In sharp relief: Haidong Gumdo

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Haidong Gumdo

At the end of a busy day, Dr Hess Kim of Avenue Dental in Kawana, QLD, likes to put down his dental drill and pick up his sword. By Frank Leggett

“I’m a second-dan black belt in Haidong Gumdo or Korean swords martial arts. I started 12 years ago when I was 15 years old. A couple of my friends encouraged me to join their centre in Brisbane under the teachings of Australian Grand Master Jung-Il Oh. I loved it from day one. It was not only a great way to connect with my Korean background and culture but it also gave me direction and discipline at a time when I was a troublesome teenager.

“Haidong Gumdo has three main components: patterns, sparring and cutting. It teaches physical discipline through patterns that have to be repeated with precision and speed. These movements simulate war and battle in the 14th century. You also need to control your body and sword so they move as one. This will ensure a clean cut through bamboo and the ability to cut fruit that is thrown in the air. The swords are extremely sharp and must be treated with respect.

“Mentally, it challenges your ability to focus on perfect form. Even when you are physically tired, you need to be able to read and counter your opponent’s movements during sparring.

“Everyone knows about taekwondo and karate but Haidong Gumdo is popular because you learn to use a sword. Kids usually start because they think it’s cool and then realise there’s much more to it. That’s exactly what happened for me. And after more than a year of hard training, I earned my first gold medal at the Australian National Championships in 2006. I won gold again in 2007 and 2012.

“After moving to the Sunshine Coast in 2013 for work, I was unable to train at my usual centre and haven’t competed in any championships since then. However, I still love to practise patterns at my local park as it helps me relax and unwind after work.

“Patterns are very enjoyable but I really miss the sensation of a good clean cut through one, two or even three pieces of bamboo held together. It’s not about strength but more about getting your form and technique perfect. The sword will slice right through if you get it just right. It’s actually a bit like a nice clean tooth extraction. I guess that’s why I love Haidong Gumdo and dentistry. They both focus on attention to detail, technique and skill.”

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