What is Korean Traditional Archery?

Korean Traditional Archery is a unique form of archery practiced only on the Korean penninsula. It is the evolution and result of many unique individual  influences which have occured in the country's history, and which have formed the backdrop for archery's modern use. Rather than focusing on practical use for hunting or as a combat weapon, Korean Traditional Archery is practiced as a martial art primarily for the training of social etiquitte within Korean society, and secondarily as a source of physical exercise. Similar to Korean Taekwondo, lessons focus on the importance of self-discipline and a meaningful relationship of respect between teacher and student.

In order to understand Korean Traditional Archery more completely, students need a basic understanding of the political and military history of Korea, in which are contained the important influences of Chinese Confucianism and use of the bow as a training method for Korea's military elite. Confucianism has had an important and lasting role in the structure of Korean society and its government for hundreds of years, and its influence on archery is no less important. Many of the operating precepts and behaviors in Korean Traditional Archery reflect what Confucius himself is recorded to have said about archery, making the origins of KTA thousands of years old!

Other influences upon Korean Traditional Archery are more modern, and include the Japanese occupation of the early 20th century. During this period, Korean archery underwent subtle yet evident change due to the Japanese. The name itself, goongdo, is an excellent example. Both names are taken from the Chinese characters which can be interpreted in English as 'the way of the bow.' Prior to the Japanese invasion of Korea, archery was more commonly referred to as Hwal soh gi, which can be interpreted as 'the practice of shooting the bow' and is taken from different Chinese characters.

Other examples of Korean Traditional Archery's dual nature of modernity and antiquity can be found in an excellent English essay on the sport which has been written by Colonel Kim Ki-hoon. This is a link to the essay.