Illustration of kwonbup practitioners from the muyedobotongji.png
Gwonbeop is a system of unarmed methods in Korean martial arts which was developed during the Joseon era (15th to 19th centuries). It is the Korean rendition of the Chinese quan fa (拳法).

Destruction of the Korean palace and its libraries in 1126 and the 1231 Mongol invasion and domination of Korea (Yuan dynasty, 1231-1356) eliminated Korea's prior literary history, and no first-hand accounts of the origins of gwonbeop are extant. In 1145, King Injong (r. 1112-1146) ordered Confucian scholar Kim Bu-sik to compile the Samguk Sagi (History of the Three Kingdoms). About a century later a Buddhist monk, Iryeon, compiled the Samguk Yusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms). According to both works, militancy between and among the three major states during the Three Kingdoms Period (37 BC–660 AD) resulted in each state developing an institution for training warriors. Although the term gwonbeop was not used, cadets of the Pyong Dang (educational institute) in Goguryeo learned punches and kicks (ji leu ki beop); cadets in Silla learned chil kuk (kicks) and soo bak (punches). In Baekje, open-handed fighting (soo sool) was included in the training. Consolidation of the Korean peninsula under Silla in 668 enhanced its approach to hand-to-hand combat. Infrequent references to soo bak indicate that contests in unarmed combat, often with wagering by the audience, were held on holidays and other special occasions until the invasion of Korea by the Mongols (1231–1392).

With the end of Mongol dominance, incursions by wa-ko (coastal raiding forces of mixed nationalities) inspired the Korean administration to rebuild the Korean military; however, its efforts were undercut by a neo-Confucianism which deprecated militarism in favor of leadership by scholars and bureaucrats. Korea was unprepared for the 1591 invasion by Japanese armies intent on using Korea as a springboard to conquer China. Known as the Imjin Waerum, the Japanese advance overran the Korean army and was stopped only by the Ming army and Koreans who formed "righteous armies" (uibyeong, 위병). In September 1593, King Seonjo of Joseon (1567-1608) established the Hunlyun Dokam (Royal Military Training Agency). With the encouragement of Ming general Liu T’ing, Korean prime minister Yu Song-Nyong tried to reorganize the Korean army into a structured, versatile organization. His reference for this effort was Jin Xiao Shin Shu (Manual of New Military Tactics), written by Qi Jiguang (1528-1588) and published in 1567. Chapter 14 of the manual described 32 methods of hand-to-hand combat; although Qi wrote that they were of little use on the battlefield, they improved his soldiers' confidence and conditioning. These 32 methods, gleaned from an examination of 16 major fighting systems in Ming China, were recorded in 32 short poems.

After the end of hostilities in 1598, the Korean government wanted to record useful material from General Qi's manual instead of adopting it in its entirety. The Muyejebo (무예제보 속집, 武藝諸譜續集, Compendium of Several Martial Arts) was published in 1610. Commissioned by King Seonjo, the manual was compiled by military officer Han Kyo and contained six fighting methods: kon bong (long staff), dung pae (shield), nang sun (multi-tipped spear), jang chang (long spear), dang pa (triple-tip spear) and ssang soo do (two-handed saber). Four volumes of a Japanese martial-arts manual were added, leading to the compilation of the Muyejebo Beonyeoksokjip (무예제보번역속집, 武藝諸譜飜譯續集) the same year. The latter included about 30 methods of unarmed combat.

During the reign of King Yeongjo of Joseon (1694-1776), the Muyejebo was revised and supplemented with 12 additional fighting methods by Crown Prince Sado. A modified form of gwonbeop reappeared in this work. The revision, the Muyesinbo (무예신보, 武藝新譜, New Compendium of Martial Arts), was published in 1759.

During the reign of King Jeongjo of Joseon (1752-1800), the Muyesinbo was revised by Park Je-ga and Lee Duk-moo beginning in 1790. With six additional fighting skills, the "new" methods were little more than ground methods modified for mounted execution; gwonbeop was also further modified with the addition of two-party moves. Although the material was intended to reflect neo-Confucianism by having partners use methods which would produce a stalemate (rather than victory), it rapidly fell into disuse due to its lack of practical combat effectiveness. The Muyedobotongji (무예도보통지, 武藝圖譜通志, Comprehensive Illustrated Manual of Martial Arts) was published in 1795.

This page was last edited on 7 February 2018, at 16:10.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

Related Topics

Recently Viewed