Tour Through Time: Stop 30: Jeju Island

68 miles later and we arrive in our final destination for our Tour Through Time on Jeju Island. It’s been a tough but fun 17 months; we have travelled a total of 2,458 miles and learnt a lot about the history behind our Tae Kwon-Do pattern meanings. We initially had planned to cover the distance with running, cycling and walking, but quickly favoured running, covering a whopping 72% of our distance (1,781 miles) in our trusty running shoes through every weather condition the UK could throw at us. We’ve slipped on ice, burnt in the sun, been pelted with hail, and sheltered under trees from sudden torrential downpours, but we are finally here, and what a journey it has been!

We finish our journey with the creation of Tae Kwon-Do, and the first ever pattern created for the art, pattern Hwa Rang. The 29 movements of Hwa Rang represent the 29th Infantry Division, which was formed here on Jeju Island in September 1953 under the command of General Choi Hong Hi. A monument was erected here to commemorate the formation of the division, comprising of a triangular pillar on a square base, Hanja text on the sides to inspire the soldiers, (reading “Cultivating Physical Strength”, “Strengthening Fighting Spirit” and “Absolutely Devoted to Training and Cultivation”), with the fist emblem of the division adorning the top. During the day the soldiers trained in Karate (which General Choi later developed into Tae Kwon-Do) but at night they were schooled in literacy very much like the Hwa Rang Warriors of ancient Silla. The Hwa Rang were most likely Choi’s inspiration behind the 29th Infantry Division, and what an inspiration they were.

The Hwa Rang are well known as an elite group of warriors from the Silla Dynasty, similar to the Japanese Samurai but some 500 years prior, and have already been mentioned in our tour. At our stop at the Bunhwangsa Temple we discussed how the Buddhist monk Won Hyo had been a member of the Hwa Rang. Kim Yoo Sin had also been a member of the Hwa Rang, and at our stop at the battle site of Hwangsanbeol in Nonsan Si where he fought Ge Baek, we spoke about how a Hwa Rang warrior, Kwan Chan, had been sent into the Baekje camp to assassinate Ge Baek, killing his 2nd in command with a flying kick to the head, knocking him off his horse. Kwan Chan’s bravery was so impressive that even though he was caught and executed, his body was returned to his father as a sign of respect. With all this in mind it’s hard to believe that the Hwa Rang group actually originated from two groups of beautiful women, the “Won Hwa” (“Original Flowers”), led by Nam-Mo and Jun-Jeong. The groups were disbanded following a bitter rivalry and murder, but reinstated as the “Hwa Nang” (“Flower Girls”) by the King of Silla, interestingly as a group of young boys of good character from good families.

The Hwa Rang warriors lived by the “Five Commandments for Secular Life” or the “Code of the Hwa Rang” as taught by Buddhist monk Won Gwang, which was as follows: “1. Loyalty to one’s king 2. Love and respect your parents and teachers 3. Trust among friends 4. Never retreat in battle 5. Never take a life without just cause”. They also lived by the 9 Virtues of: Humility, Justice, Courtesy, Wisdom, Trustworthiness, Goodness, Virtue, Loyalty and Courage.

As hostilities grew between Silla and other kingdoms the Hwa Rang began to learn military skills such as swordsmanship, archery, horsemanship, chariot driving, javelin and military strategy. They grew in numbers and soon there were hundreds of groups, each with 500-5,000 men each led by a “Kuk-son” or commander. The unarmed combat portion of their training was a mix of Su-Bak (primarily upper body, developed for Goguryo military from Chinese roots and introduced to Silla via King Kwang Gae) and Taek-Kyon (primarily lower body techniques).

The Hwa Rang also had a special forces unit trained in survival tactics, tracking, trailing, camouflage, concealment, healing techniques and herbal medicines. They were known as the “Sulsa” (“Knights of the Night”) and were responsible for intelligence gathering and assassinations. One side of their training “Jung-Do” (“Way of the True Sword”) taught them to fight openly with honour, whereas the other side of training “Am-Ja” (“Way of Darkness”) taught them to use trickery and deceit to accomplish their tasks. Kwan Chan, the warrior used in the attempted assassination of Ge Baek, had been a Sulsa and had previously used a modified sword pattern (Sang Gum Sul) as a dance in a Baekje court to gain access to, and murder, General Jua Jang-Gun. The pattern was later turned into a folk dance known as “Sang Gum Moo” and is still practiced in Korea today.

We will be marking our arrival here on Jeju Island with 68 high turning kicks as a tribute to Tae Kwon-Do’s origins and pattern Hwa Rang, before sadly ending our tour. Thank you all for joining us, we hope you have enjoyed the journey as much as we have! Remember all of our stops are available on our website to view in sequence on the Tour Through Time page, or if you are interested in a specific pattern, via our pattern tags at the bottom of our homepage and the grade specific sections in our Student Zone.

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