Mar 7, 2006

Korean fencing club aims and scores high at LU

by Hilary Dyer


It’s Saturday afternoon at Liberty University. A few students walk into the Schilling Center to shoot some hoops. They stop in their tracks. It appears that the gym has been taken over by Samurais. Six figures donned in hakamas, wielding swords and shouting, “Muhri! Sommok! Huhri!” are gathered on the basketball court.

It is Kumdo practice. Kumdo is a Korean adaptation of Japanese Kendo. According to the British Kendo Association, Kendo means “way of the sword” and a discipline based upon the techniques of eighth century Japanese warriors. It was introduced to during the Japanese occupation.

Kumdo found its way to Liberty University during the fall semester of 2005. Dr. Brian Melton, a history professor at the university, was involved in Kendo and would occasionally bring his armor into class to show his students. Word spread, and Melton decided it was time to start a club on campus. An announcement was posted on the Liberty Web site.

That’s how Liberty University senior Min Kang became involved. Kang has been practicing Kumdo for 15 years and was on the Junior National Team in . He holds a third degree black belt. Kang joined Melton and is now the Kumdo master. He leads a group of 20 students who practice Kumdo in the Schilling Center two to three times a week.

Six of the 20 are preparing for their first competition. It will take place on March 25 at the World Kumdo Association Midwest Championships in Chicago.

 

Five men, Melton, Min Kang, Azween Donald, Marc Brown and Nathanael Swecker, are competing as a team, while Ahrum Ham will be competing as an individual in the women’s division. Melton will also be testing for his black belt.

 

Kumdo is very different from other sports. Melton describes it as being “like chess with swords.”  It takes tremendous concentration. In order to earn a point, a person must strike one of the three targeted spots (the head, the body and the right wrist), yell the name of the spot they hit in Korean and stomp their foot. The purpose of stomping originates back to the days of the warriors who stomped as they drove the sword through the body. If all three are not completed at once, then the point does not count.

“The key for practicing this is that the yelling, sword and body has to be one. The hit point, yell and body must all occur at once, the three should be one,” Kang said.

Both Melton and Kang emphasized that honor and respect are key elements of Kumdo.

“This sport starts with respect and ends with respect,” said Kang. Each person bows to their opponent before beginning, and again when they are finished. They also frequently tell one another “gamsahapnita,” which is Korean for thank you very much.” Kang said they thank one another because of the risk the other person is taking while combating with swords.

Interested students can still join the Kumdo Club. During the first few months of practice, no armor is necessary, which allows people to try it without having to invest a lot financially. While it is not an intramural or club sport, Melton said they are in the process of making everything official. This requires money however, and Melton said they are in need of funds. They are accepting donations and may also be hosting fundraisers.

Contact Hilary Dyer at hadyer@liberty.edu.
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