Hi, I’m Kota Suzuki. Do you know the theory that kendo originated from Korea? This theory has been suggested by some Korean kendoka, which is discussed among Japanese kendoka. I interviewed a Korean kendoka about this topic before, so I’m going to talk about it. September 2018, the 17th World Kendo Championship had been held. Japan won all the championships: men’s indivisual, men’s team, women’s indivisual, and women’s team. Half a year has already passed since the taikai, The taikai might be hard for Japan because it was held in Korea and Korea is one of the biggest rivals for Japan. I’m proud that they achieved the goals in the hard environment. However, a certain Japanese news program featured the 17th World Kendo Championship, and one Korean kendo teacher said that kendo is originally from Korea, which was discussed among Japanese kendoka. It has been discussed for a long time, but it has not finished yet. Therefore, people are still discussing the topic. Have you ever heard of kumdo? You may have heard that Korean people use the word “kumdo” instead of “kendo.” I’m studying abroad in the United States, and I wanted to practice kendo there because I’ve been practicing kendo for 12 years so far, so I contacted the university to make sure there is a kendo club. And then I found that there is a place to practice kendo, so I was very glad to hear that. However, the email told me that there is a kumdo club, not kendo club. I didn’t know anything about kumdo at that time, so I joined the first practice while I was confused. I imagined that they are completely different things because they have different names, but I thought there is almost no difference between two except terminology when I actually participated in the practice. I was curious about Korean kendo such as the Korean origin theory as well as kumdo, so I was thinking that I wanted to discuss it with Korean kendoka. And, I had an opportunity to interview Korean kendoka who is familiar with Korean kendo circumstances. We talked about the Korean origin claim as well as kumdo, so I would like to share it with you now. I interviewed via email because I didn’t want to misunderstand. I wrote it down on the blog post before, so I’m going to show you the interview content on this video. We communicated in English, so I translated into Japanese. (I have an English article, too.) What I want to tell you is that Korean kendo is a really sensitive topic to discuss, so I want to hide the name of the interviewee, and use the name SH alternatively. As I mentioned in the beginning of this video, there are many different perspectives on the theme. Thus, this is just a perspective of one Korean kendoka, not the representative one. So, let’s go over the interview now! Let’s start to go over the interview. I will go first. “So, let’s get started! First of all, let me introduce myself shortly. I’ve been doing kendo in Japan for twelve years and I have three-dan now. I’m studying abroad in the United States, and participate in the university kumdo club. And I want you to introduce yourself and tell me about your kendo background. I’ve heard that you have a lot of knowledge about kumdo, so when did you start doing kumdo and how long have you done it?” First, I asked him to introduce himself, and his answer is that My name is S.H. I have learned kendo for 18 years and I am 4th dan. Mostly, I have practiced kendo in Korea.
I visited Tokyo to learn and practice kendo three times around ten years ago. He has practiced kendo in Japan. Right now, I am practicing in the kendo club.” Now, I asked a question about the claim that kendo is originated from Korea. “Let’s move on to the next topic that I’d like to discuss with you the most. A few days ago, one of the Japanese TV broadcasts featured the WKC One of the Korean kendo teachers said that kendo is originally from Korea because the sword culture of Korea had an impact on Japan. According to the All Japan Kendo Federation, ‘kendo is a Japanese culture which is from Japanese samurai (bushi) lives. In fact, the sword technique was established all over the world, but kendo which we are precticing is that kendo from the Japanese historical background,’ This statement is on the All Japan Kendo Federation official website “Zenkenren no Kenkai” I put the link of the page below, so please go over if you want. “What do you think about the origin of kendo? Do you agree what he said ‘kendo is from Korea?’ Then, I asked him about the claim that kendo is originated from Korea, and his answer is that “Not at all. I do not know exactly how much Korea affected the Japanese sword culture in the past. However, even if we assume that the influence was great, Kendo should be regarded as Japanese because it is Japan that made kendo equipment, contents (including spirit you mentioned) and rules. As far as I know, most of the experienced Korean kendo players think like me. The people who claim that kendo is Korean are a few Sensei who closely related to the Korean Kumdo association.” I think Korean Kumdo Association is “Daikan Kendokai” that I mentioned in the beginning, but I’m not sure that I write it down in Engliah here. “I see. I’m surprised that most of the Korean kendo players think kendo is from Japan, because I think many Japanese people believe that every Korean misunderstand that. So I hope that is corrected. As you mentioned, Korea has kumdo instead of kendo. Also, this is a popular topic among Japanese kendo players, but why do Korean do kumdo instead of kendo? And do you think there is a difference between two? If so, please tell me the details.” Next, I asked him about Korean kumdo. Here is his answer. “For starter, kumdo is just how we pronounce the Chinese character “kendo.” In case of Judo, we call “Yudo.” So, kumdo is what Korean people pronounce characters “kendo.” In term of content, there are some differences. 