The term Gwon Beop (Kwon Bop, Gwonbeop) is used in several different ways.
- Historically, the term refers to unarmed Korean martial arts as developed during the Joseon era (15th to 19th centuries C.E.).
- The term is also sometimes used to refer to unarmed martial arts generally.
- In modern usage, the term Gwon Beop (like the term Kong Soo Do) may also refer to the Korean version of karate, as practiced by the original kwans.
The term Gwon Beop is the Korean rendition of the Chinese Quan fa (拳法).
Destruction of the Korean palace and its libraries in 1126 C.E. has eliminated any literary history of Korea prior to that time. As a result no first-hand accounts of the origins of Gwon Beop. However, in 1145, King Injong (r. 1112-1146) ordered a Confucian Scholar, KIM Bu-sik, to compile Sam Kuk Sagi (lit. "History of the Three Kingdoms"). Some 100 years later a Buddhist monk, Iryeon, compiled the Sam Kuk Yusa (lit.: "Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms"). Both works indicate that militant attitudes between and among the three major States of the Three Kingdoms Period (37 BCE - 660 AD) resulted in each nation developing an institution for training its warriors in Military Science. While the term Gwon Beop was not used, cadets of the Pyong Dang ("educational institute") in the Goguryeo kingdom learned punching, strikes and kicks (K. Ji Leu Ki Beop), while cadets of the Silla Kingdom learned Chil Kuk (kicks) and Soo Bak (punches and strikes). In the Kingdom of Baekje, "empty-hand fighting" (K. Soo Sool) was included in the training. Consolidation of the Korean peninsula under Silla in 668 enhanced the Silla approach to hand-to-hand combat over its neighbors, though continued and repeated conflicts provided opportunity to refine and enhance the material. Infrequent references to Soo Bak contests indicates that contests in unarmed combat, often with considerable wagering by the audience, occurred on holidays and other special occasions up until the invasion and dominance of Korea by Mongols (1231 - 1392). See Wikipedia for additional detail.
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