Haidong Gumdo: the beginning

My journey into the martial arts world was nothing spectacular or any point of enlightenment, mine started as a 13 year old overweight boy wanting to do a bit of exercise and do something cool; and what better way than to wave a sword around in a skirt?

I (left if you haven’t seen me before) also dragged my cousin (right) into it: who (for the record) also quit

Haidong Gumdo is a Korean martial art focused with sword fighting (“gumdo/Kumdo” and “Kendo” both mean “the way of the sword” except one’s the korean pronunciation and one’s Japanese). The basic breakdown of it is it’s very similar to its traditional Japanese counterpart (and I don’t mean the “I keep slapping your head” type), though what I gathered has a greater focus in wide arch slices for multiple opponents and some differences in the stances; but they still use the Japanese style swords and the forms have the same type of movements. I’ll just leave out the history of the art simply because there’s just a lack of legitimate evidence of its origins and development.

Haidong Gumdo is a very simplistic martial art (not saying this in a bad way), the techniques are very direct and allows for a lot of freedom in terms of attacking angle and defending area. With that said there also isn’t that much to really learn, and it’s mainly just developing the skills to use them and training. I often have people tell me that the stances (especially the short stance: basically your usual long stance but you tuck your back leg in so that the knee is directly below you and your front knee is in front of your hip..) will screw up your legs, but I reckon that does the art injustice: the stances can seem awkward, but if you have the calibration of your hip and trunk the movements are ergonomically fine. One point that I think should be emphasized is that these movements are designed to support the SWORD, so you wont have the same balance or dynamics of the body as your average combat type martial arts.

I never really had many problems with the art itself, I left mainly due to the whole McDojo phenomenon happening, i.e. the head instructor (who was actually very good) pretty much stopped teaching and the classes just became systematically the same everyday mainly comprising of workouts; the fees were at a ridiculous level (fuck I paid like $450 [something like that, it’s a sum that people will slap me for anyway] for my blackbelt, and this didn’t include my sword..); and pretty much anyone who grades gains a level, and this happened every 1.5 months till you get to the grade just below 1st dan (I know some people that make it to BB in a year…), so we had have an overflow of posers and kiddy black belts, and a bunch of people that were teaching me that I would probably easily take down in a fight. Finally the most disappointing part of the training is that there’s no sparring (if you want to refer to the pictures in this post, they we pre-rehearsed fighting sequences), so I don’t even get the chance to prove my point… so all these factors simply just forced me to leave.

However I am definitely happy that I joined the club: it got me fitter (the training there is still the toughest I’ve experienced), gave me a better understanding of myself, and some of the skills and techniques I still use in my own training (and I actually still practice, just not as often as I should). Well, that’s my summary of my Haidong Gumdo experience that lasted for over 5 years (more on my old blog if you want to flick through some entries), some of it was frustrating but most of it was fun. For those that do Haidong Gumdo out there, I will once again state here that I am not meaning to insult or degrade the art, I have just simply moved on… to things that are more practical (trust me, you won’t get that many chances to swing a samurai sword around when you go out). I also further reemphasize it was some of the PEOPLE and clubs I had issues with (and taken into account how many people leave after black belt, I know I’m not alone…).

[Those people that I’ve complained about above, if you know who you are: go kill yourself, you’re an insult to humanity and degrade all those that deserve the title of a martial artist. If you are as incompetent enough as to be incapable of suicide: leave me a message and I’ll lend a hand. If you’re not sure if I’m talking about you: leave me a message and I’ll lend a hand…]


Random picture of the day: homosexual prostitution market at depression

[taken in the University of Queensland refectory]


11 Responses to “Haidong Gumdo: the beginning”

  1. Raymond Lam Says:

    Aw poo, you have officially more photos of yourself on your blog than I do…

    I am glad martial arts always helps a person learn about herself, if nothing more, it should offer at least this much. But the practicality has always been an issue in modern circles of martial artists.

  2. Training in self-defense, particularly in martial arts, as I have always believed in, will most likely develop ones self-discipline and will bring one closer to himself. The trainee may never really fully learn all the self-defense techniques he is supposed to learn but just like what Raymond said, it should offer at least a personal discovery about oneself, which, I think, is one of the most valuable things that martial arts can do to a person.

    There may be a lot of different fighting styles and self-defense strategies but discovering your own strengths and limitations, your untapped skills, and developing your self-discipline and self-confidence will definitely help in beating your opponent regardless of what fighting technique you use.

  3. Haidong Kevin,
    I happened upon your blog when I did a search for Haidong Gumdo. Please visit my website and learn about me and the book I just published.


  4. Chi of HDGD Says:

    hEY KEVIN, long time no see. what’s up with the blog man? anything i should know? sounds like one of the posers you’re tlaking about is me. haha. on another note.. martial arts is a way of dicipline and better self. Gumdo may have gone of track.. but it’s mainly due to everyone as a whole. we didn’t stick together and things fell apart. but hopefully that’s going to change soon. for the record, i’ll probably be back to training soon. let me know of any issues and hopefully we could help create a better Gumdo. everyone’s opinion and experience will be a great asset to Gumdo.

