The earliest roots of subak are complicated to track, but it is often speculated that it might have been transmitted from ancient times considering depictions in the murals of Koguryo era in the fourth century. Historical records suggest that subak was considered a very important martial art that warriors had to learn and practise during the late Koryo dynasty (Academy of Korean Studies 1995). Several sources note that the kings enjoyed spectating at subak matches among warriors, and the winners were awarded government positions (Academy of Korean Studies 1995). Subak sparring also took place during military occasions and important events in the Joseon dynasty, and was also practised by the general public as a folk game (Academy of Korean Studies 1995).
Records about the techniques of subak appear in Mu Ye Dobo Tong Ji, a comprehensive martial arts book that explains, with respective illustrations, the Korean traditional martial arts created in the eighteenth century (Academy of Korean Studies 1995). The manual was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Regional Register for Asia-Pacific in 2017.