Since the article on Top 10 Fencing Movies was heavy on Western fencing, this article will focus on historical fencing in the Far East. Remember that historical fencing is based on historical styles, usually recreations of movements and techniques gleaned from historical fencing texts. There are plenty of Western historical texts on fencing and many of them have been translated into English. There are also historical texts from the Far East. One of these is the Muye Dobo T'ongji (Comprehensive Illustrated Manual of Martial Arts).
The Muye Dobo T'ongji (MDT) is a Korean text on martial arts, including various sword styles, written in 1790 and partially based on preceding works such as the Muye Shinbo and Muye Jebo. The fencing styles presented in the manual are the basis of the current fencing schools of Haedong Kumdo (Korean Way of the Sword) and the Muye24ban (24 Martial Disciplines).
Haedong Kumdo (???? - NOTE: English translations may be rendered in different manners according to the system being used. I will try to be consistent with my spellings.) was created based on the practices of Gicheon and Shim Kumdo, both of which used fencing forms based in the MDT. Fencing forms include Ssangsu Kumbup (method of using the two handed sword), Shimsang Kumbup (heart of swordsmanship method), Yedo Kumbup (method of using the short sword), Chedok Kumbup (method of using the admiral's sword), Wuisu Kumbup (method of using the sword with one hand), Ssanggum Kumbup (method of using two swords) and various Waegum Kumbup (methods of using the Japanese sword). Other sword forms include Jangbaek Kumbup (method of using the sword according to Jangbaek) and Bonguk Kumbup (Method of using the Korean sword).
Practice in Haedong Kumdo includes use of the wooden sword (mokgum), bamboo sword (chukdo) and steel sword (chingum). Basics (kibun) are practiced and forms (pumsae) are learned. Both step-sparring (kyukgum) and free-sparring (sparringhada) are practiced, usually beginning with the bamboo sword and proceeding to wooden sword and (at advanced levels) steel sword.
Also included in the curriculum is practice drawing/sheathing the sword (paldo/ch'akgum) and cutting practice (begi) on various types of objects, including bundled straw, straw mats, bamboo and plastic pipe. (I have never cut plastic pipe but have seen video of it being done and it seems to cut similarly to bamboo.) Sparring using bamboo swords and armor is also practiced. Although there is a continual evolution of armor (as in Western sport fencing), modern kendo (the Japanese counterpart to kumdo) armor is often used.
Haedong Kumdo uses preliminary exercises and supplementary exercises. They also use specific mental and breathing exercises.
The largest organization practicing Haedong Kumdo is the World Haidong Gumdo Federation (the spelling is protected under trademark). The WHGF has branches in many countries throughout the world, including the USA and Canada.
The practice of Haedong Kumdo is rigorous and demanding. It is an excellent form of general exercise, especially if one is interested in Far Eastern sword styles. The WHGF holds the Haidong Gumdo World Championships for those interested in competition.
If you are interested in learning more about either Haedong Kumdo or Japanese kendo, please see Green and Svinth, (2010), Martial Arts of The World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation. If you are interested in practicing Haedong Kumdo in Knoxville, contact me for information.
See you on the piste. En garde!