Bonguk geom

Last updated
Bonguk geom
Hangul 본국검
Revised Romanization Bonguk geom
McCune–Reischauer Bonkuk kŏm

Bonguk geom (Korean 본국검 "national sword", also singeom 신검 "Silla sword") in Joseon era Korean martial arts (17th to 18th centuries) referred both to a type of sword and a style of swordsmanship.

Korean language Language spoken in Korea

The Korean language is an East Asian language spoken by about 80 million people. It is a member of the Koreanic language family and is the official and national language of both Koreas: North Korea and South Korea, with different standardized official forms used in each territory. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and Changbai Korean Autonomous County of Jilin province, China. Historical and modern linguists classify Korean as a language isolate; however, it does have a few extinct relatives, which together with Korean itself and the Jeju language form the Koreanic language family. This implies that Korean is not an isolate, but a member of a micro-family. The idea that Korean belongs to the controversial Altaic language family is discredited in academic research. Korean is agglutinative in its morphology and SOV in its syntax.

Korean martial arts

Korean martial arts are military practices and methods which have their place in the history of Korea but have been adapted for use by both military and non-military personnel as a method of personal growth or recreation. The history of Korean martial arts can be traced as far back as the prehistoric era. The ancestors of modern Korean people migrated and settled in the Korean Peninsula as early as the 28th century BC, a geopolitical region besieged by thousands of known documented instances of foreign invasions. Consequently, the Korean people developed unique martial arts and military strategies in order to defend themselves and their territory.

The history of the sword in the Korean Peninsula begins with imports during Bronze Age in the mid 1st millennium BCE. Native production of Bronze and Iron swords appears to pick up beginning in the mid 1st millennium CE.

The term was introduced in the Muyesinbo of 1759, and the system was supposedly a creation of Crown Prince Sado. It contrasts with Jedok geom, or "admiral sword", a system supposedly introduced by the Chinese admiral Li Rusong during the 16th-century Imjin War (the "national sword" system is conspicuously absent from the older Muyejebo manual of 1610). The Muyesinbo stresses the antiquity of this "national" Korean system by including the narrative of a Silla "Flower Youth" called Hwangchang, who killed Baekje's king while performing a sword dance, known as geommu, at the court.

The Muyesinbo is a Korean martial arts manual published in 1759. The book is a revision of the older Muyejebo, made during the reign of King Youngjo (1724–1776). It adds twelve disciplines or "skills" of both armed and unarmed fighting by Prince Sado to the original six which were descbribed in the Muyejebo. No copies of the Muyesinbo have survived, but its contents can easily be determined by tracing back and comparing the Muyejebo with the later Muyedobotongji.

Crown Prince Sado Korean prince

Crown Prince Sado was born Prince Jangheon, the second son of the Korean king Yeongjo. Due to the prior death of his older half-brother Crown Prince Hyojang (1728), the new prince was the probable royal heir. However Prince Sado was not given an opportunity to reign. At the age of 27, he was executed by order of his father, and died of starvation by being confined in a rice chest. His father gave him the posthumous title Sado, meaning "Thinking of with great sorrow."

Jedok geom or Admiral sword or Commander sword is a sword-skill introduced by the Chinese commander Li Rusong who fought during the Japanese invasions of Korea during the 16th century. Li Rusong was from Hebei province, China.

The historical swords of the Silla period would have been double-edged and comparable to those of the Eastern Han dynastic period (see also Hwandudaedo). However, the Bonguk geom, as presented in the 18th-century manual, is historically based on a single-edged sword; a type common during that era.


Hwandudaedo is the modern Korean term for the earliest type of Korean sword, appearing in the Proto–Three Kingdoms of Korea. These swords were at first symbols of a ruler's power, but their availability increased in the 5th century, and it became a more widespread symbol of military or political rank. The frequency of finds declines in the 6th century.

In contemporary schools of Korean swordsmanship, the term bonguk geom is used to emphasize their "national" Korean character, without necessarily bearing a direct relation to the 18th-century system.

Since the 1970s, there has been a revival of traditional or reconstructed methods of swordsmanship based on the Korean sword in the Republic of Korea, supplementing the practice of Kumdo. There are historical sources on which such reconstructions are based, dating to the 17th and 18th centuries, notably the Muyejebo of 1610, its 1759 revision Muyeshinbo, supplemented with 12 additional fighting methods by Prince Sado who originated the term Sip Pal Ki, and the renewed revision of 1790, Muyedobotongji.

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