What is Korean Martial Therapy?

Brendan McGuigan

Korean Martial Therapy, also known as KMT, is a deep tissue massage modality. It is particularly attractive for massage practitioners, as it places little stress on their bodies, while imparting a great deal of healing to the recipient. Patients need to be somehow relaxed, either sitting down, sitting on a floor, or laying flat out on a table.

Korean Martial Therapy, also known as KMT, is a deep tissue massage modality based on various Korean martial arts.
Korean Martial Therapy, also known as KMT, is a deep tissue massage modality based on various Korean martial arts.

As the name implies, KMT was based originally on various Korean martial arts. The Korean art of Hapkido is one of the most popular forms of Korean self-defense, and has been widespread in the Korean peninsula for more than a century.

Hapkido first originated in Korea sometime near the end of the 19th century. Hapkido drew from a number of earlier martial arts, including Japanese disciplines such as daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu. The lineage of hapkido was passed down over the years from master to master, and it is currently a substantial martial art within the Korean population and abroad.

Korean Martial Therapy has been associated with martial arts in Korea for many centuries, at least back to the 17th century. The various practices were found to be very effective in keeping the warriors’ bodies fit and in a state of readiness to heal after battle. When hapkido became a popular Korean martial art, Korean Martial Therapy became associated with it, and today is almost always considered a part of hapkido.

The basic premise of this therapy is to use various fluid motions of the body to heal the body and spirit. Korean Martial Therapy can be undertaken on one’s own, as a self-directed therapy in which the motions are accomplished without outside help, or as a more traditional assisted therapy, in which a practitioner helps direct the patient’s body to the appropriate places and movements.

Korean Martial Therapy was introduced to the United States by Jae Kwon Yun, a practitioner of hapkido for many decades. His school integrates the combat-oriented approach of hapkido with the healing-oriented approach of KMT in order to make a more balanced modality.

At the core of this modality is the idea that the same concepts that can be used to inflict pain and damage on an opponent in battle can also be used to grant healing to a patient in peace. Many of the same pressure points along the qi meridians are used in the Korean Martial Therapy for healing as are used in hapkido as negative points. The idea of opposites is very important to this therapy, with the underlying ideology being that anything that can hurt can also be used to heal, and visa versa.

Unlike many alternative healing techniques, which focus on long-term sensitivity and a better-functioning body over months or years, Korean Martial Therapy places a great premium on immediate results. As a battle discipline, this makes a great deal of sense. After having a limb damaged or broken, it’s important to be able to heal that and continue fighting as soon as possible. While Korean Martial Therapy may not be intrinsically aggressive or confrontational, it certainly takes a great deal of conflict-gleaned lessons into its formation. Whatever the underlying ideology, however, it is difficult to argue that this therapy is anything other than a highly effective short term management technique for physical trauma.

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