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Dissemination of Japanese Swordsmanship to Korea


Bok Kyu Choi

Korean Institute for Martial Arts, NL
About Bok Kyu
Dr. Choi, Bok-kyu studied physics, martial arts studies, classical Chinese and philosophy at Sogang University and Seoul National University. His doctorate thesis focuses on the historical background of the compilation of Muyedobotongji, or Comprehensive Illustrated Manual of Martial Arts. His research interests basically lie on the classical martial arts systems of Korea, China and Japan in particular, and reach out to European martial arts traditions in general. He is currently residing in the Netherlands chairing the Korean Institute for Martial Arts (KIMA). He has published numerous articles and monographs on martial arts related issues. In addition to being a scholar, he is among the highest ranked practitioners of Sibpalki, a Korean classical martial art and the president of the Dutch Sibpalki Association.
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In this article I explored the dissemination of Japanese swordsmanship to Korea. A series of fight books compiled in Korea, Muyejebo (1598), Muyejebo Beonyeoksokjip (1610) and Muyedobotongji (1790) shows the influence of Japanese fencing. Japanese Kage-ryu was introduced to the Korean military training methods as a form of kata and pattern training of sword combat, which features typical Koreanisation of Japanese fencing. During the 18th century, four different Japanese fencing methods were documented in the Muyedobotongji including Toyu-ryu, Ungwang-ryu, Cheonryu-ryu, and Yupi-ryu. The efforts to introduce Japanese fencing to Korea continued in modern times. Especially during the Japanese Rule (1910-1945) gekkiken and Kendo were introduced to Korea and widely spread. However, after the liberation of Korea, Kendo in Korea encountered harsh criticism from nationalism and anti-Japanese sentiment. In attempts to 'erase' the Japanese signature, Kendo was transformed into a Korean style sword art. Militarism gave birth to Japanese Kendo, nationalism evolved it to Korean Kendo.
How to Cite: Choi, B.K., 2018. Dissemination of Japanese Swordsmanship to Korea. Martial Arts Studies, 6, pp.27–40. DOI:
Published on 23 Jul 2018.
Peer Reviewed


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