A direct translation of "Gumdo" is "the way of the sword" The art of the sword in Korea evolved from a martial art heritage reaching back more than three thousand years to the time of the Bronze Age.  Archeological records indicate that the sword and its art were a part of daily life in Korean antiquity to defend territorial hold extending from Manchuria to Korean peninsula and early settlements in the Japanese main island.

About two thousand years ago at the time of the early Three Kingdoms period, the unique sword techniques called "Bon Gook Gum Bup" or "Native Sword," were developed by Shilla's Hwa Rang warriors. The Three Kingdoms period marks a contentious period in which Koguryo, Paekche, and Shilla were in contention with each other and the Han Chinese for control of East Asia.  Warriors in this period and the following Unified Shilla, Palhae, and Koryo Dynastic periods were known to be sword-bearing and to conduct their daily lives with strictly disciplined and moral manners. For every warrior the moral code was strict, but the discipline was stricter for those cherished honor above everything.

Many good examples of the warrior culture can be found in the Palhae and Koryo Dynastic periods from the 7th to 15th century. In particular, the Palhae Dynasty was found and ruled by the former Koguryo warrior class after the fall of Koguryo in 668 A.D. With the art of the sword and the disciplined warrior's sprite, Palhae was successful to conquer and to extend their territory from the Sungari and Amur rivers in northern Manchuria all the way down to the northern provinces of modern Korea at the first half of the 9th century, in the height of its power.

At the beginning of the Choson Dynasty in the 15th century following the fall of the Koryo Dynasty, some 500 years after the fall of the Unified Shilla and Palhae, the political and ideological foundations changed dramatically. These changes brought the elimination of the warrior class and their power bases in private soldiers. Thus, gradually, the art of the sword was limited to the state military which was regraded as inferior to scholars. Until the end of Choson Dynasty, the art was practiced and taught mostly by individuals in the state military who refined and developed the art under the name of "Ghihuck-Gum."


In 1896 during the era of modernization, the art of the sword, also known as "Ghihuck-Gum," was selected as a mandatory training requirement for the newly established police academy. From there on, Gumdo, the modern amalgamation of "the art of the sword" and "the way of righteousness" from the Taoist philosophy, was developed to be practiced by some as a sport and by others as a means of character development or spiritual refinement.

By the early 20th century, Gumdo training had adopted and utilized a practice weapon made of bamboo and lightweight armor that had been developed by the Japanese. This method of practice largely replaced the earlier, more dangerous, methods of training. Yet, the Gumdo popularity had been limited until early 1960 when the practice armor could be mass produced with the latest materials. When Gumdo equipments became easily available and affordable, the Gumdo population started to grow rapidly. Gumdo became no longer the martial art of the selected few.

Gumdo is both a physically and mentally demanding martial art. A Gumdo bout with a skilled opponent is an intense experience. For a moment, as one opponent faces another, concentration is absolute, conscious thought is suppressed, and action is instinctive. Such training develops the power of resolution and endurance under pressure which frequently affects Gumdo students' lives beyond the confines of the training hall.