Shim Gum Do

Shim Gum Do

Sword And Zen

The city of Boston is home to an unusual Zen temple/school of swordsmanship known as Shim Gum Do, headed up by a Korean Zen master. If you've always been fascinated by the traditional connections (however tenuous) between Zen and swordsmanship, you might be interested in studying this art or even participating in their residential program, which is probably the closest you can get to being a “warrior monk” in the United States.

If you're interested in combatively realistic swordsmanship, though, you should be aware of one thing. The martial arts taught by Shim Gum Do are not historical Korean combat arts. Nobody has ever used Shim Gum Do swordsmanship on any battlefield. These arts were revealed to the founder of Shim Gum Do in a religious vision.

 

I don't question the validity of the founder's vision. Many Japanese sword arts were created in the same way. However, the founders of those arts had been training in combatively-proven forms of swordsmanship for years or decades prior to their visions, and in many cases they had extensive experience of battles and duels. One can assume that whatever insights the vision gave them were filtered through their established understanding of combat reality. The founder of Shim Gum Do had no such experience or training as far as I have been able to determine. Therefore, while Shim Gum Do would probably be a very rewarding way to practice Zen, it is probably not a way to learn realistic swordsmanship. Since realistic swordsmanship is not needed in the modern world, this is strictly a matter of personal taste and temperament.