You know, it’s a long uphill battle to beat the Koreans in judo. Here’s why. As children, Koreans can enroll in one of the many elementary schools across their country that have designated judo development programs. At a young age they commence their training on a conveyer belt of winning judo standards. And this is just the beginning. They can move on to the same in middle school, and this includes all-girl’s middle schools. Again, at high school age, players are training in judo full time alongside their studies in hopes of gaining entrance to the final level of Korea’s schooling system.
University. This is the final stage before the best of the best are plucked to train in the national program.
In Busan, Korea’s second largest city, there are two universities with judo development teams: This is Dong-Eui University as I showcased early on during my time in Korea. The other university judo program is Dong-A University which is what you see here. Judo teams share large athletic facilities with other sports and martial arts like taekwondo, kendo, boxing, and wrestling at universities like these.
These are no compromise systems training students for careers in physical education, law enforcement, and potentially the highest level of play in the sport. These are the big boys and girls. They have been training in the Korean school judo system since elementary school. That’s a lot of dedicated years.
At universities such as these, students are able to receive a degree in judo instruction and development, or other related degrees such as physical education for public schools.
You don’t want to randori with these kids in your right mind. They are true mat rats who train full time and want to win. Only the best coaches are assigned to these teams and there is immense pressure to produce results.
Make no mistake, this is not local club play. Practice sessions are uchikomi and then an hour and a half of randori 5 days a week with many other high level players. The pool is large and the bench is deep with strong players whose life is judo. Some of the main judo hubs in Korea are Seoul, Gyeonggi-do, Daegu, and Busan.
There is no guesswork in Korean judo. Show up, follow the plan, win a medal. Wash, rinse, repeat. There should be no wonder why we see Korean champions all the time.
Visiting the Kodokan Judo Institute is something I would recommend for any judo enthusiast. We all know how widespread judo is in Japan, but to be at the birthplace of the sport will bring new value to the art we all have grown to love.
I appreciate more the operational and organizational requirements involved in overseeing an art as globally popular as judo. When you see the eight story building that is the Kodokan, most of the space is used not for training, but for managing the sport.
South Korea has always been, and will continue to be one of the dominant forces in the sport of judo. Whenever a Korean team is present at an international-level competition, you can be certain that their players will be in contention for a spot on the podium.
The reason is simple; they have a tried-and-true, well-oiled training machine that churns out World and Olympic champions continuously.
They own a blueprint, and the blueprint goes something like this: take a geographically small country that produces world-class talent each generation and employ those players back into a complete end-to-end program that begins in a fully integrated school training system.
Here in Busan, Korea’s second largest city, there are a number of school judo teams. They begin in elementary school and continue up through university. There’s even an all-girl’s middle school judo team here.
One of the great benefits of teaching abroad is the ability to travel more. Not only is there more free time, but you are also closer to countries that you would otherwise never get a chance to visit unless for a unique circumstance.
Japan is always a common destination for travelers. I’ve been to Tokyo, but there are so many other cities to see. During one of my vacations I took a trip to Osaka. A common travel plan is to visit Kyoto while in Osaka because you’re just a short 20-45 minute train ride away depending on the type of train you choose.
I realized within the first day or two, however, that seeing what I wanted to see in Osaka would not allow me the time to get away to see Kyoto as well. I visited for 5 days.
I decided to make this compilation video of my time in Osaka. There are some popular destinations in it, but also some that the general public would not think of to visit. I hope you enjoy the ride.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is arguably the hottest martial art right now, with it’s growth outpacing all others. This is for good reason; it’s popular in the Ultimate Fighting Championships, is a highly effective self-defense system, and dynamic sport.
As expected, Korea has taken to the sport and it continues it’s upward trend of growth to this day.
Here in Busan it’s no exception. With the likes of Kim Dong-Hyun leading the MMA charge in the UFC, the sport is exploding.
I’ve trained in BJJ at American Top Team, Gracie Barra, and of course Busan Team MAD! As with judo (and any martial art for that matter) the camaraderie is awesome and I’ve made new, life-long friends in BJJ.
I decided paying homage to the sport here in Korea was only fitting since it’s right here at my fingertips.
I hope you enjoy this montage. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.
If you’re in Busan, or plan on visiting, and want to work out with one of the teams in my video, their websites are listed below:
Wow! It’s been nearly a year since I first posted judo video tutorials by my 7th dan instructor. I don’t know why I haven’t done more. I literally walked into one of the coolest situations a judoka could ask for. Just steps from my first apartment was a small, but historical Korean judo school.
Amazingly, the judo school was founded before Korea even established it’s independence.
About a year before Korea became an independent nation, Kook Sa Kwan Yudo Jang was founded in Japan. Pretty cool, isn’t it.
If you would’ve told 18 year old me that I would one day be a martial arts black belt, I would’ve exhaled the smoke from my hippie chic clove cigarette and laughed in your face.
At 27, I would have told you sadly that they don’t give black belts to fat girls.
By 30, I might have been interested but still a little incredulous. By that time, I had shed fifty pounds and was starting to learn that almost anything is possible.
Last week, at 33 and some change, I did something I never actually thought I would do, even when I started taking classes two years ago. I became a certified, card-carrying (for real, there’s a card, like a license to kill or something) 1st degree black belt in hapkido, an accomplishment I share with at least a third of Korean ten year olds. But, still, it’s a big deal to me.
Jeju is one of South Korea’s prized possessions. The volcanic island is home to many UNESCO heritage sites and is aptly called the “Hawaii of Korea”. Being less than an hour flight from Gimhae International Airport in Busan, I knew I would eventually visit the island.
When I found out that the final leg of the IJF Grand Prix series was being held in Jeju, I knew it was something I couldn’t possibly pass up. Luckily, exams at my elementary school were happening at the same time as the tournament and I was able to reallocate some paid leave days.
As I am sitting here writing this blog, my arm is slowly returning to a normal color. Fleeting are the days of tie-dye skin tone and a swollen Popeye-sized forearm. What am I rambling about?
Yet another judo-related injury here in Korea. For the life of me I can’t understand what I did to deserve the injuries and near death experiences I’ve enjoyed while practicing judo in Korea. I’m not talking the normal twisted fingers and toes, or sore shoulders, or anything like that. I’m talking REAL injuries.