Kendo was introduced to Korea
from Japan in 1896 as a form of police and military training. After Japan
outlawed all Korean martial arts, they introduced Japanese martial arts such
as judo and kendo to schools. Its popularity in Korea spread quickly as part
of Korea's first national physical education system. Up until end of the
occupation in 1945, kumdo developed in parallel with kendo.
After the occupation ended, kumdo restructured itself, and the Korean Kumdo
Association was formed in 1947. When the Korean National Sports Festival was
reinstituted in South Korea in 1956, Kumdo was included as an official
The rules and the equipment are almost the same as those of kendo because
the two have only been allowed to diverge since 1945. Kumdo tournaments have
abandoned some elements of Japanese culture, such as the squatting bow
(sonkyo) performed by competing kumsa or kenshi at the beginning and end of
a match. The hogu (호구; 護具), or armor, are often simplified compared to
kendo's bogu. The scoring flags are different as well; blue and white
instead of the red and white found in kendo.
While many practice with the same uniform as kendo, usually indigo-blue,
kumdo practitioners have been willing to change elements of the uniform
including the colour and other modifications. Many wear hakama without a
koshiita and use velcro instead. In particular, the Korean national team
wears white keikogi or dobok with black trim and stripes on their hakama, in
contrast to the all indigo-blue worn by kendo practitioners.
In competition, the main
differences between kendo and kumdo are stylistic. Kumdo practitioners
generally favor a dynamic style of play, focusing on using fast, aggressive,
and effective small motion strikes to create openings for attacks. Kendo
practitioners however, general focus on the perfect single strike, waiting
patiently for an opening and the correct timing to land a decisive attack.
In recent years, with frequent contact between kendo and kumdo stylists
through cross-training and competition, this distinction has somewhat
blurred, as individual practitioners of either kendo and kumdo have
preferred styles of play.