Military personalities were among the well-known prominent national leaders during the Three Kingdoms Era. This military orientation led to the development of warrior groups, such as Koguryo’s "chouisonin,” individual members were called “Sonbae,” and the sixth century Silla warrior nobility group known as "Hwarang-do" (individual members were called HHwarang). Both groups adopted Subak training as one of their important learning subjects and both used the same organizational and hierarchical structure.
During Koguryo's initial stage of national foundation, the kingdom organized the Sonbae in its attempt to concentrate its power. According to historians, the word Sonbae means "a man of virtue who never recoils from a fight."
Sonbae warrior cadets were chosen at festivals called "sin-su-do," held during March and October. Events used to select Sonbae cadets included archery, sword dancing, and Subak. The Subak competitions sometimes involved fighting in pits with wild animals. After Sonbaes were selected, they lived together in a group. The Chronicle of Old Joseon describes how Sonbaes immersed themselves in learning Subak, fencing, archery, riding, military tactics, and sometimes enjoying various games including Korean wrestling (Ssirum). The book also describes how that, during peacetime, Sonbaes wore the finest silk and devotedly guarded the kingdom, constructed roads and fortresses, and acted as teachers, all for the benefit of society. In wartime, they would organize and defend the kingdom with their strong willed bravery, always ready to sacrifice their lives for the nation. The Sonbae became legendary for their feats of bravery. The Koguryo government operated on a merit system where the best warriors were appointed to the highest positions.
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