Korean Martial Arts

According to Marc Tedeschi, in his mighty volume, Hapkido • Traditions • Philosophy • Technique, “The history of the martial arts is essentially an oral tradition. Very little was actually written down until recent times. When we examine a broad range of martial arts, it becomes quickly evident that much of their history is contradictory. It is not uncommon to find a particular martial art tracing its roots to the “dawn of time.” Specific histories are often touted as fact when they may be little more than anecdotes, or a loose collection of unsubstantiated myths.” This is especially true of Korean martial arts considering that the country is so closely flanked by China and Japan.

Tedeschi claims that the Korean peninsula was first inhabited by nomadic tribes from China, around 30,000 BC. He also says that the descendants of those nomadic people were almost certainly influenced by contact with the Chinese who established outposts in Korea from around 108 BC. Constant wars between the two countries later led to the founding of three Kingdoms in Korea: Koguryo, Silla, and Paekche, from 18 BC. The Three Kingdom Period lasted for nearly 700 years, before they were unified in AD 668. During the Three Kingdom Period it is said that there was much cross-cultural contact and exchange between Korea, China and Japan. It is highly likely, therefore, that the traditions, culture and martial arts practice in each country, also influenced one another to some extent.