The Origins of Hoshinsul
Early Development of Korean Martial Arts
The history of Korean martial arts dates back to prehistory, when local families and clans on the Korean peninsula began developing techniques to protect themselves from animals and invaders. These so-called tribal or familial martial arts, or Sa Do Mu Sool, were passed down from one generation to the next within the family or clan. These techniques were known to exist before the first unified Korean kingdom of Ko Cho Sun (Old Chosun; also spelled Joseon) was founded in 2333 BC. Later on, the techniques were expanded and distributed more widely by local militias in an effort to defend their villages.
By the time of the Three Kingdoms (57 BC to 668 AD), it was primarily Buddhist monks who continued developing and spreading Korea’s martial arts. The monks developed internal techniques, such as breathing exercises, to help them in their meditation and external (self-defense) techniques to protect them when they traveled. The techniques they developed came to be called Bool kyo Mu Sool. Some of the monks were so proficient at what they did that they were called on in times of national emergency to join the militia to defend their country. Their methods and philosophies eventually spread to noblemen and people from the upper classes, who would secretly practice these fighting skills, taking care to keep their knowledge from the lower classes.
Another aspect of Korean martial arts was developed in its royal court, giving rise to Koong Joon Mu Sool (Royal Court Martial Arts). Many items - such as sashes, fans, canes and short swords - were routinely worn or used by members of the court. They were eventually developed into effective weapons in the context of martial arts.
It was a combination of martial arts from these three sources - tribal/familial tradition, Buddhist monks, and the Korean Royal Court - that eventually gave rise to modern Hoshinsul.