Approximately 1,300 years ago during the sixth century A.D., the Korean peninsula was divided into three kingdoms: Silla, Koguryo and Baek Je. Silla, the smallest of these kingdoms, was constantly under invasions and harassment by its two more powerful northern and western neighbors.
During the reign of Chin Heung, 24th King of Silla, the young aristocrats and warrior corps formed an elite officer corps called Hwa Rang-Do. This warrior corps, in addition to the ordinary training in spear, bow, sword and hook, also trained themselves by practicing mental and physical discipline and various forms of hand and foot fighting.
To harden their bodies, they climbed rugged mountains, swam the turbulent rivers in the coldest months and drove themselves unmercifully to prepare for the task of defending their homeland.
To guide themselves and give purpose to their knighthood, they incorporated a five-point code of conduct set forth by their country’s greatest Buddhist monk and scholar, Won Kang.
The code was as follows:
- Be loyal to your king
- Be obedient to your parents
- Be honorable to your friends
- Never retreat in battle
- Make a just kill
The Hwa Rang-Do became known in the peninsula for their courage and skill in battle, gaining respect from even their bitterest foes. The strength they derived from their respect to their code enabled them to attain feats of valor that became legendary. Many of these brave young warriors died on fields of battle in the threshold of their youth, as young as 14 or 15 years of age.
Through their feats, however, they inspired the people of Silla to rise and unite. From the victories of Silla, the Korean peninsula became united for the first time in its history.
Excerpt taken from: “Taekwon-Do – The Korean Art of Self-Defense” by General Choi Hong Hi