Korea Mogu

1. The History of Mogu

Mogu is a game in that one person on horseback goes ahead dragging a ball made of bush clover and wrapped with animal.

Mogu was developed in Yo dynasty (A. D. 947) and in Joseon, it was first played in Gyeonghoeru in 1424(the 6th year of king Sejong). On December 13 of the 6th year of king Sejong, soldiers and naturalized persons were invited to Gyeonghoeru, Gyeongbok palace to shoot arrows and a party was held.

It was discontinued from middle of the times of Joseon, the times of Joongjong and restored in 1606(the 39th year of king Seonjo) stimulated by Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592 and then disappeared into the history ending in 1631(the 9th year of king Injo). After that, it was restored by Korean race traditional horseback feats of arms & gyeokgu association and was performed in 1998 and 2003.

Although the data related to Mogu is very feeble, records related to Mogu could have been found in ≪Muyedobotongji≫ and ≪true record of Joseon dynasty≫ and it enabled the succession of the valuable cultural heritage. That is, Mogu, one of the horseback feats of arms in the times of Joseon was restored based on the records in ≪Muyedobotongji≫ and ≪true record of Joseon dynasty≫.



Mogu is also called Gigu(氣毬). Mogu is a ball made of bush clover wrapped with leather and large one is the same size as a water melon. It is same as so called Gigu(氣毬). So called Gigu has one more loop on it and tied to a rope and while it is drawn by a person on horseback, others follow and shoot it with arrows without head.

Kumsayeji(金史禮志)≫ reads 'Shooting willow gyeokgu(射柳擊毬) game is a customs of Yo dynasty. On the day of dano, after the decorum of bowing to the heaven(拜天禮), the ground of shooting willow gyeokgu(揷柳毬場) is marked with pumpkin on tree branches and the bark of the trees aer peeled off up to 2-3 chi to become white. A person leads running on horseback and others follow him and shoot arrows without a feather and the head is put across.’

In Joseon times, in 1416(16th year of king Taejong) military equipment official(軍器監) was ordered to submit six large Mogu - on August 3 of 16th year of king Taejong Military equipment official was ordered to make 6 large Mogu and submit.

In 1424(6th year of king Sejong), king gathered soldiers and naturalized persons-Olryanghap(兀良哈) and Oljeokhap(兀狄哈) in Gyeonghoeru, Gyeongbok palace and let them shoot arrows and gave the prizes of a horn bow to each of the ones who successfully hit the Mogu in all 3 attempts and thereby Mogu began to be executed in Joseon. On December 13 of the 6th year of Sejong, king let soldiers and naturalized person shoot arrows in Gyeonghoeru, Gyeongbok palace and served a party.

Mogu is shooting arrows on horseback following a person on horseback running with a ball being drawn but sometimes the ball was shot by bows sitting on the ground instead of being drawn by a horse.


≪true record of king Joongjong≫ May 13 of the 28th year of king Joongjong


King gave instructions to Jeongwon. On May 13 of the 28th year of Joongjong, king gave instructions about Gwanmujae.


I already gave first instruction (抄記) about Gwanmujae in Mohwagwan. Horse back archery is to be done in two times and 3 arrows are to be shot and 3 spears are to be thrown. A small target is to be made of Mogu and is to be shot 5 times from the distance of 100 steps(步). Because there are many other skills to be performed, the small target is to be shot 5 times. Now, among the military officials, 10 of court nobles and under court officials are to be divided into justify and right and each side is to be of 5 persons. But, since there are some with good feats of art among them, the Ministry of War should divide the shooting grade evenly and let them shoot the small target to determine win or loss. I will grant young horses to the winners so tie 10 young horses to pine trees nearby so that many people can see. I will grant a good horse(良馬) to the best person of all of the court nobles and under court officials(良馬).


Since Mogu played an important role in the practice of feats of arms, it was tested when the army was being inspected and at that time, military officials and warriors including all generals along with Saboksi and Naekumwi were required to perform Mogu and excellent ones were granted of swords or bows etc.


Mogu was steadily executed from early Joseon times for the purpose of training of soldiers but disappeared after the record in middle of the Joseon times, 1533(28th year of king Joongjong) and then executed again in 1603(36th year of king Seonjo) by the perception of importance of national defense arose by the experience of Japanese invasion of Joseon in 1592 but disappeared after 1631(the 9th year of king Injo).


On September 24 of the 36th year of king Seonjo, king ordered the Ministry of War to test persons with skill.

On August 24 of 25th year of king Injo, king observed feats of arms and viewed arrow shooting test in Seogyeo.

Mogu is same as horseback archery in that the arrows are shot from horseback but is an advanced type in that the mark, i.e the target moves.

Since the target moves, it was one of important feats of arms on horseback for the practice to exert power in hunting or battles.

(Photo) Korean race traditional feats of arms on horseback & gyeokgu association restored Mogu based on literature and demonstrated it in the playground of Korean military academy in September, 1998 for the first time in modern times and executed 2nd demonstration in front of Heungre gate of Gyeongbok palace in May, 2003.


Through the demonstration of Mogu that was led by one person followed by another person shooting it, the method that can be performed by many persons was adopted and became to be performed. With the cooperation of army museum, used the Mogu(restored one) that had been exhibited in the museum to demonstrate various types of Mogu. The Mogu used in the demonstration is the work of the bow and arrow craftsman, You, Young-Gi, the 47th intangible cultural asset.

The material of the Mogu is made of wood wrapped with rabbit skin and the size is similar to that of a water melon.  Because the Mogu was heavy, it was drawn making the shape of half circle instead of straight line when a person led in front with the Mogu tied to the horse.

Also, in May 2003, the Mogu demonstration was executed by the method that a person led and a person followed the ball and shot with arrows without heads and also by the method that a person led and 2 persons followed the ball and shot. The space required for Mogu is about 200-300m long and about 50-80m wide. Because the running speed of the horse is 12m/sec, fast shooting is required.


2. Making Mogu into a modern competition


As the result of the demonstration of Mogu, the conclusion that it could be activated into a new horseback competition thus it was made into a competition being introduced of the concepts of sport. Mogu is divided into individual competition and team competition. In team competition, the teams are distinguished by the color on headless arrows in red and blue or colors of each of the teams in case many teams are involved.


1) 1 person Mogu

One person draws the ball running on horseback and another person follows and shoots arrows to hit the ball. Here, the person leading in front may run straight or in curves based on the condition. The horse rider participating in Mogu hit the moving target by shooting on running horseback. The method of arrow shooting can either be forward shooting or backward shooting that shoots to the backward direction of 180degree after passing the ball. According to the location of the ball, the horseback archer should shoot in diverse way. Since the center of gravity of the horseback archer changes very often according to the location of the ball, he should be able to freely control the horse even without holding bridle.


2) 3 person Mogu


3 person Mogu is the basic of group Mogu such as 5 person Mogu and team Mogu.

It is a competition that a person draws a ball on horseback and 3 persons follow and shoot arrows to hit the ball. Because 3 persons run simultaneously on horseback, they have to watch others' routes and movement of the ball until they shoot the arrows. Therefore they have to be very good at horse riding and horseback archery such as hitting the ball in between the preceding horse riders and backward shooting skill.


Mogu has been known through many performances in many cultural festivals in the country and approached to us by being recreated as a new traditional culture in 21st century instead of a forgotten history.

Photo)Korean race traditional horseback feats of arms & gyeokgu association prepared a cultural apace with living history and root and is guiding growing youths in group through education and experience.