Korean Swords - Types


Traditionally there are about fifteen types of Korean swords with some better known than others.

Elements of the Korean sword include: geomjip or scabbard, most often of lacquer; hyuljo or fuller (most genuine Korean swords didn't have a fuller); hwando magi or collar; ho in or collar; kodeungi or hand guard; a ring-design pommel; tassels; a round and wide designed sword guard, or a straight lotus design.

As well there are practice wooden swords (mokgeom), metal swords (shingeom) and practical swords (Jingeom); the list would include:

  • Yedo (예도; 銳刀) This sword is generally a single edged saber ranging from 3 to 4 feet (1.2 m).
  • Geom (검; 劍) Literally 'sword'. This term is usually used for double edged swords, but its also used for single edged swords. Today, many people would use the terminology 'kal'.
  • Haedong jingeom (해동진검; 海東劍) This literally means 'East Asian Practical Sword'. It is a newly used terminology that is used for today's practical Korean swords.
  • Samgakdo (삼각도; 三角刀) The samgakdo, is also a recently used terminology for swords used for mat cutting. The cross section of the sword is triangular in shape; hence the name Samgakdo (which means 3 sided sword).
  • Ssangdo or Ssanggeom (쌍도; 雙刀; 쌍검: 雙劍) This literally means "Twin Swords." It can vary from twin long swords or twin short swords. These techniques can also be used on Horseback as 'Masang ssanggeom'. The Korean cavalry was famous for using Twin Sword techniques on horseback, while balancing on the horse with grace.
  • Samjeongdo (삼정도; 三正刀) the sword given to newly promoted Korean military generals each year by the Ministry of National Defense.
  • Woldo (월도; 月刀) This is a large crescent blade that is a variant of the Kwan Dao (官刀) of China. Literally translated as 'Moon Blade'.
  • Danwoldo: This is an even larger crescent blade that is actually more of a sword than a polearm. About half of the weapon was pure metal and the other half was the handle of the sword. The blade was about 3 feet (0.91 m) long and about a foot wide. Literally translated as 'The Great Moon Blade'.
  • Hyeopdo (협도; 俠刀) This is also a large crescent blade that is similar to the 'Pudao' but wider and thicker. A tassle attached to the end of the blade.
  • Jedok geom: This sword was used by generals and other high-ranking officials of the Korean kingdoms. The sword was usually about 5–6 feet tall and single edged. The sword was also straight and wielded with one or two hands.
  • Ssangsudo (쌍수도; 雙手刀) This is a single edged long sword that varied from 5 to 7 feet (2.1 m). Its name means 'Two-handed sword'
  • Sainchamsageom: This sword's name literally means 'Great Four Tiger Sword'. This is a ceremonial sword that is used for demon slaying and Shamanistic rituals. At times, these swords were also used in combat.

The In Geom (Tiger Swords) were usually of the same designs but of different strengths. They were all made according to the Year, Month, Week, Day, or Hour of the Tiger.

  • Samingeom: Literally translated to 'Three Tiger Sword'.
  • I-ingeom: Literally translated to 'Two Tiger Sword'.
  • Chilseonggeom (칠성검; 七星劍) This sword is a single edged or double sword that Buddhist practitioners used. Many of these swords had constellation engravings on the blades (usually the Big Dipper).
  • Yongbunggeom: This is a Baekje Kingdom sword. The sword is single edged and straight. There is also a distinctively large ring pommel held on the bottom section of the sword handle.
  • Ssangyunggeom: These are two twin swords that is held with one sheath. The sheath is twice as wide because it needs room for the second sword. The sword's length varies from three to four feet. Usually these swords were double edged and made entirely of Iron (including the sheath).
  • Bulsaegeom: This sword is pretty similar to the length and design of the Sainchamsagum. The difference is that the sword is made with less complex features.
  • Janggeom (장검; 長劍): Literally means "long Sword".
  • Hwando (환도): This is a single edged short sword that was strictly used with one hand. This was a common side arm for many soldiers during the Joseon era.
  • Hwandudaedo (환두대도; 環頭大刀): This sword is a type of single edged sword used during the three kingdoms area. It is known for having a ring pommel and being single or double edged. Most swords during this time was semi-uniform in nature and many martial arts practitioners tend to recognize this weapon as a "Genuine Korean Sword". The Hwandudaedo may have some connection to the Japanese straight swords (tsurugi) and the Chinese Jian.
  • Unggeom (웅검): This is a single edged long sword that was used with one or two hands. This was another common side arm for many soldiers during the Joseon era.
  • Seven-Branched Sword: This sword had seven blades protruding out of it. This was a sword forged in Baekjae in the order of the king. There is a theory that this is a sword that was to be a gift presented to the emperor of Japan. There was no handle found for the blade nor was there a swordsheath found for it while it was being excavated. Other scholars say that this weapon is heavy and it was definitely used with two hands. They say that the sword is extremely sturdy, and because of the protruding blades, it is extremely hard to break.
  • For martial arts students learning sword forms or Geombeop/Geomsul practice wood swords or mokgeom are most often used; then those made out of carbonized bamboo or Juk-do; lastly compression sponge, single or double-edged, with or without blood grooves. Combinations of sword and knife fighting would use plastic blades.

Read more about this topic:  Korean Swords

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