The hanja character for ‘grain (쌀미)
Mi-ja begi (미자 베기) was the very first set of slashes and strokes I learnt in my first gumdo lesson. Two months later, I am still finding it difficult partly because of persistent wrist ache.
The sequence is named after the hanja character for ‘grain’ as the pattern written corresponds to that cut by the sword. However, the order of strokes differ; in writing the character uses six strokes whereas the sword uses eight.
Normally, one uses a wooden sword (mok-geum 목검) for several months, if not longer, before progressing on to a ‘blunt sword’ (ka-geum -가검) and then, usually after dan grading, a ‘live sword’ (진검 – chin-geom) might be experienced. Because I train one to one and not in a class, I had used all three types of sword within my first two months and each provides a different experience. The wooden sword is useful for straightening the arms and establishing technique while the blunt sword, because it cuts the air with a swish, is useful for increasing speed and precision of angle. The ‘live blade’ is the ultimate test of your technique – or lack of it.
I don’t know the pros and cons involved in moving from one sword to another at a gradual pace. On numerous Western websites the progress seems much stricter but maybe this is because even a ‘blunt sword’ is classed an ‘offensive weapon’ and is difficult to carry around. In the UK even carrying a wooden sword in public constitutes an offence. I walk from my home to the dojang, and then work, carrying a wooden sword and when we train in the park we carry blunt blades and ‘live spears.’ The dojang is full of swords, wooden, blunt and ‘live blades’ as well as spears, bows and arrows and a very nasty looking ‘live halberd.’ On the walls are rows of blunt swords usually with the owner’s name inscribed on the blade. Most of the owners are children or teenagers. Indeed, on my first trip to cut straw bundles (빞단 베기 – chip-dan begi), we were accompanied by two boys, one was a green belt of 15. In addition, there was a large banner over the cutting area which prescribed the type of slashes and strokes practitioners from 9th gup (yellow /white belt) upward were expected to perform.
Mija begi is performed in a horse riding stance (기마세 – kima-sae). The downwards slash which begin and end the sequence are the simplest strokes but each of the other techniques present their own difficulties. I’m a little frustrated by my speed of progress partly because I’m having to give my muscles and joints time to adjust to the new workload.
Here is a video of my teacher, Kwon Yong-guk, performing mija-begi.