Kendo vs. Kumdo: Key Differences


Kendo vs Kumdo lg

Kendo and Kumdo are almost identical martial art styles, at least to the untrained eye. But how do they differ from each other? Let’s explore Kendo vs. Kumdo.

Kendo is Japanese fencing whereas Kumdo is Korean fencing. They differ in that Kendo is more strategic as practitioners seek the “perfect strike.” Kumdo, on the other hand, is more aggressive in nature, as practitioners proactively draw out their opponents.

But there’s a lot more to know. Read on.

In the article, we’ll check out whether Kumdo is Korean and how a Kumdo sword differs from a Kendo sword. But we’ll also find out if Kendo is the same as Kenjutsu. And, we’ll explore the key differences between both forms of fencing.

Let the fun begin.

Is Kumdo Korean?

Yes, Kumdo is Korean. But it’s derived from Kendo, a Japanese martial art form. In the late 1800s, Kendo was introduced to Korea by the Japanese as one of the ways to train the police. But in time, it morphed into Kumdo, a Korean art form with a distinctive flavor that makes it different from its ancestor.

It involves the use of practice swords and protective armor in one-versus-many contests (a person fighting with multiple opponents). Something that’s an approximation of what really happens on a battlefield.

Kumdo (Gumdo) means “the way of the sword”.

It’s a reflection of its ancestry because that’s what Kendo means in Japanese. But Kumdo has grown so much that it’s now a generic label for all Korean martial arts that relate to swordsmanship.

In other words, Kumdo is a Korean version of Kendo.

This became a reality because, in the early 1900s, Korea was subject to some form of Japanese control such that when Kendo became a compulsory subject in Japanese schools, a similar thing occurred with Kumdo. It became mandatory in Korean schools.

Naturally, as time went on, Kumdo’s acquired a flavor that’s Korean.

The terms used are Korean, its ranking is a tad different from Kendo’s, and it’s also dominated by the spiritual hue that’s common to other Korean martial arts.

Now, it’s good to know that there are those who do not agree that Kumdo is a Japanese import. They claim that it’s an ancient Korean art form.

But the similarities between both Kumdo and Kendo and historical records do not lend credence to this different “origin story.” Both are so similar that Kumdo practitioners often participate in Kendo contests!

How does Kendo differ from fencing?

In a recent article of mine, I looked at the crucial differences between Kendo and fencing. I explored Kendo in relation to sword fighting and whether it’s ideal for self-defense. But I also covered the one huge difference between the two.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How does a Kumdo sword differ from a Kendo sword?

Kumdo swords are thinner and wider than Kendo swords. Of course, this may vary from sword to sword. But apart from this difference, both almost always share a similar-sized hilt, curved blade, and a single edge. And they are made with bamboo to prevent injuries and fatalities.

It’s Kumdo swords that are shaped to have thinner and wider blades. Some folks also say that they are a bit lighter than their Kendo cousins.

And considering that Kumdo practitioners can and do participate in Kendo contests, it stands to reason that the equipment used (swords and armor) cannot be substantially different from each other, right?

Both swords are made from light bamboo.

But in the advanced stages of Kumdo, a steel blade is used in some schools. Of course, this presupposes that the student has attained a high level of proficiency before this is allowed.

Judo is another popular Japanese martial art. Have you ever wondered how it compares with Kendo? 

I’ve got you covered if you have. In a recent article, I looked at why Kendo was banned and whether Judo is better than Jiu-Jitsu. But I also explored whether Judo is harder to learn than Kendo. While they may look very different, there is 1 thing they have in common.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is Kendo the same as Kenjutsu?

No, Kendo is not the same as Kenjutsu. Kenjutsu is swordsmanship, while Kendo is Japanese fencing. There are similarities, but the goal in Kenjutsu is how to maim or kill an opponent. Kendo, on the other hand, is a sport where the goal is self-discipline and personal development.

Kenjutsu originated with the Samurai, the ancient Japanese warrior class.

So, it’s understandable that its aim differs from that of Kendo, which is a modern art form. Kenjutsu is an umbrella term for all forms of Japanese swordsmanship, while Kendo is one singular form.

Kenjutsu, understandably, is no longer practiced in modern times.

After all, one can’t walk down the street armed with swords anymore. But some of its forms have been incorporated into Kendo and Iaido. It’s essentially the methods, techniques, and art of Japanese swordsmanship, while Kendo is the way of the sword.

You’ve probably heard of laido and may be wondering how it differs from Kendo.

In a recent article, I spoke to the crucial differences. I looked at whether Kendo is practiced with a real sword and how the rules of Kendo differ from that of Iaido. But I also revealed the truth about whether Iaido is good for self-defense.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What is the origin of Kumdo?

Kumdo is from Korea but was taken directly from Japanese Kendo. They are practically the same except for a few minor differences. 

In fact, they are so similar that a Kumdo practitioner can train with Kendo practitioners and participate in Kendo contests. Kumdo is a Japanese import because Korea was once occupied by the Japanese.

In 1895, Dai Nippon Butoku Kai, an organization for the preservation of old Japanese martial arts, was established.

A year later, a branch was set up in Korea. And Kendo was introduced as one of the ways to train the police. In time, Japanese Kendo would morph slightly, acquiring a Korean flavor. By 1927, it was also being taught in junior high schools.

In time, it would become a highly regarded martial art in Korea.

There’s an alternative history that suggests that Kumdo has been a Korean martial art for 2000 years. This is doubtful when one considers its striking similarity to Japanese Kendo and Korean history of occupation.

What is the actual difference between Kumdo and Kendo?

A key difference between Kumdo and Kendo is that Kumdo involves one person contesting with multiple partners, while Kendo involves one person fighting another single opponent.

One could argue that Kumdo is a more realistic art form because real fights are often weird that way: You have to fight more than one person at a time.

In addition to the above, the Kendo practitioner is more efficient in that they’re not simply “fighting.” They’re actually calculating as they study their opponent and are waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

Kumdo practitioners, on the other hand, show more aggression and are more proactive.

They employ feints, for example, to draw out the opponent and create opportunities to trounce them.

Bamboo swords are employed in both art forms, but at the advanced level, Kumdo practitioners get to use real blades to learn drawing and cutting techniques.

Conclusion

In the article, we explored the differences between Kumdo and Kendo.

We looked at whether Kumdo is Korean and how the sword used differs from the one used in Kendo.

But we also explored whether Kendo is the same as Kenjutsu. Then, we looked at the origin of Kumdo. Lastly, we wrapped things up by looking at the actual difference between Kumdo and Kendo.


Photo which requires attribution:

IMG_2265 by Charles Gallagher is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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