    • freakychinaman Says:

      Hi Chi, nice to hear from you again. I haven’t been training for Gumdo in like 2 years, only vaguely remember the patterns. And the only person I ever bump into from back then is Michael… and that’s at Uni or clubs πŸ˜› I’ve been doing karate at UQ since I left, and the things I’ve learnt here have taught me a lot about what we could’ve changed in our training and interpretations of movements.
      But as I’ve said, I haven’t been training for it for a while and I haven’t gone to the centre, so I can’t comment on its current state. Good luck and have fun with your training.

  5. Hey Keven,

    You put all that quite well. It’s a shame that politics, ill management and money grabbers made the art degrade to such a degree. I very much enjoyed haidong gumdo and is saddened me to see the hierarchic allow there inability’s to defecate over the art.

    • freakychinaman Says:

      It’s a phenomenon you get in the majority of places now, particularly in western countries where the people aren’t as familiar to the arts as the locals that grew up with it, and it’s easier for people with less skill to get away with it. However I think the fundamental problem in martial arts teachings now is the change in the relationship between the master and the student. Back in the day the master had a lot more authority over the student, and the student won’t complain about a few bruised knuckles; nowadays the student is more like a customer: you make sure he has a good time, doesn’t kill himself, and if he ends up in hospital be prepared for a lawsuit and tons of paperwork for the insurance.
      The students also have more commitments now and a lot less time to train, so inevitably you can’t do things like stay in stance for 4 hours; so the training becomes more condensed and you lose a lot of quality.

      So the phenomenon is understandable but not quite acceptable. You may lower your expectations but you still can’t lower your standards; in other words: you can expect your student to suck, but you don’t give him a lolly just for trying (I mean… if everyone got good grades at school just for putting in effort, we won’t have the standard curve…), and you shouldn’t drag the level of training down to make it easier for the student, people don’t improve that way, they just become deluded.

  6. samurang Says:

    are you serious?!!! first Haidong Gumdo and Haidong kumdo are different artial marts! kumdo is a bad copy, and in GUMDO always have SPARRING, maybe your MAster didn’t want to make it, but is necessary to do it. so please like a “Black Belt” you say that you are , don’t make bad commentaries about this EXCELLENT MARTIAL ART.

    • freakychinaman Says:

      First of all thanks for the enlightenment about the fact that two martial arts that have the same Korean spelling and pronunciation to be separate martial arts.

      I’m not sure if you really read the post or you just skimmed to bolded words, but I never really made comments about the art, in fact I think I was saying good things about it, most of my comments were about the club.

      Finally, why is it that a black belt can’t make a bad comment about the art they practice? Every form of art has its weaknesses and it is in fact a duty for one to be critical about what they train in.

      Anyways, Cheers~

  7. When I read your blog, I have to admit there are some truth to it. Today the profileration of the Mc Dojo and the scariest part is the youtube. Too many practitioners of HDGD which were not to the standard putting their videos in the tube ! I wish the federation is doing something about it and better quality control of blackbelt issuing dojang. I am a practitioner of HDGD since 2004 and still practising to this day. I have also to agree though HDGD can offer tough training in their basic stances but yet there is still a simplicity within the system.

    I am also want to point out if any HDGD instructor stops ” teaching ” and only let the class runs as a workout class then students will likely leave because they can take their time and money for less and join a gym instead. However , at the same time, this problem lies in the application of the gumbup itself. There are two things , Gumbup as always executed as series of movements but it must not omit the structured breathing in tandem with the execution of the gumbup. Too many times, I saw practitioners missed the point many times especially in youtube. Absence of proper breathing , it will make the gumbup like artsy dancing. The second one, free sparring is needed to translate those gumbup , into sparring skills.

    I am still practising and I am still working on what I had posted in the above. All the best to you in your martial art journey

  8. "Instructor" Chi Says:

    Hi Kevin. How are you doing mate? Sounds similar to the many stories I’ve heard. Am I one of the ‘posers’ you’re talking about? Hahaha. It’s ok if you thought so. I probably was πŸ™‚ on another note, it’s sad to see the club fall apart. I left quite a while ago. It was different when I was training. But things did eventually spiral downhill which led to my decision to also leave. It was once an honor to put on the uniform and wield the sword each lesson. So it really is disappointing to see where Haidong of today is compared to Haidong of 5 years ago. It should’ve been an obvious trend as the Haidong from 5 years ago was definitely no where quite the standard of 5 years prior to that.

    Overall, many of us understand where you’re at with this post. However, I believe each and everyone of us is also to blame. We all trained for a long time there but I don’t believe many of us really held a real passion for it. If we did? We would’ve stood up to the challenges and help turn it around. Even if it requires to go under a different code or association. As the passion would’ve been for the art itself but instead, we judged and left purely due to management. I still believe there’s still good in the art. But it’s all of the past. Great to see you’ve all grown up. I haven’t seen you since I left, but I can see the maturity through your post. Wishing you all the best on any future endeavour.


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