Portrait of Grandmaster Ho Ik-Ryong. Grandmaster Ho was the highest ranking kumdo (kendo) instructor in Korea, ultimately reaching 10th dan.
Photo of Grandmaster Kim with Grandmaster Ho Ik-Ryong, taken at the Sungkyun-Kwan University dojang in the summer of 1972, during Grandmaster Kim's first return visit to Korea since leaving in 1968.











 

The Pen and the Sword:
Grandmaster Ho Ik-Ryong


By Master Rick Fine

From Grandmaster Kim's explanations in class, we have learned how his analysis of sword movements produced many unique hand-sparring techniques in Chayon-Ryu. But the source of those sword movements had a far more profound influence on Grandmaster Kim than merely technical. Indeed, the writings Grandmaster Kim studied led him to choose martial arts instruction as his career path.

During his studies in Korea, Grandmaster Kim always valued the books of dedicated martial arts teachers, seeking out their wisdom as expressed in their own words. One such book was written by Grandmaster Ho Ik-Ryong, the father of a childhood friend from soccer. Grandmaster Ho taught kumdo (kendo) in the police department, where it was exclusively practiced in those days. He was then ranked as a 7th dan under the Korean Kumdo Association, the highest ranking instructor in Korea. In 1980, two years before he passed away, the Korean and Japanese associations elevated Grandmaster Ho to 10th dan, making him the only Korean ever to achieve such recognition by both countries. His kumdo manual presented the sword curriculum from which Grandmaster Kim then derived numerous empty-hand blocks and strikes.

This publication's most important contribution was Grandmaster Ho's philosophical writings, and one passage in particular which Grandmaster Kim underlined when he read it:

"Martial arts instructors must keep teaching as their mission in life and focus on mental education."

Grandmaster Ho explained that teaching was a chun jik, meaning a God-given profession. In other words, teachers were born for that very purpose. Moreover, martial arts must be related to mental training. Real progress comes from mental education rather than physical; without the mental component, training falls short of true martial art.

Both then and today, few individuals make martial art their mission in life and teach full-time. Most teachers cannot make a living doing so. For them, martial art is only a hobby or part-time endeavor. For Grandmaster Kim, martial art became his chosen profession once he read the words of Grandmaster Ho.

Grandmaster Ho's kumdo book, originally published in 1953 only for members of the Korean Kumdo Association.