During the period between 1st century BC and 7th century AD, the Korean peninsula was divided into three Kingdoms; Silla, Koguryo and Baek Je. Silla, the smallest of these kingdoms was constantly under invasion and harassment by its two more powerful northern and western neighbors. During the reign of Chin Heung, Twenty-fourth King of Silla, the young aristocrats and warrior class formed an elite officers corps called Hwarangdo, arguably the first of the korean martial arts.
Thus Korean martial arts was formed and in this first 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.