminate upon the three courtesies that must be kept in the studio. “Kumdo is not just any sport, but a sport of manners. Members recall courtesies toward the national flag, the master, and others,” said the captain of the club, Kim Gun Min (’14, Biomedical Engineering). Afterwards, members exercise basic movements together and in rotation, they strike their opponent with juk-to.
It is unavoidable for freshmen and juniors to practice with the seniors. Nonetheless, they do not need to worry about attacking seniors, as all members are “equal” once they enter the studio. Kim explained that seniors like it even more when juniors attack them. “When we have a match with the Geomuhae for instance, we get scolded if we do not go hard on them. One senior told me to think of him as an enemy.”
The battle for the newcomers, however, begins only after a couple of months. They first need to start with the basics and learn new moves and rules from the training manager. If the board managers believe that the beginning member is ready, they will present the necessary kumdo equipment that is engraved with his or her name in June.
Prior to the commencement, a five-day training camp waits for all club members in April. The goal of the camp is to help members prepare for the upcoming Hwarang Yeonmu competition, where they show off the skills they had honed in front of KU students. Members start the day by running across the Green Field. After class, members dine together and the training starts afterwards.
The five-day spring training camp serves more roles than simply training. As members eat, sleep and exercise together, members get to know more about each other and build a strong friendship. Lim said, “I made good friends at this camp, and I still stay in contact with them.”
Members go to another training in summer, either to Naksan or Jeju Island to prepare for the annual Ko-Yon Games. For the first time, members face off in the match so that they know what to expect for at the annual Ko-Yon Games. They grasp their merits and demerits and persistently work on any improvements that need to be made. Their hard work pays off since members produce fine results every year.
Their outstanding performance stood out in other major competitions, too. In fact, it is hard to find a year in which the members did not receive an award for their performance. The most recent achievement was made in 2015 at the Seoul fall league where the female team won the first prize and the men team won third.
As part of this impressive Kumdo club, Lim described how the whole exercising process has been a stress-reliever for her. It was the only time when she did not need to worry about assignments. “Because the battle is a combat between just two people in kumdo, you need to always focus on your counterpart’s eyes,” said Lim. “If I do not concentrate, seniors would immediately instruct me to focus and ask me later if everything is alright.”
▲ A member takes time to catch his breath. Photographed by Kim Hye Ri.
Shouts of concentration also helps members relieve stress. Every time members strike, they must give out shouts of concentration, which gives the body a lot of energy. Kim explained that he feels much relieved after practice because he yells a lot. “In the beginning, females hesitated and tended not to shout as much, but now their shouts are even sharper than ours. It is scary,” chuckled Kim.
The good news is that anyone can be part of this KU Kumdo community if one has the determination to learn kumdo. Even if the student neither has knowledge nor experience of this sport, warm-hearted members will be there to walk through the steps together. As long as the student actively participates in training, the student can feel a sense of achievement and confidence growing within oneself and one day, he or she will be be amazed at how far he or she has come in a short space of time. If you are curious about how it feels to travel in a real time machine, hop in now!
Period of Recruitment: Anytime
Requirements to Join Kumdo club: All students and all ages are welcomed