You Say Judo, I Say Yudo…

It was once a desire of mine to travel here to Korea or Japan to train in the sport of judo with the greatest practioners in the world.  That was MANY years ago and my priorities have changed.  So has my body and pain threshhold!  I wasn’t really planning on training in judo here (though I did bring my judogi so maybe subconsciously).  I actually wanted to start taking haedong kumdo or more commonly known as kendo in Japan.  It’s a style of fencing or sword fighting where sparring takes place with heavier leather armor, faceguards and bamboo swords.  I guess Korea feels it necessary to rename Japanese styles to their own, but that’s probably another conversation.  Some of my students and co-teachers told me of a gumdo school within a few blocks from my apartment so I went for a visit.  Though it was very interesting and the facility was very nice, it seemed to lack something that I was looking for.  Something I’ll probably always look for.  Something a bit more physical or “ultimate” if you will where I would be pushed more physically – something like judo (or Korean yudo). 

Ironically, on my way home from Home Plus, a Target-like chain store here in Korea, I hopped in a cab and the driver spoke English.  After he mocked me a few times about “left, right, left, right…” I finally had to throw up my gang signs to this guy.  So I took off my shades and hat and said “uh’ma hankook imnida” which means my mother is Korean (for the most part).  He looked in his rear view mirror at me and his eyes got wide and all the ooohh-ing and sucking noises through his teeth followed shortly thereafter.  I also told him I taught English at the local girls middle school and he really changed his tune.  Somehow that happens with everybody here though.

Fast forward the conversation…I then asked him if there were any korean yudo (aka judo) schools on the island and he said there was one that had been around since 1945 and was very traditional.  I asked him to drive past it so I could see where it was.  Wouldn’t you know it is 2 blocks from my apartment.  Score!  He dropped me off and we were best buds at that point and I even tipped him which I’m told you’re not supposed to do, but he did just find me a yudo school near my home.

After school the next day I went to visit the facility to find that it was everything a traditional yudo dojang (aka dojo) would be in my mind.  Judogis hanging up everywhere, that “judo dojo smell”, and old, archaic, Flintstone-style weightlifting devices.  When I walked in there were a few guys on the mat warming up and this little older gentleman on the side with his shirt off.  He wouldn’t even look at me.  Luckily, one of the students was multi-lingual and started translating for the man on the sidelines.  He was the head instructor and the first question he posed to the translator (without looking at me yet) was “why does he want to do yudo?”  What a great question.  I explained I was a yidan (nidan ala Japanese) which is a second degree black belt.  Everything changed from there.  Also, as soon as I told them I was from America teaching English at the girls middle school, everyone starting oooh-ing and sucking their teeth and clapping.  So classic.

Well, this “old” man has the physique of a 30 year old.  Chiseled, youthful skin, and just a machine.  A good guy to have on your side.  Come to find out he is about 64 years old.  I was shocked.  He is a 7th degree black belt and by Korean standards I realized immediately that I just walked into the mecca of judo instruction.  Gumdo was but an afterthought and I decided to come back the following Saturday at 6:30 AM (that’s right…the morning) to enroll and get training.  In the first week I realized that this is the place where ALL of my technical understanding of yudo and body mechanics will be completely recalibrated.  This is real yudo.  I couldn’t be happier that I found this gem.  And all because of the mocking cabbie who showed me the way. 

I look forward to training here and receiving a black belt recertification from this true yudo master.  One of my original plans while in this region of the world was to travel to the Kodokan in Tokyo, Japan (the birthplace of judo) to receive my recertification there as well from the original source.  Being able to train at this school will absolutely prepare me for the trip.
The school name is Kook Sa Kwan Yudo Jang and the 7th dan is Go Gwan Jang Nim (i.e. master instructor, 6th dan and higher)…”Go” being the instructor’s name -Go Chung Pil.



  1. So excited for you Tom. Listening to your story gets me excited, as Travelling to Asia and experiencing the culture has been a goal of mines since I started Martial Arts 15 years ago especially Japan. I think it's awesome that you are meeting a need of the Korean people with opportunities to witness of Christ at the same time. Time will tell if I get to fulfill that desire of mine but enjoy and "Godspeed" in the meantime.

  2. Hi Tom.. Would you please tell the address of the judo school led by Master Go Cheong Pil, 7th Dan

  3. Is that Yu do 7th dan is based on Korean standard and not kodokan judo standard? And giveing black belt to student just ignoreinh judo standard?
    7th dan in kodokan judo is very high things.
    Korean Yudo just should call themselfs as judo, and follow the standard of original judo black bellt system….or else it’s kind of meaningless to me. Judo is just judo. Since yudo is doing just judo.

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