Reawakening or seeing yourself incarnate as the avatar of an ancient warrior may not be an easy undertaking. In the realm of fantasy, we generate these lives in online games or day-dreams… but maybe only in half-hearted reality. Escape to a more traditional time of honor, respect and ritual, permits a resurgence of candor in serious martial arts training; whether capturing the art and way of the Samauri of Japan, the Hwarang Warriors of Korea, or the esteemed home of China’s Shaolin Monks. Regardless the choice of champions, and the era in which they thrived, there is an authenticity which makes antiquity meaningful. Moreover, it makes history and tradition – invaluable.
We begin in a place of ‘legend’.
The exploits of Kim, Yu Shin (595 – 18 August 673) is known by all Korean children by the age of 3. As the greatest general, master swordsman, and the unifier of the ‘three kingdoms’ which became Korea.
Kim was descended from of the royal house of Gaya (Kaya), in the Kindom known as Silla. By age 15, Kim was known as an accomplished swordsman and became a Gukseon (Hwarang Leader) by the age of 18. By age 34, Kim had been given command of all Silla armed forces.
Much of the stories of this great general are embodied in the Samguk Sagi (History of the Three Kingdoms: Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla).
Kim, Yu Shin was a serious youth who sought to elevate himself in meditation and prayer. He purified himself before entering a cave in meditation. After a period of four days, an old man came to him. Kim recognized that this was not ordinary man and sought his secrets. For seven days Kim remained when the old man finally gave in to a strong character, and the knowledge that this young man was determined to unify the three kingdoms. The old man is said to have taught him secrets of life and manipulating the elements, giving him a special potion, before disappearing into a brilliant light of five colors.
So, too are the stories of being enticed by three women to go into a nearby forest with thoughts of frolic, only to transform into three Goddesses, warning him of impending doom. Kim follows their advice and dispatched a confessed spy within his midst.
The same process is repeated many times, including seeking the heavens blessing in bestowal of magic upon his sword. After three days, light came down, shaking the sword. The legend of the “Tiger Sword” began.
Whether the sword, or the man, is responsible for the many feats attributed Kim, Yu Shin, the legend has a base in reality. Time and preparation provide insight into the desires of those who ‘choose’ to make a difference. Just as in our modern-day choice of practice, Yu-Shin Gumdo. Named for perhaps the greatest swordsman Korea has ever produced.
Probably the moist repeated legend is when Kim was opposed by another General because of omens with a portend of failure. Kim stepped to do battle with the man. Kim’s sword is said to have leapt into his hand. All present were amazed, fearing this great magic. At this time, the sword was said to have its own soul, and a shared kinship with its owner. Kim prevailed in the contest and the battle.
In this telling, we have but scratched the surface of history and legend. We have also provided a question about the study of a lesser known system of the Korean Sword.