Kwon Bup means fist fighting method in Korean. The earliest surviving written reference to kwon bup is found in the Muye Dobo Tongji, which has extensive documentation on the techniques and history of kwon bup. According to this text, kwon bup was impractical for large scale combat on the battlefield, but was taught as an introduction to the martial arts. Soldiers learned kwon bup prior to learning more complex weapons arts to master footwork and body control. It was also taught as a method of personal self-defense for Chosun warriors.
According to legendary strategist Chuk Kye-kwang, ""Kwon bup is not adequate for large scale combat, however it is an excellent way for beginners to start martial arts training to learn the way of the hands and feet and discipline."
Kwon bup was developed based on the methods of the Shaolin Temple and the techniques of Jang Song-kye. The Shaolin methods emphasized external style (waega) techniques including joint locks, jumping attacks and elaborate footwork. Advanced techniques of the Shaolin style were very elaborate and difficult to master.
Jang Song-kye favored internal techniques (naega) with an emphasis on self-defense. His philosophy dictated that skills only be used when one encountered an unavoidable enemy or hopeless situation. According to the historical text Naega Kwon Bup, the internal style also included three classifications of vital death point attacks which were handed down in secret. It was widely believed, because of these secret techniques, that the internal style was superior to the external style in self-defense.
An early master of naega style kwon bup, Wang Jung-nam devised thirty-five training methods and eighteen types of footwork. He classified them into yukro (six paths) and ship dankum (ten levels). The yuk ro methods were used to develop bone strength and inflict immediate damage while the ship dankum methods were intended to induce a delayed reaction. Many of his methods have been preserved in the Muye Dobo Tongji .