1. We use Korean terminology. 2. We use blue/white flags instead of red/white. This is about flags that judges use. 3. We don’t do Sonkyo. 4. We are wearing hakama without Koshi-ita. 5. We do some Korean traditional sword actions in the Dan promotion test. 6. We bow/rei to the national flag instead of Dojo. So, there are differences in form (which is important, of course). However, this difference did not exist from the beginning, but it has gradually changed. 15 years ago, we used usual hakama and when I was a kid, we used a red/white flag. The reason why Koreans do kendo in this way is just because the association has asked us to do so. For instance, we cannot participate in formal tournaments wearing usual hakama. Kumdo didn’t have the current form before, but Korean kendoka just followed what the association asked to do. The fundamental reason to distort history like this is due to the Korean Kendo system and its economy. Unlike in Japan, in Korea, kendo is not that popular and not protected by the police or civil service system. As part of the strategy to increase the market for kendo in Korea, the association has changed kendo. For example, in Korea, only a small number of professional athletes concentrate on kendo, retire later, and run private Kendo Academy. And the main customer of the private dojo is children. If children learn kendo, most Korean parents will send them Taekwondo Academy instead. This can be a quite over-simplified explanation, but I think this is the reason.” “I see. I didn’t tell the difference between two except terminology when I participated in the kumdo club practice for the first time, so that’s more interesting. As you mentioned; Unlike in Japan, in Korea, kendo is not that popular and not protected by the police or civil service system. You mean Korea has a few kendo organizations (such as Dojo or police) because it’s not popular. Is that what you want to say? Here is his answer. “Yes, Korea has a few kendo organizations compared to Japan. There are only dozens of professional teams for men and couples for women. Only few of them can be hired as police officer. So, the Korean kendo system seems to be a little bit different from Japanese one. Most of them run private Dojo later to target amateur. The total Korean Kendo population is around 500,000. But if we count only active people, it will be much lower.” I think Korean kendo is developing a lot, but there seems to be a fewer dojo compared to Japan. “If children learn kendo, most Korean parents will send them Taekwondo Academy instead. I’m not sure about the Korean kendo situation, but you mean if children learn kendo, most parents send them the specific organization because there’s a few kendo opportunity, right?” “Because of the historical issue (Japanese occupation), many Koreans (not everyone) still have some kind of bad feeling to Japan. Therefore, there is a risk of losing a large number of customers if the associations or sensei who run a Dojo admit openly that Kendo is Japanese. One the reasons why some Korean people don’t admit kendo is Japanese is that, because of the historical background that Japan occupied Korea in the past, they have no choice to say that kendo is originated from Korea in order to run their dojo continuously. So, let’s wrap up this interview. So, I want to wrap up this interview. Thank you very much for having it. I’m really happy to discuss the topic. I was able to learn kendo more deeply Lastly, kendo is still not popular in the world. In my opinion, Japan and Korea are the leaders of kendo now, so I hope we work together to promote kendo more and more. Do you have any opinions on the future world kendo?” I asked him the last question. Here is his answer. “Thanks. It was very interesting for me, too. I hope that kendo becomes more widely known and enjoyed by many people in the future. And I hope that Korea will play a positive role in the process. In addition, I would like to apologize that some Koreans have claimed that Kendo is Korean. No matter what the circumstances, I think it is an act that does not respect the other’s culture. Many Korean kendo players, including me, have a critical view of this. I hope that this interview was an opportunity to share the hidden details. That’s all I have for today! He discussed the origin of kendo, but, as I asked you in the beginning, this is just one perspective of a Korean kendoka, not Korean representative opinion. Again, make sure it is one opinion about Korean kendo. I feel I leaned a lot of things that are related to Korean kendo, so it was very interesting for me. About the claim that kendo is originated from Korea, We tend to think it as a whole Korean perspective when we see that on the news as well as social media. I suppose that some people misunderstand about it. He said that many Korean kendoka think kendo is originally from Japan. I hope this video helps you to learn and change the misunderstanding about Korean kendo. Anyway, kendo is still developing in the world. As I told that in the interview, I hope Japan and Korea work together to develop kendo more and more in the world. In this video, I was talking about a part of the interview. We discussed the 17th World Kendo Championship men’s team final Japan versus Korea. If you are interested, please check it out from the link below (I have an English article, too). Thanks for watching! Make sure to give me a thumbs-up and subscribe to my channel! Through watching tbis video, if you have any information or opinion on Korean kendo, please leave comnents below and I want to discuss it! Thanks! See you next time!