Korean Sword Types: A Journey Through Their Historical Uses

korean swords Hwando Jingum Geomjung Kumdo Traditional Korean swords Sword craftsmanship Korean martial arts weapons Sword fighting techniques Korean swordsmanship Korean sword culture


Steeped in history and valor, Korean swords served as both battlefield companions and cultural icons. From the Hwando’s close-quarter dominance to the Unggeom’s versatile swings, these blades evolved alongside Korea’s fighting spirit. Crafted with exceptional ironwork, they defended the nation and graced ceremonies, their legacy echoing in modern martial arts.

Introduction Korean sword:

Swords were a symbol of bravery and the prime weapon of choice for the defense of the country from invaders throughout Korean history. Heroes provided war-time monuments that were impossible to defeat. Korean swords held an indispensable function in the battlefield and at eight occasions alike, i.e. religious ceremonies. The pots ranged from types to designs, thus demonstrating the multiple elements of Korean pottery which Koguryo craftsmen achieved. Surrounded by the traditions of the neighboring countries.  The Korean can differentiate themselves from the other nations as well as exhibiting cultural exchanges to present the individual cultural uniqueness between East Asian nations. Swords were not only weapons of war for Koreans but also the signs of strength and worthiness which personified their courage and the spirit of Korean people in their difficult fight for freedom.

 The exceptional story of the Hwasun People, who symbolized martial tradition as a core cultural component of their society.   And transforming the adversity into resilience, validates the role of martial traditions in the Korean cultural heritage.

Evolution of Korean Swords throughout History:

Evolution of Korean Swords throughout History

The designs of the Korean swords today are a lot different from ancient times.  Which shows that they also changed fencing styles together with the sociocultural trends.  Between 1st century BCE and 7th century CE, the Three Kingdoms Period (数国时期) saw some Chinese cultural elements reflected in the design and materials of swords, with the main purpose being to satisfy the needs of mounted warriors and commanders. The Goryeo Dynasty (918 – 1392) witnessed a heightened focus on cavalry tactics and the development of thrusting techniques, with the emergence of the Hwando as a standard sidearm.

In the subsequent Joseon Dynasty (1392 – 1897), a shift towards a more defensive infantry-based military strategy led to the diversification of sword types, catering to various combat roles such as the Hwando and Unggeom. In the modern era, swords experienced a decline with the rise of firearms, yet ceremonial swords persisted for symbolic purposes, underscoring their enduring cultural significance in Korean society.

Main Types of Korean Swords

Main Types of Korean Swords

Korean swords symbolize a tremendous repository of mastery, skill, and warfare tradition; every type was used on a battleground as well as in ceremonial capacities.  Among these we will examine the main types of Korean swords, with tribute to both the ever popular Hwando and the versatile Geomjung, addressing their distinctive features and historic importance.
Hwando (환도)
Unlike the long-bladed Pojang and Paekchong swords preferred by knights. The Hwando’s short length and single edge made it ideal for foot soldiers, allowing easy handling and use in close-proximity combat scenarios where soldiers faced enemies directly. Its design facilitated quick forward and lateral movements, making it a valuable weapon for engaging enemies effectively.

Unggeom (웅검)

The Unggeom, with its single-edged long blade and adaptable grip, offered soldiers versatility in combat.  Allowing for powerful slashing motions and controlled thrusting attacks. Infantry units relied on the Unggeom for its reliability and effectiveness in various combat scenarios.

Yeodae Do (여태도)

The Yeodae Do, distinguished by its curved guard and short, single-edged blade, was a favored weapon among naval officers for shipboard combat. Its compact design enabled sailors to navigate tight spaces and engage adversaries in close-quarters combat with confidence.

Geomjung (검정)

The Geomjung, with its straight, double-edged blade, offered versatility in both offensive and defensive maneuvers. While less common than curved swords, the Geomjung held symbolic significance in ceremonial contexts, representing the balance of power and justice in Korean society.

Construction and Materials Korean Swords:

Construction and Materials Korean Swords

Korean sword-making relied on special iron and steel techniques, which were super important. They had a unique way of making iron and steel that made their swords extra strong and sharp. A typical sword had different parts: the blade, hilt, guard, and scabbard. The blade cut, and the hilt held. The guard shielded your hand from harm. The scabbard was like a cover for the blade when you weren’t using it. The materials they used and their assembly method influenced the sword’s performance in combat. Stronger swords enabled faster and more powerful swings, while varying shapes and sizes accommodated different fighting techniques. Thus, sword-making techniques significantly impacted warriors’ fighting styles.

Korean Swords vs. Japanese Swords:

In Korean martial arts, the sword goes by names like hwando and jingum, kind of like the Korean version of the Japanese katana. Swords are usually given when the black belt level is reached. In the similar way to Japanese practitioners, Koreans are using jingum, realistic swords. The word shinken is word that means a sharpened katana evenly used in iaido art which exclusively focuses on swords techniques of Japanese. The katanas can be new or old, as the case may be depending on whatever is available. That being said, there would be no sense in practicing Korean and Japanese marital arts if they did not use real swords. In this regard, fighters train with swords so as to acquire great proficiency.

Conclusion Korean Swords:

Korean swords are not just weapons—they’re symbols of bravery and heritage. Throughout history, they defended Korea against invaders and played a big role in ceremonies. Their design and materials were super important, making them strong and sharp. Each part of the sword had a job: blade cuts, hilt holds, guard protects hand.Strong swords could swing faster and hit harder.  while different shapes allowed for different fighting styles. Even today, Korean and Japanese martial arts use real swords for training. On the othere hand,  showing how important these weapons are in their cultures.

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What is Korean sword fighting?

Korean sword fighting is called Kumdo. It’s the art of using the Korean sword in combat. At Sun Bae Korean Martial Arts, you can learn Kumdo and work towards getting your black belt in it. Kumdo training is a lot like how you train in Taekwondo or Hapkido. So, if you’re interested in learning how to use the Korean sword, Kumdo is the way to go, and Sun Bae Korean Martial Arts is a great place to learn it.