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Traditional Korean Geom Beop vs Geom Do: What's the Difference?

December 17, 2018

Traditional Korean Geom Beop vs Geom Do: What's the Difference?

When researching traditional Korean swordsmanship, you'll probably come across the terms "Geom Beop" and "Geom Do." They are two of the most common fields of Korean swordsmanship. However, neither Geom Beop nor Geom Do refers to a specific style of Korean swordsmanship. Rather, they are broad terms used to describe different segments of Korean swordsmanship. As such, many people struggle to understand the nuances between these terms and what they mean. In this post, we're going to break down Geom Beop and Geom Do.

Geom Beop Explained

Geom Beop refers to the study of traditional Korean swords as a weapons system. Today, Korean swords generally aren't used for combative purposes. Many centuries ago, though, this wasn't the case. Back in the 17th century,  Korean soldiers would carry and wield swords for the purpose of defending their land from invaders. Soldiers would often carry a sword called a geom, for example, which featured a short, straight-edged blade that was sharpened on both sides. Other Korean soldiers would carry a larger, two-handed sword known as a Ssangsudo. While Korean soldiers also engaged in sparring and training, they typically carried swords such as these for combative purpose. Geom Beop specifically refers to the study of traditional Korean swords for practical, combative purposes.

Geom Do Explained

Geom Do, on the other hand, refers to the study of traditional Korean swords as a recreational sport or personal development system. The fundamental difference between Geom Beop and Geom Do is that the former focuses on the use of swords for combative purposes, wheres the later focuses on the use of swords for recreational and self- improvement purposes. Practitioners of Geom Do would often train in a controlled environment to reduce their risk of self-injury. Today, most practitioners use practice swords made of wood or bamboo to further protect against self-injury.

Korea's Joseon Period

Both Geom Beop and Geom Do became popular during Korea's Joseon Period. According to Wikipedia, Korea's military began to train its soldiers on the use of swords -- as well as other bladed weapons -- during the 17th century. This led to the creation of a military training manual titled "Army Account of Military Arts and Sciences." Korean soldiers would use this manual to familiarize themselves with techniques and strategies regarding the use of swords and bladed weapons. At the same time, many Korean soldiers began training with swords so that they could better prepare themselves for actual warfare.


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